Actually, I Love the Beach. Who Knew?

Call me crazy, but I've never been a big fan of going to the beach. I don't surf, I hate being sandy, and it's always blazingly hot or infuriatingly windy. There are jellyfish to sting you and crabs that want nothing more than to pinch your toes. I've also had a few too many near-death experiences involving water, including a scary childhood incident involving a riptide trying to pull me out to sea. Oh, and birds will poop on you!

But in California last week, driving all the way from LAX to Livermore and back, I dare say the highlight of our trip was stopping at different beaches along the way.

Also, I greatly underestimated how big California is. That drive took forever!


A perfectly reasonable expression when you don't trust your husband to say if a wave is coming too close. 

Taken in Santa Cruz, steps from a neighborhood of lovely homes. I need to make more money and get myself a beach house in California. A fixer upper will be fine.

Who knew seaweed was so photogenic?

 We stopped at Spooner's Cove at Montana de Oro State Park, which has free parking and is perfect for shell combing. It was a damp, February weekday, so we had the beach almost entirely to ourselves.


Of all the beaches we visited, this was our favorite. Instead of sand, the shore consists of smooth, colorful pebbles. 

See the shell on the right? There's still a little critter in there! Feeling heroic, I moved the shell from the seagull-packed shore into the water. 

I was splashed in the process, but wet socks were a small price to pay to save whatever was in that shell...which, according to Sexy Nerd, was a dead crab. 


Smiling because I got splashed, which pretty much sums up married life perfectly.



Pelicans?

They do sort of look like the Vlasic pickle fellow.

   
 If you're unsure you're a beach person, bring some McDonalds with you. McDonalds makes everything better.

Watch out for those seagulls, though!

Point Mugu State Park had a nice little hiking path. 

After a drizzly week, we were thrilled to soak up the sunshine.

One of these birds had a frog dangling from its beak. It kept circling the crowd of happy beachgoers below. 

Birds are jerks.

 I think these are Willet Sandpipers.

They're fun to watch, but they're no Snowy Plovers

I grew up in California but had never been to the Santa Monica Pier. Imagine my surprise when Sexy Nerd, who is usually no fun, suggested we stop.

I'd read parking is expensive and difficult to come across, but we found an affordable spot right away. Even better, within our first few minutes at the pier, we were each given two free bags of Kettle potato chips! I love California.

Score. 

Santa Monica 

He swapped his tie for a baseball hat back at the car, thank goodness.

The last thing we did before heading to LAX was stroll along the Santa Monica shore. We were a bit out of place among the sunbathers and shirtless joggers, with Sexy Nerd dressed in his work clothes ("It is a business trip, remember?" Yes, Sexy Nerd, I remember.) and me in my jeans and sneakers. A group of teens was trying to film a video of themselves catching Cheetos in their mouth mid-air and we didn't realize we'd walked right through their shot until it was too late. As we meandered away, it occurred to us how ridiculous we must have looked, fully-dressed, professional, and hoarding 4 bags of potato chips. 



Ready for another beach post? Here's one from the Seychelles, written before Sexy Nerd and I got married.

And the Award for Cutest Plover Goes to...

Blogger may have murdered yesterday's California blog post (I've been stewing and steaming with rage mulling it over ever since and it can't be user error, as Blogger automatically saves. This very post has been auto-saved twice already), but the Snowy Plover must be shared with the world, even if that means re-blogging the exact same content again and again. You will never get me down, Blogger!

Just in case though, methinks I'd better back up my blog ASAP. Blogger = Google = All Knowing and All Powerful.

We visited Surf Beach near Vandenberg AFB and the highlight was watching the near-endangered ("threatened", per the endangered species list) Snowy Plover frolic along the shore. Watch their teensie legs!


If we moved to California, we could go to the beach to watch the Snowy Plovers all the time. We could even help protect them! Don't you want to save the Snowy Plover, Sexy Nerd?

A Perfect Day in Solvang, California

Sexy Nerd has an annoying habit of calling me to complain when he's on business trips. "It's too hot here in Napa Valley," and "That chocolate lava cake was too rich after such a big dinner." After a morning surrounded by screaming pediatric dental patients and their overprotective, crazy parents (my generation is nuts, BTW), I'll check my voicemail during lunch and learn Sexy Nerd's flight bumped him to first class and the rental lot only had BMWs left. Also, his meeting has been postponed so he's "stuck here" another two days.

Boo hoo hoo, Sexy Nerd.

Also, if you bring your children to our dental office, it's the other parents I'm referring to, not you.

Wondering where I'm going with this? I was recently a bad employee and played hooky from work, which is something I never, ever do. (You know, after having received permission for said-hooky several weeks in advance. I'd hate for you to think I'm that bad.) I didn't pack until the last minute and I didn't create an itinerary, detailed or otherwise. Jetting off to LAX, I even used a Southwest drink coupon and consumed a *gasp* alcoholic beverage. Clearly, playing hooky had turned me into a total bad girl.

My coupon drink of choice was a plastic cup of chardonnay, which I thought would come in a tiny, adorable bottle but didn't. I instantly regretted my choice. Also, don't think me less of a bad girl for asking this, but should it actually be "consumed an *gasp* alcoholic beverage" above? What's the grammatical rule for words within asterisks? If I type "Grammar Girl" here, will she find it through Google and email me an answer? I guess I'll need to wait and see. Oh, now she's going to read all of this and find so many errors I hadn't even known I'd made. How embarrassing.

But I'm getting off-topic. The real reason for this post isn't to ramble, it's to share vacation business trip photos! Here is everything that happened on Day 1 of our trip:

We stayed at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, which used the coolest accent wall mural ever to create a cozy nook inside our room. Even though it looks exactly like they hand-painted a horse onto wood paneling, I think the entire thing is actually just wallpaper. Where can I buy this?

The downside? The bathroom door is a sheet of glass. See all that light glaring on the right side of the photo, burning your retinas? That's with the door closed. I'm a chronic insomniac. How could you even think about answering nature's call when I was trying to sleep, Sexy Nerd?

Leading up to our trip, Sexy Nerd said I'd enjoy exploring Lompoc on foot while he was working. It's safe and there's easily enough to see and do that even four or five hours would be fine. At least, that's what he told me before I got into the car.

Shortly before abandoning me on the rough streets to fend for myself, he said it's just like the area surrounding any other air force base. We have an air force base in Albuquerque and leaving your wife there would be grounds for divorce. Further ruining my expectation of Lompoc, he told me the city had fallen on hard times but has been trying to make a comeback. That's fine, I thought, acknowledging that there had recently been a recession. Oh, but Lompoc's trouble came before that. So...the big technology crash in the early 2000s? No. Sexy Nerd clarified that the hard times in Lompoc were due to the ending of the Cold War a million, zillion years ago.

I may have added those last few words myself. The murals throughout Lompoc's downtown were enjoyable. I viewed them with my wedding ring upside down and an eye of suspicion on every friendly passerby.

There should be a new paragraph here, going on in great detail about the Snowy Plover (so cute!) and how this trip finally turned me into a beach person. 

*Sigh*

This entire blog post was finished. Instead of posting it though, I decided to go to sleep and proofread it in the morning. In the morning, everything from this point on was GONE. I saved it. I swear I saved it. Didn't I save it?

*Sob*

Moral of the story? Never proofread.

This guy feels my pain. 

 With low expectations, we stopped in Solvang, the Americanized tourist trap town meant to resemble Denmark. We loved it! The buildings were cute and the streets felt safe. Filled with bakeries, home decor shops, and antique stores, four hours there wasn't enough time.



That said, four hours may have been plenty if you-know-who hadn't stopped every few minutes to reply to work emails. 

Sexy Nerd was always quick to remind me, "Well, it is a business trip."

We popped into a nursery, not expecting it to differ from our local stores, and quickly found ourselves reenacting scenes from our all-time favorite movie. Californians have fun with their landscaping. I'd love to hide this gal around a corner, perhaps with her head sticking out through one of our rose bushes.

"AAGH! You almost gave me a heart attack," is what our unsuspecting victims guests will cry out. 

I'd also like to bring this squirrel home. Isn't it funny how $600 for the velociraptor above seemed like a bargain but $50 for the cutest squirrel ever was too much? It's easy to be a big spender when the purchase won't fit in your suitcase.

Wanting to remember the fun time we had at the Solvang nursery, I told Sexy Nerd to smile for a photo. I'm tempted to rename this post The Grump Goes to Southern California

Next, I dragged The Grump Sexy Nerd to California Tacos for lunch, practically kicking and screaming. What kind of a person doesn't want chimichangas and flautas? "It's not going to be any good," he insisted, even after reading a long list of stellar Yelp reviews. Oh, how wrong he was.

California Tacos is amazing! All that deep fried deliciousness you see above? The entire meal cost less than $15, soda included. Sexy Nerd licked his plate clean.

Good Mexican food? Check. Friendly Velociraptors? Check. I'm ready to move back to my home state. Also, in the years I've been gone, California has decided they love plug-in vehicles. Stealth, our Chevy Volt, would be so happy there. C'mon, Sexy Nerd. Do it for Stealth.

Next, we headed to the Mission Santa Inés, which was at the top of my list. Folks who know me are always surprised to learn I love visiting old churches. I grew up in San Jose, where missions are a big deal. You're pretty much not allowed to pass 4th grade unless you love missions.

They have so much character.

See the snakes? Character, but also scandalous histories and controversy.

Remember this photo - our hallway should end up looking just like it (assuming our new house is ever finished). Our design style is California Mission. We could have saved our builder so much stress if we'd realized that sooner.

Mission Santa Inés is surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery. Lush, green hillsides? Check. Let's move there, let's move there, let's move there!

Sexy Nerd insisted California is never this green and that I was getting an unrealistic idea of what it's really like. "I've been here a million times and it's always brown and dead. This is a fluke."

Phooey.

Despite all his grumpiness, Sexy Nerd did actually enjoy the first day of our California trip. I have the photos to prove it:

You can't walk past a windmill without posing for a selfie. Try it for yourself.

I've never noticed before, but Sexy Nerd smiles the tiniest little smile I've ever seen. Where are his teeth? His orthodontist would be so sad to see these photos.

He actually has a perfectly handsome smile. In more than 13 years together, how have I never noticed this before?

LET'S MOVE TO CALIFORNIA!

Blender Cake Mix Custard

Here is a quick and easy dessert recipe, courtesy of my Vitamix. You can also make it in a Blendtec or other high-power blender.

Vitamix Custard Recipe
Cake Mix Custard Vitamix Recipe
Serves 6
  • 16 oz milk (Feel free to use whatever kind you have on hand. I've even mixed nonfat milk with coconut milk to great results.)
  • 6 egg yolks (Feeling fancy? Save the egg whites to top your custards with meringue and torch them, Baked Alaska-style. Ooh, and then sprinkle with fresh chocolate shavings. Or rainbow sprinkles for a birthday cake custard variation! Folding crushed Oreos into the finished custard would be delicious too - the options are endless.)
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 8 oz cake mix (Approximately 1/2 a box)(I've made this with Duncan Hines Classic Yellow and Betty Crocker Red Velvet. Both were good, but we preferred the Classic Yellow - it tasted like birthday cake. I haven't tried it yet, but I bet Lemon cake mix would taste like lemon curd, especially if you threw in half a lemon.)
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch (Don't simply dump this in - see Step 3.)
Easy Peasy Instructions:

1. Throw all the ingredients except the cornstarch into your blender.

2. Blend, blend, blend! Set a timer for 6 minutes - after whirling around on High, the mixture will be steaming hot. While you wait, mix the cornstarch with 1/4 C cold water.

3. Reduce the blender speed. Remove the Lid Plug (steam should escape - if not, keep blending on high before moving on to this step) and slowly pour in the cornstarch/water mixture. If you used something thick, like heavy cream, instead of something watery, like skim milk, you'll only want to add a little of this.

4. Put the Lid Plug back on, return the speed to high, and blend for another minute. Don't step away - the custard becomes so thick my Vitamix can't even blend it!

cake mix custard

5. Transfer the hot custard to the fridge or freezer to cool. Impatiently eat spoonfuls of it while it's still hot. You know how you can't feed your dog something hot because it will eat it and burn itself? This hot custard will make you understand that problem firsthand.

blender custard
Enjoy!
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