Archives for the month of: August, 2012

P recently had a birthday and I surprised him with a morning of kayaking in the Monterey Bay. He thought we were going horseback riding.

The Monterey Bay is home to all kinds of animals, including sea lions, seals, and otters. In the center of the Bay is the Monterey Canyon, which has a bottom 2 miles below the ocean’s surface. To give some perspective, the Grand Canyon is about 1 mile deep. Our kayaking guide from Monterey Bay Kayaks told us that this canyon helps to support the seal and sea lion populations because they don’t have to go too far to get their food, which is usually at deeper points in the ocean.


Otter in Monterey Bay, CA

I signed us up for the Monterey Bay Natural History Tour, which gives us about 3 hours of guided kayaking around the Bay. The great part about having a guide is that he knew where to go to see some of the truly unique to Monterey Bay sites, like the “otter raft”. The otter raft is a kelp forest not far from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in which the otter will tie themselves up so they can eat, sleep, and just hang out.

Sea Lions

Sea lions at Monterey Bay, CA

One of the otters’ co-Bay-habiters are the sea lions. These guys are MASSIVE, reaching up to over 800 pounds. And they are loud. Most of all, I thought they were super cute and reminded me of the Beast. If the Beast had to become a marine animal, he’d be a sea lion. The sea lions were friendly and curious and swam right by our kayaks several times.

Sea lion and bird, Monterey Bay, CA

After checking out the otters and the sea lions, we kayaked over to Seal Harbor, where the more peaceful and quieter seals liked to hang out. Our guide surprised us by bringing some of the ocean into our kayaks.

Sea star, Monterey Bay, CA

I had always called them starfish, but our guide said he preferred calling them sea star, as they aren’t really a fish. Either way, these stars of the sea are pretty fascinating. Each leg has its own set of organs and can recreate itself into another sea star if it were ever cut off.

We wrapped up the tour and kayaked back to the beach. It was such a great day to be out that we decided to walk around the wharf and grab some clam chowder. I hope P enjoyed his birthday!




P has spent the last few summers teaching at Stanford. It’s a nice gig with interesting students and beautiful surroundings. At the end of the session, the program hosts a graduation ceremony for the students. This year it was held in The New Guinea Sculpture Garden, which houses some beautiful carvings from New Guinea carvers.

The ThinkerStanford and the Papua New Guinea artists in-residence collaborated on the carvings and the overall aesthetic of the garden. The focus was on a combination of traditional Papua New Guinea art in a western landscape. The combination of the Northern California landscape with the New Guinea traditional art makes for a peaceful and quiet retreat on campus.

It’s like taking a little vacation while strolling around campus. If you’re ever at Stanford, I recommend grabbing a cup of tea from the union and then strolling over and checking it out.

We got the Beast at the Southern Illinois Humane Society in February of 2011. About a week after we got him I found out I was pregnant with the Monster. We were enjoying having the Beast around, but we had to stop and consider: Can we handle a lab puppy and a baby at the same time? The short answer: Sometimes. Admittedly, there are some days when the Beast just doesn’t get the love and attention he would like to get. To make up for this, we have the dog beach.


Lighthouse Dog Beach

Dog beach, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

He LOVES the beach. The chance to run into water, chase some birds, wrestle with other dogs, and eat some kelp is just too much for him. And of course, it makes for some darn cute photo ops.


Beast at Lighthouse Beach

Dog Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

P and the Beast

P and the Beast, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Here’s to you, Beast.

The Lighthouse Beach is just off of Hwy 1 in Santa Cruz.


I might argue that one of the benefits of being in a long-term relationship is that you have more free places to stay via your partner’s family. For example, P’s sister lives in San Diego, which gives us not only a reason to visit San Diego, but the above mentioned free place to stay as well!

We flew down on Southwest. I have to take a second here and acknowledge how awesome Southwest has been for us for flying. We have flown between Illinois and California and Colorado with Monster several times and we have always been treated well and, knock on wood, have arrived with all of our luggage. And you still get free pretzels, albeit teeny tiny bags of pretzels, but they are still free! So, thanks Southwest! Monster, P, and I appreciate it!

We started off our visit with the standard family dinner. P’s sister has three kids and a husband, so obviously they were all there. We were also joined by P’s uncle, aunt, cousin, and cousin’s wife. I love family gatherings, and it was so great to introduce Monster to everyone. Friday morning we took Monster to visit P’s grandmother with P’s uncle, four generations in one room! A beautiful memory.

Saturday we were treated to crêpes made by our 12 year old nephew. Very impressive, I must say! I must also say that his mom did the actual cooking of the crêpes, but he did the conversions (we were a larger group than what the recipe could serve), measuring, mixing, etc. After herding the cats gathering the family into one minivan and one CRV, we headed out to San Diego’s Chicano Park to see the murals. P had read an article about it in the New York Times and thought it would be cool to go see.

Chicano Park

The park is underneath the 5 freeway and the bridge that goes to Coronado Island. Many of the murals are painted on the overpass support pillars and depict stories and images from Hispanic and Latino cultures.

Virgin Mary

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess, Chicano Park

The Park, which is in the Barrio Logan, has a rich history involving several take-overs and disputes over who got to do what with the land. A young student named Mario Solis is credited with rallying the community to organize and demand that a park be put in instead of a police parking log. Ultimately, the Barrio Logan community residents won and the park was created. ( The murals are stunning and reflective, expressing Chicano history and stories.

Of course, Monster managed to get some swing time in at the playground in the park. (That adorable half face you see there is my niece.)

Monster on swings

After getting our art and culture fix, we headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant we found on yelp, Las Cuatro Milpas. There was a line, but it was worth the wait. The menu was small, the decor was lacking, and the food was straightforward and simple. And it was all good. Classic P&J, we ordered just about everything, including a pork burrito, two tamales, side of rice and beans (with chorizo, of course), and a taco. And we ate it all.

Since we had been artistically and culturally fed by the murals and then physically fed by Las Cuatro Milpas, we headed over to Coronado Island to get our outside (and fro-yo) fix. A nice stroll along the beach on the island was just what we needed to wake ourselves from our food coma and feel revived from our weekend of family and fun in San Diego.

Coronado Island

A friend’s GroupOn mishap resulted in an unexpectedly awesome father’s day gift for Paul this year: Surfing lessons. Admittedly, surfing lessons would not be the first thing I would think to get him, but it turned out to be fun and totally radical!


The lessons were through Adventure Out and took place at Pacifica Beach. Although there was some fog in the morning, the setting was beautiful for both the passive observers/kid-runner-afters and participants. It is also a dog-friendly beach, as long as dog stays on leash, so Beast got to come along! At first it was a bit torturous for him as there were birds and water and kids and birds and kids with food all around him, but he settled down after a while.

The surfing lessons were, I’m told, a LOT of fun. Paul even got up and rode a couple of waves in! After a brief on-land lesson (they sat in a circle which reminded me of summer camp), they headed into the water.


They stayed in the water for about 2-2.5 hours! This allowed them plenty of time to practice “reading” the waves and jumping up onto their boards. The instructors were very “zen-like” and very helpful with tips and getting the students onto a wave. You could just see them all picturing themselves as the next Kelly Slater. 😉


Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photos of people getting up on their boards, so you’ll just have to trust me that people really did get up! Paul said part of what made it enjoyable for him was just sitting on his board and looking at the beautiful scenery.
While Paul bopped around on his board in the Pacific, Monster, Beast, and I strolled along the beach and spent some time with a couple of friends of mine and their own monsters. The other little ones could walk and run on their own so their moms got a good work out chasing them around the beach and trying to stop them from eating all of the sand. I popped Monster in his Ergo carrier and was able to enjoy a relatively easy day at the beach. In fact, I’d say Beast required more of my attention and disciplining, as in “No! You will never catch that seagull! You don’t have wings!” (Yes, I do talk to my dog as if he can understand me. I know, it is endearing.)

After the lessons and the obligatory beer on the beach, we headed south on scenic Highway 1 for a late lunch at the Moss Beach Distillery. We enjoyed some delicious garlic fries, a creative and very Nor-Cal Salmon club which had salmon, avocado, and bacon, and some clam chowder. We were able to score some seats on the gorgeous deck and let the views of the Pacific take our minds off of less attractive things. Image

Oh, did I mention they have fire pits out there to ward off the chilly Nor-Cal summer air?
And, of course, they are dog friendly!

After all of this people time, we decided to take Beast to the dog beach at the Lighthouse Beach in Santa Cruz. He got to romp around with other dogs and finally chase whatever brave, or stupid, seagulls that were hanging around. All in all, a fun and memorable day! Now off to clean out the sand that has moved into Monster’s ears.

I wouldn’t call myself a picky or difficult eater. I won’t turn my nose up at a box of mac ‘n cheese, and I’ve been known to tear into a bag of chips and consider that dinner. All this to say though, it’s not like I don’t know quality when it comes and slaps me in the face like Coi did with its all-dessert dinner menu. Some good friends and I went to check out this “dessiner”, if you will, a few days ago and, oh my silken-white-chocolate stars, it was GOOD!

So, when I say all-dessert dinner, I really mean ALL DESSERT. There were five courses and each of them was a dessert. You can check out a write-up on it from grubstreet here. The menu is a decent-for-San Francisco $45, but goes up to $65 with pairings, which I highly recommend. One thing that came up a few times during the conversation was how light we all felt, despite eating all dessert dishes for dinner. I think this is a testament to how well constructed the dishes were; these were not molten chocolate lava cakes and 14 scoops of ice cream. These were elegant, sophisticated, and innovative. I’ll do my best to briefly break it down:

Course 1: Frozen lime mashmallow – this was the favorite of the majority at the table. A perfectly toasted marshmallow on top of  a frozen lime meringue. I enjoyed the marshmallow a lot, which is saying something because I typically don’t like marshmallow. I was a little thrown by the room temperature marshmallow and the frozen lime meringue, but quickly got over it.

Course 2: Preserved lemon 7:13 – Tasty, but not as impressive as the marshmallow. Perhaps the more forgettable dish of the evening.

Course 3: Peaches & Coffee – this was among my favorites. I don’t see how you can go wrong with coffee and fruit, two of my favorite things. The coffee actually came in the form of a cream that had a subtle coffee flavor, which allowed the peaches to be more prominent.

Course 4: Grapefruit 2006 – again, fruit. The perfect dessert. This dish had some delightful rock sugar in it, which gave the grapefruit tang a nice pop. I really enjoyed it and thought it was refreshing. This dish also had some ginger in it, which I thought was a bold combination. After trying it though, I realized I should probably leave those decisions up to the professionals, because pastry chef Matt Tinder obviously has things under control. It is bold, but in a delightful way!

Course 5: Silken white chocolate – Let’s take a second here and just allow the name of the course to wash over us like…silken white chocolate. This was my favorite, albeit by a slim margin as peaches & coffee was not far behind. This dish included kiwis. Again, a combo I never would have put together on my own, but again, I’m no professional. This was AMAZING! I believe it was supposed to be a play on tofu and he nailed it. Allow me to allow you to be the proverbial fly on the wall when we all had our first bites of this dish.




K: OH!

That’s right! Chef Tinder got three MMMM’s and an OH out of us! That would translate into a perfect score. However, I should note that there was still talk of a tie between the silken white chocolate and the frozen lime marshmallow. For the record, my vote goes with the white silken chocolate.

You can check out the restaurant site here.