Sometimes you kind of kick yourself when you try a recipe for the first time and it turns out to be sooooo eeeasssy! Such is the case when I made a pimento cheese spread to take to a Memorial weekend pool party. 

I had this big block of Tillamook cheddar I had received from the company and after having nibbled through half of it, I was trying to think of something to do with the rest of it while also thinking of what I could bring to the party. 

My girlfriends and I had also recently been to Bandera where we had asked for a double order of their cheese spread. We got to discussing what was in it and how to make it.

Then I stumbled upon a collection of pimento spread recipes and ended up taking bits from different recipes to make my own with what I had available, only running to the store for the pimentos and some cream cheese.

The spread was a hit and three of my friends asked for the recipe. So here it is. I especially liked eating it by dipping in fresh sugar peas from the farmers market. 

Pimento Cheese 

8 oz of cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
8 oz of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 clove of garlic minced
1/4 cup of onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 jalapeno minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce
fresh ground pepper
pinch of salt

In a food processor, pulse together the cream cheese and mayo until smooth. Add cheddar and blend together.  Add rest of ingredients and blend until everything is well mixed and smooth. Taste and add more hot sauce if you want more kick. 

Transfer spread to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate several hours or overnight to meld the flavors. Remove spread from the frig and let sit out for 30 minutes before serving with crackers or veggies. 

A few years ago I decided to stop giving my best friend actual, physical gifts and started giving her gifts that we could share together.  I felt that we didn't necessarily have enough girl time outside the home doing fun things other than dining out.  Plus, I wanted to share new experiences with her.  My first gift in this vein was when we went indoor surfing at SurfXtreme in Elk Grove. 

Dari liked the idea of event gifting and so this year her Christmas present to me was to go to Safari West in Santa Rosa. Turns out our friend Val had also bought a package for her mom and daughters and so all six of us went out this last weekend. 

Safari West is located on 400 acres in the hills northeast of Santa Rosa. We were told by our guide, Stephanie, that the ranch owners, Peter and Nancy Lang, had cattle, but had started adding African wildlife to their property for fun. In 1993 they decided to open offer a safari style experience to the public. Safari West gained full accreditation in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association shortly after.

Safari West is now home to about 90 different species of wildlife, mostly antelopes and birds.  There are some cheetahs, monkeys, and other large animals as well.

You can also stay overnight. There are about two dozen tent cabins that range in price from $200 to $315 depending on season and location. These are like hotel rooms with full bathrooms and luxury features, just not solid walls. I guess they could be a bit chilly at night then.

Tour packages range in price from $35 for children to $95 for adults during peak season. The tours last about three hours - one for the walking portion and two for the jeep ride.  Some parties start walking first, some start the ride first.

I have no problem dining in restaurants alone, with a few exceptions.  Brunch, to me, is a social affair and requires a partner or a group.  The other exception is elevated fine dining. What I mean by that is someplace where it's an experience and that you are probably investing a serious wad of cash.  An example is The French Laundry.  I wouldn't want to go alone!  You want to share that experience with another foodie friend that can really appreciate it.

So, yes, you can sometimes find me eating solo at Ella, Mother, Broderick, or elsewhere. I'll be reading between courses or playing with social media. It may be that I'm using a half-off coupon.  I'm the type the restaurants hate. I'll use a coupon just for myself. I want bang for my buck. In that regard I can be a bit selfish.

But then again, eating alone is, well, lonely. I suffer from a lack of foodie friends that are single who I can count upon to join me. Some of my foodie friends have families, or are partnered, or live too far away. I guess I need (more) new friends. 

There are several new ways to accomplish this. And so I thought I would share them with you.


Meetup has been around for over a decade now and it is a great site, especially if you are new to an area.  There are groups for every diverse interest you can think of. There's everything from Chihuahua Lovers to Knitting groups. There are definitely dining groups as well.  In fact, for a few years I was an Organizer for the Dining Galore group. Then life changed and I stopped. But I'm actually occasionally putting an event on there again.  I also belong to Forkscrew, which is a group that does theme potlucks about once a month. What's nice about this group is that everyone is on their A-game for bringing homemade dishes versus grabbing a veggie platter from Raley's.  

I do have a great appreciation for Meetup.  Some of my current friends or acquaintances are from those groups, and, in fact, my new job at even came indirectly through Meetup. Thank you!