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Summer Vacation Day 4

22 Jul

On our last morning of camping, we packed up our gear and said goodbye to the birds who had spent the last few days trying to steal our food at any opportunity.

We were heading toward the bay area and decided to stop in Monterey for breakfast on the way. This was a last minute decision, so I used my phone to google “best breakfast in Monterey” and was led to this review for The Old Monterey Cafe on Trip Advisor.

It was gross. It wasn’t the worst breakfast I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the best AND I found a dark hair in my omelet. I didn’t complain or send it back, I just stopping eating and paid and left. Breakfast fail.

After that disappointing meal, we headed to Marin to my aunt’s house where we were house sitting for the next few days. In exchange for feeding the cats and watering the plants, we got a free place to stay that was only a 15 minute drive from San Francisco. Score!

Our first order of business was to take a nice hot shower and put on clean clothes that didn’t smell like campfire. Then, we headed across the golden gate to meet Cathy for happy hour at Waterbar!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with SF, that’s the Bay bridge behind us. We had such a great time and I can’t wait to get together with Mrs. Penguin (as I’ll always think of her) when she comes down to LA for a visit.

Unfortunately, I forgot our camera at my aunt’s house that night, so the photos I have are limited.

After happy hour, we headed over to my second cousin’s adorable apartment for some wine before dinner. They spoiled us rotten with dinner and took us to Baker and Banker.

If I had brought my camera, I would have been super annoying and taken a picture of every one of the five courses from the prix fixe tasting menu we indulged in. Above, my husband is enjoying the palette cleansing sorbet.

Here we all are at the end of the meal, full and happy. It was so great to see these two and catch up!

After dinner, we headed back to Marin and enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep on a real bed that didn’t deflate halfway through the night like our air mattress did every night when we were camping.

The next day: playtime, walking up some serious hills, and more yummy food.

Summer Vacation Day 3

21 Jul

On our third day of camping, we decided to do some exploring and even took a short hike following a trail we found on the map we had to purchase (lame) from the park ranger.

Next time we’d like to get a campsite near the beautiful river.

It was strange because some areas had these huge redwoods and others had much smaller oak trees and chaparrel.

My husband had fun on a rope swing…

And I nervously crossed the plank bridges.

The hills above were green and reminded us of the opening scene in The Sound of Music!

Unfortunately, my husband was unable to get the same campsite for both nights when he reserved ours a few weeks prior. So, we were on day three and campsite number three. I really enjoyed this camping trip, but packing everything up every morning and setting it all back up again every afternoon really got on my nerves.

When we arrived at our second campsite in Pfeiffer park, we noticed that right across the tiny road was the most beautiful campsite we had seen since we’d been there.

Here is the one we were assigned:

See what I mean about the trees? Our site had these tiny trees and bushes (and LOTS of poison oak) and right next door were huge beautiful redwoods.

Here you can see how close we are. That’s my car on the left.
My husband asked the rangers if the other site was taken (it was) or if we could switch since it was already late afternoon and the occupants hadn’t checked in yet. He wouldn’t allow it and we watched the site stay empty all day, night, and into the next morning. It was really frustrating, but now we know which site to reserve!

My husband being silly with his machete (he used it to move the wood in the fire) and his axe (of course for splitting wood).

Even though this dinner was the least fancy, it was somehow the most satisfying. Something about bbq chicken and camping that just… works.

By the way, my husband cooked every dinner over the fire. No camping stove for us. He’s good, right?

After dinner, we pulled out this bad boy:

Every time we go camping, we search everywhere for Jiffy pop. We haven’t been able to find it anywhere, but when my husband went to a teeny tiny market near Kirk Creek to get more ice, there is was!

Not only was it super fun, it was super delicious. Way better than microwave popcorn. I may need to order some online to keep in the house…

By now I’m sure you all know that my husband loves to take embarrassing pictures of me. I don’t post all of them, but here’s one to give you a chuckle.

Just call me popcorn butt!
While we were enjoying our jiffy pop, I heard something near the picnic table. I scrambled for a flashlight and saw a skunk (!!) walking off with a marshmallow in it’s mouth! It took me a while to find the camera and this was the best picture I could get:

See the tail? Look closely. He was almost completely hidden behind the tree.

We left out some more marshmallows trying to lure him back (why we were trying to get closer to an animal that could spray us with stink is now beyond me, but it was a good idea at the time), but no luck.

This was our last night camping! We were sad that the first part of our vacation was over, but excited for a hot shower and the next part. Tomorrow, off to San Francisco!

Summer Vacation Day 2

20 Jul

After our first day camping, we woke up early to go fishing at another campsite 45 minutes away, but my husband changed his mind at the last minute and we decided to wait until we got to our next destination to figh. It was so cold outside that all I could think of to do was go back to bed and bundle up. Yes, I was awake for about an hour and took my first nap of the day. This was obviously a theme for this camping trip…

After my nap, we packed up our stuff and headed north. We wanted to stop at a restaurant for lunch and Cathy had recommended (the first of many recommendations from her) called Nepenthe in Big Sur.

This is the view from where we ate. They have these bars set up outside so everyone has a spectacular view with no obstructions. The food was just ok, but very pricy, which I know is because of the location.

There was some free entertainment, though! At one point during lunch, this guy swooped down from a tree and stole a bunch of splenda packets from the person sitting next to me.

It was hilarious and a bit freaky.

After lunch, we headed to our next camping spot, Pfeiffer State Park. I asked my husband to pick a spot with big trees, and I got them!

Sadly, my husband found out there was no fishing allowed in the river that ran through the campground, or any other river or stream in the area.

After setting up camp and yet another nap (I know, I know, get over it), we made another fabulous dinner.

Grilled shrimp, filet mignon, green beans, corn, and garlic bread. Oh, and the best wine EVER, Daou Celestus. We bought this one on my birthday wine tasting trip at a free tasting that was set up in our hotel. Best score of the trip.

After dinner, we had a bit of fun with some sparklers since we didn’t see any fireworks on the 4th.

I know, only YOU can prevent forest fires… sorry Smokey. We were careful, I promise.

Next was the most important part of camping: s’mores! My husband has perfected the process: get a piece of foil and put two halves of a graham cracker on it, place a piece of chocolate on each graham – we used chocolate filled with caramel one night and chocolate filled with peanut butter another night – and put the foil on the grill. Let it get melty and delicious while you toast your marshmallow to your heart’s content.

Complete the sandwich and enjoy.


What’s your favorite part of camping?

Summer Vacation Day 1

19 Jul

Last Monday, my husband and I packed up the car and headed north for a week-long adventure up the coast of California. Our first leg of the trip was three days and nights of camping in Big Sur. We had reservations in Pfeiffer State Park for the second two nights, but the first night we had to try our luck at a first come first serve campground near the ocean. My husband wanted to try Kirk Creek first and we struck gold!

This was the view from our campsite when we arrived. Beautiful, no? There was a pretty heavy marine layer, but we were glad to be out of the heat of the valley where we live so we embraced the clouds.

Next was lunch and yes, I’m eating spaghetti O’s. It has become a bit of a camping tradition for us to bring a can of these and eat them for lunch one day. They are super gross and I usually can’t take more than a couple of bites, but I was happy to have an empty aluminum can early in the trip (you’ll see why in a bit).

During lunch we made friends with some of the locals.

I think maybe we were missing our dogs (who were down at my husband’s parents’ ranch) because we couldn’t get enough of watching the squirrels eat the almonds we’d toss to them. They were so cute!

Next was a little hike down to the water. There were beautiful wild flowers…

A babbling brook…

Licorice that my husband made me chew so I could taste the familiar flavor…

And poison oak! Oh my!

Eventually we made it to the ocean and hung out on the rocks for a bit until I got scared that the tide would wash us away.

On the way out, my husband pretended to be the guy from 127 Hours.

I collected some flowers and when we got back to our campsite…

I used the can as a vase and voila! Pretty camping flower arrangement for our picnic table! To be fair, I borrowed this idea from a neighboring campsite so I can’t take all the credit, but I will make this part of our camping tradition from now on.

After our walk, I took a little nap.

Now, my husband decided to count up all the naps I took in the first day and came up with about 8. This includes the car ride on the way up, though, and he would consider it a new nap if I woke up for a minute and fell back asleep. To defend myself, I couldn’t fall sleep the night before and we left the house at 6:00am that morning so I was just a wee bit tired. Plus, I was on vacation! Give me a break, right?

When I woke up, this is what I saw when I opened the tent door:


When I realized we had brought two air mattresses with us, I decided to set up a bed outside of the tent so we could read nap in the sun feeling the ocean breezes.

After some more naps, the sun started setting and we had to make a fire to keep warm and cook dinner.

While we tend to cheap out on lunches for camping, we like to splurge on our dinners.

The first night we shared a filet with salmon, brussels sprouts, red potatoes and Hitching Post Pinot. It was so delicious.

We had s’mores that night, but I didn’t get a picture. Don’t worry, I took photos of our process the next night and they were finger licking good.

That concludes the first day of our vacation! Tomorrow, more naps, a new restaurant with the best views, and we head into the woods!

Do you like to go camping or are you more of an indoors person?

Camping in Joshua Tree

30 Oct

Last weekend, we packed up the dogs and headed out to Joshua Tree to get our camp on. We were hoping to score a campsite at Jumbo Rocks, but it was full by the time we got there. We had to settle for Cottonwood, the farthest campground from the main entrance. Our friends Paul and Jackie met us there with Marlowe, Jackson’s brother.

The first night there was a full moon which made seeing in the dark much easier.

Pretty sunset on the first night in Joshua Tree.

We took a little walk the next morning and realized why the rangers don’t want dogs on the trails.

They were covered in stickers my the time we were done. Their poor little paws had huge thorns embedded in them.

Jackie climbing the sloped rock.

Paul and Jackie during our game of dominoes. Jackie won, despite not really knowing how to play. Damn beginners luck.

My husband was trying to get a peek of my dominoes, little cheater.

After that game, I decided to read while the rest played cards. It was really warm in the morning, but got pretty chilly in the afternoon/early evening. I was so glad I got a new jacket (on sale at Old Navy) for the trip!

Ruby was on Jackie’s team.

Then she joined me while I read. I always bite the side of my cheek (and my husband likes to take pictures of me making stupid faces).

Family photo! Wow, I could have used some makeup…

Believe it or not, this is the sunrise, not sunset. While the sunsets were kind of disappointing, the sunrises were incredible. I got up early the second morning to catch a glimpse.


My husband cuddled Ruby for warmth. See those sock with sandals? Sexy.

All the pups wanted to cuddle.

Our camping coffee percolator. It takes forever!! I spent each morning staring at that thing waiting for the coffee to be ready.

Brothers: Marlowe and Jackson.

I enjoyed camping in Joshua Tree, but I don’t think I’d go back for many years. I prefer woodsy or beach camping to camping in the desert. If we went back, I’d love to get a spot at Jumbo Rocks instead of way out at Cottonwood (though the running water and flushing toilets were very nice).

What is your favorite camping spot?

Camping at Jalama Beach

15 Sep

We like to take one camping trip each year. I’m sure my husband would go once a month if he could, but I can’t handle that much roughin’ it, so we have settled into our once a year tradition nicely. We left on Thursday morning with our two dogs and headed to Santa Barbara where we ate at Crush Cafe which was super delicious and very dog friendly. If you ever happen to go, get the Mexican hot chocolate. It is to die for.

After our halfway-there-pit-stop, we continued on to Jalama. I lost service on my phone about 20 minutes away from our final destination and I started to have crackberry withdrawal. Seriously. I took a few deep breaths and enjoyed the ocean view and we headed onto the campground. Our first order of business was a trip down to the beach. Ruby has never much like water and the beach has always kind of scared her, but Jackson loves to play in the water so we had high hopes.

As you can see, Jackson had a great time playing in the shallow water.
Ruby, on the other hand, avoided the water as much as possible.
The beach was just gorgeous and  we enjoyed the amazing sunsets each night.
It was extremely windy the first day and night (as you can tell by my wild hair) and we were worried it would be that way the whole weekend. We couldn’t leave our chairs or drinks unattended or they would blow over instantly. We played cards with extreme caution and lots of rocks used as weights.

Sitting by the fire enjoying our first night!

The next morning, we took our coffee and headed down to the beach. We were very please that the wind had died down considerable and the sun was shining.
Ruby loved to lay on the picnic bench and watch her crazy little brother.
After some breakfast and more coffee, we headed back down to the water to read and relax. There were lots of surfers who were also camping and enjoying the waves. We also got to see a pod of dolphins playing pretty close to shore. In the picture above, you can see a mama and baby dolphin swimming side by side!
The dolphins look much closer than they actually are because the sand dips down a bit before it meets the water.
This surfer was enjoying the free dolphin show!
Here I am reading with the pups napping at my feet. It was pure bliss.
Right before dinner time, our friends Paul and Jackie finally arrived with their puppy (and Jackson’s brother) Marlowe!
Puppies playing at sunset.
I smell a Christmas card picture!
I look pregnant in this picture, but I’m not.
That night, we had our ice chests out, but closed with latches. We knew that raccoons were out each night (they got into our trash the first night), but didn’t worry much about them getting into anything as we packed it all up and took the trash to the dumpster before going to bed. Well, raccoons are really smart. They opened a cooler, lifted the latch, go out the eggs and opened the hard plastic egg case (not some flimsy cardboard one, the read deal with another 2 latches) and stole all the eggs. Some were broken on the second cooler, but most they carried off to eat. Good thing the Jalama market has just about anything, including eggs!
The next day was much more cloudy which wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t ideal. We headed to the beach again anyway and it turned out to be quite warm, even with the cloud cover.
There was lots of digging in the sand.
Ruby got a face full of sand and just tried to grin and bear it.
The puppies loved chewing on the seaweed. Jackson is on the left, Marlowe on the right.
How cute are they?? Marlowe is on the left, Jackson on the right.
Jackie with an armful of fluffy puppies!
This picture should be in a magazine.
Possible Christmas card picture…
Look at those teeth! Getting viscous!
Ruby finally joined in on the digging. We’re so glad they picked up this habit at the beach…
Ruby in her prayer shawl. She’s meditating.
Marlowe attacking my face.
Later that afternoon, we decided to take a short hike up to the train tracks. My husband told me we could lay pennies on the track and when the train went by they would get smushed and we could go retrieve our flattened pennies. Paul’s dad (his parents had come up to visit for a few hours in the afternoon) told us that this was very illegal and dangerous. We decided to risk it (don’t call the cops on us!).
On the way up, we had an incredible view of the sun glistening off the blue waters.
We laid our pennies on the track and headed back to camp. A little while later, we heard the train go by (it did not derail, thank goodness) and we hiked back up to see how it all turned out.
Here are the flattened pennies!
Another amazing sunset.
The wind picked up quite a bit that night, but we enjoyed our gourmet dinner of tri-tip and salmon with roasted potatoes and green beans and grilled corn on the cob (all cooked over the open flame – YUM). For dessert, we had s’mores, of course. This time we used Reese’s instead of plain chocolate and I will never go back to the old fashioned way!
Awwwww… A + M forever!
The next morning, we packed up our things and headed home, back to reality and back to the blackberry.
The puppies posed one final time for the camera. How stinkin’ cute are they??
When we finally got home, our pups were pooped!
I would definitely recommend Jalama Beach for camping. They have clean bathrooms with lights (!) and the showers are amazing (bring quarters). The campsites are a bit close together, but our neighbors were super nice (even the ones with little kids who went to bed long before we did). Best of all? The beach is huge and sandy and beautiful and just a few steps away.