Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Second Anniversary

In May the Mr. and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. We were (and still are) a little strapped for cash but I was desperate to get out of town. After much research, I found some great deals for Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz is about two and a half hours from where we live and makes a perfect place for a weekend getaway. We loaded the car, dropped the dog of at the sitters (my dad and stepmom) and headed out. One of my favorite things early in this trip was that my favorite traveling radio station came in clear for a very long time. The Greatest Hits of All Time (formally 'Oldies') 97.5 KABX out of Merced California. I remember listening to this station as a little kid and memorizing all the hits from Buddy Holly, The Monkeys, Elvis, and the Beetles to name a handful. Things have changed in the past few years. The other morning I turned to the station only to find myself listening to Hall and Oates ('Maneater'??? Really??? C'mon!). At least they still have some redeeming qualities like Breakfast with the Beetles on Sundays, recordings of The Wolfman Jack Show and repeats of Casey Casem's American Top 40.
Halfway to our destination, in Hollister, is Casa de Fruta. I have passed this fruit stand many times on my way to Santa Cruz and have never stopped before. We were in no hurry so we pulled off the freeway and took a walk around.
This is the outside...(click pic to enlarge) 
...and this is the inside. 
What really sold us was the free wine tasting. We were allowed to sample two different varietals. I think I chose a sparkling white and a Pinot Noir. I remember thinking that both were ok but nothing really to write home about. I can't remember what the Mr. chose but I know that one of them was their Pomegranate Wine. That one was really good, so good that we bought a bottle to toast with that evening. 
We arrived at the Best Western Capitola-by-the-Sea Inn and Suites. I chose this hotel because of the discounts and freebies it had to offer. By choosing this hotel we were both able to go to Roaring Camp Railroads for free. The staff was very friendly and helpful over the phone and at check in. There were even fresh baked cookies waiting for us in the lobby. During our one night stay, we took advantage of the outdoor hot tub, pool and the continental breakfast in the morning. The breakfast included fresh fruit, very good coffee, an assortment of pastries, bagels, and toast; juice (I went back several times for the guava was sooo good), milk, tea, cereals, and my husband's favorite part, there was a 'make your own' waffle station.
After dropping off our things at the hotel we drove to the Santa Cruz Pier. It wasn't quite tourist season yet so there was plenty of parking on the actual pier. We walked around and watched the fisherman. We listened to the sea lions below the pier bellow at us and flap their fins. From a second floor wine cafe we were able to people watch while we took advantage of a half price happy hour. The weather was perfect and the views were priceless. After finishing our wine we walked the pier as the sun was setting. Very romantic!

For dinner we headed back to Capitola. I won't go into how disappointed we were in the restaurant (Sorry Stockton Bridge Grill) but the view was great, the service was ok, it was getting late and we were starving. Walking along the Esplanade we spotted a dog tie up that made us miss our own Sadie very much. After dinner we went back to the hotel, called the desk to see if they had a wine opener (the did!!) and headed to the hot tub with our Pomegranate Wine poured into plastic cups. 
The next morning we got up early, took advantage of the easy checkout over the phone in our room and headed to Roaring Camp Railroads. I am glad that we took advantage of the free tickets because I don't think that the Mr. and I would have ever considered this. This stop ended up being one of my favorite things that we did that weekend. On our train was a dog named Sugar and she was very well behaved so we didn't mind. This made us miss our own pup again. The tour was guided by Conductor Kent who was very friendly and knowledgeable. It started to warm up but not for us because along the way we were protected by huge and ancient redwoods.
Next on our list was the famous Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. This is a place that I had always intended on going to but never made it a priority. The cost was very reasonable and because we went before the tourist season started, we were able to tour it in a very small group. It was just the right amount of strange for the price that we paid.
After a quick stop at the local Costco (to get discounted all day passes) we finally made it to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I remember spending lots of time here when I was a kid. Because the season hadn't properly started and it was a Tuesday (I think), hardly any of the rides were open. The Giant Dipper was and I kept my eyes closed the entire time I was on it. For some reason, roller coasters aren't as fun as they used to be. After riding the rides and lunching on garlic fries, the Mr. and I played a round of miniature golf in Neptune's Kingdom where I let him win, but only by one stroke. We had free passes for the bowling alley across the street but had no luck using them because there was a tournament and they weren't letting anyone else play. After exhausting all of our free fun, we headed home happy, tired and in love. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Double Feature

I want to see this:
(release date September 10, 2010)
...and this:
(US release date October 8, 2010)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Belated Birthday

My birthday happened to fall on a Friday this year so it made it a perfect time to have a party. A backyard BBQ to be specific. I was excited to entertain and agonized over the menu. I spared myself from making my own birthday cake again this year (it was quite the feat last year). Instead we had pie. This was the menu I decided on:

Homemade Lemonade
Iced Sun Tea
Cheap Beer
Chips and Mom's Salsa
Assorted Sausage Slices
Grilled Chicken
Grilled Tri-Tip
Green Salad
Fresh Fruit Salad
Corn on the Cob
Carmel Apple Pie
My Brother's Berry Peach Pie

We ended up with too much of everything after all of the guests arrived. I knew that I wanted to have my mom's salsa and was happy that my brother brought the pie. I have been to parties and dinners where there was that one thing that stood out amongst the rest. I wanted to have a party where everything that was served was that 'one thing'. I skipped the cake because I knew that the pie I wanted to serve was already a tested favorite. I knew that my mom's salsa was another crowd pleaser and has been for the last 20 or so years. The Mr. and I are lucky to have a butcher as a best friend. He was the one that brought and cooked all the meat. The sausages are a staple at every party he provides for. After much research on my end I found the lemonade and Sangria online. Both went over so well that they are now permanent staples as part of my summer menus. The best part of the BBQ was that we were able to provide food and drink for 30 people (30 people didn't show up so we had tons of left overs) for around $100 (meat, salads and salsa excluded) I have saved you the trouble and have listed the recipes for lemonade and Sangria below:

Serves 8
* 3 cups dry red wine (I used Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's) Cab Sav)
* 1 1/2 cups carbonated lemon-lime beverage (ie: 7-up)
* 1 1/2 cups orange juice
* 16 lime slices
* 16 lemon slices
* 8 orange slices
* 1/2 cup brandy
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 Tablespoons Cointreau or orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
* 2 Tablespoons Grenadine
* 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Ice Cubes
Stir wine, orange juice, 8 lime slices, 8 lemon slices, orange slices, brandy, sugar, Cointreau, Grenadine, lemon juice and lime juice in large pitcher and combine. Let stand for at least 30 minutes to steep. Add soda right before serving to maintain carbonation. Fill 8 large wineglasses with ice and divide sangria evenly amongst them. Garnish with remaining lemon and lime slices. Serve.
(recipe from

Best Lemonade Ever
Serves 20
* 1 3/4 cups white sugar
* 8 cups water
* 1 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice
Ice Cubes
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and one cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled. Remove seeds from lemon juice but leave pulp. In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Pour over ice cubes before serving.
(recipe from

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fishing for Dummies

During the summer, the Mr. and I head about 60 miles west of Yosemite to the Moccasin Creek Hatchery. We have done this for the past few years after learning about the easy trout fishing from a friend of his. When we get there, the best fishing spot is ALWAYS taken and it has been very frustrating. This morning neither of us could sleep and at 3:00 (yep, AM!!) we packed up the gear and headed up, determined to get our spot. It was still dark when we reached the hatchery. As the sun was rising we made our way to the spot and not surprisingly we were the first ones to reach it. We stuck our lines in the water and waited...and waited. Nothing. A few hours later fisherman started swarming all over our spot and about half an hour after that, the fish started to really bite. I am telling you, the fishing is so easy that even I caught a fish. After catching four prime candidates, we headed home. I drove home with one eye open out of sheer exhaustion and was out as soon as my head hit my pillow.
Fishing as the sun comes up is typically not my idea of a good time. I am NOT a morning person. The actual exercise of fishing is not my motivation for agreeing to these trips. Nothing is better than having a line in the water and a book in my hand while listening to the water trickle down the creek, inhaling the aroma of the foothills and basking in the shaded sunshine. Heaven! Today's book of choice was 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith. (Side note: For some reason I just can't get into it which is disappointing because I was certain I would fall in love with it. Luckily I had my Ipod with me and was able to finish up 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'; Side-side note: *Gasp* at Chapter 11, although I guess I really should have seen it coming. My brother was right, Dorian Gray IS an a**hole!)
Finally the sun comes up and I take a look around and spy some wild blackberries! I was a little too scared to eat them (even though I love nature, I am a scared nature girl believing that anything can hurt me around every corner). The Mr. was pretty focused  on the fishing and to his credit he was the one that pretty much caught all the fish this morning. He let me claim the one that I brought in but he was the one that got it on the line. 
The reason this post is titled 'Fishing for Dummies' is because here, anyone can fish. This is a great introductory place for kids. Even if the kids aren't quite big enough to handle a rod and reel this is a terrific little, FREE day trip (everyone is looking for a little free fun nowadays, especially for the kiddies). The kids will love walking up and down the tanks that hold all the fish before they are released. The fish are very active which makes it even more fun. There is a small shaded picnic area right outside the inside gates to the tanks and I believe there is another shaded picnic area by the restrooms (super clean and maintained restrooms). 

I can't wait for my fresh trout dinner tonight...mmmm.....

Thursday, July 22, 2010

English Nursery

I don't have children but I am fully preparing myself for when the day might actually come. And by preparing I mean from strictly a craft and design sense (I am still a iffy on changing a diaper and teaching them how to walk business) The Mr. and I have talked about it and we are considering not finding out the sex since it is one of life's  little surprises that God grants us. I have toyed around with the idea of a unisex nursery. Today's inspiration board is 'English Nusery' to honor my English heritage (my brother and I are both first generation on my mother's side). I am sorry that I don't have any references, I promise in the future I will. I tend to forget to make a note of them because when I look at something I think 'how can I make that myself?'

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finally....A Creative Space

I have been a crafty person long before I became a housewife. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was nine and I have been 'hooking' ever since. Before that I had already amassed a fairly large collection of crayons, watercolors, colored pencils, magic markers, stickers, notebooks, construction paper, butcher paper...pretty much anything that would let me express myself. I doodled on everything! When I went to summer camp just a couple of years later I learned to love to bead. I made countless necklaces, countless bracelets...even a couple of rings. As an adult it became cake decorating, investing in an obscene amount of fondant cutters, cookie cutters, icing tips, flavor extracts, meringue powder, gel paste colors, non perils, jimmies and anything else I could get my hands on. This past year I have taken on sewing. I have wanted to learn this since around the time I was learning to crochet. I used to take a needle and thread and a few scraps of fabric and try to fashion my own doll clothes. Now I have invested more into it and have a huge drawer full of notions (side note: my favorite thing in the world right now is my rotary love LOVE that thing)
The biggest thorn in the Mr.'s side has been that I have amassed these collections throughout the house and didn't store everything in a designated space. I now have that space and couldn't be more excited.
Here is finally a look at my inspirational space.

My favorite pieces are my little ducks that store my paper clips, staples, thumbtacks and little clamps. I love them because when I look up, they are all in a row! What a fun thrift find.
My other favorite detail is the mid-century looking guy with crochet hooks for hair. Isn't he fantastic?! Another thrift find.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Public Domain

I like to consider myself an avid reader. If committed to a book, I will read it for hours on end not breaking to  eat or relieve myself (since you only need one hand to hold a fork and the other to hold the book for the former and because books are so mobile and people tend to build entire libraries in their bathrooms for the latter...TMI?). If I am REALLY committed I will not even break for sleep. I have physically held my eyelids open with the index finger and thumb of one hand while holding the paperback with the same two fingers outstretched on the other hand at 4 in the morning to finish the last chapters of 'I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell'. Ok, ok not my crowning literary moment but I had been reading some really depressing stuff up until then that I am afraid I was so starving for poop and fart jokes that I may have devoured that book too quickly.
Because of my current lack of employment and my ferocious appetite for reading material, my brother tends to use me as his guinea pig. My brother is putting himself through college in San Francisco and has been for the past couple of years. During his time in the city he has been employed at a couple of bookstores. The first one was a big corporate bookstore nestled in the heart of a highly populated tourist district where he considered becoming a company man after he finished his degree (a fleeting thought I believe). The second is Books Inc, the 'West's Oldest Independent Bookseller', in the hoity toity Marina district. While he has been employed at both these places he has made several book recommendations. He does this because he realizes that I will tear through any book like a linebacker at the 50 yard line and because he doesn't have the time to read for fun himself so he uses me as a reviewer. He has only really recommended one book that I felt was a complete waste of time (sorry 'Life of Pi'), other than that I have enjoyed his recommendations. This summer he sent me a whole list. I had already developed a list of my own and surprisingly some of what I wanted to read duplicated some of his recommendations. With the list whittled down a tad, I would say I now have 20 or so books to get through by the end of this summer.
I made a trip to the library for the first time in 20 years. I even had to get a brand new library card because there was no record of my last one. Apparently technology wasn't what it is now 20 years ago. I couldn't find half the stuff I was looking for (stupid high school-college summer reading lists, you know those teenagers are just going to use the books as coasters and pick up the Cliff Notes  instead...grrrr...). I was able to find three that were on my list. 'The Godfather' by Mario Puzo, 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith and 'The Eighth Day' by Thornton Wilder.
A couple of nights ago, when I was fighting insomnia for the third time in a week, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get through the list when an internal light came on....
Audio books!!
Alas, because of aforementioned lack of employment and the expense of audio books, I had to be even more creative....
Public domain audio books!!!
Why hadn't I thought of this before?!?
Let me tell you, this might be one of those times where 'greatest thing since sliced bread' is said and isn't met with an eye roll.
After a quick search I came up with two fantastic sites. LibriVox and Books Should Be Free.
Last night I downloaded 'This Side of Paradise' (Fitzgerald), 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' (Twain) and 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' (Wilde) onto my hand me down Ipod.
I took my Ipod to bed with me and the first chapter of 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' was able to relax my mind and drown out my husband's snoring, the dog's snoring and the whole house fan so that I could get to sleep faster.
Like I said, 'greatest thing since sliced bread'!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sensing Sunday: July 11, 2010

What I am:

Hearing: Beetlejuice and a rusty table fan.

Seeing: The blue skies and the green leaves of a hot summer day in the valley through the plantation shutters of my office window.

Smelling: 'Bouquet' Vera Wang

Tasting: Homemade iced coffee with soy milk.

Feeling: Exhausted because I have been fighting insomnia all week :(

Friday, July 9, 2010

"You're the Boss Mr. Draper." "Yes I the suit..."

(Its me if I lived in 1960's Manhattan. A girl can dream)

I am counting down the days until July 25th. I am so eagerly anticipating this date that I keep forgetting that my birthday falls about a week before it. You can see where my priorities are. The season four premier of Mad Men cannot get here soon enough. Since there is no rehab center that I know of that can help me with my particular addiction, I am forced to satisfy my dependency by watching interviews and last seasons episodes on the AMC website. It was here that I found this:
It was created by a guy named Ryan Jones (K. Ryan for professional and pretentious reasons). Because I clicked on the link it took me strait to his blog The Only Living Boy in New York. I read the entire blog. It is now my new favorite. I really want to take credit for the finding the following video (because I really did find it on my own and was able to make up my own mind that it was hilarious) but because it was posted on The Only Living Boy in New York I won't take credit.
These will have to hold me over for another two weeks (these and Mad Men On Demand....the only reason I LOVE my On Demand). Oh and one last one, because I love Elisabeth Moss and Fred Armisen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bake Sale: Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale No Kid Hungry

Hello, hello. It has been a long time, right? I know, I know...I'm sorry. I have been busy, I promise.
Just this last week I slaved away for hours baking for a charity bake sale. Because it was for charity, it really wasn't slaving away but I like to be over dramatic. A couple of years ago I participated in the Cupcakes for a Cause bake sale that benefited Cancer Care for Kids. It is a great organization that helps kids and teens cope with a cancer diagnosis. It is a great cause and you can find more information about it HERE. It came together last minute and was a pretty good success considering how short notice it was. We were able to raise almost $200 for such a great organization.
This year the cause was for childhood hunger. In partnership with C&H sugar, Share Our Strength brings us the Great American Bake Sale, No Kid Hungry. I joined up with a friend of mine and again in a short amount of time we put together a somewhat spur of the moment bake sale. This one was more or less a pilot effort for us because the deadline is October 31st to turn in all of our donations. We are hoping to host a few more bake sales and become "Bake Sale Rockstars". To do this we have to raise at least $1000. I think we can do it. To find out more about this organization click HERE.
Like I said, this was our test sale. We figured out what worked and didn't work for us and things that we might want to incorporate into future sales. All in all we had a great time and were able to raise $215 in our first go around! Woo hoo!!

Oh yeah, it happened to be the start of the fourth of July weekend so we made everything red, white and blue!

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