Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

It wasn't a super eventful holiday weekend for us, but we did attempt a small trip. We left on Saturday and dropped Hazel off at the PetSmart PetsHotel, then headed up to Lakeport, CA to spend some time at Clear Lake. The trip ended up taking so much longer than we anticipated. We decided to take the scenic route through Napa (instead of just taking Hwy 101 straight there), which ended up being a terrible idea. Traffic was horrendous and it ended up taking us twice as long to get there as it should have. The lake ended up being a bit of a bust. We had gotten brochures about the lake and town while at the CA State Fair in July, and were excited to check it out. The lake was covered in algae...so much that we definitely wouldn't hop in for a swim. The lake in this picture doesn't look so bad and the mountains in the background actually make it look pretty nice so you'll just have to trust us about that gross algae!

We stayed the night in Ukiah, CA, home of the World's Largest Redwood Tree Service Station. It's not a gas station anymore, but instead is a little free museum. So adorable.

We had planned to spend Sunday in Mendocino but were not keen on the idea of driving even further away from home after the long trip we had already taken, so we decided to just bail on the rest of the trip. We headed home, picked up Hazel, went to the library and stocked up on reading material for the rest of the weekend. It wasn't quite the weekend we had anticipated, but we still had a good time.

Hazel was very happy for the early pickup from PetSmart.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lake Tahoe in Summer!

We had on our summer to-do list a visit to Lake Tahoe, and summer was quickly slipping away. We have been quite a few times in the fall and winter, but we both wanted to experience the lake when the weather was warm. We left early on Saturday morning for a quick day trip so we could mark it off our list. We arrived at Sand Harbor, a Nevada State Park, at around 10am and had a great time laying on the beach and reading. There wasn't a whole lot of water activity for the two of us because the lake is COLD (maybe 60 degrees). We both got in about knee-deep and had about all we could take.

By mid-day we were starting to get a little pink and thought it would be best to get out of the sun. We packed up and took a stroll through Northstar Ski Resort. It was cool to see it without snow, and the lifts were still running and carrying mountain bikers instead of skiers and snowboarders.

After church on Sunday, we continued our new CA tradition of going to the farmer's market. We might have gone a little overboard, but we love getting tons of fresh local produce. It's definitely a big perk of living in California.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The CA State Fair

I was so excited to go to the California State Fair in Sacramento on Sunday. I'm a huge fair-lover. My favorite things are seeing the animals and, of course, the food booths. We went in the middle of the day and the temperature reached 102 degrees, making us really second guess our timing, but we still had fun!

 Andrew's first attempt at fair food for the day.. a ridiculously hot turkey leg on a 102 degree day.
It was quickly thrown away and replaced with some refreshing Vietnamese spring rolls.

 A much happier (and in less pain) Andy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthday Week 2012

Andy and I have birthdays three days apart which makes celebrating really fun. This year we wanted to get away so we chose to go to Las Vegas. We dropped Hazel off at the PetSmart PetsHotel and started the drive. It was pretty uneventful as Andy and I were tired, so we switched on and off with driving duty while the other slept. We did make a stop at this cool gas station in the desert with animatronic gold miners.

There was a button to push that brought these guys to life and spoke about the food available in the station in front of them. This place was a welcome break for something to drink along the journey. It was so hot out. The temperature on our car's gauge actually read 120 degrees at one point.

We had intended to reach our hotel and have time to swim before the pool closed for the day but we were running a bit behind and knew we wouldn't make it (pools at the hotel/casinos close around 6pm...if you are in the pool you aren't at their casino making them money, right?).  So we stopped at an outlet mall on the way in. Neither Andy or I are big shoppers, but we are big eaters, and I had seen a sign for Williams-Sonoma Outlet from the road and was curious to see if I could find some deals. Next, we stopped at a grocery store to get some snacks for the room.

With Sour Patch Kids and plenty of chocolate in hand, we were ready to check into Monte Carlo (we had fruit and yogurt, too, for quick breakfasts but that isn't nearly as exciting). We stayed there for three nights, then moved on to Encore for two. Each time we're in Vegas, we try to mix it up and stay at a couple places that we haven't been to before. And I also insist on revisiting every casino so I can retake pictures of the same places. I think it drives Andrew crazy but he goes along with it and I appreciate it him for that. How many pictures of the gondolas at the Venetian or the Bellagio fountain show does one need? I know one set should suffice, but that doesn't stop the impulse to want new pictures each time!

We made our way walking up and down the strip, in and out of most casinos. Andrew did just a little gambling. (Poker...and won second place. Not enough to retire on but it did pay for dinner!).

We also saw a couple shows. The first was Le Reve at the Wynn. It was amazing. We weren't able to take any of our own, but photos and a video can be seen here. We also saw Sarah Colonna's standup show (she's a regular at the roundtable on Chelsea Lately). She was hilarious and I'm looking forward to reading her book that was recently released.

La Reve image source.

We went to two exhibits. One was the DaVinci-The Genius at the Venetian. We had high hopes for this going into it. It ended up being an overpriced view for a room full of mini-replicas of his inventions based on his drawings. I did, however, think it was interesting to see what the Mona Lisa originally looked like before the aging of the photo removed her eyelashes and brows, but I guess I could have just Googled that. I was hoping to learn about his Last Supper painting, but there was no mention of it beyond a shaky one minute video with bad color and poor resolution projected on a sheet. For a man who was a genius inventor, engineer, and artist, I thought it was a little sad to create such a lame and sleep-inducing exhibit. 

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor was awesome! We knew we would be going to this so we actually re-watched James Cameron's Titanic before we left San Jose to get pumped for it. It was really an incredible experience. Upon entering, we were each given a boarding pass for an actual passenger. At the end, you find out if the person survived. There are replicas of the ship's rooms (one each of first and third class), a hallway outside the rooms, and also the grand staircase. There was a replica of the promenade deck on the boat and it made you feel as if you were outside, walking on it that fateful night. It gave me chills. There are tons of artifacts- luggage, dishes, perfume bottles (you can still smell their sent-not very pleasant but cool to smell it for yourself!), a champagne bottle that still has its contents, floor tiles, faucets, jewelry, etc... There were even clothing items and a miniature playing die that made me wonder how such delicate pieces could survive the harsh ocean water and also how such tiny pieces could be found in such massive wreckage. Seeing items that the passengers brought on board (especially the pocket watches that stopped within minitues of hitting the water) and reading their stories really made it feel so personal and all the more heartbreaking. 

Our boarding passes. My passenger was in first class and survived but lost both her husband and son.
Andrew's was a second class passenger and Catholic priest traveling to NY to preside over his brother's wedding.

Titanic "Big Piece" image source.

Titanic grand staircase replica image source.

There was a giant section of ice in the exhibit that is meant to be touched to experience just how cold the water was the night the Titanic sunk (the water was actually 28 degrees Fahrenheit). The end of the tour featured "The Big Piece," a 26 foot salvaged piece of Titanic's hull that is just breathtaking.

We spent a portion of one evening at Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. We determined this would probably be our last time there. We usually like seeing the light show, the bands, and the street performers but this time it was just too dirty and even a bit scary for our taste. The light show featuring Bon Jovi was pretty cool this time, though.

Pool time during this trip was limited. Most days were overcast. It ended up being a good thing, though, because the temperature really cooled down and allowed for much more enjoyable walking along the Strip. I was excited that the sun came out at the end of our trip and we did get to experience one day at the Wynn/Encore pool.

On the way home we wanted to stop at a couple places we passed on the way down. The first was Calico Ghost Town in the Mojave desert. It was a silver mining town founded in the 1880s but was abandoned by the turn of the century. A couple original structures remain but the rest of the buildings have been rebuilt.

Andrew's favorite part of Calico Ghost Town- the general store with old time candy.

We paid a quarter to see the miner's shuffle which was him vibrating for about 5 seconds.

The sign on the bottom tells of the old barber chair the mannequin is sitting on.
The sign on the top tells of the dental drill it is hanging from.
So I'm not sure what is happening between these two men but it looks creepy nonetheless.

The last stop we made was more for my enjoyment than Andrew's. I have really been digging raisins lately (weird, I know, but they seriously are delicious to me) so we stopped at the Raisin Capital of the World, Selma, CA. It really does have this nickname and is home to Sun-Maid Raisin world headquarters and the world's largest raisin processing plant. So I bought my fair share of raisins to keep my stomach tamed for awhile and also a quick picture with a giant box of raisins and we were back on the road!

Getting back into town, we were both really excited to pick up Hazel and get back home.

Hazel's report card. She did well!

Andy's birthday occurred over the stay in Vegas. Mine didn't actually happen until the day after we returned home. Andrew had already left for work before I came downstairs and saw what he had created in the dining room.

Those round things are wrapped watermelons. Because I've also been really into watermelon lately. My food cravings may be off the wall but California has me spoiled with its overabundance of fresh produce and I'm taking advantage of it! That evening we went to Great America. Andrew wore his party tee.

G.A. shirt with the Peanuts gang = good times

Then we went to Red Robin for dinner and stopped at Dave and Buster's for some Super Shot basketball and skee ball. It was a perfect ending to our birthday celebration.

When playing Super Shot, I just use my Stretch Armstrong arms to help me reach the basket.

I just looked these up on ebay and they are going for $200!
Stretch Armstrong image source.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Swanton Berry Farm

I had heard from friends about the variety of local farms that offer pick-your-own fruit and was dying to do it myself. Step one was deciding what fruit I wanted. We're lucky to live in a region that has just about every fruit you could want, fresh and ready to pick. I decided on strawberries. Next I chose the place, Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, CA because it's on the coast and also because they are organic. The last step was to make a call to my friend Megan who I knew would love to check it out with us.

We picked up Megan and her hubby, Todd, on Saturday morning to join us. The strawberries were amazingly fun and easy to pick. I had imagined it being a hunt of reaching into bushes to try and find a ripe berry that was suitable to pick, and it being a long process to find the amount I was wanting to bring home with me. Instead, the strawberry plants were in raised rows and the dirt was covered in plastic. The strawberries grow and lie on the plastic, so the ripe ones are easily identified.

This picture cracks me up. It is reminiscent of one of my favorite King of Queens episodes where Doug and Carrie are given a terrible painting of themselves as a gift. Doug has beaver teeth and Carrie has a huge hand. Lesson learned... Keep my strawberry-chowing hand far enough away from the camera lens to help it look not-so-enormous.

Carrie: Look at this. I got one tiny arm and one huge arm.
Doug: I think it's just the angle.
Carrie: Doug, look at my hands. That's a chicken foot and that's a catcher's mitt, are you serious?

Show clip can be seen here.

We picked our way up and down a few rows until we had enough to take home with us (and we may or may not have done a bit of taste-testing in the fields!). The guys were nice enough to carry our boxes while Megan and I went to town pulling off the ripe berries. The view of the coast from the fields was so beautiful. But being along the coast also meant battling with the wind (excuse the windblown hair in the pictures)! When we were finished, we walked up to the store, weighed our delicious treasure, and paid the honor till. Yep, you pay and make your own change. We sampled some of the farm's jellies and jams and looked at the amazing homemade baked goods. I couldn't resist getting a strawberry truffle. It was incredible!

We headed back to the car and decided that, although Swanton Farms had other U-Pick stands up the coast (olallieberries, blackberries, and kiwi), we wanted to continue on to Pescadero and stop in Harley Goat Farm for some goat cheese. Megan and Todd had not yet been to Harley's, so we were psyched to show them this little piece of heaven! We munched on some goat cheese and bread and then were ready to head back to the city.

Andy and I didn't do anything creative with our strawberries. We loved them so much just the way they were that we only accompanied them with some homemade whipped cream. Megan and Todd resorted to making these drinks.

Hopefully there will be another fruit picking date to happen shortly in the future! Maybe cherries or peaches?!