West Coast Road Trip – Day 3 
Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 11:43 PM
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We pulled into camp in the dark and so it wasn’t until the morning that we discovered the beauty of Lake Cachuma. The huge campground was practically deserted, although the fisherman began arriving at dawn.

Solvang, “the Dutch Capital of America” was just about 20 minutes away. We spent some time walking around the quaint town and admiring the mission which had the most fantastic Stations of the Cross that I’ve ever seen – outdoors on a beautiful pathway.

Through the miracle of Facebook, I discovered that the brother of my friend, David, was an assistant winemaker at Babcock Winery, which happened to be right on our route. We wanted to hit a winery, so why not pick the one at which we had a connection?

Colin was extremely gracious about us interrupting his workday and he gave us a fantastic behind-the-scenes tour. We actually wound up skipping the tasting room as we figured we had already tasted the best wines - straight from the barrel. Also, it was before noon and I was already buzzed.

We made a brief stop in Pismo Beach where we enjoyed some delicious fish tacos on the beach. We had planned to camp in this area, but, as it was still early in the day, decided to head a bit farther north and check out San Luis Obispo.

At this point, we were itching for some exercise and we certainly got our fill with a steep 1,200-foot climb that rewarded us with amazing views.

With legs of jello, we made our way to the Natural Café for a very healthy and delicious dinner. We then continued on to Morro Bay to set up camp for the night.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 2 
Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 10:29 PM
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Having spent the night in Palm Springs, we started day 2 with a run at Indian Canyon, a beautiful palm oasis.

After working up an appetite on the trails, we headed to the Palm Greens Café, one of those tree-hugger type joints that we just love. Paul started the meal with a gluten-free brownie…

…and then we split a delicious salad sampler plate. It was a creative and fantastic lunch!

We hopped back in the car and drove through L.A. (been there, done that) and on to Santa Barbara where we stopped at a large farmer’s market. We picked up some fresh produce, including this South American fruit which we had never seen before. It tastes like a cross between a banana and a pineapple.

We enjoyed our bounty as a picnic dinner, overlooking the ocean at Stearn’s Wharf.

Then, it was back to the Prius for a 30-minute drive to the campground at Lake Cachuma where we set up camp – in the dark.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 1 
Monday, March 15, 2010, 12:42 AM
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Anxious to get past territory we’ve traveled previously, we put in about 370 miles of driving today, getting us to Palm Springs, California.

We pulled out of the driveway at 8:45am and made brief stops in Tempe (to buy a sleeping pad at REI) and Buckeye (for lunch at Chipotle) before crossing the state line.

The vacation really began when we got to Joshua Tree National Park and enjoyed a 3-mile afternoon hike among the boulders.

Strangely enough, we did not see any Joshua Trees. Apparently, they do not grow in the southeastern area of the park. But, we got a nice view of the Salton Sea, as well as the opportunity to stretch not only our legs, but our whole bodies. Who needs a yoga ball when rocks like this exist?

Upon arriving in Palm Springs, we found that the campgrounds here cater only to RV’ers. That’s too bad as the weather would have made for a very comfortable night in the tent. So, I used one of my new IPhone apps, Hotel Pal, to find and book a room at the slightly sketchy, but reasonably priced Palm Court Inn.

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Almost Go Time! 
Sunday, March 14, 2010, 11:41 PM
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There was lots of packing and trip preparation to do this weekend, but we did manage to fit in a few other things. We are on vacation after all.

I started Saturday morning at the MDA Stride & Ride where I was a participant, rather than an employee. It's certainly a much less stressful role. It was a great opportunity to see lots of "my families" although sad to say goodbye. Here are two of my favorite kiddos, Allison and Noah.

I also made sure to catch a few events at the Tucson Festival of Books as my desire to check it out was part of the reason we're not leaving until tomorrow. This huge, impressive event was like heaven for book lovers. Over the two days, we caught the Poetry Slam, a talk on Memoirs, General Zinni's talk and a discussion with two guys from The Onion - hilarious!

And Saturday night, we met some friends at the CDO park to enjoy the amazing weather, a picnic dinner and some kite-flying with the dogs. The kite flying was essentially a speed workout for Paul, as the lack of wind necessitated constant running to keep the kite off the ground.

This sign was about 50 feet from our picnic table and the playground.

Other than that, it was packing, packing, packing! We hit the road tomorrow morning for what is sure to be a wonderful adventure. We're bringing the laptop, so feel free to check back for trip updates and photos.

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Cooking, Cooking, Cooking! 
Sunday, March 7, 2010, 11:26 AM
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This is how I spent most of last Sunday. I started the day with a free "Incredible Eggs" demonstration class at Williams-Sonoma where I learned, among other things, that one should crack eggs on a flat, rather than vertical, surface to avoid getting shell fragments getting in your eggs. So, no more cracking eggs on the side of the bowl.

We also covered poaching, omelettes and fritattas, the last of which I made the following evening for Paul's birthday dinner. I should have taken a photo - it came out quite nice. You'll just have to take my word for it.

These free demo classes take place every Sunday at 10:00 a.m., but they fill up quickly. And, by quickly, I mean weeks in advance. Check out their website for info and call ASAP if there's a class in which you're really interested.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm learning more about cooking, this time from a private chef in the comfort of my own kitchen. I had been wanting to take a cooking class, but hadn't found anything that really piqued my interest. So, I arranged a private cooking class for me and a few friends with Chef Craig Nassar.

I can't recommend Chef Craig highly enough - it was a great experience and, considering what was involved, a really great deal. For $50 per person, he planned a lesson and menu according to my wishes, came to my house with all of the food, gave us a fantastic 3.5-hour class, fed us a delicious dinner...and cleaned up afterward!

I was interested in learning about herbs and spices and so we made a rub, marinade and salad dressing - enough for each student to take some home. For dinner, we enjoyed salad, shrimp, chicken and steak that had been prepared with the aforementioned dressing, rub and marinade.

The finishing touch was creme brulee made with vanilla bean. It needed more time to chill and so we waited a day to taste it. It was delicious, although the presentation may have been nicer had Chef Craig been there to extract it from the ramekin.

Craig was knowledgeable and professional, but also fun and flexible. He prepped and chopped and cooked, all while fielding our many questions. Best of all, he wasn't the least bit fazed by the 5 dogs wrestling at his feet. Impressive.
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