Sunday, April 28, 2013

Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Redwood Canopy Tour

I wanted to share a bit about our quick weekend trip in Santa Cruz/Scott's Valley/Capitola. We decided to go to a city that neither of us had ever been to before. We mostly explored Santa Cruz, but stayed at the Hilton in Scott's Valley. It was a quick 10 minute drive to get to the hotel, but it was beautiful! The hotel looked like a stone caste, nestled in the woods. 
The photo above is our view from lunch, at The Crow's Nest. It was just "ok", not bad, just nothing special except for the view. We watched about 50 tiny sailboats going out for a race or something. 

We followed the crowd and checked out the Beach Boardwalk. I liked the sky ride, but it was a bit scary when it kept stopping and hanging there. Apparently some people have trouble getting on and off a ride that moves 2 miles an hour, and they have to stop the ride. Our bravery was rewarded, because at the other end of the ride (it's one way), there was a Dole Hut selling Pineapple soft serve and floats just like near the Tiki Room at Disneyland. It's my favorite! We made the mistake of riding the Big Dipper and HATED it. It's the 5th oldest roller coaster in the country and boy can you tell. It doesn't look bad, but every muscle in my neck and upper back have ached ever since, like whiplash. Seriously! It would be a fun place to take the kids, because you could literally walk down the steps and be on the beach, or playing games and riding rides. Plus there's NO entry fee, you just pay as you play or buy a wristband for all day. 
We decided after that first lunch, to attempt to find the local hole-in-the-walls with GOOD food. We weren't looking at the presentation, but wanted what you would eat all the time if you lived there. We used Yelp and searched "local favorites" and found Aloha Island Grill for dinner. It was REALLY good. It doesn't look like much, has a teeny tiny parking lot, but we ate cheap and GOOD! After that, we tracked down this old Ice Cream place we'd passed earlier in the day. It was an old red building and I loved the old sign. Ice Cream by Marianne. They have a line out the door, and every ice cream imaginable. 

 By FAR my favorite thing we did was the Redwood Canopy Tour at Mount Hermon. It was scary for the first time or two, but by the middle of the tour, you don't want it to end. See that faint rope bridge in the background of the photo above? That was actually harder for me mentally than the zip lines. You're on it with a few other people, and although you're harnessed in, the shaking of it as you walk high in the trees is kinda freaky as you're looking to the ground. If you look closely in the photo above, you'll see my husband on the zip line.
These photos show him as he was coming toward the platform I was on.

 Our guides were wonderful and really funny. We had Cameron and Brad, and they made us all feel completely safe and well taken care of.
You had to stand up on a mini picnic table for him to hook you up the the zip line each time. Your two safety straps are still secured when you move to another line. The different zip lines are different heights and lengths, so the speeds are different, and they also teach you how to cannonball and pick up speed.

My husband took this photo of me coming toward the platform he was on. You can even rent a helmet cam, but we used zipper pockets on our jackets for our iphones.

 This is the ending platform. Back on the ground. Insert frown face. It was a breathtakingly beautiful two hours, and WELL worth the money. I can't wait to do it again!

The last thing we did before leaving was hit up a store that I also found on Yelp. It's called Capitola Freight and Salvage.  This photo only shows a fraction of what they had. We spent a long time there, searching every nook, cranny, pile, and field. I could have bought a lot more, but I went easy, and just bought two old windows (minus the glass, which means they were cheap), and a really big old frame. All three for only $23. They had every window, shutter, door, cabinet, wire, metal, old wood you could think of! I REALLY wanted to buy one of those old rusty claw foot pieces to use in a new way, but they were $40 each! Actually I wanted two to turn upside down and make a shelf.

We had such a great time, I can't wait to go back and explore some more. There was so much that we didn't have a chance to see.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ten Years Later

Today marks our 10 year wedding anniversary. I have been feeling nostalgic for weeks, as I can't help but reflect on our time together. We look like such babies when I look back at the photos. I'll share just a few, because this was before digital was popular, so all I have are the real photographs. 
In case you're wondering, we got married at Ragged Point Resort. They call it "the gateway to Big Sur". We found it by accident one day while on a drive to find a lighthouse. Right before we were going to turn around, the road began to climb the jagged mountain and all of a sudden, we found ourselves at a beautiful, little, self-contained Inn overlooking the Pacific. I can't even describe how this place still makes me feel. On one of our pre-wedding visits, Brandon and I hiked down the "at your own risk" trail, which I think might now be permanently closed. Directly down that cliff I'm overlooking, is a tiny private, rocky beach. We don't visit here often enough, because it's out of the way, but it is breathtaking. The hotel rooms face the other side of the cliff, and we slept with our back door cracked open so that we could hear the waves crash on the cliff below. 
 I love the picture above, even though I think I felt silly at the time we took it. Now I see it as perfectly symbolic of us peering out at the long journey laid out before us. We had no idea what was in store for us, good and bad. Marriage is not all roses and fairy tales. At times it is hard work for sure. I look back and think of all that we have faced together in the last ten years. Life would be so much harder without him. Without the man he has become. He told me, after my dad died two years ago, that on the day of our wedding, my dad told him, "I'm not losing a daughter, I'm gaining a son." The memory of my husband meticulously sweeping up glass from where the police had to break down the door to my parents' house to get to my dad, still brings tears to my eyes.
I love this picture that someone snapped of my dad. He was watching our first dance. (Come Away With Me, by Nora Jones) His face and posture of his hands says it all. He was proud. Despite his crazy daughter that picked up and moved to California from Ohio two weeks after she graduated high school, he was proud. I am so thankful that I got him on our wedding day. Looking back, there are several people who were at my small wedding that day, that are no longer with us. A lot of loss can happen in ten years. 

 The joys and the challenges are many, but the reward is worth the work. I can't wait to see what another ten years will bring. I love you, Mr. Baeza.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Golden Gluten Free Fried Chicken

I feel like I've discovered GOLD! It's been months since I've been able to make fried chicken, because I've been gluten free since December. I know it's not healthy, because it's fried, but I eat plates-full of vegetables and have cut out so many foods, that a little oil isn't gonna kill me every once in a while. I didn't think this would ever be possible. Gluten free people know, crunchy breading is something you give up when you can't have gluten. At least, until now! I tried making chicken strips with almond meal a couple of months ago, and they were mushy and NOT good..
This is really simple. You simply follow the same exact steps for my Ultimate Fried Chicken, with the exception of using Trader Joe's Gluten Free All Purpose Flour instead of regular flour. Make sure your seasonings are gluten free as well. I used a seasoning salt, garlic granules, and pepper. It's really simple. The chicken goes straight into the seasoned flour, into egg, then back into the seasoned flour. You MUST do it this way, NOT the egg first. 

Drop into HOT vegetable or canola oil. You must make the oil a few inches deep in a big skillet or else it won't cook right. Make sure to cook thoroughly, depending on the size/cut of your chicken cooking times will change. If you are unsure of a large breast, take a piece out of the pan and slice into it to see if the juice is clear all the way to the bone. Drain on a baking rack, so that the bottom of the chicken doesn't get soggy. 

Eat. Crunch. Enjoy. Crunch. Repeat. You can thank me later!