Monday, November 5, 2012

N's parents in town/Palm Springs

N's parents flew all the way over from New York to visit us in early September. The best thing about our apartment in ktown is that we can now comfortably host overnight visitors (so come on over, friends)! They did a lot of LA things with N like check out the Getty and tour the Queen Mary, and we all got to spend Labor Day weekend together in Palm Springs.

It was our first time visiting Palm Springs, and we had a blast. I reserved a small house for us through VRBO that turned out to be amazing--small, homey, clean, super pet friendly and it had its own pool and hot tub. I am so into VRBO lately. Staying in a rented home is infinitely better than staying at a hotel, especially when it comes to traveling with Stewie. Plus I love how I get to stay in another person's house for a little bit. It feels like I'm getting the chance to try out someone else's life for a few days. I guess that sounds kind of creepy. Anyway...

We got a discounted rate because I think most people don't feel the need to head over to Palm Springs in the height of summer. It hit well over 100 degrees every day. But it's the desert, so the lack of humidity definitely helped. You know what also helped? Having a pool in the backyard.

The sun's so bright N and Stewie can't keep their eyes open!

Aside from being our first visit to Palm Springs, it also turned out to be Stewie's first time swimming! As you know, he's not the biggest fan of water. But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to see him swim. Or try to, at least.

We tried to make the experience as un-traumatizing as possible, but I wouldn't say he had a good time in the water. But he swam in the end!:
Once he got out of the pool, he ran to N's mom, C, for safety on land:
Stewie: "Please don't let those evil people put me back in the pool, C"
And here's N's dad, K, relaxing with one of the mimosas we made:
How cool is he??
Aside from hanging out in the pool during the day and the hot tub once the sun went down, we also rode the famous Palm Springs tram almost 6,000 feet up Mount San Jacinto. Here's a photo of the tram heading our way to pick us up at the botton of the mountain:
The tram rotates 360 degrees while heading up the mountain so you can see everything.
I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but I was getting kind of freaked out on the tram ride. It's really high!

There's a downright beautiful state park at the top of Mt. San Jacinto. It had a lovely look to it; it's dry, but still lush somehow.
Doesn't this meadow look like something out of Bambi?
How desktop wallpaper-y

So, apparently, a lot of the trees in the park were Jeffrey Pines. And according to a handy sign along the trail, Jeffrey Pines give off a faint smell of butterscotch. Of course, I had to test such an outlandish claim.
sniff sniff snort snort
And it was true. They all smelled like butterscotch and vanilla! I stopped to sniff every Jeffrey Pine we passed along the trail. Some gave off a stronger scent than others. People passing by us gave me weird looks, but they didn't know what they were missing! They all smelled fan-tastic. The next time you pass a Jeffrey Pine, you should smell it. I wish my apartment could smell like them all the time.

Being on top of Mt. San Jacinto certainly gave us a spectacular view of Palm Springs below:

We also had some time to explore the town a bit. Here's C sitting with a statue of Lucille Ball:
And we had a fun time at this random hat shop:
N: "Is there something on my head?"
A couple other notes: we had a fantastic brunch at Elmer's (yum, German pancakes) and we stopped by the Desert Hills Premium Outlets on the way back to LA, where I got to snag a Kate Spade bag for cheap.

A big thanks to C and K for taking some of these photos!

Long Beach Sand Sculpture Contest

I had my eye on this event last year, but we had a scheduling conflict so we couldn't go. But that's okay, because we finally got to it this year!

The annual Long Beach Sand Sculpture Contest was on August 11th. It also happened to be held on a stretch of beach right next to the Long Beach Dog Beach, so Stewie came with us. As usual, he wasn't a big fan of the water (even though it was super warm and felt awesome--it was hot that day!), but we tried to coax him in anyway:

It was the first time we've been to that dog beach, and it was alright...nothing compared to our precious Arroyo Burro, of course. The beach was PACKED. But it was also the height of summer and I was actually sad we didn't bring our own swimsuits so we could join the crowd in the water.

The sand sculpture contest was small but fun. We only stayed a little bit (like I said--it was hot!) so we didn't get to see the finished products, but seeing the work in progress was more interesting anyway.

A big salamander:

Some sand-carved type:

A castle:

There were also a few professional sand sculptors on the side creating this:

Pretty neat, huh? Side/back view:

And, finally, a gratuitous Stewie shot, because he's cute:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

And now, traveling back in time to August: The Orange County Fair

I'm going to try to race through the last 3 months of posts I haven't had a chance to write. Here we go...

N and I went to the Orange County Fair on August 4th. We went to the LA County Fair last year, which was fun, but we liked the OC Fair more. It was generally cleaner, more organized and had a lot more interesting activities going on.

There were, of course, adorable animals to see, including these pygmy goats (WANT):

Aside from the regular farm animals, we also saw camels, ostriches and all kinds of pretty song birds. But animal-wise, by far the coolest thing we saw were two real oxen. Yes, oxen--like from The Oregon Trail. I had never seen oxen in real life before, and my jaw almost dropped. They are MASSIVELY HUGE. It was something just being able to stand near them.

We also saw a trick dog show that was fun. All the performing dogs were rescues, which was nice. There was a lot of frisbee catching and jump-roping, but the most impressive trick we saw was this:

Pretty awesome balance there!

The fair also hosted a ton of contests including woodworking, scrapbooking and lots of different foods. All the entries were on display. The most interesting contest, though (in my opinion), was the tablescaping contest.

I'd only heard of tablescapes from Sandra Lee's show on Food Network. I thought it was so interesting that there's a whole competition devoted to them (and kind of weird, I have to admit). They had all kinds of themes, including Disney movies:

Various holidays:

And colors:

And, of course, you can't go to a fair without eating fried food! Aside from our regular funnel cake and cotton candy, we also tried these Australian Battered Potatoes, which were pretty good:

All in all it was a fun day out. OC Fair, we might see you again next year...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Up to the Bay Area to visit Niece Hannah

A couple weekends ago, I flew up to the San Francisco area to see my family. N had to stay behind because he still needs to accrue vacation time at his new job. I got a good amount of outlet shopping done (and also came home with a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, yeah!!), but I also spent quality time with Hannah, my 20 month old niece. Get ready for some gratuitous cute baby photos!

My sister and Hannah on the merry-go-round at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo:
Hannah and I taking an Icee break at the park:
Hannah having way too much fun sitting in a car ride that went around and around in a circle:
Hannah looooves holding Yooni the shih tzu in her lap, but I'm not sure if Yooni enjoys it as much as Hannah does:
Yooni's cute too, so I had to take a photo of her:
And this photo isn't from my recent trip up north, but it's a good one, and it seems like I can't publish a single post on this blog without Stewie in it. So here's Hannah heartily patting Stewie on the head:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

4th of July in LA: Long Beach Aquarium and Queen Mary Fireworks

N and I don't usually do 4th of July festivities. We generally avoid things like huge crowds and competing for space and having to get somewhere several hours early in order to watch a brief amount of entertainment. But I decided to change that this year. Partially because the 4th fell on a Wednesday and I felt like I had to make something of my one-day holiday, but also partially because I like fireworks. We also ended up doing some pre-firework activities that were pretty fun!

Every year, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach holds a 4th of July BBQ on their front lawn. We actually went to the aquarium when we first visited LA back in 2008 and scoped out what life would be like if we ever moved here. We hadn't been back since then, and the menu looked pretty good:
  • Ginger Mint Infused Summer Fruit Salad: Cherries, Peaches, Watermelon, Melon, Pomegranate and Pineapple
  • Anchiote Roasted Potato Salad with Red and Yellow Bell Peppers finished with Manchego Cheese 
  • Rotelli Pasta Salad: Black Olive, Cucumber and Grape Tomatoes Tossed in a Champagne Vinaigrette
  • Organic Baby Spinach Salad: Roasted Almonds, Tangerines, Grape Tomato, Red Grapes and Cucumber Served With Papaya Poppy Seed Dressing
  • Laughing Bird Sustainable Shrimp Ceviche: Cucumber, Tomato, Cilantro and Shrimp Marinated in Latin Spice and tossed with Citrus, and Tequila Served on a Tostada Shell and finished with a splash of Cholula and a Avocado wedge. 
  • Citrus Marinated Airline Chicken Breast Grilled and lathered with Housemade Spiced Orange Marmalade 
  • Smoked Brisket BBQ Pork ribs 
  • Hot dogs 
  • Hamburgers 
  • Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Salad: Eggplant, Zucchini, Onion, Orange Bell Pepper, Red Bell Pepper Tossed in Sweet Roasted Garlic Puree 
  • Brown Sugar Vegetarian Baked Beans 
  • Assorted Rolls and Corn Bread 
  • Individual Apple, Cherry, and Peach Empanadas 
  • Frozen Watermelon Cubes with Coconut Anglaise 
  • House made Miniature Coconut Chocolate Candy 
  • House made Miniature Coconut Chocolate Candy with Almond
I balked a little at the price ($37/person including admission to the aquarium), but I decided to go for it anyway. The price for kids was a whopping $29 each! But I thought the cost could work in our favor and was hoping it might be a smaller affair with less kids, but I was wrong. 

We got there 30 minutes early, but the lawn was already PACKED and the line for food (which hadn't even been served yet) snaked all the way down the sidewalk. Here's what the table setup looked like on the front lawn:

But despite the crowd, the catering folks did a very good job of keeping the food well stocked and relatively clean.

The food actually exceeded my expectations, although the brisket didn't really taste like brisket and the ribs were pretty sauce-less. We also had to share a picnic table with other parties. But altogether it was pretty good!

After we ate, we headed into the aquarium. They have a pretty extensive touch pool where you can pet small sharks, sting rays, bat rays, horseshoe crabs and other ocean creatures. And it's always fun to pet a sting ray! Look how huge they are:

Also check out a video N put together with shots of bat rays and the shark tank:

The aquarium had special extended hours on the 4th so it was open until 10 p.m. We looked around until 8 p.m. or so and then tried to stake out a spot to watch the Queen Mary fireworks. We grabbed one of the last chairs up on the second floor outdoor cafe area, but when the show started we realized the trees completely blocked our view. We went back to the touch pool area and stood among the sharks and rays while we watched the show.

The show itself was underwhelming. It only lasted 15 minutes and just wasn't that impressive. But the worst was still to come.

When the fireworks ended, we headed to the parking garage along with thousands of other folks. We actually got one of the last available spots in the lot when we first arrived in Long Beach and thought we were really lucky, but it also meant we parked on the very top floor of the structure. And when thousands of people are pulling out of the same structure on the five floors below you, you don't make much progress. 

We ended up sitting in our car on the 6th floor for a solid 60 minutes without moving a single inch. By the time we started moving forward, we were not in a good mood. The night was semi-redeemed during our drive home--fireworks were going off all around us the whole time we were on the freeway. It felt like we were being showered the whole way! That "show" was actually way better than the Queen Mary fireworks.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Berry picking at Underwood Family Farm

Last weekend, N and I headed up to the Simi Valley area to pick fruit at Underwood Family Farms. We've gone cherry picking in SoCal before, but I had this grand plan in mind wherein I would come home with pounds-upon-pounds of fruit that was easily freezable. Then I'd make awesome, fresh-tasting fruit smoothies in the middle of winter. So with that in mind, I decided that blueberries would be the perfect choice.

Underwood Family Farms has two locations, but we went to the one in Somis since that's where the berries were (their Moorpark location is mostly vegetables). It also seems to be a much smaller farm, and we wanted something that was quiet. It was the tail end of blueberry season, but there was still plenty to pick. The farm was almost completely empty, which we really appreciated. I called beforehand and found out we were allowed to bring Stewie with us, so with us he came!

There was a fun little tractor ride to the blueberry field:

N hoarding blueberries in his container:

Even though it was technically only 75 degrees that day, we were out in the glaring sun and it was HOT. Hot-hot-hot! Stewie was being so wussy that he started to drive me crazy. He kept crawling along the bush line desperately trying to find as much shade as he could (which there really wasn't much of since it was around noon). I was trying to be an efficient blueberry picking machine, but all his leash pulling and frantic yanking made it impossible. I had also recently given him a bath, so while he started out nice and white, by the time we left he was a distinct yellow color from all that army crawling he did through the shade.

It was so sunny he could barely keep his eyes open:

N did the majority of the picking while I dealt with Stewie. So instead of pounds-upon-pounds of blueberries, we only ended up with 2.5 lbs. And we ate all of them in the following week. And they were the sweetest blueberries I've ever had (by the way, fresh blueberries + cottage cheese = awesomeness). We could have picked so much more. Darn you, Stewie!

There were also raspberries available for picking, but they were few and far between. We ended up with less than half a pound of them. This is where Stewie is thinking, "Can we go back to the air conditioned car now please? PLEASE???":

The farm also had several animals in pens to feed/look at. Here's Stewie encountering his first goat. Why, hello there....

And his first chicken (which had a really badass hairdo):

The farm had a little stand that sold veggies from their Moorpark location, so I also swooped in and bought fresh corn, golden beets, bok choy and romaine. Their produce looked FANTASTIC. The romaine literally looked like a heart of romaine but it was the whole head somehow (somehow!!). We've eaten everything  and I can also say it was all very tasty.

And finally, we had to take a photo of Stewie's blueberry-stained feet. What an adorable paw bouquet:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Huntington Beach continued

Some more Stewie photos from our trip to Huntington Beach for all you fans out there, who are ALL of you, of course. Who wouldn't be a Stewie fan??

1: Unleashing the wild beast.

2: Waiting until the beast realizes he's free (sometimes he can be a little slow).

3: Realization hits!

4: The beast springs to life!

5: He's off!

6: And away he goes...

7: ...only to be rudely tackled by an over zealous pup along the way. I merrily laugh at his humiliation.

8. Stewie: "I have my eye on you, waves. You'll never get me wet."

9. Stewie: "..."

 10: Stranger dog: "Mmm, a tasty white and fluffy marshmallow treat just for me..."

11: Stewie clings to me for dear life.