California One Tank Trips: Balboa Island

Growing up in Cleveland, I remember watching Neil Zurcher and his “One Tank Trip” segments on Fox 8. He always found the coolest hidden gems in Ohio and my family went on quite a few of his journeys.

Lately, we have been trying to explore Southern California in the same way.

Husb had a quick job in Newport Beach and Oliver and I decided to tag along. We stopped by the local dog park while we waited and then headed to Balboa Island for an afternoon of fun.

Boat Time
I had read about Balboa Island on OC Dog Friendly and couldn’t wait to have a fun afternoon that welcomed all of us.

CandlEssence

This sign was happily posted outside of CandlEssence, a wonderful candle store where you can watch them make the candles by hand. Seriously dogs(well my dog) and ice cream are two of my favorite things. Also, this is great marketing because people love when you let them do things other places commonly say no to.

I enjoyed this little Island town and their easy-going shop owners. We found a dog bowl filled with fresh water outside of almost every store. It definitely makes hot days and travel a breeze, when you aren’t worrying about dehydration.

Balboa Island offers a multitude of boutiques, dessert shoppes, restaurants, and fresh air. We had a great time and plan to go back soon for an overnight stay.

I found a really cute engagement shoot on Balboa Island featured on Done Brilliantly and was inspired by 50-Something Woman’s motivational early morning walk. We only spent an hour or two exploring Balboa Island, but I can see days of relaxing here in my future.

Where do you like to go on One Tank of Gas?

See all the photos from our adventure on my Facebook Page BoldWandering.

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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?

Whose Dog is This?

I had a completely crazy Portlandia moment and I have decided to post about it.

My Adorable Dog

Today is an incredibly gloomy and cold day for Southern California. On days like this Oliver is usually pretty irritable and constantly wants to go outside. I think the gloom must unlock something in his Scottish bones, as for me I want to sit in my snuggie and catch up on some horrible reality television.

Oliver and I set out on a walk to the bank and because the grocery store is right around the corner I popped in to buy a Pepsi. I tied Oliver to the post by the door, where he happily laid down to people watch. I grab the drink and check out without having to wait in line. I am sure it wasn’t more than 5 minutes, but upon exiting the store Oliver was surrounded by 3 people. Our conversation went something like this:

Tall Lady: Oh you’re back, we thought he had been abandoned.

Me: Nope just grabbing a drink.

Man Kneeling to Check on Dog: Glad you are back we were about to call this in.

Me: I wasn’t even in the store 5 minutes.

(Tall Lady silently disappears. I think she realized how foolish she had been.)

Little Lady: You never know whats do happen.

Man: You have to be careful someone could steal your dog.

(Right. He waited with my dog, just to tell me someone could steal him).

Me: I guess I just won’t take him for walks anymore.

Man: Or you could take him into the store, that’s safer.

Me: You can’t take a dog into the grocery store. (Now you have proven you don’t own a dog, because you would know that crazy man.)

Man: Then yes you should leave him at home.

(Really? You are so concerned and then tell me its better to leave him home alone! Really?!? Man leaves. I try to leave, but little lady stops me. She wasn’t a little person, but I honestly felt like a giant next to her.)

Little Lady: You know, my friend have lots of dogs. So people leave sometimes. She saves dogs from behind Wal-mart. (Because the front of the grocery store is the same as the back of Wal-mart.) She have 6 dogs and her little baby Chihuahua get pregnant. She have 6 puppies, now she crazy. Too many dogs. People let their animals go, mostly I think Spanish people. (of which she seemed to be related)

Me: Well that’s not me. I just have one and I really like him.

Little Lady: Yes you dog is so beautiful.

So I left the parking lot feeling a little disgruntled. You can watch the Portlandia sketch Whose Dog Is This? and see where I am coming from.

I just wanted to get my dog out of the house and run an errand, instead I am now afraid that dog snatchers are out to steal my dog or at the very least set him free. What do you think were these people out of line or do you agree? I am looking for some feedback.

Hollywood Blvd: An Unconventional Dogwalk

The Husb and I use Groupon on a pretty regular basis. I do agree with The Ball is Round in his post Marketing 101 that it is a good concept for consumers, but pretty weak for the retailer. Since discussing the reality of Grouponomics with some friends of mine in branding a few months ago, I have been torn in my desire to continue use of the site. Here’s the bottom line: I am a freelancer on a Ramen budget that likes to enjoy the good life. If I find a Groupon or other social marketing deal that I think is awesome I buy it. When I cash in my deal, if have a good experience I try to return to the business and continue to boost their revenue.

Most recently I got the Husb a Groupon for Barber Dollz in Hollywood. We try to find affordable haircuts outside of the normal best cuts. His hair is like a wild beast and needs professional help. (Side note: My fro is just as bad and we pity our future children.)Unfortunately, for their marketing strategy we won’t be coming back, it is too far over the hill for a regular place.

Early Morning Peace

While the Husb sat in a chair on display for Hollywood Boulevard passersby, I took Oliver for a walk and checked out some history. Hollywood is an area most locals avoid at all cost, just like Time Square for New Yorkers.

Fortunately, the Boulevard is practically empty pre-noon and east of Highland. You won’t find the famous Chinese Theater or numerous street performers hawking photos for donations this side of Hollywood, but amidst the cheap souvenir shops, guys selling tours, and dirty lingerie stores you will find history, street art, and architecture.

Dean Martin

The Hollywood Walk of Fame takes up just over a mile of Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks, but few walk the entire stretch. On this less traveled section Oliver and I found quite a few stars that I thought deserved more recognition than being in front of a sleazy underwear  shop.

Oliver and I meandered the strip reading historical signs and checking out the sites. Luckily, Hollywood Blvd. has a decent amount of trees lining the street. I am avid supporter of not allowing my dog to pee on anything he wants including buildings, bikes, and other dogs.

I really enjoyed the different paintings of old stars including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Tommy Dorsey. The artists and shop owners did a great job of making their overbearing gates a little more palatable.

Film Star and Jazz Man

I am sucker for old buildings and architecture. I fell in the love with the Warner Pacific Theater on my walk. The Theater opened in 1928 and grew with the film industry until it was forced to close its doors in 1994 due to structural damage.

Pacific Radio TowerWarner Bros. put their radio station KFWB at the top of the theater and its two towers reading Warner and Pacific are still scraping the sky.

Italianate Beaux-ArtsThe building was designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh in the beaux-arts style that was very popular in America from 1880-1920. I found the intricate detail and Italian inspired features to be a gem in comparison to the backdrop of Hollywood.

Carol BurnettI found Carol Burnett’s star right in front of the WPT and it was placed there by her personal request. Burnett worked as an usherette in 1950s.

Paul's Urban GardenThe parking lot has been turned into an Urban Garden, by the Ecclesia Church, the current tenants of the WPT. Find out more about the garden here.

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner’s star is right in front of the Urban Garden and Oliver felt like it was the perfect spot to people watch.

Next time that you want need to get out, check out an area you don’t normally visit. As long as the area doesn’t have a no dog rule, bring your four-legged friend and enjoy sites that you might take for granted. Oliver loved exploring a new places just as much as I did.

I leave you with a few abstract photos of the architecture I couldn’t get enough of.

MetalThe Oldest Restaurant in HollywoodSimple SignsEnchanting Doorways

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.

Beignets & Jazz

The husband and I are huge supporters of road trips. We spent last fall driving over 7,000 miles round trip; two months of work in New York City, visiting family, and a little sightseeing. Somewhere around 5,000 miles we ended up in New Orleans on a quiet Sunday Morning.New Orleans

Restaurants were just opening for breakfast in the french quarter and there was barely another soul in sight.

After breakfast, with the use of our smart phones and detective like search words, we were able to find Cafe du Monde. The cafe was featured in a doughnut special on the Travel Channel and we were dying to try them. The open air market was full of people and the air was full of Jazz. There was a trio blasting through the morning on the street corner and I finally felt like we were in The Big Easy.

The menu is easy; they only serve two things: drinks and Beignets. What is Beignet you might ask? A square of fried doughy deliciousness coated in powdered sugar. Need I say more? Oliver was so excited that I’m surprised there were only sprinkles of powder on his face.

If you can’t make it to Cafe du Monde anytime soon check out this post by cozywalls and make your own mouth-watering beignets in bourboned butterscotch.