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I was reminded threefold – yes THREEFOLD – this weekend about how much I adore time with old and new friends enjoying great food, drink and conversation together!  It just doesn’t get any better than THAT!  Anytime year ’round is wonderful, but there’s something about the laid back summer vibe that makes it even more special. Even without a lot of summer vacation (at least for me; as a consultant I’m paid for hours worked so paid vacations are non-existent), this was just the triple dose I needed to make it FEEL like a vacation, AND to catapult me into this (short) workweek and my upcoming trip to Kansas City, MO later this week.  That trip still seems like a dream to me as it’s been in the planning for several months.  Now it’s just a few “sleeps” away!

It kicked off Friday night with my dear friend T.  We toasted the end of the workweek and a rather tough summer so far on her part (her Grandmother’s passing and all involved with arrangements before and after and travel back and forth and all that) at Wildfin, a casual spot we’ve enjoyed in the past for lunch. Friday night was sunny so that meant sitting outside…ahhh…dinner al fresco!

Saturday was a fantastic BBQ at P’s house.  P is a former co-worker I worked with – loosely at the same company – 4-5 years ago, for barely one year (my entire business unit got dissolved, long story, so I went as quickly as I arrived pretty much).  She’s one of those rare, treasured former co-workers who has become a great friend, for far longer than any time we even worked together at the same company!  I credit her for igniting my passion for running (which is sadly dormant right now but will re-awaken), photography and travel!  She’s off to Ecuador and the Galapagos in just a few weeks with another mutual friend of ours!  Her menu was delicious halibut steaks fresh from Alaska, sautéed sliced potatoes, fresh salsas for dipping chips and veggies, an incredible ceviche mirrored after one she enjoyed on one of her recent trips to Belize, and some hard-core Sangria provided by a few of her other guests who are quite the connoisseurs – love it! And numerous other yummy munchies and drinks.  Oh, and did I mention the desserts?  After a slice of tiramisu and some raspberry frozen yogurt I was beyond full.  YUM.

It was one of those afternoons you just never wanted to end.  Laughing, eating, drinking, watching the dogs run around and play in the yard…and wondering what the weather is going to do next (this is Seattle-area summer, after all).  Thankfully the weather was terrific.  And P’s house is just perfect for entertaining.

I barely slept that night, despite a full belly of great food and some butt-kicking Sangria that required me to pop a Motrin before going to bed, ha ha.

Today (Sunday) I drove down to Lacey, WA, just a short hour or so from my house.  I met up with a friend I’ve been chatting with online for years but have never met in person.  And oh man, this is a long story so buckle up.

A little over 6 years ago I was bored at work and did a random online search about a handbag I was considering purchasing.  What popped up was a myriad of results…a little overwhelming.  And then, one of them caught my eye – it was a link to an online discussion forum..about purses and handbags!

I clicked on that link and my life has not been the same since. Since May 2006.  Seriously.  What I’d clicked on, unbeknownst to me at the time, was how this online discussion forum was designed. I’d never seen one before in my life. And…it was all about – mostly – handbag shopping!  What people liked and didn’t like!  Sorted by handbag designer!  With pictures!  I was immediately hooked and became obsessed.

What’s also spun out of this online forum are other subforums devoted to just about any other lifestyle issue:  tv shows, movies, makeup, other shopping, relationship issues, family issues, celebrity style, raising kids, jewelry…and on and on.  And behold…a HOCKEY subforum too!

That’s right…there’s a subforum on that site that’s devoted to hockey chitchat…what a delicious slice of the universe this is!  Well, at least for me – and a few other thousand women – it is.  Where else can I browse for pictures of fabulous handbags, shoes and sunglass, read about the latest makeup trends and immediately shift over into chitchat about the NHL draft, for example?  Or the playoffs? 

For some reason last year, the hockey subforum chat group got a little snarky.  I don’t remember all the details, but some wackaloon came in during the playoffs and pretty much shit on everything we’d all been discussing for ages.  OK, I realize there are fair weather fans out there, but puhleeze.  There is an etiquette out there for online chit chatting, for real, which said person clearly had no clue about.  And there were 82 games in the regular NHL season prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs, hello???  So don’t come in a-poo pooing in on things.  Just saying.

Anyway, after one too many shittings-upon, one of the women in the group posted a rant (maybe on Facebook, can’t remember), saying something like “haters are hatin’ on my Happy Hockey Island.”

What a stroke of genius!  Within a day or so we had a spin-off online chat forum with invitation-only access set up just for the 10 or so of us who were frequent posters in that hockey subforum. Something completely separate and different. Thankfully we had a resident expert/guru who knew how to do this!

And…the rest is history.  NOW we have our own little separate subforum of goodness!  I still post and chat occasionally on the original forum, but the core of my online viewing and posting has now shifted to this happy hockey island.  I love these girls so much I can’t even stand it.  They’ve been with me through hell and back and me for them as well.

And after all these many years, I finally got to meet one of the women from this spinoff group this afternoon!  What a thrill it is to meet someone online and just see how much the same they are in real life as compared to their online ‘presence’ and ‘voice.’  I LOVE that.  After years of online chatting and posting and whatnot…to be greeted with a huge HUG in real life is priceless!

We had an amazing lunch at the Budd Bay Cafe in Olympia, WA.  Wonderful clam chowder and salads, plus a nice boardwalk area overlooking the port, the farmer’s market and the state capitol just a few blocks away.  As a lifelong Washington State resident this was even more special for me, as I’d not spent much time in Olympia or Lacey.

After lunch we walked long the boardwalk – Percival Landing, all endlessly fascinating to me as a tourist in my somewhat-local region!  Typically the Olympia/Lacey area is what I blast through on the freeway on my way out to the Washington State Coast.  This was a rare, delicious opportunity to experience it close up, with my dear online friend and her husband.

I’m so touched and happy at how wonderful that meetup was.  And yet not surprised either. K was exactly in real life as she is online, and meeting her husband and Mom was just a fantastic bonus.  I smile and know this is not the last time we will all meet up again.

Behold, the power of the internet!