My newest obsession

Lemon Cream Cake from The Olive Garden. It is a delicate white cake and lemon cream filling with a vanilla crumb topping. I don't really even like the Olive Garden, but this cake is to die for! The lemony cream filling is heavenly and the crumbly topping is delish! It is not at all diet-friendly, but hey! I am eating clean for life and every once in a while you just have to have a splurge. The portions are huge, so I had half a piece and it was so satisfying.

We're not really chain restaurant folks and generally prefer to patronize local, unique business rather than national chains. But from time to time we find something from a chain outlet that we enjoy and find ourselves wanting to go back for more. Like the California Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries from T.G.I.Fridays. I just have to have one every couple of weeks!

Well yesterday, as part of a staff appreciation day that I am my fellow executive directors hosted for our staff, we ordered catering from our local Olive Garden. Not my style, but the majority of folks love it so that's what we went with for lunch. Along with the requisite salad, bread sticks, chicken alfredo and lasagna, we also ordered one of their chocolate raspberry cheesecakes and lemon cream cake. OMG! The lemon cream cake is like heaven on a fork! I have only ever eaten at Olive Garden with my twin brother's family and we never ordered dessert because we were always too stuffed by then to even want it.

I love all things lemon (lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemonade, etc.) and this, literally, takes the cake! The creamy filling is almost like cheese cake, but not as firm or tart. And the cake is light and fluffy and very lemony. The finish is the vanilla crumb good. So as much as I loathe Olive Garden, I think I will at least have to order a slice of this cake to go every once in a while. It's that good. There's even a knock-off recipe (Olive Garden keeps theirs a well guarded secret, but someone has been clever enough to re-create it.) if you'd like to make your own.

Spring Green

It seems that as if overnight everything in Tulsa has turned bright green. Today on my drive into work it was if everything received a sprinkling of emerald dust! It must be from the rain that came in the wee hours along with the thunder and lightning. Be awakened by the rumbling sounds of an angry sky sure is unsettling. I am not sure if I’ll ever get used to that! At least the pugs have seemed to…they don’t even wake up let alone bark at it anymore. What a difference from when we first got here!

I love how the air smells these days…it’s thick with moisture and you can just smell the earth waking up to the warmer temperatures. It’s odd that here as it gets warmer everything becomes more green whereas in the SF Bay, the warmer it gets, the less green things are and the more dry and yellow they become. We just mentioned last week on our visit that we were glad to have been there while the hills were still green from winter. They are having a dry period again so no doubt the golden hills will be there sooner than later this year.

But here, in Green Country, it is living up to its name! We are loving the experience of four real seasons. It’s time to pack up all of our winter clothes and store them away until next year. This weekend I made sure to get my toes painted and feet ready for open toed shoes and sandals. I even wore capris and a tank top on Sunday! And I know that many folks suffer horrible allergies this time of year, but for whatever reason (knock on wood) I haven’t had one bout. That is pretty unheard of for me. In San Jose, I would surely be hacking and sneezing by now with the cottonwood blooming on the river. But here, not so much as a sniffle. Could be the moist, humid air. Or maybe I have managed to stave it off by eating honey produced locally in Sapulpa and being dedicated to my neti pot each morning. It’s also a lot less smoggy here than in San Jose, so perhaps that was the route of my nasal terror every Fall and Spring? Who knows? Whatever it is, I am thrilled.

Whew, it's hot!

For the past three days we've had nearly record highs. Well, Wednesday was actually a record day. We have been in the high 80's and low 90's! Mornings start out in the 70's. Winds are somewhat high too. It's definitely feeling more like summer than spring around here. We've had the A/C on so that the pugs don't suffer.

Heat aside, it's definitely looking like spring. The trees in are yard are finally all greening with new leaves. The grass has been mowed twice. And the hostas in the flower beds have come back bigger and shinier than ever. We were worried that they had died off last November. The days are getting longer too, which we definitely enjoy. The only thing that is not so great is that this is the start of tornado season. We've already had a couple of warnings earlier this month and more are predicting for later this weekend. Ah, thus is life in Oklahoma. I am sure we'll get used to it, someday. But since we've not even been here a year yet, we're not there. Guess I better clear out the closet that we use as a "hidey hole." It's gonna be cramped in there this year, what with one more body and two more dogs. It was already tight with us and the pugs. The cat? She's on her own. She's probably smart enough to hide somewhere good. Hopefully it won't come to that.

Upset Stomach

UGH! Last night was not good. I had a headache all day at work and when I came home I took a long, hard nap. I awoke, felt better and had some dinner. A few hours later it was my regular bed time so I went to sleep. Two hours later I awoke with the worst pain in my abdomen! Up high, not like anything I have felt before...I tried to work it out for about 45 minutes. At 11:30 pm I finally woke J up and asked him to take me to the Emergency Room. I was in a panic, really. I have not felt that kind of sharp pain.

I got into the CRV and we were on our way. The hospital in my insurance plan is only about 7 minutes away. One the drive I was doubled over in pain. The roads here in Tulsa are notoriously bad and the bobbing and jostling actually relieved my pain because it made me burp. A lot. By the time we got to the Emergency Room I figured this pain was just extreme gas trapped right under my sternum. So J headed to the all night pharmacy and picked up some GasX. Two pills and some 7Up later I was feeling a little better. I came home and stayed up until about 2 am and finally fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke and still felt a little burgly in my stomach so I stayed home from work. It was the right choice. After a lot of sleep and staying close the to the bathroom, whatever was plaguing me had passed. I seriously don't ever want to go through that again. I guess I picked up the stomach bug that has been going around my office for the past 10 days. Ew.

SF Recap

Our visit to CA was a whirlwind. We landed at 11:30 am on Thursday and headed straight to the theater. Turns out the final dress rehearsal was that morning and not that evening! We managed to catch the end of Act II and the rest of the show. Afterwards we had a nice early dinner with friends at Il Fornaio, one of our old haunts. We were exhausted and fell into bed around 9 p.m.

The next morning we slept in a bit and then visited one of our favorite breakfast places in Campbell. It's called Stacks and is known for its pancakes. But we really love their eggs Benedict. I got the Florentine version and J got the crab ones.

We ended up driving out to Modesto to visit with our friend and godson...not originally in the plan, but it worked out. We had a nice visit complete with a homemade Mexican lunch followed by a visit to the local Coldstone Creamery. I tried a new mix...cookie dough! YUM! Not really on my meal plan, but hey! We were on vacation.

After a full day with an 8 month old baby and his exhausted mother (how does she do it?) we headed back to San Jose for a late dinner with my younger brother. We met up at our favorite place...a little Moroccan restaurant run by two brothers. We had just discovered this restaurant right before we moved out here and have been dreaming of their beef tagine ever since we left! We stayed for hours, eating yummy food and catching up with my brother.

The next day we were up early and headed to get bagels and coffee. That made me realize that I don't know of any bagel shops in Tulsa. We have Panera, but that's not really a bagel shop. Isn't that weird? But for years a weekly visit to our local bagel shop was the norm for us. Now I am obsessed with trying to find one. Again, not that it's really on my meal plan. But I do love a good bagel with lox every once in a while.

We had a nice visit with a widowed friend of ours who is in her 80's and was married 63 years. She lost her husband two summers ago. She is a lovely lady full of life and stories. We met her through the opera, she and her husband had sponsored J's residency. We call and write from time to time, but this is the first visit we've had since relocating to Tulsa.

Afterwards we drove to San Francisco. What glorious weather! It was nearly 80 degrees and clear! After finding a parking place (the bane of city living!) we met up with our friend who lives on Upper Market. We were decided to have a celebratory birthday lunch at a great hamburger place called Barney's. They had amazing options...I got a fantastic BBQ turkey burger with a side of sweet potato fries and rootbeer. Delicious! Definitely a do not miss. Our friend had to get ready for his birthday party (we opted out) so we drove up to Twin Peaks to get a view of the city on such a clear day. It was packed so we didn't park and decided to head down to Ocean Beach. We drove past my old childhood haunts...the pizza place we went as kids, the corner store where we spent our loose change on penny candy and the house I grew up in from age 4 until 12.

The beach was packed! Like SoCal packed! Hundreds and hundreds of people taking advantage of the wonderful weather! We slipped off our shoes and walked along the water. Childhood memories flooded back to me and it kind of made me sad that our future children won't have memories of growing up at the beach. I know they'll have different memories, but for me, the sights and smells of the beach are so intertwined with my childhood. After about an hour or so we got back in the car and drove down to North Beach where my baby cousin (now 25!) and her beau live in a cute apartment on Green Street. Parking was insane and we ended up having to use a parking garage several blocks away for the night!

After hanging out for a bit, we were hungry and walked down to Colombus, the heart of Little Italy. We found a seat at Pinocchio's and ordered up some yummy pasta and red wine. Afterwards we walked up to an Italian bakery that is family run for some fresh cannoli and puff pastry. The next morning we drove down to the upper Sunset for brunch with a high school friend and her 2 year old daughter. She made a wonderful orange french toast and we spent a couple of hours just catching up. Then we drove back to San Jose to drop off the truck we had borrowed from our friends. My brother picked us up and we drove up to Newark for our niece's 7th birthday.

It was hot! Nealy 90 degrees! We hung out by the pool, watching the kids play while we caught up with my twin brother, his wife and her family. After cake and ice cream and opening gifts it was time to leave. We hitched a ride with my twin brother to his house in Tracy, where we stayed the last night in CA. We played Rockband for a bit (sort of a tradition for us in that house) and then fell into bed around midnight. The next morning we were up early for our final goodbyes before the kids headed off to school and then rode into Dublin to catch BART to SFO.

Ninety minutes on BART, 4.5 hours in the air to Dallas, dinner at TGIFridays and an hour flight home to Tulsa later we climbed into our own beds around 11 p.m. Whew! What a whirlwind! We need a vacation from our vacation! Luckily the nice weather seems to have followed us back to OK. It's warm and clear and sunny. It's good to be home.

Open your Golden Gate...

We're off to the San Francisco Bay Area tomorrow for 5 days and 4 nights. We have a jam packed schedule! We arrive around 11:30 am and head straight to the theatre in SJ to catch Acts 3 & 4 of the final dress rehearsal of our friend's opera (she'd making her directorial debut).

We'll spend the night at her pied-a-terre and visit with her and her baby (our godson) on Friday. Saturday we drive up to SF to visit friends and my baby cousin who just moved up there from SoCal last November.

Sunday we head back to SJ to return our friend's car and will hitch a ride with my younger brother up to our SIL's parents house where our niece will be celebrating her 7th birthday. We head east with them for the night and then hit BART bright and early to SFO on Monday morning and arrive back in Tulsa that night.

Whew! I am tired just writing about it! We're cramming in visit with everyone we haven't seen since moving out here. And hitting up every restaurant that we this yummy Moroccan place in downtown SJ. And the Hawaiian dive in Japantown. Ooh and the Italian place in North Beach where we used to go on dates. Yep, we're going to eat our way through the SF Bay Area!

Speaking of eating, I finally dropped another two pounds after being stuck at my 20 pound weight loss since the middle of March! Granted, I haven't been consistently exercising and I haven't been as strict with my eating plan. That said, I am thrilled to not have gained and I still lost inches even though the scale didn't budge. Well, it did yesterday. So, once we're back in OK it's back to basics for me and my plan. I'd really like to drop at least 20 lbs more by summer. Hopefully I don't find the two I just lost while kicking it up in NorCali.

Sunny, Spring Saturday

Well it's been a while since I've posted. It's been busy! And looking back on the month of March I that I worked every weekend except the last one, which I spent lazing around, watching movies on TV and just generally vegging out! Work is great, but I am realizing that I may actually be on the road more than when I was gigging!

Here's my travel schedule for 2009:

March 3-8: Oklahoma City, OK
March 26-29: Dallas, TX
April 16-20: San Francisco, CA (this one is for pleasure only!)
May 16-21: Auckland, New Zealand
June 1-6: Amsterdam, Nederlands and possibly England
June 21-24: Washington, D.C.
July 22-26: Detroit, MI
October 13-25: Nashville, TN

Speaking of gigging, it has been just about a year since J and I sang in public. It was last Easter for a friend's church. We did some excerpts from Handel's Messiah. My favorite! NOT. We've not missed it at all. Oddly enough we got not one, but two requests to perform on concerts this week. They came via email and were for gigs back in CA. I also got an audition notice, but I am pretty sure that was a mass-email. The other two? Flattered that we've been "off the radar" for near a year and people are still thinking of us. But there's no way we'll be doing it.

I can hardly believe Easter Sunday is tomorrow. Today is the quintessential spring's day. Not a cloud in the sky. Sunny and warm, but not too warm. Gentle breezes ruffle the newly greened trees. The grass is just about needing to be mowed. Birds are chirping like crazy in the trees. J is working today (and had a double yesterday and a double tomorrow!) so I am home and feel like Spring cleaning. But first, I leashed up the puggies and went for a stroll in our neigboborhood. We bumped into a new neighbor, Brandon and his 8 year old pug, Pugsley. Brandon is from Santa Rosa, CA of all places! Puglsey is a rescue and looks a lot like Luigi in size and color. Luigi hasn't met many other pugs, so it was fun to see him figuring his elder out. Too cute.

So now? The windows are all open with the curtains tied up. I plan to get to business with the Spring cleaning. I hope I don't hurt myself! Speaking of which, my new want is this Hann Steamer. It's awesome and does a great job on hard floors, carpets and upholstery with just water! No chemicals or solutions needed! In our eternal quest to become more eco-friendly I thrilled with that. I have recently switched to eco-friendly, organic beauty products, including an aluminum-free deoderant called The Crystal and major switch from the Secret Clinical Strength I have been using since the wedding. So far so good. Add this to the Alba Organics and Burt's Bees we've been using (love the AA coconut body butter and lip balm...SO yummy) and Tom's of Maine Whole Care Toothpaste Gel we started using last month. I also love my Weleda Skin Food. It's incredible!

Next on the list? Natural/Organic haircare, which is a huge challenge with my unruly, naturally curly locks. Do they even make organic mousse and hairspray? And shampoo/conditioner, which I have tried a bunch and so far don't like any of them. After that, I'll tackle going green with my cosmetics. Baby steps, baby steps.