Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Summer in California

Ventura Pier
I spent almost the entire summer in Southern California. Ojai to be exact. Try not to be jealous. And if you live in Southern California don't rub it in.

Ojai is where I grew up. My parents are still there with a comfortable home for my boys and I and since my husband was deployed I decided it was the perfect opportunity to leave North Carolina's humidity for a nostalgic California summer.

So off we went. We being a 7.5 year old Dustin and an almost 3 year old Colton James. The dog stayed home.
To say it was a full summer is an understatement. I am not even sure where to begin, but I promise to give you an opportunity to live vicariously through me, even if just for a moment, as I experienced one of the best summers of my life!

Family, friends, beach, sun, food, swimming, 4th of July festivities, my 15-year High School reunion, wine tasting,  Colt's third birthday, trips to San Diego, Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Paso Robles, amazing restaurants, a truly powerful parenting seminar, and my husband's surprise visit the last week of our stay just broach the surface.

I also worked hard too. I can't take the summer off from Teamotions, but I wouldn't want to. It was so much fun growing the company from Southern California. We made informational videos, strategic contacts, and I attended the SOLVE Conference put on by Chic CEO.

And I cooked and cooked and cooked some more. Fresh summer gazpacho, made from scratch Serrano Chile margarita mix, Moroccan vegetable stew with golden raisins and cumin, cheddar cheese bacon burgers with sweet onion chutney and horseradish mayo, thai chicken sandwiches with Serrano apricot ginger sauce, grilled pineapple and coleslaw with peanut sauce...just to name a few. I promise to leave you with some original recipes at the very end of this post. I was even thinking about publishing an e-book. Would you be interested in an e-book of my summer recipes? If so let me know and I will publish one!

 I couldn't possibly put into words the perfectness of the weather, the conversations with my best friend Brenna, the hours spent by the pool (I have a tan for the first time in 7 years), and the contentedness I felt watching my boys spend an entire summer in the same house I grew up in. There was something even more magical about it than Christmas.

This summer was a blessing to me in so many ways. And since I know how fleeting happiness can be I can only be thankful for a summertime full of precious memories, fun experiences, and meaningful conversations and relationships. I am in awe sometimes that any happiness has returned at all. I was so sad for a time, so darkly, hopelessly sad. And although I can't go as far as to say I am never sad anymore, I am definitely happy again. I experience joy and laughter and I have hope again. My future won't only be filled with the pain of missing my sweet girls. Good times and beautiful memories await. Five years ago I would have thought a summer like this one would have been impossible, but yet here I sit, writing the longest blog post of all time just to share the good news.

Healing is possible. A beautiful life can be had after loss. I had a glimpse of it this summer.

Since I would have to write a book to document my entire summer and just how awesome it was I will post only the highlights MOST worth mentioning.

1) I had the privilege of meeting Jonathan and Carrie Pascual of the STILL Project and Sean Hanish, writer and director of the movie Return to Zero as soon as I arrived. We met up in Pasadena for dinner to bond over our creative pursuits, our mutual support of each other, and the most important thing we have in common: we suffered the deaths of our children and lived to tell about it in some pretty creative ways. JP and Carrie are making a documentary called STILL and Sean Hanish is in the process of trying to get the feature film he wrote and directed into theaters (you can help by pledging to see the movie or becoming a local leader here). We met up a second time for a Saturday BBQ, some swimming, and some much needed rest and relaxation.
Dinner with Jonathan, Carrrie, and Sean!

Having too much fun!

Our children swimming together.
2) Believe it or not it has been 5 years since Aubrey and Ellie were born. Visiting Aubrey and Ellie's headstone on their 5th birthday was one of the highlights of my time in California. I miss you so much my sweet girls.

3) With the help of a bunch of friends from high school and the generosity of Jonathan and Carrie Pascual and their film making expertise, Teamotions was able to make some amazing marketing videos. Just click HERE to see them. They are all very short-I promise. But SO WORTH watching.

4) I never thought that I would say this but my 15-year High School reunion was a blast. I talked so much my voice was gone the next day. Here are a few pics. GO NORDHOFF RANGERS!

Zach, Sarah, Me and Jake...friends from way back.
I just wanted to show you how cute the back of my dress was!
5) I definitely used the time we spent in Califonia to visit family. My aunt and uncle live in Paso Robles and we always have the best time with them. My uncle took me wine tasting and my favorite BY FAR was Sculpterra Winery. The wine was amazing. Every single one, white or red, blew my mind, and they even had a ruby port (and as a rule I don't like port) that was phenomenal. Plus they let you eat pistacios they grow themselves while you taste. The grounds are beautiful too. The gardens are full of sculptures and the tasting room was exquisit. And the best part, it was FREE. Can't beat that! If you are ever in the area you must go there! YOU MUST!

6) Since the summer can't be all play and no work I also attended The SOLVE Conference with Chic CEO in San Diego. Teamotions was chosen as one of the focus group companies so I put myself and my company out there to be critiqued by a panel of professional and a panel of my peers. The feedback was priceless though and was more positive than negative by far. I walked away with actual solutions I was able to implement right away. More importantly, however, I got some much needed encouragement by people who actually know what they are talking about and made some meaningful and valuable connections.

7) And last but not least I have a new favorite restaurant. I am a true foodie so it takes a lot for me to declare a favorite restaurant. I have extremely high standards. Lure Fish House and Oyster Bar in Ventura, CA fits the bill however. The food is phenomenal, the service excellent, the ambiance superb, and they make a mean grapefruit diablo martini. I highly recommend checking it out when you are in town. It just might become your favorite restaurant too!

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Fresh Summer Gazpacho by yours truly Rachel Tenpenny Crawford ( I used all locally grown fresh farmer's market produce which does make all the difference in the flavor)

1 large cucumber, peeled
3 large fresh garden tomatoes. Grocery store won't do. They need to be rich, sweet, and flavorful.
1 red bell pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 large onion
1 jalapeno
handful of flat leaf parsley
handful of cilantro
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbls olive oil
sugar, as needed, optional
avocado, diced, to garnish

Pull all ingredients into the blender and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and sugar, 1/4 teaspoon at a time to mellow any acidity. Keep chilled and pour into bowls and garnish with avocado and more chopped cilantro and an additional squeeze of lime. Add extra jalapeno for a spicier Gazpacho or leave it out if no spice is desired.
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