Last weekend, my three regular coffeeshop comrades and I embarked on a girls-only birthday celebration at Lake Hope State Park.

First stop: Athens. We ate (and drank!) at the much-beloved Casa Nueva, which has been serving local food way longer than "local food" has been been a trending topic.

The hour-long wait for a table was a breeze thanks to strong agave nectar margaritas and snacks (salsa verde plus house hot salsa and "seasonal" guacamole -- both used local wax chili peppers).

Speaking of hot and seasonal, this giant platter of Enchiladas Roja was stuffed with citrusy puerco pibil and locally grown mushrooms and squashes. Spicy and delicious!

After walking off at least a few bites of that dinner around the already-crowded-with-students town, we got down to business with some music at The Union.

Loved the Snow Lions' updated and fun take on bluegrass, then dug some Night Family rock.

Next day involved picture-perfect pancakes, lollygagging and paddleboating around the odd-shaped lake.

One of my smartypants city-dwelling friends even knew the identity of this butterfly -- it's a Tiger Swallowtail!

All that paddling and lounging really worked up an appetite, and we pulled together quite a dinner spread. Marinated chicken breasts from Weiland's, teeny tiny potatoes from Trader Joe's, and produce from friends' gardens added up to a lovely meal.

Mini-cakes from Simple Sweets (Buckeye Brownie Bottom and Brownie Bottom)

Our intrepid firestarter and bedtime storyteller kept a nice little blaze going all night long.

Breakfast #2 included "Red Beer" (think Brewy Mary) and "Egg Stew" (think scrumptious scramble made from leftovers).

Can't wait to do it again next year, ladies!!!