Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

This is a story about decades-long dreams coming true, and how meeting your heroes can sometimes lead to disappointment. Not that this is a sad story, it’s totally not. It’s a happy story. I’m blessed beyond belief, but I also have an uncanny ability to ruin nearly any amazing opportunity that comes my way. Here’s an example of such an opportunity.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

Since I made the decision to attend Camp Mighty back in 2011, I’ve been crossing things off my Life List left and right. I’ve done a lot of awesome things that I never thought I’d actually get around to doing, such as seeing a Beatle in concert, go to Europe, and dye my hair pink. But one of the biggest, the Holy Grail of my Life List, has always been to hug Tori Amos. I would have been just happy to meet her and have a chat, but specifically on my list was a hug. And it happened last week. In the most awkward way imaginable, because, HELLO, I’m still me. Always awkward. So awkward. But it still happened. Sometimes, you get what you ask for in the most painful way possible.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

But before I get into all that, some back story.

I don’t really talk about it much here, but Tori Amos and her music is pretty much my everything. I discovered her when I was 12, with seeing the video for Crucify on VH1 (!!!) while was waiting for my school carpool to pick me up in the morning. Could have happened yesterday, I remember it so well. My first thought was “This is …. different.” I can’t say I liked it straight away. But I was compelled. I thought about the video and the song all day. I thought about her eyes and how it felt like she was looking right into my soul. There was something about her.

From then on, I watched VH1 every morning to try to see it again. They actually seemed to play it quite often, at that same time in the morning. The next video I remember was Silent All These Years, and that’s when I was hooked.

Without getting too deep here, I was a troubled kid. I was struggling with my sexual identity on top of just the weird puberty stuff every 12 year old goes through, also I was a total outcast at school and was just depressed in general. I went to a Catholic school and was really questioning my faith and my relationship with God. I knew the things I was feeling were condemned by my religion and I felt alone and scared. Basically I felt like my life had no meaning. When I heard Tori’s music …

“Where are those angels when you need them? Why do we crucify ourselves, every day I crucify myself, nothing I do is good enough for you.”
“Got enough guilt to start my own religion”
“Years go by and I’m here still waiting, for somebody else to understand”
“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years.”

… I knew. This music was written for me. I saw a light, and for the first time in a while I felt like someone understood me. I felt like there was hope for me.

For my 13th birthday in 1992, I received a CD player and my first CD – Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. The CD player has been replaced many times over but I still have that CD. I treat it like gold. It saved me.

So needless-to-say, I became a super fan. Bought every CD the day it was released, bought posters, songbooks, magazines where she was featured. I plastered pictures of her face all over my bedroom walls. I was that girl. Every high school in the 1990s had one.

I first saw her in concert the summer of 1996. Then had a dry spell and next saw her in 2003. Then twice in 2005 and once in 2009. So that brings us to last week, July 2014.

I had tickets to see her at the Los Angeles Greek theater (my third time seeing her there!) and since I am now unemployed self employed I was able to go to her Meet and Greet. Tori generally meets with her fans after soundcheck, anywhere between 2pm and 4pm, if she can. It’s not every show and sometimes it’s a gamble – maybe she will show, maybe not. Based on Internet rumblings, it seemed chances for an L.A. Meet and Greet were good. So I made plans to get to The Greek theater at 11am and camp out. I got there and there was a crowd of about 10 people. I made friends and plopped down on the ground for the wait. The line grew and everyone was generally friendly. At one point a Greek Theater staff member asked us to move our line. When we did, some people jumped in front of us. Annoying, but no problem, I was still about 20th in line, and by then the line had grown to over 100 people.

Around 2:00 or 2:30, her tour bus arrived and she jumped out and gave us a quick wave. After that her tour manager came out to address us and say that Tori didn’t have much time and she probably wasn’t going to get through everyone in line. We also could either ask for an autograph or a picture, but there wasn’t time for both. Then we waited and waited some more, and around 4:00pm, Tori came out!

I watched her interacting with the people in front of me and getting more and more nervous. I practiced what I wanted to tell her in my head. Thank her for giving me hope, request she cover “Let It Go” (she was part of the inspiration behind the song, you know) and her song Purple People, give her the gift I made for her & her daughter – flower hair clips inspired by her song 16 Shades of Blue, get my picture and a hug, walk away and cry forever.

When I was next in line to go, the tour manager announced that she was going to start rushing people. This threw me off completely. I panicked and got really nervous. I saw the person in front of me get their picture and a hug. My mind went blank and I walked forward. I saw Tori put her arm out and I went in for a hug. As I was hugging her she said “What’s your name?” and I managed to remember and tell her. Then when I was standing in front of her I shakily explained that I’ve been waiting over 20 years to meet her, that I was struggling and when I first saw the video for Crucify she gave me hope, and I was grateful because now I was really happy. She said, “Oh, you’re really happy? YAY! You’re really happy!” and threw her arms up. I giggled, but felt a little like she was mocking me, maybe.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

That was when I sensed that something may be wrong. And that made me more nervous. But I stammered “I just mean that my life is really good now and without your music and your gift, I don’t know what would have happened.” And she just kind of nodded and stared at me.

So then I panicked EVEN MORE (IF POSSIBLE!!!!) and started rambling again. “I’m wondering if you would ever consider covering “Let it Go” from Frozen? The song means a lot to me and I know you were part of the inspiration for it.” She wrote it down on her notepad and said “I’ll look into it.” And then I said “And from your catalog I’d love to hear Purple People,” and she said “okay.” She didn’t write it down, and this was my second clue that everything was going terribly wrong. She then said, “Is that for me?” regarding the card with flower clips I was holding. I said “Yes, I make these flower hair clips and I made these special for you and Tash …” and I TOTALLY mispronounced her daughter’s name even though I was practicing it over and over again while in line BECAUSE I’M A TOTAL IDIOT and at that point I decided to just stop talking and I didn’t even tell her the clips were inspired by her song. Ugh ugh ugh. But I’m still kind of in this weird out-of-body euphoria state so I smile for my picture, say “thank you” to Tori and the tour manager, gather up my things, and walk away.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row
Writing down “Let It Go.” She doesn’t seem thrilled with my suggestion.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row
Judging my poor craftsmanship, probably.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row
Tori: “Hurry up and take the picture and get this crazy person away from me.”
Me: “I don’t quite realize what a prize idiot I am yet!”

Afterwards I was standing with the new friends I had made in line, sharing pictures from our cameras with each other and generally coming down from our Tori high when I realized … I wasn’t high. I felt … kind of like, nothing. Wait a second, did I just meet my idol? This person who meant so much to me? It really didn’t feel like it. I realized I seemed to have a different experience than everyone else did. People were saying, “Oh it was so cute when Tori cheered for you!” and I replied, “Uhhhh I kind of think she was making fun of me, you guys.” Everyone assured me that so wasn’t the case and I tried not to think about it too hard because, duh, I just met Tori and gotten that hug (!!!!) and took a picture with her and I still had awesome seats about eight rows back for her show that night, the closest I had ever been to the front! BEST DAY EVER!!

But I’ll get back to the concert later. I want to address the Meet & Greet while we are on topic. In the days that followed I couldn’t shake what exactly went wrong at our meet. Other people seemed to have a meaningful connection, and their photos have them leaned in real close, and the comparison monster was attacking. Why didn’t that happen with me? I actually turned to a Tori Amos Fan group on Facebook and shared my story of happiness but disappointment at the same time. I received a lot of feedback, some helpful, some not … but things like, maybe your expectations were too high (I don’t think so), maybe you were treating her like a “goddess” instead of a real human (errr … perhaps a little but not really), maybe she just had a really intense conversation with the person before you and she was distracted, or maybe (my personal favorite) she sensed I didn’t need a message from her right now. But mostly I was reassured that many people had these disconnected and painfully awkward meetings with her, and that I shouldn’t take it too personally.

In my online conversations, someone directed me to a section of a Tori fan site, Undented, titled “Tori Turned Me Stupid” where fans submit their embarrassing encounters. First of all, this site made me feel SO much better about everything. But it also gave me some answers. I realized after reading a couple entries that it was the hug. THE HUG. THE ACTUAL THING FROM MY LIFE LIST RUINED EVERYTHING. I learned that basically Tori finds it a little scary when strangers hug her without talking to them first. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I realize now when she was reaching out her hand, she was simply just waving me over, not inviting me in for a squeeze. And those people who were hugging her straight away, she must have met them before and remembered them from past meets. I could seriously die. It devastates me that I met this wonderful person who has meant so much to me over half my life and I basically brought her negative energy. When I realized this, I felt equal parts relieved and equal parts terror. Now my main focus is to meet her again and redeem myself. (NEW LIFE LIST ITEM.) I just hope I don’t have to wait another 20 years.

Sigh. “That’s so Mindy.”

Moving along … back to Greek concert day. I had the best seats I’ve ever had! Fourth row behind the pit. I could see everything so clearly. And, Tori’s daughter sat in the row in front of us! She graciously posed for a selfie with me and my friend Amy (I didn’t say her name because I was terrified I’d screw it up again). She’s a total sweetheart, mature beyond her 13 years and very gracious with compliments (I told her she has the voice of an angel and I’m waiting for her solo album).

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

The concert itself was great. She played Crucify AND Purple People (I found out later one of the people in front of me in line requested it too, so that’s why she didn’t write it down) and it was a great set list in general.

For those of you familiar with her catalog, here’s the set list:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Los Angeles, California – Greek Theatre

Parasol
Bouncing off Clouds
Crucify
Tubular Bells / God / Running Up That Hill
Roosterspur Bridge
A Sorta Fairytale
Winter
Purple People
Fire on the Side
Oysters

Lizard Lounge
Hyperballad (Bjork) / Cloud on My Tongue Mashup
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (Dead or Alive)
Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Elton John)

Maybe California
Almost Rosey
Little Earthquakes
iieee
Cornflake Girl

Encore
Riot Poof
Wedding Day
In Your Room (Depeche Mode)
Hey Jupiter

So, one of the best shows I’ve seen live, for sure! I think may be this is her best tour to date; all the set lists have been solid.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

After the concert I drove home but couldn’t sleep well. I was replaying our meeting over and over in my mind and also excited about seeing her again in San Diego FROM THE FRONT ROW the next day!

When I woke up, I packed an overnight bag and made my way down to San Diego around 2pm. I met up with my friend Amy who I had met the day before, and we went and had lunch. We knew there was not going to be a Meet and Greet today but we found out that while we were at lunch next door, she arrived in her tour bus and waved to the small group of fans outside. I was happy to hear she didn’t stop to sign autographs because I would have been super bummed to miss out on that.

Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

Amy and I walked around and killed time while waiting for our 6pm dinner reservations. At one point we sat by the resort pool and were having drinks when sound check started! We could hear it clear as day. She played around eight songs either in their entirety or partial versions. We couldn’t see her, but it was like a private concert just for us (and the rest of the people by the pool, most of whom simply did not realize what a REALLY BIG DEAL this was)! Dinner at the resort restaurant was part of our ticket package. We also were meeting with our new friend Katie. Katie is the reason I was able to get a front row ticket! She posted in a fan forum that she purchased a pair off Stubhub and looking to sell her other one. Even though she paid a lot more, she was willing to sell it to me for face value! WOOHOO!

We had a great dinner at Humphrey’s and then walked next door to the venue. The venue is VERY tiny, only 1500 seats! Since the venue is flat, the stage is very high, and we basically were looking up at Tori the whole time. Due to the angle from my seat, Tori’s face was partially blocked whenever she played her Bose piano but I could still see her eyes and her legs. And if you’re familiar with Tori, you know she plays the piano with, um, her entire body. When she turned to play the keyboard/organ, or while she was playing both, I had a perfect view! I can’t believe I was so close, it was an incredible experience. Before the show, the tour manager came out and instructed the front row not to take pictures or take out our cell phones – I guess Tori doesn’t like it. So of course I respected that. But when everyone rushed the stage for the encore, I was nearly front row center and all bets were off! I took a lot of blurry photos but a couple turned out okay.

From my seat before the show:
Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

During encore:
Life List Items Complete: Hug Tori Amos & See a Concert from the Front Row

It was another good show with lots of surprises. Muhammad My Friend had not been played live since 2010, Wild Way is one of my favorites from her newest album and I ugly cried all the way through it, and Living on a Prayer/Like a Prayer was a really fun mash up.

Thursday, July 24, 2014
San Diego, California – Humphrey’s

Parasol
Space Dog
Flying Dutchman
Bells for Her
Baker Baker
Concertina
Wild Way
Alamo
Tear in Your Hand

Lizard Lounge
Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi) / Like a Prayer (Madonna)
Say Something (A Great Big World)

Forest of Glass
Mother Revolution
Mother
Another Girl’s Paradise
iieee
Cornflake Girl

Encore
Bliss
Muhammad My Friend
16 Shades of Blue
1000 Oceans

After the show I said my tearful goodbyes to some of the new friends I had made the last two days and drove home. I was wide awake until 4am. I couldn’t believe I saw Tori FRONT ROW!!!!

I spent the next few days obsessing about our meet but I’m feeling better now. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I unwittingly mucked it up and it will probably haunt me forever. But still, I crossed two things off my Life List, so … yay?

Please tell me, have you ever made a complete idiot of yourself during a celebrity encounter? Your story would make me feel oh-so better about myself.

And, not that she will ever see this, but, to Tori … I’m sorry I grabbed at you before introducing myself and I think you’re amazing and thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with us. If I ever crawl out from this rock under which I am hiding, I hope to “meet” you again someday. xo

PS – Thank you to my new “meet and greet” friends and also to Tori Songs on Facebook for snapping the pictures of me and sharing them. I’m forever grateful. <3

What I’ve Been Up To

You may have noticed the blog has been quiet this week. Sorry for the silence! Here’s what’s been happening with me lately …

1. I’ve spent the last two days following my favorite musical artist Tori Amos around Southern California, crossing two major things off my Life List (aaahhhhh!). Here’s me saying something clearly AMAZING to her.

tori-meet-and-greet-1

2. On Sunday our water heater pipe burst, flooding my office. Aside from temporary relocating my desk, we’ve been dealing with contractors, insurance, estimates, and the very loud whirring of fans making my head spin. We MIGHT have to have our ENTIRE FLOOR replaced and be relocated to a hotel for a couple days. It’s gonna be a whole thing. Distracting is an understatement.

3. Mr. BFT FINALLY got his vacation schedule! We are hopefully doing an Alaska cruise towards the end of August, right before the Disneyland 10k (which I *might* defer, we are still looking into it).

I plan on writing about ALL OF IT (starting with Tori!) but I’m not sure when I will get it all done. I have soooooo much to write about my two days with Tori and all my new friends. Best two days ever (wedding day was pretty great but this might top it …. haha!)

21 Foil Pack Grilling Recipes

21 Foil Pack Grilling Recipes

Recently I was preparing one of my favorite dishes, seasoned potatoes in a foil packet for the grill, and I thought about how easy it was to prepare and how there must be more delicious things I could grill in foil packets. That led to an Internet search, which then led to the blog post! I figured I should document my research, right? I found quite a few foil pack grilling recipes that looked easy and yummy. And summer is the perfect time to flex your BBQ muscles. Or in my case, make your husband flex his BBQ muscles.

1. Peppers and Potatoes on the Grill from Mission to Save (top picture in collage)
2. Chicken and Broccoli from Thrifty T’s Treasures (middle picture in collage)
3. Spicy Olives from Food Network (bottom picture in collage)
4. Honey-Sriracha Chicken Foil Packet from Live Better America
5. Baked Fish, Spinach, and Tomatoes from The Kitchn
6. Grilled Vegetables from Food for My Family
7. Grilled Taco Nachos from Fabulessly Frugal
8. Pork Tenderloin Foil Packet from Clever Housewife
9. Blueberry Breakfast Bake from Terra Firma Adventures
10. Grilled Zucchini and Tomato Packets from Peanut Butter & Peppers
11. BBQ Chicken Potato from Life with 4 Boys
12. Baked Lemon Tilapia from Mommy of Two Little Monkeys
13. Warm and Melty Cheese Dip from Echoes of Laughter
14. Kiddies’ Chicken Packets from Threaded Together
15. Lemon Herb Steak from Sandy Toes & Popsicles
16. Orange Thyme Grilled Shrimp from Yummy, Healthy, Easy
17. Easy Grilled Summer Vegetables and Sausage from Dessert Now, Dinner Later
18. Steak and Pepper Foil Packet from Life of a Working Mom
19. BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Foil Packet Dinner from Kaleidoscope of Colors
20. Grilled Pineapple Chicken Kabob Packs from Life Made Delicious
21. Sweet Potato Foil Packet Tacos from Tasty Kitchen

Budget Fairy Tale Guide to Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

This is Part 2 of a trip report detailing a weekend getaway in Santa Barbara wine country.

Leaving off from my Solvang trip report, we woke up at our hotel, Santa Ynez Marriott in Buellton, had a quick Starbucks breakfast at the hotel, and then headed out for wine tasting adventures. Our plan was to go to three or four wineries, depending on how we were feeling and how late it got. We didn’t want to rush through our tastings and we certainly didn’t want to drive buzzed. We made our only reservations for the day at Demetria for 11am as our first stop, so we wouldn’t constantly be checking our watches.

Budget Fairy Tale Tip: If you visit a reservation-only winery, make that the first stop of the day so you’re not planning your entire day around your one reservation.

In our research we found that Demetria winery is a little different from the rest, which is probably why it’s so popular. Most wineries you stand or sit at a bar counter, but at Demetria there are tables and chairs set up on a patio overlooking the gorgeous grounds. Because of this, most people bring a picnic snack to enjoy during their tasting. A friend gave us a tip to stop at the El Rancho Market on Mission Drive in Solvang to buy goodies for our picnic, so that was the first stop of the day.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

I’ll just say that El Rancho is an awesome store but it’s not a “budget” situation. El Rancho has a large deli selection of imported cheeses, as well as salami, olives, crackers, nuts, etc. We spent around $40 on foods for our picnic, but we chose some high quality and unique items and we snacked on them all day as well as taking home leftovers. We picked up peppered salami, two cheeses (blue and cheddar), water crackers, almonds, dried apricots, mixed pitted olives, and honey sticks. We enjoyed our picnic and felt it was well worth the money.

Budget Fairy Tale Tip: If El Rancho is out of your budget, you can also stop at the Solvang Market, also on Mission Drive, or the Albertson’s in Buellton to stock up for your picnic.

After leaving El Rancho we made the 15 minute drive north towards Los Olivios and Foxen Canyon. I used my GPS which led me right to the gate of Demetria, which is good because the sign is pretty tiny. We used to call box to confirm our reservation and the gate rolled back to let us in. From here we went about another two miles on a very windy and very scenic road through the rolling hills. It’s a narrow two-lane road so go slow and watch for oncoming traffic! Park when you reach the first sign of civilization.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Since we had the first reservation of the day, we pretty much had our pick of tables, and we chose a shady table under an oak tree. A Demetria employee brought out a menu as well as two glasses, and shortly after that he poured our first tasting. We got all our picnic supplies out and just enjoyed the good weather, good food, and good wine. We stayed at Demetria probably around an hour. We also went for a short walk on the path around their grounds; you can walk right up to the vineyards but it’s about a two mile walk and the sun was too hot for us that day. We only made it about half a mile, maybe.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

I should note that Demetria’s tastings are $20 per person for five tastings, twice as much as every other winery we visited. I wasn’t extremely impressed with their wines but you are certainly paying for atmosphere.

After leaving Demetria and driving back along that white-knuckle road, we went further up Foxen Canyon to Zaca Mesa winery. Zaca Mesa was having some sort of luau BBQ on their main lawn so it was very crowded; a very different scene and atmosphere from Demetria. We went inside and had a tasting at the bar. For $10 we each had six tastings which was probably the best value of the day! None of the wines at Zaca Mesa blew me away but we had a nice time sitting under the AC and talking with our server.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

After about an hour at Zaca Mesa we headed back south on Foxen Canyon to Fess Parker. Fess Parker was the only winery I really wanted to stop at, because of the Disney connection. Fess Parker portrayed Davy Crockett in the 1950s. The Fess Parker Winery is gorgeous, and it’s the only winery I saw that was completely surrounded by rose bushes along the main road. It’s very big inside, with two bars plus a third bar outside adjacent to a large grassy area. If Demetria isn’t in the cards for you, this would be another great place to bring a picnic and a blanket and sit on the grass under a shady tree. We stood at a bar inside and were asked if we each wanted a tasting or if we wanted to share one tasting. We weren’t aware of this option and we decided to just share a tasting.

Budget Fairy Tale Tip: If there are two of you, and you don’t mind sharing, ask if you can share a tasting. This will save you around $10 as well as help you remain sober.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

At Fess Parker we shared six tastings for $12. We actually both really enjoyed the Riesling so we purchased a bottle and sat outside on the grass for a little bit. Actually, we both took naps! It was getting late in the day and there was a band playing. Then suddenly I woke up and the band was gone and we were the only ones left on the grass! Oops! Fess Parker Winery also has some tables set up along the outside wall so you can bring a picnic and enjoy your wine there, if you like.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

At this point it was late afternoon and the wineries would be closing soon. We decided we wanted to try one more winery before heading back to the hotel. We drove by Curtis Winery and knew nothing about it, but we pulled in and went inside. The Curtis Winery grounds are smaller than Fess Parker Winery but they also have a grassy area and a couple tables to sit at outside. Inside we shared five tastings for $10 (although we were given a sixth pour because the guy next to us was raving about the Riesling and insisted we try it). This winery was more modern than the rest, and we weren’t super impressed by the wines (although the Riesling guy bought three cases of it so our server was somewhat distracted while we were there). I’m happy we stopped in but honestly this was our least favorite stop of the day. I didn’t take any pictures outside, but I did wander through some of the vineyards growing on the grounds.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

After sitting outside for a bit and drinking lots of water, we jumped in the car and headed back to our hotel.

We had about three hours before our dinner reservations at Hitching Post II, so we had a lazy hotel evening flipping through the TV channels and taking short naps. The weather was nice and the area seemed safe so we decided to walk to Hitching Post II from our hotel, which was about a 15-20 minute walk.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

When we arrived at Hitching Post II, we couldn’t believe how crowded it was! The waiting room was overflowing and the bar area was barely standing room only. We managed to order two drinks and stood around a bit before two seats at the bar opened up. My glass of wine wasn’t very good (I think I ordered the Pinot Grigio but now I can’t remember for sure) so I resigned to buying a different glass. I explained to the bartender that I didn’t like it and if they could recommend a different white in the same price range. They gave me something else at no charge, which I thought was really nice. We sat and watch the bartenders for about 10 minutes before our name was called for our table – I have never seen a busier bar! The deft of the bartenders was seriously impressive, and I’ve sat at a lot of bars in my day.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos
Bar area AFTER our meal, as the restaurant was closing.

We were taken to our table and were overjoyed to find they put us right outside the MEAT WINDOW into the kitchen. All the meat is cooked right there for everyone to enjoy. It’s a lot of meat and it’s on a pulley system so now and then the chef lowers it down into the fire. It was awesome.

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

When you’re at a steakhouse known for its steak and Pinot Noir, you pretty much have to order the steak and Pinot Noir, which is what we did. I ordered the 7 oz Top Sirloin with house salad and Mr. BFT had the Filet Mignon. We tasted each other’s meats (haha) and they both pretty much tasted the same to us. They were both delicious. I asked for the rice pilaf instead of mashed potatoes and I’m glad I did because it was very yummy. The Pinot Noir was good, but I am not a huge red wine drinker so I guess the power of the Pinot Noir was lost on me. We also took home a bag of their special seasoning called “Magic Dust” after I made sure there was no corn in it. We already have used it on some sauteed vegetables – it really does make everything taste magical!

Wine Tasting in Los Olivos

Budget Fairy Tale Tip: The cheapest steak on the menu at Hitching Post II is the 7 oz Top Sirloin. Get it, it’s really good!

We were so full, and at that point very glad we walked so we could walk off some of our meal. We had an uneventful walk back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed, and not in the sexy way. In the I-ate-way-too-much-steak way.

And thus concludes our visit to Los Olivos and our weekend in wine country. The next day we stopped in Solvang for breakfast at Paula’s Pancakes, bought some more macarons at Olsen’s Bakery, and then sat in awful Fourth of July weekend traffic back to L.A. I can’t wait to go back to this lovely part of California!

Disneyland’s Revamped Alice in Wonderland Attraction Ride Through

Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite movies. I watched it over and over and over again while I was a teen and it has always been one of my favorite attractions at Disneyland. Frequenters to Disneyland know the Alice in Wonderland attraction had been undergoing renovation for quite a while, since March 2014! After three months of refurb, the ride has reopened and it’s better than ever! Lots of new digital projections and effects have been added. The ride had been largely untouched since Fantasyland’s major renovation in the early 1980s so it was due for a massive upgrade. I shot a POV ride-through video when I went through the Alice in Wonderland attraction last week. Of course, if you want to be surprised when you first ride through it, then don’t watch! But for those of you who can’t wait or who live far away from Disneyland, I hope this brings a little magic to your day.

What do you think of the new fun effects added to the Alice in Wonderland attraction at Disneyland?