Sometime last year, Amanda and I realized something shocking: we’d been friends for 30 years. I feel about 25 (and often act 13), so this is, of course, impossible. I can still see us as two gangly blonde 10-year-old goofballs, giddy to have found another person with the same personality and sense of humor. All these years later, we still truly “get” each other when no one else does. We are sisters. We decided our 30th Friend-iversary must be properly recognized, and that was the spark that inspired a trip to California. It just so happened that the rest of the Fab Five were up for an adventure (no easy feat with ten children between them!), and we all turn 40 years old this year. All signs pointed to a ladies celebration, and last weekend, that’s exactly what we did.
After landing in sunny California on Thursday, I had a stressful solo adventure on the 405 freeway in a tiny Ford Fiesta (rush hour at 2:45pm?!) followed by dinner with Amanda’s family, including my adorable nieces. At home, my room was full of treats- roses, yummy soaps, a bamboo cutting board, slippers, a birdhouse painted by the girls, and some of the records Amanda and I listened to in the 80s! I felt so loved. We got up bright and VERY early in order to have a donut date with the girls before taking them to school, then met the Fab Five ladies to start the weekend. Amanda and I put together cute little gift bags full of girly goodies, anticipating a slumber-party style spa moment with the ladies during the weekend.
We stopped for an extended/boozy breakfast and a little shopping before we left town. Ame gave us lovely, dainty gold necklaces with our initial on it and we clinked glasses and toasted to our friendship. We’d clink many glasses over the next couple of days.
The car must have sounded like a hen house on the drive up to Ojai, five old friends chitter-chattering the whole way. We settled into our hip digs (complete with a 1971 jukebox) and cracked open a bottle of wine. Another gift was distributed, this time a beautiful bracelet from Stacey.
After a quick grocery store run and a drive through town, Ame made spectacular fresh blood orange/jalapeno margaritas and we caught up on each other’s lives until the sun went down. After an interesting and tasty dinner at a farm-to-table spot, we hit a local bar called the Deer Lodge for some live music and cocktails before heading back for a hilarious late-night round of Cards Against Humanity. Let’s just say that 3am snuck up on us.
On Saturday, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked to town for coffee before heading out on a hike. With lots of recent rains, the hillsides were unbelievably vibrant and green. The view from the trail got better and better; we could see orchards and the entire Ojai valley. We strolled alongside trees laden with ripe oranges, inhaled the intoxicating aroma of orange blossoms, and passed many happy dogs hiking with their owners. We were so distracted by our surroundings that we ignored the darkening clouds overhead. A few raindrops later, we were back at the house with an obvious post-hike snack in this part of California: perfectly delicious fresh guacamole and crisp wine in the sunshine.
We headed to the main drag to do a little wine-tasting and window-shopping before returning to the homestead for our at-home spa treatments. We alternated music from our iPods and the jukebox, singing along with the Bee Gees or Rihanna with muck on our faces and laughing constantly. Every facial should include cucumber-strawberry cocktails.
For dinner, we headed to Suzanne’s, where we shared lots of delicious food, wine, chocolate, and even an espresso martini. There were a few tears shed when we reminded each other how special our friendship is. There were a few “Remember when….?” moments. There were a few “What was I thinking?” giggles. There were many photos taken by our very patient server. And there was a LOT of laughter.
After a half-hearted attempt to go out after dinner, we decided to take advantage of the full bar at the house and have a dance party. I’m pretty sure I started the 80s hair phenomenon that took over the group, and Amanda amazed us all with her memory of old cheer dances. The music was loud. There was tequila involved. We ran out of hairspray. I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but an evening like that is hard to beat with the Fab Five.
We went to bed too late and got up too early. We lingered over a beautiful homemade brunch on our last morning in Ojai, not wanting the fun to end. We said goodbye to our hipster pad and checked out the local farmers market, tasted olive oils, and did a bit more shopping. We watched a woman ride her horse down the main street like it was the most normal thing in the world. We tucked into a pizza joint minutes before the skies opened up into a hailstorm. When there was a break in the rain, we sprinted to the Ojai Vineyard tasting room around the corner for one last bit of wine-tasting before heading back to reality. There’s so much more I want to explore in that little town. We’ll be back…thank you, Ojai.
While the Fab Five getaway was over, my time in California was not. I savored my time with Amanda’s family, whether it was chatting around the dinner table or snuggling in for story time or walking the girls into school. I look at Amanda’s older daughter and realize she is just a tad younger than we were when we met. Time simply flies.
On Monday, Amanda and I had some time to ourselves. We went to breakfast and reminisced about the Ojai fun. We stalked a house they’re looking at buying. We relaxed with pedicures and tea. We tried a weird wrinkle treatment and watched home-improvement shows and sipped wine. We picked up the girls and visited spiders and lizards and rats and a giant tortoise at the pet store.
On my last night in Cali, the ladies (big and small) danced around the kitchen making mozzarella-stuffed meatballs in homemade sauce and delicious chocolate chip/pretzel cookies for Marco. As we cooked and baked, I kept thinking, I hope the girls remember this. These random moments are my favorites- nothing special or planned, just real life and time together. For me, it’s priceless. What a perfect ending to my trip!
In the morning, I got goodbye bear hugs from the girls and a few tears from Amanda (I gave some back). I was looking forward to being reunited with John and Cholula, but a part of me aches whenever Amanda and I separate.
I was greeted by new snow in Utah when I got home, but between hugs from my hubby, snuzzles from my lap dog, and memories from my wonderful whirlwind weekend, I’ve got plenty to keep me warm.
Where we stayed: We originally booked a cottage on a creek through Enchanted Vacation Rentals, but they had a plumbing issue so we were moved to “The Hipster.” The location was perfect for walking to town or to hiking. It was beautifully decorated with vintage decor but probably not ideal for families or children. We also wished for a hot tub and fire pit. There’s a jukebox in the kitchen!
Where we ate:
- The Farmer and the Cook: Organic and farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant and food store. We loved the root vegetable salad with lentils and the jalapeño poppers!
- Suzanne’s: A quaint and delicious restaurant where locals eat. Our service was excellent and it was our best meal of the weekend. We loved the goat cheese stuffed pasta shells with jumbo shrimp.
- Sea Fresh: We sat on the heated patio here when we desperately needed a snack. We shared quite a few appetizers and a “Pink Moment” cocktail. The coconut shrimp were delicious!
- Ojai Pizza: Our refuge from a hail storm, we weren’t expecting to love the pizza… and then ordered a second one. Yum.
Where we drank:
- Ojai Coffee Roasting Company: Walking distance from our rental house and a local’s joint. They had yummy-looking pastries and sandwich options and the coffee was good.
- Deer Lodge: This place is truly a lodge, with animals on the wall and wood-burning stoves. It was cozy and fun and they had a great live band. I wish we’d stayed longer!
- Casa Barranca Tasting Room: This tasting room is right on the main drag and our server was delightful. She let us hole up in a back corner and take our time tasting wine and chatting.
- Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room: Our last stop before we left town. It’s a brand new tasting room and the wine was delicious. Some girls purchased bottles to take home.
Where we hiked: Shelf Road. This is a popular trail for locals and dog-walkers that runs along the side of town. There are lots of trails to access from Shelf Road that go up into the hills and are more steep. We tried the Fox Canyon Trail and had a glorious view of the entire Ojai Valley.
Bit by the travel bug? Check out more of our adventures on the TRAVEL BLISS page.
A couple of items on my 40’s 40 list were checked off with this trip. See the list here!
One year ago: Baked lemon chicken.