Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Trip to the West Coast

The Eckersons took our first trip out west to the great state of California! We were there Friday - Saturday, hit 3 major cities, and saw some very dear friends and family. It was a great trip and we came home EXHAUSTED Saturday night (our flight got in at midnight).

Chapter 1: San Francisco
We stayed with our dear friend Talya and were joined by another dear friend Hank from LA. Both used to work with us at McKinney and moved out to Cali in the past year. Both are terribly missed. The four of us have traveled together before, and had such a lovely time, that we knew this time would be a blast - and it was! We were greeted in SF by rainy cold weather, but Saturday morning brought warmer temperatures and even a little sunshine! We had a delicious lunch at Cha Cha Cha, joined by Ben's friend Roe, spent the afternoon walking through Haight-Ashbury, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping, drinking, visiting the Ghiradelli factory, enjoying our very first In 'n Out Burger, and drinking some more. 
 We took a twilight tour of Alcatraz, which was AWESOME, and only a little bit spooky, and then had more delicious food - this time dinner at Limon. We danced - and drank - the night away, and Sunday morning found us on the long road to LA. We wanted to take the PCH down, and got about as far as Big Sur before finding out it was closed, so we backtracked and found another route. Despite it being longer than expected, we had such a nice time visiting - just the four of us. You know those moments where it just feels like "home"? That was one of those moments for me, Hank & Ben "talking shop" and scheming in the front, me & Talya draped across each other in the backseat.
After a short stop-over in Santa Barbara (which is adorable!) for dinner at Los Agaves - thanks Yelp! - we finally made it to Hank's apartment in El Segundo around midnight.

Chapter 2: Los Angeles
Our first day in LA, we were lucky enough to have a tour guide in Ben's friend from the Outer Banks, Tyler Nilson. We had the most amazing tacos & gazpacho from a taco truck in Santa Monica, drove around on mopeds (against my will), hung out on the beach and had AMAZING beautiful weather. 
 The evening was spent briefly hanging out on the beach (until it got too cold, so pretty much immediately), and dinner at Father's Office for, I'm not exaggerating, the best burger of my life. Tuesday was spent being tourists - cruising Beverly Hills, shopping on Rodeo Drive, strolling through Hollywood, and - something not so touristy - going on an audition with Tyler! We had another yummy dinner at The Library near Ashley & Tyler's House and called it an early night (after learning a new game - Ninja! ask me to show you how to play ... after a few beers). Wednesday, Ben & I visited a great Farmer's Market in Santa Monica, shopped in some adorable boutiques, and had a farewell lunch with Alina & Hank before heading down to San Diego!

Chapter 3: San Diego
We arrived in San Diego just in time to have dinner in La Jolla with my mom's cousin Johnny, his wife Eve, and their two beautiful children, Ecco and Gray. Dinner was followed by playing on the beach - Ben had a great time with Gray, and vise versa - and visiting with "the grown-ups" after bedtime. Thursday we took on the San Diego Zoo! Something I've been looking forward to for so long. I saw so many animals I've never seen before, the zoo is beautiful, the staff are so friendly, the exhibits are amazing ... I couldn't have asked for more. We got FREE passes from Eve and my friend Jenny, so we "splurged" for the Skyfari ride and the bus tour. My favorite parts were the pandas, the koala, the pregnant and newborn giraffe, being 6 feet away from a male lion, and the POLAR BEAR! I finally got to see one. Highlight of my life. 
 After an exhausting, full day at the zoo, we decided to catch an impromptu Padres game with our friends Jenny & Greg - and they won! Friday Ben & I were left to our own devices, which included a delicious lunch reco from Jenny (Neighborhood, great beer selection! get the steak tacos) and seal-viewing at La Jolla Cove. We ran around for a bit in that area, then joined Jenny & Greg for dinner in Old Town - HOW CUTE! It's all very old-timey, Mexican-inspired buildings and street vendors and restaurants. Lots of fun. Then we headed to a dueling piano bar, Shout House, for a fun night out of singing ... and maybe a little dancing.
Saturday morning, we were awoken by a call that we were bumped to an earlier flight, so we rushed through our packing and goodbyes, grabbed one more In 'n Out Burger for good measure, and began a long day of traveling home.

Our bodies are still readjusting to East Coast time, I think, but it was such a wonderful trip and I'm SO glad we got to do it. Thanks to ALL our friends and family who put us up, out of the goodness of their heart.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eckerson Church Search: Season 2, Episode 4

It's a two-fer, boys & girls! OK, just girls. But still, two blog posts in one day. Because, I was working until almost 10, so why not give it a few more minutes on the laptop and get it in while I can? Work has been insane, not to mention some personal struggles we've been going through, and a little old thing called MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING to keep me busy. But, the long overdo blog about our most recent church visit is here.

A few weeks ago, Ben & I joined my sweet cousin, also named Ben, and his lovely fiancee Courtney for breakfast at the State Farmer's Market Restaurant - always delicious! - and headed to the middle of nowhere to visit Apex United Methodist Church. All right, I admit that we don't spend much time in Apex, but it felt like the middle of nowhere. 11:00 service? Check! Held in a real live chapel, complete with stained glass? Check! Songs from a hymnal? Check! Anyone in the congregation younger than 65? ... a hesitant "check" but a Check! all the same.

If you're an avid reader of this blog (can you hear the sarcasm?), you are probably aware of our struggles in finding our church home. The aforementioned criteria are all hiccups that have kept us from returning to other churches we've visited. While this was in no way what I imagine as my perfect church, we are continuing to move down the right path. The church was small-ish, despite a very impressive website. We attended the traditional service (though a contemporary one was available at the same time), for Ben's benefit. It was daunting at first to see the majority of attendees are likely 4 decades our seniors, but families with tweens and teenagers filtered in as it got closer to start time - I can only imagine the struggle to get a 16 year old out of bed on a Sunday morning!

They opened the service with a video announcement promoting their service at the park the following Sunday, which featured the minister as a "rapper" (if you want to call it that) that I found endearing and adorable. It was great comedic relief for a conservative Methodist church! Unfortunately, the minister who spoke that particular Sunday was a guest preacher. While we enjoyed his message, and the service as a whole, we feel called to give it another shot and get a feel for the normal teaching from their regular minister. I don't think either of us is sold on it entirely yet, but we're both willing to give it another shot (the next time we're actually in town - notice a trend, here?).

To top it all off, just this wknd, a lovely older gentlemen visited our home (at an appropriate 2:00pm) on Saturday to drop off a gift bag, thank us for visiting, and ask if we had any questions. That contact, two weeks later, was the first we'd had with anyone from the church, which I love. No nagging voice-mails, no guilt-laden emails, just a pleasant house call. Good work, Apex! Oh, and I must add, this recommendation came from my dear friend Katie, who is a Methodist Minister in TN.

Recipe: Trash Nachos

Things you should know about me: my mother did in-home daycare when we were little, which is awesome because it meant she was home with us, and also that we constantly had other kids to play with. The other things it meant is that we were pretty poor, because my mom was kind-of a stay at home mom, and that you are what was put in front of you - because she was not going to cater to 7 little kids. I have a very sensitive gag reflex (insert dirty joke here), so sometimes I got away with not eating what the other kids had if it made me throw up, which a lot of our meals did. However, my FAVORITE thing my mom made when we were growing up (caveat: my mom is not, I repeat NOT, a woman who cooks) was nachos. She would take stale tortilla chips - nothing went to waste in our house! - shredded cheddar cheese and throw 'em in the broiler for a few minutes. It was the best snack ever.

Other things you should know about me: I have a tendency to throw leftovers into a pot and call it "trash _____". Trash pasta. Trash salad. Trash punch. Whatever. I know, super appetizing. But, when you hate leftovers like I do, it has to become a new creation for it to become edible to me. After our Memorial Day cook-out, we ended up with TONS of leftovers, including the better part of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Even when it's fresh, that's not appealing to me, so you can imagine how I felt about it leftover. I was, however, extremely proud of what I came up with for dinner last night, when neither one of us was extremely hungry because it's hotter than hades out already. So here's my "recipe" - if you want to call it that. You have to remember that everything listed was already in my fridge, so feel free to make adjustments based on what you have in your fridge.

Trash Nachos
  • Rotisserie Chicken (cooked)
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce
  • Fat-Free Sour Cream
  • Low-Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Velveeta-Fat-free Refried Bean-Salsa Dip*
  • Black Olives
  • Taco Seasoning

  • Line a baking pan with aluminum foil
  • Cover pan with tortilla chips (stale or otherwise!)
  • Cover chips with shredded cheddar cheese
  • Shred chicken into frying pan and heat on medium heat until beginning to sizzle
  • Add 1/4 packet of taco seasoning (more or less depending on how much chicken)
  • Add a tiny bit of water (optional)
  • Broil chips on high until cheese is melted / bubbling
  • Reheat Dip in microwave (you could also use just refried beans for this)
  • Layer chicken, beans, veggies and sour cream over chips - ENJOY!

*super easy and delicious, equal parts velveeta & refried beans in the microwave, with a few spoonfuls of your favorite salsa. serve hot with tortilla chips