West Coast Trip: starting out

Hello! I am in Sunny CA for a vacation again. This time I am traveling almost the entire west coast from LA to the Pacific NorthWest. My friends Janeen and Carrie are joining me up to San Francisco and then my husband Dan is meeting me and we are going North! I couldn’t tell you lovely people about the awesome month I had in June because my computer decided to break down right before I left… Oh we’ll, it’s vacation time! I left my worries at home and headed out.

This LA visit started out great. After Carrie and I had to starve on the way here (our flights were so close together we literally had to run so we didn’t miss our connection) and after I had to finagle us a car with a trunk (they tried to give us a little smart car type vehicle) we finally got to eat a good lunch. yes.

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We went immediately to the restaurant where our awesome friend Erin works (with whom we are staying with in LA) called The Park in Echo Park. Thank god we got to eat. I went a little over board and ordered a lot of things: a chicken-avocado-gruyere-tomato sandwich, tuscan white bean soup, and home fries with buttermilk ranch dressing. I also wanted to order an egg because I was really hungry for an egg but I refrained. Anyway, it was all awesome.

The rest of our first day was napping, porch hangin’, and going out and about in Silver Lake.

We celebrated July 4th in true LA style… or at least what I think of as true LA style – POOL PARTY! Ace of Base was blasting, the pool was full, and the grill was smoking. Needless to say, we had a really great time.

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We went to a few other parties that were also fun. I think my favorite thing at the end of the evening was that there were a bunch of really cute dogs around and the neighbors were having a firework battle – who can make the loudest boom-sparkle?!

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Today we decided to have a beach day and go to Malibu. But first I needed to get
my egg fix, so we stopped at Silver Lake Coffee for breakfast. They have great egg sandwiches. I got an everything bagel with scrambled eggs, tomato, avocado and cream cheese – yea cream cheese and eggs – try it! They also have great coffee here.

We went to one of my favorite beaches ever – El Matador. Beautiful views, beautiful weather, and some really awesome rocks. You have to climb down the bluffs to get to the beach. Its pretty steep but a lot of people seemed to make the trek today. Once a hidden gem, El Matador was pretty full. Each rock is a little mini ecosystem full of muscles, anemones, barnacles, these weird tube worms that look like they have dragon scales, limpets, snails, and chiton – and of course there are all different types of seaweed everywhere! The rocks are eroded away into pretty formations, some with windows that you can walk through and some little caves to crawl up in and under. We stayed there for most of the day before heading out to get dinner.

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We decided to go to Paradise Cove. It is kind of famous I think, being a place where some older TV shows and retro movies were filmed. Their motto is “probably the best beach in the world” I think it is probably not the best beach in the world. It was very pretty and it did have nice views, but it was not nearly as cool as El Matador. The visit is pricey – if you do not go to the restaurant, it costs $40 for day use. We were eating there so we only had to pay $6 to park. We sat down at an outside beach table, which was cozy – You are definitely paying for location here. I started my dinner with clam chowder, which was creamy and really good. The clams tasted super fresh and it was really filling. However, in between the clam chowder and my fish and shrimp tacos coming out… I started feeling not so good. So I couldn’t eat my dinner at all and I ended up having to take it home. I was feeling ok by the time we got back to Erin’s house and I tried to eat some of it but everything just tasted a little off, except the rice, that was ok. So my opinion of this restaurant is that it is way too overpriced and probably not worth the venture. There are much better places in Malibu with and without the lofty price.

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So overall, we had a nice start to our travels. We are going camping today near Santa Barbara at Lake Cachuma. We plan on exploring the area and doing a little wine tasting over the next few days.

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Spring Recap

Wow! Time flies – It is already July and I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to. Here’s a little recap of my spring!

My garden bloomed with bleeding hearts and green ferns:

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I made and ate this amazing steak sandwich:

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I found this amazing aged goat cheese at Mandro’s Imported Foods ~and I highly recommend eating it if you get the chance!

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My indoor peace lily bloomed with a double flower… which I can only take to mean that my life will be very peaceful for a while.

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I went to Smorgasburg in DUMBO and ate some amazing foods! Post on this later to come.

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Spent a bunch of time enjoying music with friends in downtown Lancaster:

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I grew a potato plant from an organic potato and it started sprouting little potatoes. The students went crazy over this at school! They were amazed at how potatoes grow:

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I celebrated Derby day/ Cinco De Mayo/ my friend’s birthday in style with hats and mint juleps:

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I started grilling and ate a lot of salads that looked like this:

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Backyard gatherings started taking place… rain or shine.

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It became nice enough outside to bring Monk to the Fridge for outside snacks!

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We started taking a lot of hikes again in Lancaster County Central Park. It was warm enough for monk to dive in the river and wet enough to see a lot of fungus:

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My husband and Monk looking extra cute and picture perfect:

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Fire season started! I love sitting around a fire outside on beautiful evenings enjoying time with friends!

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I learned how to run the cotton candy machine for the dance at school! I got pretty good and swirling that blue floss around a stick… I am now available for hire for all of your cotton candy needs 🙂

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We took a field trip to Hershey Park at school. I’m not sure who had more fun… the teachers or the students.

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The strawberry festival took place at Lancaster Central Market – and those homegrown strawberries and Thom’s Bread shortcake tasted delicious!

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I’ll tell you about June tomorrow – Happy Summer!

 

Santa Cruz Memories

It’s snowy, wet and cold outside. February started a few days ago and my husband is away right now. Every time he goes away… I think more and more that it’s true what they say… absence does make the heart grow fonder!

He’s in California right now where it is sunny- lucky him!

I love California! I have been there twice, once with my husband and once with my friend Janeen. I had some awesome adventures there. I blogged a bunch of those adventures last time I was there, you should check out some of my California posts! I would and will go back to that state in a heartbeat.

I can not stop thinking about one day I spent in Santa Cruz with Dan. It is one of my favorite memories and one of the best days of my life. It is stuck in my brain and makes me smile every time I think about it.

Not having a plan, driving coastal California, we pulled off the highway in Santa Cruz. It was tough finding a spot to camp or stay, but we found a hippie-dippy campground with a woodpecker and other cool birds only 10 minutes from the Santa Cruz boardwalk. We pitched our tent and headed towards the ocean for the evening.

There we found… the best boardwalk ever! Corn dog and a Sierra Nevada as you stroll down the boards? Yes! Band playing on the beach right next to the pacific ocean? Yes! This boardwalk was excellent.

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Dan and I strolled around exploring the walk that seemed to go on forever. There was a huge old arcade that we walked around with some old-timey photos and displays. The penny squisher was jammed and I didn’t get a penny 😦 So if anyone find them self there… squish one for me please! The sky turned pink as the sun set and the neon lights started to glow all around us.

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We took a ride on the sky ride and got a birds-eye-view of the seaside amusement park and the board walk.

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There were so many rides- the Fireball, Ferris wheel, and THE GIANT DIPPER!

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The oldest roller coaster on the West coast! We went for a ride on the Giant Dipper and believe it or not – this roller coaster ride was our first (and only) ever together.

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We spent all night on the boardwalk, watched the sun set, and walked all the way down to the fishing pier. This crazy red moon rose over the water…

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The fishing pier is huge and there are sea lion barks abound. We couldn’t find them at first – then we found the stairs. The stairs were built onto the side of the pier and seemed to go right down to the ocean. We found that they lead to several landings that were right above the water and they were filled with sea lions!

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They were right in front of us, and only separated by a fence! There were so many of them, just being huge, hanging out and barking. There was a little guy that some how found his way to the other side of the fence… I don’t think his momma was too happy about that. It was really exciting to see them so close.

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What a great night… and it was just on a whim that we stopped in this ocean town.

I have realized this how my most loved travel memories are made. Don’t make plans, just go. I’m pretty lucky that I can travel with my husband like this – we take wrong turns, get lost, and laugh about it along the way… but it always leads to great adventures.

Stay warm everybody!

Downtown for the Holidays in Lacaster

I had a great Saturday with my girlfriends in downtown Lancaster. We went out for a day of shopping and holiday fun.

Here’s how our day went…

We started with brunch at Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie. They have a bunch of special holiday crepes right now and a few special coffee drinks, like peppermint mocha and gingerbread chai served in nice big white mugs.

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We stopped at Lancaster Central Market to pick up some veggies.

Doesn’t everyone look excited!?!

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Saturdays at Central Market are part of my weekly routine. I have been cutting my grocery store visits down a lot and getting everything I need down at the market. I have been picking up the essentials that I can’t get at Central Market at some of the other smaller groceries near my house. I could walk to most of them, like Lemon Street Market. Buy Fresh, Buy Local!

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There’s a new store on King Street! It’s called Seasons Taproom and it is dedicated to quality olive oils and vinegar. I tasted some oils and flavored vinegars and they are excellent quality and the flavors are delicious. I plan on going back to taste more and to maybe make a few purchases. I’m trying to cut back on buying more olive oils because I have many bottles at home that I have to use up. They don’t last forever you know… but I joined an olive oil club that I just can’t quit so I have a lot. Seasons is a great place to buy some nice hostess gifts or something for that friend that just loves to cook.

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And they have those large metal dispensers that I love… just like the other oil shop in Lititz, Pa.

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We walked up King Street to Lancaster’s Eastern Market. A holiday craft market was scheduled from 9-5pm and we wanted to check out the goods. They had a variety of items including cheeses, wines, cards, jewelery, belts, hats, and all kinds of homemade goodies.

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This market is open regularly in the summer months and has a bunch of food and veggies stands. They do have some special seasonal events, like this craft market, at other times throughout the year. They also run skill share weekends that showcase some local talents where you can learn a thing or two. Check the website for upcoming events.

On our way back to the heart of the city, we stopped at Tellus 360 – a shop full of reclaimed wood furniture (beautiful, but out of my budget) and sustainable gift items – some made in Lancaster and some from some major brands. Definitely worth a stop when you are in town! They even have live music some nights and an art gallery in the back.

Here’s our town’s official Christmas tree! If you’re lucky enough to be here on the evening right after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), you can catch the Mayor’s tree lighting and Tuba Christmas.

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Tuba Christmas is an old tradition in Lancaster City where – you guessed it – a whole lotta tubas play Christmas music, everyone stands around outside and the Mayor lights the Christmas tree. Good old-fashioned family fun 🙂 It actually is fun – and there are lots of shops open welcoming customers, market is open late, and there are a good bunch of cozy bars right in the area to choose from to warm your self up in afterwards. Like the Spring House Taproom, Lancaster Dispensing Company, and Annie Bailey’s.

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Onward we marched down to the 300 Block of North Queen Street to visit the antique stores and a huge sort of co-op store called Building Character. They have lots of old stuff turned into new things. Like these magnets:

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It really is fun to look through everything in this warehouse-turned-fancy. You can get an old hinge to match the other old hinges in your house, if you need that kind of thing. You can get second-hand clothes and housewares. You can get new handmade furniture. You can get cards and other crafty stuff. You can even get a rubber duck with a snorkel. It’s also the home to the old printing press that used to be in the Heritage Center. There is a guy there that will show you how to work the press and even let you use it! Building Character also hosts fun events. Check their website to see what’s going on soon!

We ended the night going to see one of our local favorite bands – Vinegar Creek Constituency. We made the trek across the Susquehanna to Burning Bridge tavern. A night of awesome music and lots of friends – and I had this awesome beer to top it all off! Friendship Brew by Green Flash Brewing Company.

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So… I had an awesome day in Lancaster, PA! If you find yourself looking for something to do, go downtown and spend a day just wandering around. There are so many cool shops to stop in and explore.

Check out the Lancaster website for events and information. There are two more weekends before Christmas for you to shop downtown and lots of upcoming events!

One Super September Saturday!

October is almost over and it is getting a bit chilly! Right before the weather began to change I had one fine Saturday at the end of September. It began with an outside brunch with my friends Janeen and Carrie. We sat outside in the sunshine in front of Fork’n’Spoon Cafe  on Prince Street in downtown Lancaster and had a few delicious dishes.

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Carrie had the BLT and I had the poached eggs over tomatoes and spinach (pictured above, and perfectly cooked). The french toast that Janeen had (pictured above) was smothered in bananas, walnuts and carmely sweet syrup. Everything was great and it was really nice to sit outside enjoying warm coffee with some of my best girlfriends. I think it’s safe to say that we would all recommend Fork’n’Spoon Cafe, especially for an outside brunch.

I made my way over a block to the Central Market, my favorite part of my Saturday morning routine. I found some great produce at one stand that I really like Stoner’s Home Grown Vegetables. They always have homegrown heirloom veggies and they are now open on Saturdays!

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I made this awesome salad later in the week with all the veggies I bought… yes, there are edible flowers in it!

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Janeen and I decided to go up to Lititz, PA and spend a little time walking around. There is a new olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting shop called Olio. While it was quite fun to taste all of their olive oils and balsamic vinegars, I just wish they put out some crackers or bread to cleanse your palate between tastings. They did have water and I tried to limit myself to a few tastings… but I really wanted to taste every one of the olive oils they had.

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I loved these metal containers that held the oils and vinegars. I would love one to dispense olive oil in my kitchen. They were beautifully polished and poured the liquids out slow enough to get a small tasting amount. How I wish I could find one of these! I might just have to do some hunting on the internet.

I settled on Moroccan EVOO and Chocolate Balsamic vinegar – both of which I plan to use on a salad with fresh strawberries and maybe some Parmesan cheese.

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Olio also carries several salts, spices, their own condiments, olives, and various other goodies. I saw this long pepper (below) and I wanted to try it. So far I have used it to spice up sauces, veggies, and braised meats. It is actually a dried cattail reed. I have been crushing it up with a mortar and pestle, it smells very fragrant and adds subtle flavor.

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So… Lititz has a wine tasting room now.

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Waltz vineyards opened a small wine tasting room where you can taste wines for $5. Their vineyard isn’t too far away, located in Manheim, PA. We learned that they offer tastings with cheese parings regularly and they also hold a few paring dinners a year at the vineyard. I will probably be visiting the actual vineyard soon. Some of the wines that this winery produces are probably the best Pennsylvania wine I have ever had. Pennsylvania wine is usually too sweet for my taste but this vineyard has a few wines that range from slightly sweet to very dry. I am not going to pretend that I know a lot about wine… but I did like their Merlot.


We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around some of Lititz’s little shops. Most are kitschy but it was such a beautiful day to walk around the tiny town. We finished our visit with little rest at a sidewalk table at the Bull’s Head Public House, enjoying a pumpkin ale and the crisp air.

And, yea, we stopped for cupcakes on the way home…

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Sublime Cupcakes… they are sublime, but they need some tables so you don’t have to eat them in the parking lot… or I guess you could just get them to go. But seriously, they are delicious cupcakes, very moist with awesome icing! It was a good snack to keep us going until we got to our next destination of this super Saturday…

The end of September brings Oktoberfest into full swing. One tradition that my friends and I have been enjoying for several years now is the Lancaster Liederkranz‘s Oktoberfest. This German Society holds the Oktoberfest at a picnic grove surrounded by trees and decorated with Bavarian flags and twinkle lights.

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Did you know that Oktoberfest officially begins with the tapping of a keg of beer? The keg is brought into the fest in a parade-style manner and a baby rides into the festivities on top of.. it is true.

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There are many German delights to be had at the Oktoberfest. You have to buy these tickets to purchase anything at the fest.

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There are giant Bavarian pretzels…

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Bratwurst with sauerkraut…

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Giant potato pancakes served with apple sauce…

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…and many other German delights! Just get there early – I think this Oktoberfest is getting really popular – they ran out of many other German meats before we move to the front of the food line!

There are also fun activities for kids, like painting Koo-Koo clocks and puppet shows.

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German dancing goes well into the night. There are several traditional German dances displayed throughout the weekend. Many of them tell a story and use props like the one shown below.

You can even join in the fun and learn how to polka dance and line dance to some German music. Here’s one of our favorite tunes that has a dance that goes along with it – Fliegerlied.

Enjoy the end of October – there might still be time to catch an late Oktoberfest somewhere. I do hope to see some new faces at the Lancaster Leiderkrankz grounds next year!