At home in Surfside.

Brussels Bistro is possibly the greatest little niche restaurant on the West Coast.  At least it is my new found favorite for the area.  Brussels Bistro is located in the heart of Laguna Beach.  Stark and I ventured down the PCH to Laguna after a day full of activities.

Stark woke up early for work and phone calls.  Not too long after, I ventured to the breakfast nook to do my own computing which involved signing up for half a dozen Social Media webinars that were previously experiencing inbox-neglect.  Once Stark had a break in his to-do list, we ventured out only a few miles to Huntington Beach where we bought a pair of wetsuits at HCC.  I’m sporting an Epic Women’s O’Neal suit.  No, I am not that much of a surfer to be referring to the suit as epic.  The suit’s actual title is Epic and I find the name about as snug fitting as the suit itself.

There’s something really fantastic about having to get a “tall” suit.  Having the extra umf to it’s required form fitting (tall or short) somehow makes it seem that much more unique to the warmth and ability the suit is apt to provide.  Once Stark and I were back home, it was a few more emails and doodads before we were strapping on our suits again and heading for shore with our respective boards.

The boards provided by our Home Away house are cork boards.  These boards are recommended for beginners although they are incredibly easy to break.  Unlike the boards we took our lesson on, these boards maxed out at about 7-foot-something which didn’t provide a whole lot of room for the surfers plank position.

Stark and I spent our lunch break fighting the waves.  We ran back into the ocean after every attempt – running, jumping, paddling, surfing, running, jumping, paddling, surfing.  Our methods were very different.  Stark was smart enough to not ride the wave in any half-assed attempt so he rarely had to walk from the shoreline all the back to chest-deep waves.  Stark’s movements were sharp and quick.  He was determined to get up and he seemed to get there far more often than I was even attempting.

My methods were far more laid back.  I spent most of that time screaming Weeeeeeeeee! every time a wave moved me even a few inches.  Rather than propelling myself into a wave, like Stark had directed me, I decided that I was going to paddle out, sit, turn around, and paddle into the wave.  I decided I better learn this now since there will come a day that I am more than chest-deep in water and I won’t be able to propel myself from the ocean floor into the momentum of the oncoming surf.  I wasn’t catching as many waves that way but I was certainly getting a full body workout while enjoying myself.

The wetsuits were incredibly warm.  As I walked into the ocean only my feet felt anything despite having only a 3/2 gauged suit.  I was so grateful for the warmth. I  am such a sissy when it comes to cold anything.  I don’t even drink my Coke cold and I am one of the few people I know that despises ice cream 360 days out of the year.

There I was, doggy-paddling my little heart out into the motion of the ocean.  I got up about three or four times to the point of having my legs fully positioned and bent for balance.  However, I never got to the point of lifting my upper body from the board.  No doubt because I was not able to lunge far enough forward to keep the nose of the board down, I was now having to balance the board by keeping my hands on the rails.  So half a dozen times or more I road the wave in a sort of triangle pose only making it all the way to shore that three or four times.  The rest of the time I was doing just fine getting to my knees and enjoying a super quick ride to shore in a sort of prayer-like offering position.  In yoga, the position would be the hero pose.  Either way, the ride was good enough for me.  My only goal was to stay perfectly balanced and get as far as I can while being balanced.  Whenever the board was too far to the side as the wave hit or I was leaning more to one side than the other, I would find myself spinning in the surf and left for dead by the undertow.  I even went to the extent of hanging myself with my surf board chord at one point as my board wrapped quickly around my head and the wave continued to push it forward.

Regardless, everything about this learning experience was filled with laughter and more high-pitched Weeeeeeeeeeeeee sounds.  Spinning through the water was still a preferred option to my initial problem with a shorter board, which was placing myself too high between the rails and therefore nose diving each time the wave broke.  This is somewhat like the “scorpion” move when snowboarding.  When you nose dive with your board, you’re propelled forward while your board goes backward with the undertow strength.  Somehow, despite your composure, you always hit the wave face first and with your mouth WIDE open resulting in an involuntary salt water gargle.  I have no doubt that I will be met with a sore throat tomorrow morning from the few times I came up for air, gasping from the force of salt and sand to the back of the throat.

We probably would have surfed a lot longer as neither of us were beat by the waves quite yet, but the waves were starting to get choppy and just as it was my turn to attempt to look good for the camera, I biffed it on a wave just barely.  I hardly even went anywhere before I fell to the side of the board and rather than stepping to the ground, my pointed toe jammed straight into the ocean floor.  I could practically hear the crack of my big toe through three feet of water and roaring ocean.  With anything but grace, I fell over my surf board and hugged it in a repeated attempt to stand up once more.  It took several moments and a few deep breaths to finally hobble my way out of the ocean.  After everything the waves had put me through it had to be something as minuscule as a sprained toe for me to call out Mercy!  Either way, the rest of the afternoon was glorious and refreshing after a mid-day surf.

After getting ready and working some more, Stark and I ventured out with his work in hand (just incase).  We went back to HCC where we had bought our wet suits that morning.  I had eyeballed a bright tangerine hoodie that I had to go back and rescue for my closet.  Stark was on the hunt for some board shorts as he only had one pair of trunks to begin with.  By the time we left Huntington’s Main Street drag, we had my orange, Quicksilver hoodie and two fantastic pair of Billabong board shorts.  The name brands alone make me feel like such cliche beach bums.  The night before, I had surprised Stark with a pair of coveted Airwalk sandals that went perfectly with his new pair of shorts.  Beach bums or not, we headed from Huntington to the land of Newport where we stood in line for Sprinkles Cupcakes while a mother harassed her daughter for wearing a sheer sweater over a bikini top.  The conversation was short, but all in all it still lasted too long.  The end result came down to the mother demanding the the girl give her the top.  With a raised eyebrow and a muffled laugh, it seemed obvious to me that modesty was not the issue.  Rather, the mother wanted the sweater for herself and despite obvious control issues, this OC Mom was pissed that her 14 year old daughter was getting more “hot girl” attention than she was.

The conversation was well worth the half a dozen cupcakes Stark and I chose to share with each other and our family throughout the weekend – pumpkin, black and white, ginger lemon, cinnamon sugar, strawberry, and s’more.

Stark made me wait to eat the cupcakes which I am now glad he did.  A full cupcake would have sent my calorie intake for the day FAR past acceptable even with the burned calories for the day and I would not have had enough room for the meal I was least expecting.

Brussels Bistro is a restaurant that Stark has been commenting on since I met him.  We missed visiting Laguna Beach last time we were in So. Cal so this time there was no question that we’d be taking some time to ourselves for this Foodie adventure.

I have never been to Brussels, but according to Stark this restaurant is as authentic as you can get.  I giggled over the “usual” appetizer of mussels with fries.  Who would have thought?  We got a small order of both while I added my own order of three Deer Creek Oysters to the mix.  The oysters were amazing and probably the best I have had yet in my life.  This was probably due to the compliments of the Belgium version of cocktail sauce which our waitress explained was a mix of shallots, white vinegar, and mustard (a few of my favorite things!!!!).  Our waitress reminded me of family with her European taste, her openness to discussion, and how she muttered the words my Mother so often said, “Mmm I do not know the name for this in English.”  Stark ordered a couple of Belgian sausages complimented by a salad, apple sauce and a twice baked parmesan potato.  I ordered a Bolognese spaghetti which really hit the spot.  I have been craving a good spaghetti lately and this dish was covered with a mountain of fresh parmesan, readily melting within the traditional Bolognese sauce.  Delightful!

Contrary to anything I knew of Belgian beers (which isn’t much), Stark ordered a dark Trappistes Rochefort  8 which wasn’t half bad but not exactly something I would look forward to.  I am not a gal who enjoys a lot of drinks, especially beer.  But here at this very place, I found my weakness.  My much loved Apple Beer, contrary to my understanding, is based on an actual, for real, alcoholic version.  And to my surprise, this Pomme flavored barley tasted even better!  After one bottle I had to try their Cassis or Blackberry/Raspberry flavored beer.  And while we paid, our waitress insisted on giving me a tasting sample of their on-tap Strawberry.  Although I can’t think of many occasions that I would go out for a drink, sign me up for these flavors!  These will be my standards for everywhere I go from now on.  They are absolutely tasty, low in calories (even lower than a soda let alone a typical beer) and they don’t have enough alcohol to even give off a buzz (fine by me).  For those who might want a buzz, at least you won’t be 1,000 calories into your tab before you start to feel it.

By now, the end of the day was upon us and it was starting to rain.  The cold weather had set in and I was thankful for the thick maxi skirt and long sleeves I was wearing.  Stark drove us home while I cat napped.  Once there, we went about our daily lives as if we were back home.  Stark sat down to some more phone calls and reports to create.  I switched out laundry, hand washed the wet suits and hung them, and sat down to savor some Sprinkles Cupcakes before deciding to blab to a blog.  What more could we ask for?  Today has been quite the perfect day.  Tomorrow we have even more adventures in store.

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