Category Archives: Things to Do

Climbing to the Top

How many steps are you willing to take to make it to top? I am talking about to the top of the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC. You can’t actually make it to the very top, because the last 20 steps are reserved for the coast guard only. You see the old, tall, twice moved tower is still in operation, guiding ships safely through the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
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So when my family decided we were climbing this guy, I wasn’t too concerned about the 248 iron steps to the top or the 30 mph+ winds that couls rip you off the top. Okay maybe a little concerned, I mean our rental house in Duck has two sets of 14 stairs and the 56 stair round trip is pretty discouraging when all you want is a bottle of water or to find your little cousin. Either way I convinced myself that it was nothing. I have been running 2 miles every morning so take that lighthouse.
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I also want to add another honorary 50 steps. Why? Cape Hatteras is a mere hour and a half drive from our quaint beach village and once we arrived another hour and 40 minutes to make the trek. You can occupy sometime in the giftshop or museum learning how they moved the striped giant to save it from being eaten by the ocean. So like I said 50 honorary steps.

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The climb itself started off dark and humid. Every 31 steps you reach platform with a window and cool breeze. I quickly passed the first few, but by platform 4 my heart was racing and I thought it might never end. I am pretty sure we made it to the top in inder 15 minutes and the view was fantastic. We all felt as though we accomplished an amazing feat and to tell you the truth the climb was fairly easy. Less than 20 minutes later we were in the car searching for lunch.

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Would you make the climb?

Sunrise on the Ocean

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This morning the Husb and I crawled out of bed to watch the sunrise. We walked down the private lane in our pjs while the sky slowly brightened. The sky was so many brilliant colors and so bright that B thought we had already missed it.

There is nothing worse than thinking you left the comfort of your warm twin bunk bed only to miss the sun rise. (Yes for a night we squeezed into a bunk bed thinking it would be better than the air mattress in the living room. FYI its not. I would much rather wake up to the smell of breakfast at 6am than lose half the feeling of my body, while squeezed in a bunk til 9am).

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Shortly after finding a set of stairs to sit on, a little dot appeared on the horizon. This isn’t a trip I will make every morning, but just once it was worth it. Besides falling back asleep after witnessing the sun rise for one more day was just as sweet as waking up.

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How many sunrises have you crawled out of bed for?

CBS hits America’s Sweet Tooth

get your bake on
Photo courtesy of CBS The American Baking Competition

What do a firefighter, photographer, and homemaker have in common? What about an attorney, advertiser, and home health care provider? No clue? Let’s add a  college student, retiree, project manager, and a baking enthusiast. Now mix in chef Marcela Valladolid, star baker Paul Hollywood, and sprinkle comedian Jeff Foxworthy. CBS found the perfect recipe with these 13 people and created a new series “THE AMERICAN BAKING COMPETITION”.

I  sat down with host Jeff Foxworthy (largest selling comedic-recording artist) and judge chef Marcella Valladolid (host of Mexican Made Easy and bestselling cookbook author) to chat about CBS’ new show “THE AMERICAN BAKING COMPETITION,” premiering this Wednesday, May 29th at 8:00pm.Lunch with Jeff and Marcela

Jeff knows the right things to say to get the bakers stories flowing and sometimes the tears. He shared with us his desire to know people’s stories as the reason for joining the show. He originally turned down the offer, but after watching just one episode of the UK format “THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF,” he was sold. Chef Marcela shared with Jeff the secret of bakers: they are givers and their bakes are labors of love. Week after week, as the bakers compete to be the “star baker,” the audience will get a glimpse of their histories, passions, and skills.

When asked if she learned anything new from the amateur bakers, Marcela was excited to share her amazement with flavor combinations and techniques of cooking she had never seen before. One of the most memorable recipes was the Chocolate Chili Cookie. I hope this is a recipe that CBS releases, because it sounds delicious. Jeff and Marcela both shared a fondness for bread week. I have never made bread, but hope to learn a thing or two.

I cannot wait for tomorrow night’s premier. You can catch a sneak peek here.

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Enter Bermuda

I am back in the saddle again and a red eye to Bermuda is the best way break my traveling self in. Typical travel to Bermuda will include a flight to one of the many east coast cities that provide direct flights to this off shore colony.

Late Wednesday night I hopped on my plane and snuggled in my red Delta blanket, it felt like a few minutes later that the Captain announced our descent to Atlanta.I stumbled half awake to the other end of the Atlanta airport and found myself a yummy bagel and iced coffee. Random Trivia: How does a true New Yorker eat a bagel?

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I settled down at my empty gate for a long winters nap. Actually, this is one of the few times I have not been stuck in the Atlanta airport for more time than my layover. About an hour in to the wait my fellow travel companions started to appear. Lesley Carter of Bucket List Productions found my photo on Facebook and introduced herself. She was soon followed by Dave (Dave’s Travel Corner), Carolyn (Healthy Voyager), and Stefanie (Mommy Musings). I always cherish meeting fellow writers and travelers.

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Three hours I was stepping into the Bermuda sun. The air was warm and inviting. My first experience was with the friendly customs officer who told me to the difference between a dark & stormy and a stormy & dark. The amount of rum, do you know which is a splash and which is a a lot?

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Travel around Bermuda for visitors is by taxi, bus, or scooter. While waiting for more travelers, we braved the main road to get a closer look at the water. My driver was informative and friendly. He filled us in on the general facts of Bermuda.
1. White roofs, made of limestone, gather and filter rain water to fill each home’s personal water tank.
2. Scooters are not recommended unless you are an experienced rider and know how to drive safely on the left.
3. Bermudian hospitality consists of buying visitors a drink and then a few more.
4. Local business men dress traditional colonial shorts, knee-highs, collared shirt, tie, and blazer.
5. Most Bermudians shop off shore because of the high cost to buy imported goods.

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I settled into my large Gold status room at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and took a cozy nap in my king sized bed. I woke up refreshed and ready for cocktails. Fairmont Hamilton has a sister property in the southern part of Bermuda, the Fairmont South Hampton. The hotels run a ferry between the two properties a few times a day. We caught the final voyage and floated into “The Dock” in The Waterlot Inn. This is one of the oldest restaurants on the Island and they know how to treat you right. The evening was filled with the sounds of water lapping against the dock, a talented ukulele player, and travel talk. I left dinner exhausted and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

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Not bad for my first day in Bermuda and getting back to travel. Do you have any thing you’ve let slip away? It’s always a good time to jump right in.

Thirsty Thursday: A Testimony to the Layered Complexity of Burgundian Styled Pinot Noir

The Wine Shepherd
Passionate Vigneron Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg first tasted the “magic” of Burgundy at 17, he courted his wife Maggie D’Ambrosia with a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 1959, and a 1976 Hoffman Mountain Ranch Pinot Noir solidified their dream to make Burgundian-style Pinot Noir in the United States. Together with passion and a love for Pinot Noir the radiant couple started Windward Vineyard.

Marc describes himself as the Wine Shepherd. He believes the vineyard makes it and his job is to make sure nothing bad happens along the way. This may sound like a laid back approach to viticulture, but when dealing with the heart-break grape, Marc has his work cut out for him.

Maggie D’Ambrosia, Windward Vineyard Owner

Windward Vineyard strives to stay true to the monopole style of Burgundy. This means they put an umbrella of protection over the vineyard from start to finish. In order to put Monopole on the label Windward must have complete control of their vines start to finish, use only estate fruit, and never sell a grape.

Just Making Some Wine

The estate is a small 15 acre lot and averages 2000 cases a year. Small production and low yield is a specific technique used to coax the complex layers of Pinot Noir into a sensuous Burgundy. Their 2008 Estate Monopole Pinot Noir is a wonderfully balanced wine, very fruit forward with Windward’s signature peacock tail finish. The Estate’s youngest wine, a 2010 Monopole,opens with minerals and strawberry and lingers over your tongue. I have to admit that I would be happy to enjoy any vintage from Windward.

Newly Renovated Windward Truck

Over the years Marc and Maggie have received a number of accolades including 2012s Paso Robles Wine Industry Persons of the Year. After meeting them and tasting their wines it comes as no surprise. If they aren’t working with the grapes, you will find the couple filling the tasting room with warmth and hospitality. They understand the community of Paso and promote the sharing of knowledge in order to help the entire region grow.

Marc and Maggie started the Pinot & Paella Festival which gives 100% of its proceeds back to the community. It is a sold out event every June, featuring more than 20 Paso Robles Pinot Noirs and 20 local chefs. It is a great way to promote Paso Pinots, the Paso Robles AVA, and give back to the community they are blessed to be a part of.

Windward Vineyard is a must stop in my mind when traveling through Paso Robles. It is a unique offering found in the region. Anyone itching to try a bottle before they can make it to Paso can purchase a bottle or 10 online.

 

Hiking in LA: Dixie Canyon Park

One of the things I really enjoy about Los Angeles is the proximity to nature. It is right in your backyard.

Husb found a park at the end of Dixie Canyon the other day and took Oliver and I on an adventure.

The entrance is easy to find and after a hundred feet or so you come across a blue footbridge and 3 paths.

I suggest taking the path either to the left or right and it will loop around to the other side. The path narrows quite a bit and in places it is easy to lose your footing, in fact my roommate took this trail soon after us and did start to slide. Remember to wear good shoes and be aware of your steps.

The elevation is about 200 ft and at some points the vegetation clears for great views of the San Fernando Valley.

Dixie Canyon Park

The signs were not very informative about the trail length or elevation, but after some research I found Nobody Hikes in LA. Great information on this park and interesting outings in So Cal.

Where are your favorite places to hike in California and world wide? Do you take your four-legged friends?

A few more photos from our hike:

Cool Rocks
Tree Shadows

For more photos from this trip check out my Facebook page.

Poisonous Nut or Tasty Treat

image courtesy of Ohio-Nature.com

The buckeye nut hails from the Buckeye tree, which happens to be the state tree of Ohio. I grew up smashing their spiky cases and collecting the smooth interesting and slightly poisonous nuts.

During some recent walks I noticed similar spiky balls in the neighborhood.

They reminded me of my childhood antics and a yummy peanut butter treat. I had never made them myself, but after a little research the recipe turned out pretty simple.

I adapted a recipe featured on Sweet Talk by Big Fat Baker. Basically, I wanted a smaller recipe so I cut everything in half and improvised a little.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2  cup butter, softened
  • 1 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (after taste-test next time I will use milk chocolate)
  • toothpicks

  1. Mix the butter, peanut butter, and vanilla with your mixer.
  2. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar.

I didn’t pay attention to the directions and mixed all of the ingredients at once. My mixture was a little dry so I added a small amount of peanut butter and drizzled some milk.

Much Better

         3. Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

        4. Place balls into refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

         5. Put a toothpick in each ball.

I was out of toothpicks, so I used one giant skewer after the balls firmed.

          6. Melt the chips in a double boiler or in 15 second increments in the microwave.

           7. Pick up the balls by the toothpick or skewer and dip into the chocolate.

Make sure you leave an eye of peanut butter sticking out.

        8. Place the buckeyes back on the backing tray and into the fridge to cool.

Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks.

Wait for the chocolate to harden and then dig in.

Oliver was patiently waiting for some peanut butter of his own, so I couldn’t deny the sweet guy a little clean up.

Don’t worry it was the end of the container and he only got a few licks.

For more information on the Buckeye Tree and its history check out Northwest Ohio Nature.

I have been thinking about different variations on the treat like mixing banana in the peanut butter or a dog friendly version. Have any ideas or tips on how to make them?

Pillows or Drinks

During New Years Resolution talks, the husband and I decided to have goals. Short term and long-term for the year. One major resolution was to spend at least one night away from home per month. We love to explore, but tend to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget to get out there and appreciate our own backyard. We lived in New York City for 2 years and didn’t walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or experience the Roosevelt Island Skytram until recent visits.

January held many options for our traveling day, but we are also on a tight budget after the holidays, lack of work in the new year, and the unforeseen new car. My first vote was to revisit San Francisco and go to the Academy of Sciences free day. We ended up booking work on that afternoon and started making new plans for our adventure. Husb wanted to visit Joshua Tree National Park for a night of camping, but we didn’t have a dog sitter budgeted and the distance seemed like a daunting achievement towards the end of the month.

Our final decision was to camp at Leo Carrillo State Park just North of Malibu off of the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive takes between 45 min to 1 hour and they allow dogs. So we loaded up the car and headed out in the early afternoon. Oliver was so excited for his adventure because this campground is connected to one of his favorite beaches.

The Ranger was extremely friendly and let us drive around and pick our spot. The options were abundant because even though it was warm, not that many people camp in January on a Thursday night. Leo Carrillo has 135 campsites and one group site that accommodates up to 50 people. We chose a site that was hidden from the road by trees on a hill. (Note to self: every time you need something, you have to walk up or down the hill). There are only a few dog rules: leashed at all times, no trails, clean up after the dog, and never leave him unattended. The only rule that makes Oliver a little sad is the no hiking, he is an avid hiker.

After the tent went up, we spent the afternoon running up and down the beach with Oliver. Looks like someone else was doing the same earlier that day, although I’m not sure which way they were going.

Crazy Feet
Who put those feet there?

The sunset was breathtaking and so cool to watch. Staring out into the ocean always makes me ready for another adventure.

Sunset in Malibu

We went back to our campsite and had a wonderful fire. Even though it was the middle of the week, some friends still came out to have kabobs and s’mores with us under the stars.Check out Beautiful Geometry‘s knock your socks off s’more tip. It is fun to go away from home for the night and experience new things without going to far. Remember that fire safety while camping with dogs is important. We tied Oliver’s lead just far enough so that he could not jump in the fire or burn his paws walking around it.

Sizzle, crack, pop

The fire died quickly and after a few rounds of Boggle by lantern, our pals packed up and headed home for the night. We followed Oliver into the tent and realized we had a problem: NO PILLOWS!

It is one thing to sleep in a sleeping bag  on the cold hard ground, but it is quite another to get comfortable with out some cushion for your head. Our mental checklist for this camping trip went something like this:

  • tent
  • sleeping bags
  • dog supplies
  • surf board
  • food
  • 3 kinds of alcohol

Obviously, we had our priorities. My family camped on a regular basis growing up, so all of our gear was packed and ready to go at all times. We still had a checklist and went over things just to make sure it was all there. Lesson learned on this practice round. We didn’t have things like wipes or hand sanitizer, pillows, and grilling utensils. I felt very foolish, but still had a blast. Luckily, we had more than enough supplies for Oliver and he was a happy camper.

A chair just for me

For more information go to California State Parks

Unsure about heading out into nature? According to Lifehacker it will make you more productive. So get out there and smell the flowers.

Reliving My Girl 2

One of my favorite places to take visitors is the Le Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

You can find them in the outdoor park next to LACMA. The park even allows dogs on a leash so if you don’t want to leave your pooch at home while sight-seeing he can come along on this trip.

Who doesn’t want to recreate a scene from an iconic movie or its sequel? Interested in seeing the same sights that Vada Sultenfuss saw on her coming of age trip to the city of angels. You can start at the Tar Pits.

Metered parking surrounds the park and from the stench of Tar you can sniff your way to the Lake. It is a former asphalt mine filled with runoff water, bubbling gas, and tar that seeps its way to the Top. If the view isn’t enough, the museum has set up a great scene where a momma Mammoth fights for her life while her baby screams in agony and her mate lets it all happen. Every time I witness this heartbreaking scene the only thing running through my head is Dude all you have to do is pull on the chain attached to her leg. The museum has the mammoth attached to the side of lake.

If you are itching to see the bones of over 280 species found on the grounds take a peek at the Page museum. Admission is $5 for children (5-12) and $11 for Adults.

Want to make a day of it? Make plans to visit the collections at the LACMA, second Tuesday of the month is free. Don’t forget to explore the grounds and visit the works by Rodin and Bourdelles  installed in the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden. Try picking out a nice grassy spot on the northwest end of the park (farthest from the tar smell) and have a picnic. You can find food trucks parked along the south side of the park on Wilshire most afternoons.

For more information check out :

LACMA

La Brea Tar Pits & Page Museum

My Girl 2

Brain Fried Friday

Today’s post is about hiking with your dog, but I have been trying to write it for the last 3 hours and I have erased more than I have written. Writers block has been horrible, so I figured if I did a little free form I might get the juices flowing.

I really enjoy getting out of the house and seeing the different outdoor places that Southern California has to offer.

Sunset
Beaches
Leo Carrillo State Park
Canyons

and last but definitely not least

Wilacre Park
Great Parks

Please excuse the incredibly puffy hair. (Side note: you too can look this awesome if you have curly hair and cut it all off.)

The closest place to hike in my area is Wilacre Park off of Fryman and Laurel Canyon. It is a shady trail that levels off at The Tree People park and loops around through a residential area.

It starts pretty steep and the first few times, I thought I would need to lay down half way up the hill.

I am so in shape.

I usually drag a friend or two with me and we have a great time catching up while scoping the views. It is a great way to burn off calories for me and all that extra energy for Oliver. He also gets to socialize with all the other nice dogs we meet.

The best information on hiking Fryman or other areas in Los Angeles can be found at Modern Hiker. This is the type of post I wanted to provide today, but the juices just aren’t flowing.

A lot of my doggy adventures are inspired by dog blogger The Daily Toki. Toki and her owners take wonderful trips and provide awesome tips on gear and hiking safety. Toki has even taken a class on snake safety.

Thanks for sticking with me today and I promise a post that is off the charts on Monday. More like off the mainland, because we are going to Hawaii! By we, I mean all of you and I in the land of blogs. Happy Weekend!