Sunday, June 7, 2009

Washington DC

Foxy and I are making our final weeks preparations for heading out to Washington DC for a long birthday week to visit Alicia and Joe. I have a tradition of being on vacation for my birthday every year. This will be my first DC trip (Foxy's 3rd?) and I'm trying not to plan much for a change. The idea is to see the city but I'm really excited about seeing it from a locals perspective and let whatever happen, happen. It looks like I'm also going to get a chance to catch up with an old buddy from high school while we are there. So follow along....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pour me another glass...

Today was off to a great start as we headed into Oakland, CA to visit Mariposa bakery. The place is entirely gluten free and fabulous by my made from scratch standards. Joel and I feasted on wheat free pizza and brownies and I got bagels and muffins for tomorrow morning. :) It was so nice to be able to walk into a bakery and actually eat something instead of eyeing the glass and trying to figure out how to make a wheat free version at home.
I had decided that nothing could be more breathtaking than the coastal views in Monterey, and then we entered wine country. If I could ever bare to live farther than 2 hours from my family, I think I would pick up and move out to Sonoma, California. Joel could open a winery and I could teach. During the summers I could assist with the gardens and chat with the visitors. If that didn't work, we could run a bed and breakfast. A person can dream, right?
I have seen my fair share of wineries in my time and have never been all that excited by what the tours have to offer. However, today, at Benziger I was blown away. I wanted to ask if there was a position open for someone like me. I'm not even a big wine drinker. In fact, I'm a terrible drinker, I don't appreciate fine wine and I get half a glass before I'm ready to fall asleep in the middle of a dinner party. That aside, the philosophy behind having a family run winery centered around the ideas of being a sustainable organic and biodynamic farm was incredible. The water is reused, the animals help the plants, the plants feed the animals, the people merely assist in the process instead of trying to manhandle it all, and at the end of the day....a beautiful wine is born. It makes me excited to hurry home to our small garden and almost makes me want to move to Gainesville and be the experiment that is Green Market.
We are staying here on the property in what was originally one of the brother's houses. It is huge, way too much for 2 people. I feel like inviting up the town to come have dinner and entertain, as this house obviously calls for a couple who know how to throw a fine dinner party.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is that a radio in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Our afternoon/evening in Point Lobos State Park was the highlight of the State Parks here in California. There were multiple trails that led us hiking through a tree covered path, another over looking the west coast from sharp jagged cliffs, and our final trail leaving us at sunset down at water level hopping from rock to rock about 50 ft from sunbathing sea lions. The views were made complete by the sounds of asian elevator music singing softly from inside the thick layers of a stranger's down jacket. You heard me, a lady with a radio in her jacket, playing traditional chinese music took our picture as the sun was dancing quietly to its nighttime position. "Make love! Be love!" she directed over her boombox, trying to get us in the perfect sunset pose. A more perfect evening could not have been planned.
Tuesday, we grabbed some food at Whole Foods (thank god for a deli that serves gluten free and vegetarian sandwiches). and headed down to Big Sur for a day of hiking through the state parks and a picnic. While we were able to enjoy the gorgeous beach views of Julia Pfeiffer State Park, we were disappointed to find the other parks closed or limited due to the recent storms and fires. Even though we did not squeeze in quite as much hiking as we would have liked, the drive down CA-1 was definitely worth the trip (even with the car sickness factored in). One thing is for sure, the west coast is absolutely breathtaking!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 3: Monterey Bay Aquarium

This morning we had a pretty quick start to head out to the aquarium considering some hooligans occupying the room next door tried to keep us up all night with their partying (don't worry we were really loud this morning and I am have 'accidentally' hit the adjoining wall a few times while in the shower).
We did the smart thing and bought tickets online last night so we wouldn't have to wait in line to get in (an possibly miss the otter feeding show). This proved to be a wise decision. We spent the better part of the morning exploring the sea from the comfort of the museum. It is understandable why so many people rave about it as it is really a well put together museum for all. I think for the us the jellyfish exhibits were the highlight... although the otters were a close, close second.
We quickly breezed by the touristy Cannery Row on our way back to the hotel for lunch.
If you're into the touristy trinkets, t-shirts, and restaurants then it's a one stop shop. We stopped at our local little Trader Joe's to pick up some picnic-y kind of stuff for lunch which we ate on the deck/fire pit area of our hotel.
The day isn't over yet and we are heading out to Carmel or somewhere close to it to try to find a spot for some good sunset photographs.
To be continued.....

Trader Joe

I don't know how Joe became a trader but thank goodness he did. It's amazing the things he does. Seriously as Floridians, we don't realize what we are missing. As a wine merchant Trader Joe's scares me a bit not only because they have a decent selection of wines and beers, but at prices that seem impossible. Yes there are a lot of exclusive labels that only they sell... but you have a pretty easy time figuring out who really made the wine and can't believe they are selling it for $4.99 or less. As a foodie you realize they carry just enough of what you need on a day to day basis without having to have all the hard to get, oddball stuff. As it turns out Trader Joe's is actually coming to Florida in the next year or two which is exciting in some ways. I think they can easily sweep many of the Whole Foods and Publix crowd, especially in times like these where money is tight and everyone is after saving the extra buck or two. I am just amazed at how truly efficient they are as a company, even with the amount of waste they produce as the cost of doing business.

I picked up a couple bottles of wine and beer (yes I'm trying some 2 buck chuck) to experiment with. The wine isnt bad and $1.99 is really hard to beat. Now you all know what you are getting for gifts when we get back.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 2: Monterey, CA

The second day took us cruising the West Coast on CA-1 where we passed through Half Moon Bay, Pascadero, and Castroville all before reaching our destination of Monterey. We took quick stops for pictures, but quickly hopped back in the car because it was FREEZING. The weather has been beautiful here, but in some places on the water, the wind chills you right down to the bone and in Pascadero that was the case. With Castroville being the 'artichoke center of the world', we decided to make a pit stop at The Giant Artichoke for steamed artichokes. While the restaurant was far from gourmet, the novelty of eating a steamed artichoke between acres of rolling farmlands large enough to feed 75% of the nation's artichoke supply was well worth the $7.
We rolled into Monterey and did a quick drive through to develop a game plan. We wandered through the art galleries on Alvarado Street and ended up renting bikes from Adventures By The Sea. While we did not bike the entire 18 mile trail, we did cruise along the coast from Monterey to Pacific Grove. The coastal views were unbelievable, although fighting the wind on the front end of the ride was a bit of a struggle for this little Florida girl. Along our ride, we saw people standing off to the side of the trail. I pulled over and was amazed by all the large rocks laid out on the sand, until I saw one of the "rocks" jump away from the cold water. The entire beach was covered, not by rocks, but by a slew of sunbathing seals. We turned around at Lover's Point Park(BEAUTIFUL) and headed back into town to grab some food and a little downtime.
After downing sample after sample of clam chowder on the pier, we decided to have a low key dinner to rest our muscles before heading back out for sunset. Our beautiful hotel bed makes a lovely table for cheese, crackers, salad from a bag (eaten with our hands), and $4 bubbly in coffee mugs. A delicious dinner in true McKeeby traveling fashion, thank God for Trader Joe's.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 1: San Francisco, Ca

We walked along the water's edge admiring the sights and cool breeze coming off of Fisherman's Wharf until we found ourselves face to face with the local flavor at the Ferry Building Marketplace. The sidewalks were filled with California farmers selling their prized collections of fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, artisan cheeses, infused oils, baked goods, and anything else that could be produced with the ingredients found fresh from the California soil.
After brunch on the water, we followed the directions on a nearby directory. Unfortunately for us, the directory was old and our many block excursion landed us at the old location of the California Academy of Science. Fortunately for us, Joel has a friend in San Francisco. She instructed us to head over to her apartment, sending us on a mini tour through Yuerba Buena Gardens, Union Square, and Nob Hill.
Amy graciously hosted a driving tour around San Francisco to showcase the niches we would have never found on our own, especially, not by foot. This included the Golden Gate Bridge Park, the Presidio, Sea Cliff, Pacific Heights, China Town, and North Beach before returning us to our hotel. The Golden Gate Bridge Park was beautiful and we look forward to spending more time in the park on Friday when we return to see the new Academy of Science. Our evening ended with a casual dinner on Cannery Row at Pompei's Grotto, where we realized we were no match for the tiredness that comes along with a 3 hour time difference. Looking forward to a good night's sleep and a beautiful drive along the west coast in the morning.