Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zebras and Otters: Must be in San Simeon

The next day, we decided we were in need on some beach time, so we headed north about 15 minutes to a very nice place to hang out. On our way up, we saw some very exciting locals.

The Hearst Zebras! I've only seen them a handful of times, but it's always so fun. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many of them all together. 

After getting my fill, onward to the beach we went.

We all brought books and took no time getting settled.

Despite the nice weather, it still was a bit cold, so I was glad I had on a sweatshirt and my long dress. 

This is one of the view I pull up in my mind when I get tired of the desert. 

Before we left, we took a nice walk along the water, and I had fun walking in the waves (though was a little less happy when I realized the bubbly sensation under my feet were lots of little crabs burrowing under the sand). But, but most exciting, we saw an otter! He was just basking, hanging out on his back in the water. I sort of turn into a little kid when I see cute animals. I may have finished my walk solo because I stopped so much to take in the fun of that little otter.

 then, we came home and cooked up some of that great farmer's market fare from the day before. 

Ed's gotten pretty darn good at grilling, which I am very much enjoying. We'd picked up some super tasty filets from costco to grill up with our squash. 

It was a nice looking table, if I do say so myself!

I was planning to make a super complex sauce for the steaks, but just ended up making a gorgonzola butter. Just mix butter and gorgonzola and heat it up a bit so it melds. Super yummy. As our other side, I sauteed fava beans and kale. Perfect summer meal. 

After dinner, we had fun traveling through Germany, via our game, Ticket to Ride. 

One of our last wonderful days before the craziness began.

Farmer's Market in Cambria

 (By the way, if you're at all interested, I've started following a new philosophy towards eating that I'm talking about over on my running blog :) ).

As the central coast is also quite well known for yummy fresh produce, I convinced Ed and Sabine that we should visit one while we were there. Luckily for us, she really enjoys a Friday afternoon farmer's market in Avila, so off we went!

Being in wine country (or close to it at least), we had to get ourselves a bottle to enjoy, as we took in the scene.

It's amazing how warm it was out there. Little did we know, it was the beginning of what would be a lovely heat wave on the central coast with uncharacteristically warm weather: ). Made it great for sitting outside. 

Our food plan was simple. Each person would take a turn and choose their stand of choice, bringing back something to share. 

I went first, and went for a spectacular fish taco.

I couldn't resist the freshly grilled and seasoned corn, either. 

While we were there, we had some excitement - the local news was there! Interviewing the guys cooking the fish tacos I just got, no less. Sabine watches their channel all the time and was super excited to see the weather guy. We even got to talk to them later, though not on the air.  We think we probably make the background of the news, but never found out.

The market wasn't huge, but had everything we could possibly want. 

Afterwards, we had a lovely walk down the pier, enjoying the views.

When we got back to Cambria, I realized that it was just about sunset, so pleaded with my companions for a quick drive down to Moonstone Beach area so that we could catch it. 

We timed it perfectly. 

As the last glimpses of the sun slipped below the waves, we turned back to the car, and looked up to glimpse of the sun's counterpart. Just as beautiful, if not quite as flashy. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dubost Winery: Paella in the Vineyard

Ed and I were thrilled when his mom told us she was booking us tickets for a special event at a local winery. While we've been told that Arizona also has "wine country," we've been a bit skeptical, and were happy to be back among wine we knew :). 

The event was through Sabine's newcomer's club (one of her many clubs),  and was full of her friends (some whom we recognized from her birthday party).

It was certainly a warm, sunny day (though Ed and I were so relieved to be away from the Arizona sun, we couldn't complain). 

The even began with some yummy appetizers, including (if I recall correctly) boar meatballs with homemade mustard (from wild, local mustard seeds).  Along with each course, there was paired one of their wines.

After the snacks, the winery owner came out and told us the history of their family's winery, why "dry farming" was important to them, and about the delicious food we were about to enjoy. 

We started with a yummy salad, full of pecans and slices of grapefruits. It was very refreshing on this summer day. We also had homemade bread that was super tasty.

It was fun getting to chat with some of Sabine's friends.

And of course, we greatly enjoyed our next "course" of wines. 

Finally, it was time for the Paella!

There was some talk beforehand about a previous year where they'd run out of food, and there was definite concern at our table. A concern that was thankfully totally unfounded this year. We all had more than enough! I tried the seafood, while Ed had the meat one (which we thought was a little more flavorful).

And of course, we needed dessert. It doesn't look like much, but it's actually three different kinds of brownie: a "mexican" brownie, with a bit of cayenne and cinnamon, a lavender brownie, and a Kahlua brownie. All very tasty.

Before we left, Ed and I headed to the store to pick up some of the wine we liked, plus some red wine jelly - super yummy and perfect for appetizers with bread and cheese. 

What a lovely,  perfect day in Central Coast wine country.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mission Viejo Living

 One of the things I was most excited about visiting in California were their farmer's markets. The ones in Arizona are so sad - maybe one stand that actually sells fruits and vegetables, 40 minute waits in line to purchase said produce, and such a lack of variety. So, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to attend one while visiting my parents.

To be honest? My memory didn't even match the beauty of these stands.

There is something so satisfying about interacting with the growers and picking food that just looks good. 

We had a great time choosing foods that looked delicious and trying to figure out how we could use them. 

This was our haul:

I may have been most excited about these grapefruits. They were probably the largest I'd ever seen (and were spectacularly delicious). 

We used some of the produce to make a Provencal salad (among other things) and took our bounty out on a boat on Lake Mission Viejo. 

We had such a great time. When I was younger, we used to rent a party boat probably every summer and I have very fond memories of it. 

This certainly didn't disappoint. 

While our visit wasn't long (just 5 days), it was lovely. The perfect way to start our trip. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Day of Relaxation

 Ed and I drove out to California on June 12th, starting our trip in Mission Viejo visiting with my parents. Ed and I had actually seen a good amount of my parents lately, with visits out a few times the previous month, but it was still very nice to have some quality time together. 

My mom and I had decided earlier that month that the best way to start our summers would be to a very relaxing day. For mother's day and her birthday, I'd promised to treat my mom to a spa day and lunch, so we chose the 13th as our special day. 

We started our morning at the spa:

My dad had actually gifted my mom to a massage that she hadn't used, so I was able to just contribute to upgrading my mom's experience. We had a lovely time using the spa, sauna, and mist room before and after the massages, and felt thoroughly de-stressed when we left a few hours later.

Next, we headed to Laguna Beach for lunch at one of my mom's favorite places: The Montage Resort

This place is incredible - with spectacular food and pure bliss. Of course, it costs an arm and a leg, so we just indulged in lunch - a much easier and more attainable way of enjoying these gorgeous grounds. 

(After the fog burned off. This is the view from the balcony beyond the main sitting area)
We were lucky enough that it wasn't very busy, and got a lovely seat right by the window, so we could enjoy the view without worrying about the weather. 

 The weather was gray to start, but by the time we'd finished was a brilliant, sunny day.

Of course, we had to get some wine to celebrate the occasion, since this was technically for a birthday and Mother's day.

The food was excellent. Looking at the picture, I'm not sure that I can even remember exactly what was on our sandwich beyond some kind of fish (maybe Mahi Mahi?) and a very good slaw. It was very good, though. 

I may have mentioned the occasion when making our reservation, and was very happy when they brought out a little cake for my mom. A perfect end to our meal!

Afterwards, we decided to take advantage of the day and location and walk around. Everything looked even more beautiful with the sun shining. 

The pathway outside of the resort takes you along the beach, and even though it'd only been a month since my last ocean visit, it was still breathtaking. 

As a "desert dweller" I now get a kick out of spotting agaves, and was excited to spot these bloomers. 

 I couldn't get over the color of the water - I'd forgotten all of those different shades of blue.

Of course, we had to go down and get our feet wet. Just the way to start a California vacation.

As you get older, there just isn't nearly enough time with just your mom (or dad). It was so nice to have a special day all to ourselves!