3rd Anniversary Trip: San Diego

Ahhhhhhh. That is the sound of returning from four days of California fun and sun. I am a little red, and a lot happy.

Every year, Mike and I do something special to celebrate April 2nd, the day we said our vows. I can’t believe it’s been three years already.


APRIL 2, 2011

For our first anniversary, we hiked Red Rocks with Knox and then went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s. For our second anniversary, we toured northern California (San Francisco, Sonoma, Monterey, and Big Sur). And this year, we decided to return to California for a “sleepier” tour of the southern half in San Diego … although it ended up being much more eventful.


We booked our stay through AirBNB, since we loved our first experience with the site so much. (Terry and Bobbi in Sonoma, we miss you!)



This time around was a little different, as there were a few discrepancies on our host’s description of the stay. We thought we had access to a hot tub, but it was an exercise pool that only heated to 80 degrees (instead, we never used it). We thought we had free reign of some beach cruisers, but we had to put a cash deposit down to use them (instead, we ended up walking everywhere and not using the bikes at all). We thought we’d be the only guests staying at the house (instead, we shared a bathroom with two other guests during our stay). It was a bit micromanaged and was not at all as private and relaxing as our last AirBNB experience.

But we couldn’t complain. We were two blocks from the beach and all the night life along the boardwalk. We also were preoccupied with our out-and-about activities. So much so, in fact, that we barely took any pictures. It seems we made a non-verbal agreement to just enjoy our experience and not try and document it too much (and with picture-obsessed people like Mike and I, that serves as a testament to how much fun we had).

Here are our favorite moments of the trip and the few pictures we did manage to take.

Day 1: A Strange Breakfast,  San Diego Zoo, and Mission Blvd. Deliciousness

When we landed in San Diego, it was early morning, overcast, and chilly (the one day a year San Diego doesn’t have perfect weather, apparently). We decided to find a cute breakfast place before deciding what to do next (that’s how we roll). We ended up going to Café Bassam … which was a complete miss. The cappuccino tasted like tar and the best we could find on their “breakfast” menu was toast… with strange herbs in it (no, not that kind!), which they paired with a spicy apricot jam (read: disgusting). As we tried to consume the gross “meal,” we found many other things to complain about: the sassy waitress who told us there was only one kind of jam, and the fact that the café was literally an antique shop picking up dust. “Café Bassam” ended up being a running joke the whole trip. Lesson learned: Don’t be fooled by hipster-esque looks when it comes to your sacred morning coffee. [Note: Reviews on Yelp were great... so maybe we just had an unlucky visit.]

Full on strange-tasting toast, we decided to spend the day at the zoo before check-in at our AirBNB. With a coupon and a AAA discount, we made our way in and had a really great time. We walked almost nonstop for five and a half hours; the San Diego Zoo is the largest I’ve ever been to. We saw every animal imaginable, except the pandas, because the line was over two hours long. Our favorite animals were the honey badger, the maned wolf, and these two guys:

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We crashed in our AirBNB bed that evening for a nap before heading out to Mission Blvd. to check out The Duck Dive, a dinner recommendation from our host. We were hungry, but decided to split their specialty, the Duck Fat Fries (“load ‘em up” style). That was the correct decision, because the plate was huge and the greasy fries were filling, to say the least. We inhaled them and I never documented the evidence. I did, however, snap a picture of our dessert, which we did not share, although we should have (we were blinded by our sweet teeth).

The Baked Bear was incredibly delicious, and the concept is so simple it’s stupid: home-made ice cream sandwiches with cookies and brownies. They can even “press” your sandwich so that the brownie and/or cookie (or in my case, both) are warm and melty.

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Day 2: Universal Studios Hollywood: The Studio Tour

We made a split-second decision to go to Los Angeles because I wanted to see Hollywood and Mike really wanted to go to a theme park. We almost went to Disney, but decided on Universal Studios, instead. It was so much fun, and different enough from Orlando that I felt like I experienced the park concept for the very first time. We rode every ride and saw every show (save one!). Some favorites were Transformers, Jurassic Park, Water World, and Animal Actors (we got to watch trained cats, dogs, birds, rats, and pigs perform adorable tricks!).

And naturally, here I am with a Doc Brown impersonator:

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The hands-down absolute favorite part of the whole trip for both of us was The Universal Studios Tour, which we went on just to check it off our list, without realizing what it actually was.

The bus took us all over different TV and movie sets, and we got to learn how different city scenes and environments are created through facades and illusions — all within the studio grounds. We rode by The Mindy Project studio, where she had been filming that day! If you don’t know by now, I am a huge fan of Mindy Kaling’s.

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We saw the New York street where they shoot her outside-the-office scenes, as well as many other NY scenes in movies and television. The coolest part is that they show scenes from movies which were shot exactly where you’re sitting.

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These are just a few of the pictures I was able to snap while I soaked it all in. We also passed the Bates motel, Wisteria Lane, their European set, their Wild West set, and so much more. It was the best part of our visit to Universal Studios, which lasted a whopping 10+ hours in the park, total. We could barely drive home we were so tired.

Day 3: Pacific Beach, La Jolla Cove, and our Annual Ring Photo

With all of our big walking days behind us, we decided that we had earned a lazy beach day. We grabbed brunch at Leilani’s, a Hawaiian restaurant, where I had Da Original Bagel (egg, basil, spinach, tomato, and cheese with some kind of aioli). It was incredible.  Then we found ourselves a spot on the beach to work on our tans and people watch.

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We dipped our toes in the water, but it was icy cold. I attempted to snap our annual ring photo on the beach towel:

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I may or may not have gotten burned. Looks like my white Colorado-winter skin is not the best canvas for a long and slow roast on the beach.

After being beach bums, we headed over to La Jolla Cove to walk around the shops and visit George’s for a dinner. I had the gnocchi with scallops, which was tasty and refined, although our waitress was not the friendliest (insert Mike’s and my inside joke here). Let’s just say she was a little paranoid.

Then we went and watched the sea lions with their pups on the rocks. This picture isn’t the best, but you can see how sleepy and blubbery (and adorable) they were:

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We also managed to capture an even better version of our annual ring photo (because Mike is a more skilled photographer). This one takes the cake, me thinks:

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For fun, here are our other two annual ring photos:





We went home and watched the Game of Thrones season 4 premiere, because duh.  It was the perfect escape from the burning sun and a nice hour of rest. Then we went and caught the last glimpse of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. We literally watched the sun slip underneath the horizon within seconds. Dozens of people stopped what they were doing to witness the neon orange display, and we got the feeling even locals do this on a daily basis. It was breath-taking, and we didn’t even get to watch it from the beginning! The rest of the night was spent walking the boardwalk and Mission Blvd.

Day 4: Kayaking and In-N-Out Burger

Our last day was still a great opportunity to get another activity in, since our flight left in the evening. We decided to try the kayak cave tour with Bike and Kayak Tours. Coming from multiple ocean-fearing generations, I am proud to say I jumped at the opportunity to do something that scared me. I don’t like the thought of murky, deep waters filled with sharp-toothed predators, nor do I like the word “cave” paired with “earthquake” (something that was constantly on my mind). But I survived with only a few minor freakouts (namely the first wave-breaking, since I was in the front of our two-person kayak, and the annoying swells that wouldn’t die down, which kept us from being able to enter the last cave).

To top off our California trip, I insisted that we partake in the nutritious In-N-Out Burger, which is not available in Colorado. It was worth every darn bite.

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It was such a great vacation. San Diego is dreamy.

What is your favorite thing to do in SoCal?


Cutting Board Wood-burning

A week or two ago, I decided to try a Darby Smart project. It’s basically a Pinterest craft in a box; all the tools, instructions, and materials are included. I absolutely love the idea of it and started with a cutting board wood-burning kit.

My box was delivered quickly and did not lack detail. Look at how adorable their shipping boxes are:

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Inside, on top a bed of funky, zig-zag paper stuffing, are all the makings of your craft project. Also included is a welcome brochure and set of instructions. My actual wood-burning instructions were missing, though. I emailed the customer service team and they replied with the correct instructions. I just read them off of my computer screen.

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One of my favorite aspects of this concept is the “Create and Share” feature. There is an entire network of crafters who tweet, pin, and Instagram their final products to the Darby Smart community.

So, I got started by plugging in the wood-burning tool to warm up while looking through the contents of the box.

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There were two cutting boards and a smaller piece of plywood to practice on.

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I really appreciated the thought that went into the box, especially as I started burning the wood. Two cutting boards was generous and took into account the learning curve of the wood-burning tool, which I found to be quite difficult to master. This way, you had plenty of room for error.

They also included a unique stencil as inspiration, created by a featured designer.

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Like I said, they encourage you to practice with each of the wood-burning tips before you attempt your final product. It took me quite a long time to really feel comfortable with it.

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They say the slower you go, the deeper the burn groove, but I found that as I slowed down, there was just an uneven burn that looked like Morse code, alternating between deep holes and shallow lines. Maybe I had impossible expectations of a sleek and smooth burn. After looking at other crafters’ final products online, I realized that’s just the way it looks. I ended up giving up all hope on the stencil, although I really loved it and wanted to use it. I made my own design: my last name in cursive. I penciled the image to my liking, and then burned over it.

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As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I wasn’t entirely in love with the process. It was kind of frustrating. Here is the final product.

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Other people had better luck (or talent … or patience) with the tool. Look at these results from other Darby Smart-ers.


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I’d still like to try the tool again and see if my skills improve. I’d love to burn a cool design into a wooden box for my jewelry, like this picture I found on Crafts Unleashed.



And check out this party sign. Wood-burning level: expert.

tumblr_lv78unN8V61qg1fqvo1_500And of course, if I attempt the jewelry box idea, I will let you guys see the results.

Good news! Use the coupon code CRAFTY10 to get $10 off your first Darby Smart purchase of $19 or more through Sunday, April 6th!

Have you ever tried wood-burning before? Any luck?

My Top 5 Issues with The Walking Dead Wardrobe

If you’re like me, Sunday nights usually consist of catching up on the latest Walking Dead episode. Last night was the Season 4 finale, and it was a good one. I screamed and yelled and gagged more than once. I also spent far too long contemplating if I would be able to chew off someone’s jugular for the life of my child. Great life lessons, AMC.

But I can’t keep it to myself (and my poor husband who’s heard about my gripes one hundred times) any longer. I love an entertaining storyline, a highly complex character, and an unpredictable camera angle. But being plagued with a big-picture and tiny-details brain, I can’t quite love or respect a show with a lack of attention to detail, with irrational or undeveloped character behavior, or unresolved questions (don’t even get me started on the laundry list that is LOST).

Here are my top five most frustrating inconsistencies on The Walking Dead, in no particular order. (Yes, and they’re all issues with the costume and makeup department. Step it up, guys!)

1. Let’s wear hoop earrings while we struggle to survive a zombie apocalypse.


Every time I see this character, I roll my eyes. Just. Giant hoop earrings? You’re basically asking for your ear lobe to be ripped to shreds when you, you know, fight off a giant horde of zombies. And pigtails? Great choice, really. The outfit? I just can’t.

2. Somehow everyone’s wearing neutrals.


Sure, we’re all scavenging for the most efficient tools and weapons to carry as we trek across the Georgia wilderness looking for reliable shelter and allies. But how convenient is it that we’ve all managed to find cargo pants and fisherman’s vests in neutral colors? Wouldn’t we see someone — especially a zombie! — wearing at least, you know, bright pink or orange or purple? Not by choice, but by the fact that you don’t really have time to be scavenging for cool hunting get-ups at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabela’s when you’re DEAD or at least distracted by all the WALKING DEAD PEOPLE trying to eat you?

3. I don’t have a change of clothes, but I somehow maintain a cool mustache.


You have pit stains down to your boots, but somehow you’re able to keep a glorious ‘stache and a military-esque haircut. Do you carry a razor and shaving cream in your short list of items on your back as you walk 30 miles a day? Do you take time each morning to make sure your bad-to-the-bone image is perfected? I just don’t get it.

4. There is a semi-mute scientist who has a mullet.

I challenge you to prove me wrong here, but I’m almost positive there aren’t any scientists with mullets. I know this is completely based on stereotypes and is quite prejudiced, but this character is just 100 percent unbelievable. Once again: How is he maintaining this mullet and clean-shaven face?

5. Daryl’s hair has magical abilities to get darker the more time he spends outdoors.

Processed with RookieOkay, no, it’s totally normal for a bad-ass with a crossbow — in the midst of a devastating zombie apocalypse — to have unnaturally dark hair (and noticeably darker than it was in Season 1, and completely mix-matched with his facial hair). Is Daryl so cool as to still hit up drug stores for “Dark Espresso” hair color kits before spearheading a dozen zombies between the eyes? Who decided the awkward hair color was worth the risk of looking ridiculously inconsistent? This is like when they replaced Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince and thought we wouldn’t notice. Um, hello. Am I the only one?

Okay, end rant. For now. ;)

Feel free to comment with any I might have overlooked.

P.S. Props to Mike who called the “catch” of the too-good-to-be-true Terminus less than halfway into the episode. Genius.