Posted in Life, Southern California

My How Things Change

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. I was used to dealing with bi-polar weather. I knew it could be sunny and warm one day and snowing the next. I knew how to drive on black ice and knew how to dress on “flesh freezing” days. But then I moved to California for college and I “acclimated.”

It is currently 50 degrees here in Southern California and I am sitting here wearing two shirts under my sweater while sitting under three comforters and an electric blanket. I used to be the person wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt when the temps finally hit the 50s.  I just talked to my parents in Michigan and they said it was warm today, “it was in the 30s.”  I used to talk like that too but now I can’t even fathom the thought of 30 degrees as a “warm up in temps.”  To the new California version of myself, I think of the 70s as a “warm up in temps.”  My, how I have changed.

Posted in Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

A Force of Nature at The LA Arboretum: Personal Challenge, Day 76 (12.1.12)

On November 30, 2011, Pasadena and the surrounding area endured one of the worst storms to hit the area in decades.  With hurricane force winds ripping through the San Gabriel Valley, trees toppled, houses were damaged and power was lost to thousands of homes. 

For me, it was my very first night living in my new rental home in Altadena.  My California sister likes to blame the storm on me, “It’s all nice and calm and then you move into the neighborhood and we have a storm like any other.  I have lived here for forty years and this never happened. You live here one day and look what happens.”

So here we are, a year later, and we are still talking about the storm.  The LA County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Arcadia decided to do more than just talk about the storm on the one year anniversary, they are having an Art Exhibit in its honor.

“Forces of Nature” is an exhibition of art created from the trees that fell during the 2011 windstorm.  With over one hundred artists participating, the Arboretum is using this exhibit to raise funds for their tree fund and the opportunity to replant what was lost in the storm.  There is a silent auction and hundreds of art pieces for sale.  The exhibit is being held today and tomorrow in the Hall.

Personally, I haven’t been here in months.  I used to come here every weekend with my GCC classes.  But after the storm, it was sad to see all the damage.  But today, I was amazed by all the improvements that they have been. 

When you first enter the gardens, just off to the right, they have a whole new area with garden ideas for your own backyard as well as their vegetable garden and different new gardening projects.  This was my first time seeing the completed area and it is beautiful.  I would usually just go off toward the lake, the rose gardens and the waterfall but I am very glad that I decided to explore new areas.  I can’t wait to see what else they have in store with the funds that they raise from the Forces of Nature exhibit.

Posted in Diet, Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

Pasadena Art Weekend: The Art of Food: Personal Challenge, Day 27 (10.13.12)

After the debacle with Friday night’s introduction to Pasadena Art Night, I was a bit nervous about trying out Saturday’s activities.  But again, being a Libra, I had to push forward, stay optimistic and hope that the next event would be better.  Besides, this particular event involved food so how could it be bad?

So I took the Metro Gold Line over to Lake (where I realized I had to buy a transfer ticket to ride the Pasadena Arts bus) and hopped on the Arts bus down to the South Lake Farmers’ Market area to partake in the Art of Food event.  There were no mishaps with the buses this time so things were working out.  The Art of Food just might redeem Art Weekend.

So when I arrived at the event, a young woman approached me, asking me how I had learned of today’s event.  I told them “Pasadena Weekly.”  They then sent me over to their booth where I could fill out a quick survey and get a free reusable grocery bag.  (YAY for free stuff).

There were food booths galore, a demo area (there was a bartender teaching the art of cocktail making–awesome), a live band performance and a beer and wine garden.  Each booth represented a local business in the South Lake area.  I decided I would avoid the chain restaurants and check out the local Mom & Pop style establishments.

Most booths were giving out sample platters for $1 to $4, depending on what you wanted to try.  There were also free samples, stickers, raffle prizes, and menus.  Some booths had really long lines–like the fondue place.

I decided I would check out a place that I had just read about in this week’s Pasadena Weekly, The Real Food Daily (Organic Vegan Cuisine).  Since my friends and I really enjoyed Green Earth Vegan Cuisine the other night, I thought it would be nice to compare and contrast.  At the Green Earth Vegan Cuisine booth, they had samples of a Caesar Salad and Wrap sandwich for $2.00.  To be honest, it wasn’t bad.  It tasted like there was meat in there–chciken and bacon, I believe–even though it was completely vegan.  But when you compare it to Green Earth, Green Earth is more of a fancy, sit-down restaurant where as Real Food Daily reminds me of diner of deli food–kind of like the vegan version of Togos (which was at the event as well).  I would definitely check out their restaurant and other items on their menu.

I continued to walk around and check out the different booths, picking up free samples along the way.  But it was Float Pasadena that got my attention and caused me to stop.  There were selling “Dad’s” root beer, root beer floats and boxed water.  I was curious about the boxed water so I had to inquire about something I had never seen or heard of before.  It literally was a box of water, kind of like the box that you would purchase milk it.  They said it was better for the environment.  I just thought it was really cool and I was stopped by many people, asking about mybox of water.  They also had samples of their caramel popcorn (in a recycled bag) and their sandwiches.  I tried the “Hungry Vegetarian” sandwich sample and it was amazing–a flavorful treat for my taste buds.  I took their menu–and they gave me a sticker (yes, I am a big kid).  This is definitely a place I want to check out.

Now I would like to clarify that I am not in-fact a vegetarian.  I am a Midwestern born and bred girl from Detroit who loves meat.  I have many friends who are vegetarians or who have food allergies so it is also a good idea to find places where everyone can enjoy the food.

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, Universe

I’ve Still Got A Ticket To Ride . . . For 2.5 Hours: Personal Challenge, Day 24 (10.10.12)

After a few days of using the Metro to get around Pasadena and Downtown LA, I contemplated taking the bus to and from work.  I used the Metro Trip Planner but because of JPL and the Arroyo Seco’s placement between my home in Altadena and my workplace in La Crescenta, there was no real easy way to get to work.  The shortest trip would be 1 hour and 40 minutes.  I would have to get up super early in order to get to work on time.  Considering I am not a morning person, I figured I could survive with the 20 minute car ride back and forth to work.  Yes, gas prices here in California are the highest in the country but I figured if I just used my car to commute to work and my bike and the Metro for traveling elsewhere, I wouldn’t go bankrupt trying to fill my gas tank.

Cheapest gas prices in La Crescenta, CA

But the Universe intervened.  I think someone somewhere really, really wanted me to attempt taking the bus to work on the 10th.  I woke up late and when I discovered a few issues with my car, I figured I would just take the bus.  The 1st period of the day was my prep period so if I left right away, I would make it to work with 30 minutes to spare before my next class.  I had no clue as to what the Universe really had in store for me.

I printed out the trip planner route to get myself to work.  It was a 1 hour and 40 minute trip that had me going south into Pasadena, West through Pasadena, Eagle Rock and Glendale then North from Glendale to La Crescenta.  Then I would have to just hike up the hill to school.  My first group of students wouldn’t be in my classroom until 9:50am so if I left at 7:30am I could make this work.  It is really funny looking back at how optimistic and naive it was to think that the trip planner was accurate and everything would go according to plan.

I didn’t really take into consideration as to how long it would take me to actually walk to the bus stop.  I was walking down the street with the bus stop in sight.  I managed to watch as my bus pulled up and left exactly one minute before I arrived at the stop.  (I was too sore to run from my 3 mile hikes home from the train).  But I remained calm.  I remember when I lived by USC in downtown Los Angeles that the buses would show up every 15 minutes during the morning and evening rush hours.  So I pulled out my phone and clicked on my handy dandy “Go Metro” app.  The next bus would be arriving at 8am.  I started to panic then reminded myself that it was only a 1 hour and 40 minute trip so I would arrive in La Crescenta at 9:40am and I would still have 10 minutes to hike up the hill.  Everything would be fine.

The bus arrived at the stop at 8am.  I watched as the passengers departed but when I tried to board, they told me it wasn’t time yet and they pointed to the sign that said “Layover.”  What?!  They closed the doors and for 15 minutes, the bus driver and a co-worker sat on the bus chatting for 15 minutes.  At 8:15am, they finally opened the doors and let us board.  OK, I was getting stressed now.  As soon as I was on board the bus, I used my phone to email the secretaries at work, telling them about my situation and that I might be a few minutes late.  I would need someone to let the students in the classroom and wait for them until I hiked up the hill.  One of the secretaries told me to just call when my bus arrived on foothill in La Crescenta and she would send someone down to pick me up so I wouldn’t be too late.  So I started to feel a little bit better and of course my Libra optimism kicked in.  Maybe the trip planner was over compensating for time.  When I took the bus the other day, they didn’t have to stop at all of the stops so we arrived early.  So maybe the odds will be in my favor again and everything will work out just fine.  (Famous last mental words to self).

With the high gas prices, it seems that everyone is trying to save money and take the Metro to work.  We stopped at every single bus stop.  I kept checking my Metro app and it kept adding more and more time to my trip.  But I tried to stay calm.  I was doing my best to pay attention to the streets (some buses announce each stop and others do not, this was a bus that didn’t announce the stops).  At each stop, I noticed that my next bus that would take me into Glendale (780 Rapid Metro) had the same stops as my current bus so I really could get off at any of these stops and just catch my next bus there.  But I thought it would be best to follow the directions given to me by the Metro Trip Planner.  (I should have listened to my own gut instinct).

I was just concentrating on getting off at Colorado and Fair Oaks to catch the 780 there–just like Trip Planner said.  Of course, this was my first trip on my current bus 686 so I had no idea that it actually turned down Fair Oaks and I would have to walk back to Colorado to catch the 780.  The 686 bus got into the left turn lane.  I could see my bus stop on the Northwest corner of Fair Oaks and Colorado.  I could see the 780 drive past us, stop to pick up passengers and head off toward Glendale all the while the 686 bus was still in the left turn lane.  AHHHHHHHH!

The 780 bus had been right behind us.  If I had gotten off at the previous stop, I would have made my connection but alas, that was not in the cards for me that day.

So I got off the bus, pulled out my phone and checked the Metro app.  The next 780 bus wouldn’t arrive for another 20 minutes.  AHHHHHH!  There was nothing I could do.  I sat on the bench, pulled out my ipod, set it for shuffle and hoped the music would calm me.  But no, the Universe wanted to mess with me a bit more.  Of all the songs on my ipod, the shuffle had to pick the triad of songs that the Universe used a year ago to remind me of Big (Adele “Rolling in the Deep,” Justin Timberlake “What Goes Around,” and Linkin Park “Waiting for the End”).  REALLY?!  REALLY?!  The guy on the bench next to be decided to get up and stand as far away from me as he could.  I was really shouting “Really?!” instead of saying it in my head, like I thought I was doing.  I scared him.

So the bus finally arrives and for some reason, I kept telling myself that I had to get off at the Colorado and Broadway stop.  But when we reached Colorado and Broadway and I requested the next stop, the bus didn’t stop.  It kept going until it reached Glendale High School.  So I started to think that maybe I requested the stop too late so that is why the bus driver didn’t stop.  But I also didn’t notice an actual stop either.  So I got off at Glendale High School and looked at the sign.  I didn’t see any indication that I could catch my next bus in this area.  I needed to catch the 90 to La Crescenta.  So again, I pulled out my phone and checked the Metro app.  I was supposed to get off at Broadway and Glendale Ave, not Broadway and Colorado.  CRAP!

There was a young girl sitting there and I asked her if the 180 bus stopped at Glendale Ave.  She said yes.  I looked at the Metro app and it said it would be another 15 minutes before the 180 bus arrived.  I figured I could just walk Glendale in that time and once again I was saying out loud what I was thinking.  She told me I should just wait because the bus was right behind me.  Thank God!

So now I was on the 180 bus (Thank God for my all day Metro TAP pass).  I got off at Glendale Avenue and found the stop for the 90 bus.  I sat down on the bench and emailed the secretaries to give them an update.  It was now after 9am and according to the Metro app, I had another 50 minutes until I reached La Crescenta.  The weather was finally cooler but I was sweating from all the confusion that I had endured over the past hour and a half.

The 90 finally arrived and I just sat back, succumbing to my circumstances.  There was nothing I could do but just sit back and wait until I reached my final stop.

I called the school secretary as soon as I got off the bus.  She was coming down to pick me up.  I decided I would just start to make my way up the hill anyways.  But my legs were sore from previous adventures and hikes.  The hill up to my school is steep and my calves were on fire with each step.  But I urge myself to keep moving.  The secretary finally pulled up and drove me to the front of the school.  I had another small hill to conquer before reaching my classroom.  It was 10:10am (again, cosmic joke on me) when I finally walked into my classroom.

So if I had actually made it in time for the first bus, (and the other connections), I would have arrived at work at 9:10am.  But no, my first trip via Metro bus had me arriving an hour later.  With our school’s block scheduling and my prep period being the first block on even days, I only missed 20 minutes of my 4th period class.  But if I want to take the Metro on an odd day (and factoring in time for any mishaps), I would have to take the 5:30am bus to make it to work by 7:30am.  That is never going to happen so I guess it is safe to say that this was my first and last trip to work using the Metro as my mode of transportation.

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe

I’ve Got A Ticket To Ride: Personal Challenge, Day 23 (10.9.12)

Today started off great.  The weather cooled down and it finally felt like Fall.  I actually wore a sweatshirt this morning.  I was in a good mood despite my sore body.

But then the sun came out and my mood got worse (it must be opposite day).  I had a freak out about finances and rising gas prices.  Since my paycut this year (they changed my schedule so I can no longer make extra money doing supervision), I am struggling to keep up with the rising gas prices.  I do have to admit that I have spent more money than I planned on this personal challenge–most of the money spent on food and gas.  But over $5.00 a gallon for gas is ridiculous.  So I did what I always do when I get into panic mode, I went to see my therapist.

After a grounding 45 minute session, I had a new outlook on things, new solutions to my problems, and a smile on my face when I noticed that the clouds had returned.

And my perspective returned.  I am the queen of stretching a dollar.  So I had to look at what I have at my disposal.  I have the free Metro TAP card that I received, offering me the chance to try out the Metro for 5 consecutive days.  I first used it on Sunday and it is good until the 11th.  So I am going to use this pass as often as I can.  I tried to find a good route via the Metro to get to work but all routes point to an hour and a half commute.  Since I am not a morning person, that isn’t going to work for me.  (But I am going to try it out tomorrow to see if it is really possible).  So I will just use my car to go back and forth to work.  I can ride my bike down to the grocery store and use the Metro to go anywhere else.  A monthly pass on the Metro is $75–the current price of one tank of gas for my Cavalier.  This will eliminate the gas I waste driving to all my new adventures as well as the gas wasted trying to find parking spaces.  It will also eliminate the fees for parking.  But the best part, it will help me lose the weight I gained after my car accident.  Hopefully, I will work my way up to riding my bike to and from the different places as well.  (I really have to work on going uphill).

So tonight, I decided to give this new plan a try.  I parked my car in the driveway and headed to the closest bus stop.  I downloaded the Metro app on my phone and used that to track the local buses.  I hopped on the bus that took me to the Gold Line train station and I took the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena (Memorial Park station).

Once again, I pulled out my phone and used my Pasadena app (and eventually Yelp) to find a place to eat.  I decided I was going to try this Vegan restaurant called Green Earth Vegan cuisine on Fair Oaks.  I am not a Vegan or a Vegetarian by any means but I have some friends who are hardcore vegetarians.  So I thought I would check out a place where I could possibly take them when they visit.

I made my way over to Fair Oaks and found Green Earth Vegan just south of Colorado on Fair Oaks.  I also discovered that it was closed.  Yep, it is closed on Tuesdays.  So I pulled out my phone and went to Yelp for assistance.  There are tons of restaurants on Old Town but they are too pricey for my taste.  So I filtered my search for a restaurant with a good rating and only one dollar sign.  It turns out that the number one choice is right next to Green Earth Vegan–El Toreo.  Mexican sounded good to me.

So I walked in and instantly I felt like I was walking into someone’s home for dinner.  Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know each other.  There was a group of guys at the first table watching a ball game, playing dominoes, and enjoying their tacos and cervezas.  I sat down in a booth, placed my drink order and started to browse through the menu.  I ordered the carnitas dinner and enjoyed my complementary chips and salsa.  I looked over at the TV and noticed that the baseball game playing just happened to feature my hometown team, the Detroit Tigers.  The Universe is so funny sometimes.

As for my meal, it was really good but it can’t beat the carnitas tacos at El Patron in Altadena.  But I would happily return to El Toreo to try some of the other items on their menu.

So with a very full belly, I made my way back to the Memorial Park Metro Station and hopped on the Gold Line train back to Allen.  But according to my Metro app, I had a 30 minute wait for the next bus.  I decided to just walk home, just like I did on Sunday.  It was a nice cool night and to my delight, as I approached my neighborhood, it started to sprinkle.  The drizzle felt nice and cool after the walk home.

Obviously, the travel time is longer than driving but overall, I found the bus and train experience to be so much more relaxing.  And it almost felt like the Universe was telling me that I made the right decision (about using the Metro) by giving me the gift rain in the last leg of my journey tonight.

As for my Metro adventure tomorrow, I am going to try out the suggested routes and see how if taking the Metro to and from work is a possibility.  Stay tuned.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Sports, Tourism, Travel

Let’s Go Ride A Bike: Personal Challenge, Day 21 (10.7.12)

Today didn’t exactly start off the way I had planned.  I woke up, ready to participate in CicLAvia, an event that temporarily moves cars from the streets of Los Angeles.  The streets are open to bikers, pedestrians, roller skaters, skateboarders, and joggers.  I was planning on joining a new group of friends in a bike ride through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.  I was all ready to go when I noticed that both tires on my bike were underinflated.  I couldn’t go on a major bike ride with my flattened tires.  (I guess this is what happens when you don’t ride your bike for a while).

I took out my little hand pump and tried to pump up my tires.  It was taking forever and I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to meet up with my friends.  I called my California sister in a panic and she came over with her pro tire pump.  Once the tires were properly inflated (and she teased me about my helmet and bike), I was off.  This was my first real expedition on my Schwinn Legacy Cruiser that I received as a Christmas present from my parents.  Actually, this was the first time I was riding a bike on the streets of Los Angeles and taking the Gold Line train to Downtown.  It was a little scary.  There was a bike lane but often times there were cars parked in the bike lane and I had to merge into traffic, terrified I would be hit.  But the drivers were courteous and I managed to make it to the Metro Gold Line train in one piece.

I took the Metro Gold Line for the first time using my new Metro TAP pass.  A few months ago, I received a letter in the mail from Metro, asking me to try their new TAP pass.  I would get 5 free days on the Metro.  I agreed and received my TAP pass, a pass that has spent several months in a drawer until today.  My TAP pass was definitely put to use today.  I tapped in at the Gold Line, making my journey to Union Station.  Then I tapped into the Metro Red Line (warning: the elevators reek of urine) with MacArthur Park as my destination and meeting place.

When I first got off the train, I entered a land of bikers.  Every bike that you could imagine, including some that would be seen in places like Burning Man, streaked past.  I eventually found my friends at MacArthur Park, enjoying the food trucks.  There was entertainment, food trucks galore, and free food samples awaiting the CicLAvia participants.  Once I arrived, my earlier frustration with my bike became a faint memory.  I was so glad that I didn’t give up and let the flat tires ruin my day.  Just getting to the event had been an adventure and it was about to get better.

We started out on 7th Street, making our way to Grand Park, the next entertainment and food hub for the event.  It was cool how the streets were closed off to cars, except in cross streets.  We did have to stop at some intersections to allow cars through the area.  And at times, some of the fellow participants were dangerous in their lack of bike etiquette.  So many times, people would just stop right in front of us and block a large section of the street so they could talk with their friends.  Other times, you had people riding their bikes on the wrong side of the street, usually kids.  But my favorite had to be a woman on a pink cruiser bike riding with her cigarette sticking out, ready to burn anyone who brushed past her.  We were the unfortunate ones behind her having to breath in the smoke but we were too afraid of getting burned to pass her.  Thankfully she was distracted and went off to the right and we were able to ride quickly past her.  You definitely had to be a defensive biker, constantly keeping an eye on everything going on around you so you didn’t wind up kissing the pavement (which I did see happen a few times).

After Grand Park, we made our way to Chinatown.  At this point, it was after 3pm and the event was coming to a close.  We were all exhausted and decided after a quick visit to the Chinatown hub, we would hop onto the Gold Line.  We decided we would go out for a drink before heading off into our separate directions.  We took the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena.  We chose The Green Tavern as our drink destination.  I had never been there before and to be honest, it is a little too . . . upscale for my taste.  I did finally get my imported German beer and a salad but it was too expensive for my taste.  But at least I can say I have been there.

Once we were done chatting and enjoying our drinks, we rode our bikes make to the Metro Gold Line station where we had to part ways.  I was three stops away from my destination.  When I arrived and made my way down to the street, I used what energy I had left to ride my bike back up a street I drive on a daily basis.  But when you are in a car, you don’t notice the street’s steep incline.  I didn’t get very far on the bike before I decided to just walk the last few miles home.

I don’t think I have ever been so happy before to see my back door.  I made my way into my kitchen and decided to look at my Bodymedia Fit results for the day.  I had burned 3,000 calories, took over 11,000 steps and had over 4 hours of activity.  My legs were sore, I got a little too much sun, and I was way too sweaty but I had a blast and I would definitely do this again.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, TV, Universe, Writing

Comedy for Cancer: Personal Challenge, Day 18 (10.4.12)

Yesterday, while researching things to do and places to visit in Pasadena, I found my way to the Ice House Comedy Club website.  The first thing I noticed was a picture of Christopher Titus, my sister’s favorite comedian.  I clicked on the picture of Titus and discovered that he would be performing in a special event, a benefit for John Fox Memorial Comedians Cancer Screening Fund.  I had never been to the Ice House or seen Titus perform live, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity (and it was for a very good cause).

I am so glad I got there early, I managed to get a free parking spot on the street.  I was a little confused on where to go and how everything worked since this was my first visit to the Ice House.  I found my way to the back alley entrance where there was an outdoor bar.  I went up to the entrance but there was no one there.  I had arrived at 7:30 pm and the show started at 8:00pm but the website said they would start seating people at 7:00  pm.  This was not the case.  I didn’t see any employees around that I could talk to but I did since a couple standing by the door.  I asked them if they were there for the benefit, they were, and they told me that I had to check in with the cashier.  I stood outside the cashier booth but the cashier was on the phone.  She didn’t even acknowledge my presence.  A simple, “I will be with you in a minute” would be the courteous thing to do.  But she ignored me, I stood there, she kept talking on the phone and ignored me some more, then I started to get upset.  So far, I was not getting a good impression of the Ice House.  So I went back out and stood with the couple also waiting to get in.  I watched as two women in stilettos walked past us and instantly got help from the cashier, bus boys and some other guy whom I assumed worked there.  Now I was insulted.  But thankfully there was this nice woman who seemed to be running the show.  I walked up and asked her what I was supposed to do.  She told me to check in with the cashier, I mentioned how I was ignored before but she made sure I was helped this time.  The cashier took a look at my ticket, marked something on the computer (taking attendance I guess) then handed me back my ticket.  That was it?  She couldn’t do that while she was on the phone?  Again, I was irritated.

Eventually, they led us into the main show room.  We were seated in the front row and handed our menus.  There was a two drink minimum–and they were pricey drinks.  My two drink minimum cost me $25 with tax and tip.  Then factor in the cost of the ticket ($15 plus a $2 processing fee) and it is not a cheap date.  But I reminded myself that it was a good cause and I was going to see Christopher Titus.

All I have to say is that once the show started, all of my irritations disappeared.  I was laughing so hard that I was crying.  Each comedian was well worth the price for admission.  And I never knew Fritz Coleman, our local weather man, was so funny.  And of course Christopher Titus was AMAZING!!!  I was on the verge of tears, the kind that trickle down your leg.

Even though it didn’t start off the way I had hope, it was an amazing evening.  And I wound up winning the raffle prize, a $35 gift certificate for the Ice House.  I think this is the Universe’s way of telling me that I need to give this place another try.  Everyone deserves a second chance, the same should apply to places.  Overall, I had a wonderful time and hopefully next time, the entire experience will be “magical.”

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