The Magic Forest

One of the aspects we have loved so far about North Carolina is how wooded it is. Even though we live just down the street from a major university and the commercial hub of Chapel Hill, we are surrounded by trees and creeks and trails, deer and foxes and birds. Although the flora and fauna are different, it reminds me of the magical wooded trails I often walked in Switzerland.

The last two nights, however, Chapel Hill's forests have leveled up their magic. Sunday evening we took Max for a walk at twilight through one of the forest trails near our house. As the stars came out, they were joined by more fireflies than I have ever seen before.

All around us, up and down the trees and as far in the distance as the eyes could see, there were mini strobe lights popping on and off at random intervals. It reminded me of the stands during SuperBowl halftime as camera flashes would go off all over the place. I'm used to a few fireflies being around lighting up at infrequent intervals but this . . . this was something else.

We walked slowly along the trail and then, upon returning home, turned off the lights in our house to see if we could see them in the woods behind our deck. Indeed, deep in the woods there were little fairy lights twinkling everywhere. Truly magical.

I may be 36 now, but I am far from too old to be awed by a little magic in the natural world. Well done, magic forest; well done!


San Diego Day 3

Our final day in San Diego was both good and bad. The bad: I woke up with a sore throat. The good: everything else! Those who know me well know that, in my world, a sore throat comes with an immediate prescription for . . . GELATO!!!

Fortunately for me, San Diego's Little Italy is the real deal. We had multiple options for breakfast gelato (Is there any better way to start your day?) and, upon the recommendation of a friend, we chose Pappalecco. I was able to jaw with the proprietor in Italian and the dark chocolate gelato was just what the doctor ordered - Pappalecco gets two thumbs up in my book!

We then spent the rest of the early morning strolling up and down the Little Italy farmers' market. Lots of good food, drinks, and crafts were to be had but we [mostly] managed to resist temptation and stick to free samples.

As the sun rose, we felt the pull to play some beach volleyball in a part of the world where it reigns supreme. We drove to Mission Beach and were not disappointed by the volleyball scene - row upon row upon row of courts and almost all of them full!

We managed to secure one for just the four of us to play and it was so much fun! We haven't played with these two for years and they have really upped their game - hopefully we can play with them again soon.

While we were there, a friend and former colleague of mine came out to meet us on the beach. I hadn't seen him for years but it was nice to meet his growing family and spend a little time in the waves.

As I was feeling a little subpar, I took the afternoon off for a nap but rallied and caught back up with the group at The Flight Path for dinner. It was OK but not terribly memorable. The best part of dinner was catching up with a classmate I haven't seen since college. We pretty much picked up right where we left off. Unfortunately for the rest of our party, "where we left off" was a pretty nerdy place since we were both computer science majors!

Before we turned in for the night we followed a hot tip to Extraordinary Desserts which was, conveniently, right on our way back to the hotel. Wow, did it ever live up to its name! As we salivated in front of their dessert case, there were easily 30 items I wanted to order. Luckily restraint prevailed and we only got two, the Dame Chocolate and the Truffe Framboise. Oh my, heavenly, rich decadence! That's right, the day that began with dark chocolate gelato ended with dark chocolate cake . . . I'm sure it all helped my sore throat!

It was a quick trip to San Diego but we made the most of it. I'm so pleased to have gotten to know a new area of town (Little Italy) and I must say that I'm pretty impressed. More than perfect weather, an active volleyball scene, and great food, though, San Diego is home to several of our friends and that's what will keep us coming back . . . hopefully soon!

San Diego Day 2

Friday in San Diego began early with a run along the water. My training plan called for 400m intervals but there wasn't a[n open to the public] track around for miles. Fortunately the sidewalk in front of the San Diego County Administration Center (Waterfront Park) happened to be almost exactly 400m long (with a little extra room to slow down). Who am I to spit in the face of destiny? I had a great run and managed to avoid collisions with other pedestrians.

After a day of meetings, I hopped the tram to the convention center, where I met up with Katie. We grabbed a bite at nearby Water Grill (an obvious tourist trap but not bad at all - great oyster selection!) before heading out to Coronado Island.

Here we met some longtime friends of mine for a drink at the iconic Hotel del Coronado. In a previous life I used to spend the 4th of July with them every summer so it was wonderful to see them, catch up, and introduce them to Katie. And yes, the patio of the Del is a pretty fabulous place for such catch-up!

Katie's sister and her husband flew in Friday evening so we joined them and went to see another old friend at the Belching Beaver Brewery. Although our party mostly enjoyed our beers, I was a little disappointed in the Peanut Butter Milk Stout. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't as epic as I would have hoped.

We wound down with dinner at Queenstown Public House, which had been recommended to us by multiple sources. My salmon was a little dry but all was forgiven when the side of bleu cheese sweet potato fries came out!

Day 2 in San Diego was another mostly work day but, now that we were accompanied by partners in crime, the scene was set for an all-play Day 3!

San Diego Day 1

A few weeks ago Katie had a conference in San Diego so I tagged along and set up some business meetings for Smart OES. We headed out Wednesday evening and that night we had two surprises: 1. Now that we are on the east coast, it takes much longer to fly to the west coast than it did when we were in the center of the country. That should be obvious but this was the first time we really felt it. 2. San Diego tap water tastes nasty! It may be temporary and due to drought conditions but we were both blown away by how bad the local tap water was.

Thursday started off well. Katie went immediately to her conference but I met a friend and Smart OES investor for breakfast. There are certainly worse places for investor meetings than the rooftop of a hotel that overlooks the San Diego bay!

Later I had a lunch meeting at Monello, very near our hotel in Little Italy. Although it was hardly traditional Italian, I couldn't help but be impressed by the quality of the food: hand-made pasta, innovative flavors, and all quite delicious.

When Katie returned from the conference, we took advantage of the great weather and walked to/around Balboa Park. I hadn't realized that there were so many museums and other attractions in the park. We could have spent all day there! Instead we wandered around the rose garden and took a nap on the lawn - not a bad way to spend a California afternoon!

Finally we wrapped up the day with dinner at Davanti Enoteca, also near our hotel in Little Italy. For a place that calls itself an Enoteca we were pretty disappointed in its very limited wine selection. Fortunately it more than compensated with fantastic tapas-style plates. Our favorite by far was a savory house-made ricotta served with grilled Pugliese bread and fresh honeycomb. Mmmm!

It was an outstanding first day in San Diego - but there was plenty more to come.