Summer road trip, anyone? Mr. R and I headed over to Tampa last weekend for an Indie author book convention. The event featured Indie authors from all over the world, and was held at a party space called Chic Venue.
It was pretty inside (okay, Mr. R called it gaudy) and as soon as we arrived, we set about putting our half of the table in order.
I shared the table with a lovely author named Harmony Stalter. She was super nice, and displayed two books, one of which she called a ‘second-chance romance’, and the other a murder mystery. Which probably explains the jar with the (fake) heart and the other one filled with eyeballs.
She later apologized for the gruesome display, but I replied that her jars probably accounted for most of the people who stopped by our table. The event ran from noon to 6:00, and traffic was slow. Even so, I had a wonderful time and met a lot of great writers. I’m even making plans to return next year.
As Mr. R and I headed home, we stopped in Ybor City, my favorite part of Tampa. It’s the historic Cuban district, and probably where we should have had the author event. I’ll push for that for next year.
Anyway, we found street parking and strolled toward the loud live music coming from down the street. It emanated from Gaspar’s Grotto, a place we know well. It’s where you go when you want the absolute best Cuban sandwich you’ll find anywhere. So with cocktails on the table and sandwiches ordered, we relaxed to live music and reflected on our day.
It was our summer road trip. Which brings me to tonight’s serenade, Love Shack, the ultimate road trip song. And it makes me wonder… We told you about our trip. Where have you traveled this summer? I’d love to hear all about it.
In the meantime, hug those you love. Happy Saturday night!
Yesterday, Mr. R. and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a lovely day, going out to the movies and then cocktails at one of our favorite waterfront bars.
In honor of the occasion, tonight’s Serenade is ‘our’ song. I’ve undoubtedly posted this song before but this is a really great version, a live performance from Berlin in 2010 backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Be sure to notice the chick with the “I need to speak to your manager” haircut on backing vocals.
This is dedicated to my sweet, my husband, the yin to my yang, the peas to my carrots, the love of my life. May we enjoy forty more and then some. Happy Saturday night!
Sorry about the recent trend, but have I mentioned that I’m somewhat happy that Summer is here?
Mr. R. returned from his errands yesterday with these gifts. It’s going to be a glorious summer. For one thing, now that I’m off work, Mr. R.’s new schedule is the bomb. We get to sleep late together every day since he doesn’t have to be at work until late afternoon. Then he leaves, giving me quiet time to write and not feel like I’m ignoring him.
We went out for date night last night to one of my favorite locations, Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. (I know, I’ve written about it a million times). We had no solid plan and after strolling up and down the street a for a few blocks we settled on Duffy’s Sports Grill. In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. R. worked part-time as a server at Duffy’s (although not at the Clematis location) as a second job when we first started dating.
Duffy’s is a local chain that began in Palm Beach Gardens in a small building that currently houses one of my favorite bars on the planet, Pirate’s Well. From that one restaurant, the company grew to 29 locations located mostly in South Florida. Duffy’s is a sports bar and grill with views of any number of television screens from any seat in the place. They offer typical bar food and have a nice Happy Hour special of two-for-one drinks all the time.
Truthfully, it’s not my absolute favorite place to go but it was right for our budget last night and the food was really good. We sat outside and watched the world go by up and down Clematis, including one Segway tour (Note to self–Never go anywhere and take a Segway tour. You look like an idiot.)
It was such a nice relaxing time. Mr. R., faithfully being careful with what he eats and drinks, drank unsweetened tea with a splash of lemonade while I had the Grand Raspberry Peach Cosmo (times two, of course). For nibbles we had a small order of boneless chicken wings with Buffalo sauce, an order of fries, and the chicken tostado nachos. Okay, we weren’t exactly eating clean, but it was a nice cheat night.
Following our time at Duffy’s we strolled down toward the east end of Clematis where it meets with Flagler and the waterfront. We just missed a wedding at the end of the floating dock that goes out into the Intracoastal. The wedding party was leaving the dock and crossing Flagler to where the reception was being held. Some guys were breaking down the ceremony site and Mr. R. asked if he could take a flower from one of the arrangements for his ‘lady’. They were happy to oblige and Mr. R. picked a beautiful peach rose which I carried as we walked to the end of the dock and looked back at the city.
Grey clouds made for a beautiful evening and as we stood there we could hear the cheers of bar patrons watching American Pharaoh win the Triple Crown. It was a great way to celebrate the arrival of Summer.
“We have an appointment at 3:30,” Mr. R. said to me on Saturday.
“What kind of appointment?” I asked reasonably.
He smiled sagely. “An appointment. Be ready to go by 3:00.”
The appointment, it turns out, was for me to get a mani-pedi, which I have not had in years. Mr. R. called and set up the appointment for me as a surprise. He dropped me at the door of Polished Nail Spa at PGA Commons. “Text me when you’re done,” he said. And so I sat with my feet soaking in the warm swirling water as I once again contemplated the fact that I’m a very lucky girl.
I had never been to this particular salon before; it was very luxurious, much nicer than the little place I used to go to next to the grocery store. And it was packed, every station occupied by people having their nails done. Each pedicure chair had an iPad, which I tried to use to distract myself from what the nail tech was doing to my toes. It wouldn’t do to kick the poor lady in the head. But confession, y’all, I am not very techie and I don’t own an iPad, so I couldn’t work it very well. I did manage to pull up YouTube but the Rolling Stones song I chose sort of clashed with the spa music so I turned it off again.
When my fingers and toes were buffed and polished to perfection, Mr. R. picked me up and we headed to the part of Date Night I knew about, dinner at Yard House, courtesy once again of Christmas gift cards. Again, Yard House is a chain, but I actually like that place.
It has a cool ambiance, a large diverse menu, and pomegranate martinis. Normally, they have great music, but there was football on, so no such luck. But all was good when my pomegranate martini and the truffle fries arrived. Mr. R. enjoyed his cappuccino with our appetizer while we pondered our dinner choices. He ended up with the Lobster Garlic Noodles along with a Lost Coast Alleycat Amber while I had the Chicken Enchilada Stack. Both were excellent and I might have had another pomegranate martini before we called it a night.
All in all, a gift card to Yard House does not suck. It was a fun date night.
In a previous post, Redefining Date Night, I mentioned that because Mr. R. and I are economizing these days, Date Night is a bit harder to come by. We’ve become somewhat more creative but I’ve gotta be honest with you–I’m not really a ‘Pull-A-Slip-Out-Of-A-Hat-Date-Night’ kind of girl. And so it is that Mr. R. and I took advantage of an opportunity to visit our local art museum for free over the weekend.
Last Saturday, Smithsonian magazine sponsored a nation-wide event whereby you could go online to sign up for a free ticket for two that would be honored by participating museums, zoos, and other places.
From several options, we chose the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. I had actually been there previously, but only on field trips with my first graders where I had to be responsible for preventing the little cretins from putting their grubby paws on the thousand-year-old Chinese screen. So I was excited to be able to go and just enjoy the place. And we did enjoy ourselves.
My art museum experience is somewhat limited and so I can only compare it with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. or the Musee D’Orsee in Paris, but for a fairly small museum , I think they have a nice collection. We saw paintings by Matisse, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollack. They also had a special show called Wheels and Heels, featuring vintage Matchbox cars and Barbies.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Norton is the oval room housing the colorful glass ‘undersea’ ceiling by Dale Chihuly. The outer portion of the curved wall is all windows surrounded by the fountains fronting the museum so the place is a riot of light and color. When school groups visit, the children are encouraged to lie on the floor and look up at the ceiling. We contented ourselves with sitting on a pair of mid-century leather chairs, leaning back to view the display.
We made our way to the second floor housing their Chinese collection and marveled at items such as bowls, decorative accessories, and statuary, some of which were up to 3,000 years old. Mr. R., ever the entertainer, saw this Ming dynasty miniature of a table set with food and quipped, “Look! The first ever Chinese buffet.”
Funny thing about the Norton Museum of Art. It’s really just around the corner from one of our favorite places to hang out, Bar Louie on Clematis Street. So after our artsy fartsy afternoon, we found ourselves a table on the sidewalk at Bar Louie. Again, we’re economizing, so we stuck with drinks (Diet Coke for Mr. R. and Louie’s Cosmo for me) and a snack.
I love Bar Louie. They have a great Happy Hour. And we’ve always had superb service. But…it was not Happy Hour. And…we did not have the best service on the planet.
I’m thinking it’s probably because our server realized that we weren’t ordering a huge meal and figured she didn’t stand to get much of a tip. Don’t misunderstand, she was pleasant enough, but to call her inattentive is an understatement. It wasn’t busy, being around 3:30 in the afternoon, so it isn’t as if she was swamped with tables. The thing is, we’re pretty good tippers, Mr. R. and I, and we love to reward good service, regardless of the amount of our ticket. Once upon a time, he was a server, so we’re very appreciative of how hard they work.
We ended up only having our drinks and we shared the Smoked Turkey Sliders, which were amazingly delicious, by the way. But I’m a little sad. We won’t be going out like we used to, so I’m looking for a stellar experience when we do. I can’t wait for the next time.
Oh, the adventures of date night. Last night was our first Friday night out in a few weeks. Needless to say, we were excited to be out and about. However, our first two stops were a bust.
First, we tried Coconuts on the Beach, a tiki-type bar at the Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront. We walked in around 6:30 and to say they were not busy would be to understate the situation. There were a couple of occupied tables and a handful of people at the bar. Even so, we sat for about fifteen minutes and no server or host approached us. Mr. R. went to the bar to order some cocktails and couldn’t even get waited on there. Why did we even try a corporate place?
We left the Hilton and headed south on Singer Island to the Sailfish Marina. Again, it was not crowded, and by this time it was after 7:00. On Friday night. We inadvertently pulled into the ‘Valet Only’ parking lot which had a couple of cars parked in a sea of empty spaces. The attendant helpfully pointed out that if we wished to self-park, we could pull back out onto the street and drive about a block down and park there. Yet, here we were, in a virtually empty parking lot. Here’s the thing–it’s Friday night and we just want to have a nice time together.
Instead, we did what we should have done from the beginning, and that is we headed to Northwood Village for the Art and Wine Promenade. Parking at the west end of Northwood Road, we strolled along the closed down street stopping now and then to look at various wares offered by the artisans and vendors set up there. There was supposed to be a tropical mango theme for the evening, but the only mango I saw was on one table giving samples of sangria. There was lots of live music; I’m reasonably certain that Sweet Home Alabama doesn’t qualify as tropical, but I’ll let that go because it’s one of my favorites.
Eventually, we ended up at O-BO, taking a table in the street, the better to people watch. I ordered a sauvignon blanc and Mr. R. had a soft drink while we considered the menu. Owner Jeff Thompson greeted us like old friends (take that, Coconuts) as did our server. A lady at another table graciously offered to take a picture of Mr. R. and me together. Live music was provided at the restaurant by O-BO regular Micheal Boone. He used the wireless mic to move effortlessly back and forth between inside and outside. His version of John Legend’s All of Me was spot-on and enjoyable. The evening was exceedingly warm and muggy, a fact that cut down on my appetite, but we ordered the exquisite truffle waffle fries anyway. Great service and amazing food are the reasons we keep going back to O-BO.
On our way back west on Northwood, we stopped at a vendor’s table and Mr. R. thoughtfully replaced my hand painted wine glass that was broken a couple of months ago. More about that in a future post. Back to date night.
Leaving Northwood Village, we headed further south to downtown West Palm Beach and Clematis Street. Walking west, we passed one of our favorite hang outs, Bar Louie, to go further up the street to Rocco’s Tacos. Mr. R. is not often in the mood for Mexican food so when he offers, I readily accept. Rocco’s was busy and there were several people waiting for seating, in spite of the fact that there were one or two tables available on the sidewalk. Many people don’t prefer the small sidewalk tables because they’re right next to the street. Mr. R. went inside to ask about the wait. He mouthed to me that the wait was 25 minutes and I said no, let’s just go back to Bar Louie. However, the manager, Ryan, witnessed this exchange and seated us immediately at the outside table that we wanted in the first place (take that, Coconuts). Outdoor seating on Clematis Street is the best. It’s fun to watch people walking up and down the street: couples on dates, groups of dudes (or chicks) on the prowl, the trolleys full of tourists that ride past, looking afraid to get out and experience the ‘real’ West Palm Beach.
Our server Price was friendly and helpful, explaining the menu and the evening’s specials. Ultimately, we ordered a pitcher of pamaritas and Rocco’s homemade tortilla chips and salsa which we enjoyed while we watched the crowds and listened to the music pouring from inside the restaurant. I’m certain I heard Jesse’s Girl at one point. After a couple glasses of pamarita, I made my way inside and found that the movie Napoleon Dynamite was inexplicably playing in the loo. But I’m a fan of quirky.
After we settled up with Price, Mr. R. agreed to take me a few blocks further west to Respectable Street, a club he introduced me to when we first started dating. One day I want to write a whole piece about Respectables. The place has changed a great deal over the years, but one thing that remains the same is the friendliness of the bartenders there (take that, Coconuts), a fact which Mr. R. wanted to emphasize. It was only 10 o’clock, very early for the Respectables crowd, and the place was nearly empty. We ordered our drinks and sat on a banquette to watch the action. We noticed the lonely guy sitting at the bar taking selfies, which seemed a little sad. There was the skeevy guy standing where he could look into the ladies’ room, a fact I noted as I washed my hands and looked into the mirror, finding him looking at me. One other guy was sitting down the banquette from us, but he finished his drink and left. Thumping retro new wave music was playing to the empty dance floor. I love to dance but I prefer when the floor is packed, when you know no one is looking. Slowly, people began to trickle in, some heading directly out to the back courtyard to set up music outside. Eventually, some girls started dancing and I let Mr. R. take us out on the floor for a bit. A few songs later, we’d had enough and we were ready begin making our way back home.
Despite the rough start, we had an excellent date night. We visited some superb establishments, met some nice people, and witnessed some interesting scenes. The beginning was a little rocky, but don’t we need the bad to appreciate the good?