Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Highlights and Lowlights


It hasn't been a very busy travel year for us as we've had other, real-life issues to deal with but we did get some in.  Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the year.



AIRLINES: We did not have a bad flight this year. Southwest and Alaska both took very good care of us and we had very enjoyable flights. Hard to say which one is a better bet this year but Alaska is getting very aggressive with their pricing and destinations as we head into the new year. Look into it if you'd like to get away to a warmer climate for awhile.

On the other hand...



AIRPORTS: Have nothing good to say about three of the four airports we transited through this year...LAX, BWI, and LIR...but ONT still is a pleasant but very dead place to fly in and out of. Maybe now that the city of Ontario is taking over the reigns from LAX, they can revitalize this very convenient and much underused facility.



HOTELS: Shenandoah Inn, the mom and pop motel in the Motherlode that could, is still one of the most enjoyable and relaxing places we've ever stayed. Located in the heart of California's Gold Country with friendly and competent owners Ken and Marie, I can feel my stress melting away as soon as I hit their driveway.

We had a so-so stay at the Springhill Suites in Baltimore but found a fantastic Courtyard by Marriott when we moved over to nearby Washington D.C. We also had a pretty miserable, and cold, night in another Courtyard in San Diego at the beginning of the year but a couple of stays at Homewood Suites completely made up for that, a very nice and consistent brand (four stays at four different locations with four very nice experiences).

And I'd be remiss to not mention the very nice and understated Borrego Springs Resort, an oasis of relaxation in the middle of Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California.

RENTAL CAR: We don't rent cars very often but when we do, we usually have a good experience. Not really posted for 2015 but coming up very soon on this blog, we had an absolutely nightmarish experience with Alamo in Costa Rica who tried to gouge us out of another $600 for insurance on arrival. Put a shadow on the entire trip.



FOOD: This one's easy. Two outstanding restaurants encountered on our journeys this year, I don't even have to bat an eye over trying to pull them out of my memory...Supano's in Baltimore and Taste in Plymouth, California.

Supano's is like dining with your Italian aunts and uncles, you know, the ones who make the most exquisite dishes you've every tried and ladle it out with friendly banter and converstation with the ever-present Sinatra soundtrack in the background. We absolutely fell in love with this place and their staff.

Taste is one of those great California restaurants that take their food to another level of taste and refinement. It's located in the most unpretentious location and the atmosphere shows it. Great, relaxed, and friendly service with some of the most delicious, handcrafted entrees you'll ever have.

Both restaurants are expensive but worth every single penny, and more.



If you want good, cheap food, our champion is still Los Tacos de Huicho, the best little taco shop in the world way, way off the beaten path in Bakersfield, California or the very good (and cheap!) steakhouse at Molino Viejo in San Quintin, Baja California.

So there you have it, the highs and lows from...what for us...is kind of a quiet travel year. Next week, we break out the new posts for 2016 so be sure to join us for another year of fun and accessible travel adventures.

Darryl
Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The First Chore of Spring


I know winter has barely started but I've got a lucky break with the weather and a chance to revitalize my brown, bald spotted, drought parched lawn.

In the last couple of years, I've overseeded with drought resistant grass seed. That worked fairly well and gave me a lush, green lawn for about 4 months but wilted under our 100+ degree summer heat fairly rapidly with our states water rationing scheme.


This year, I'll add to that a bag of heat resistant seed just to see what happens.


It rained pretty good on Friday so I had a damp lawn, with soft soil, to aerate on Saturday. I then overseeded with the spreader.

We're expecting two days of rain on Sunday so that will give me two days of watering in and I don't have to worry about running afoul of the water cops.

It should be a wet winter here, so I'm hoping that it'll take a minimum of spinkler use to get it germinated and established. Then we'll see just how 'heat-resistant' this grass really is.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 20, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Cranberry Margarita


This one's short, simple, sweet, and delicious. What we're drinking this week is a variation of the traditional margarita on the rocks, substituting cranberry cocktail for most of the sweet and sour.  We're using Fresh and Easy's cranberry cocktail, which has no added colors, so ours comes out pink.  If you use Ocean Spray's, it comes out redder.  If you want a really red drink, add a splash of grenadine.


Watch the Video!

INGREDIENTS - two drinks

2 1/2 oz. tequila
1 1/2 oz. triple sec
juice of one small lime
1 oz. sweet and sour
3 - 4 oz. cranberry cocktail



Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice.  Shake and strain into margarita or cocktail glasses.

We don't salt the rims on these and the final tally is about 200 calories.

Cheers!



-Darryl

Friday, December 18, 2015

This Week's Sunday Menu: PrimeTri Tip Steak with Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Eggs


Meat and potatoes...delicious ones...for those of us on a low-sodium diet.

The entree for this week's dinner is some fantastic tri tip steak. USDA Prime that I found for $7.99 per pound. Great deal.


Breakfast uses our standard scrambled eggs recipe but we're cooking some delicious Danish bacon

Get the recipes below:

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Bacon (for an added treat, cook the eggs in the bacon grease after you cook that).

Dinner: Tri Tip Steaks and Roasted Potatoes

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Weeds of Winter


Still not a lot to do in the garden these days but the weeds don't take the season off. 


A trowel helps me dig these out of the dirt.


In the rose garden, out front, this Chinese elm seedling has camoflauged itself within the roses. 


At this size, the root is very deep and it is impossible to hand-pull out of the ground, so I dig as deep as I can with my trowel.


This is as much as of the root as I was able to get. I hope it's enough because these weeds are very hard to get rid of completely once they take hold.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bacon!


After eggs, maybe the most popular breakfast food.  Easy to cook, the key is good meat.


Look for strips, thick strips, with a high meat (or lean) to fat ratio.  We get Danish bacon from Marconda's Meats at the Original L.A. Farmers Market, where...if you buy a full slab...you'll get $2 off per pound and they'll slice and pack to order.


Get a large frying pan, lay the strips across the bottom, cover with a splatter screen, and turn the heat to medium/high. Put the splatter guard on top to keep the grease from flying all over your stove and kitchen.

After several minutes, when the pink on the bacon gets darker and headed to red, use some tongs to flip them over...carefully.

Cook several more minutes until they start to turn brown. The browner they are, the crispier they will be.

When done, put a couple of layers of paper towels on a plate. Put the bacon on the towels then put one more sheet on top. Let sit for about ten minutes so the paper towels can soak up the grease before serving.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Winter's Tangy Harvest


Late fall...winter starts next week...and in the middle of a big drought, not a lot to do in the garden but we can find something.

December in Southern California is citrus season and our three trees are producing! 

The cara cara navel orange tree (at the top of this post) has put out the most fruit it's ever given us.


Our Meyer lemon is not far behind.


We harvest just enough to last us for a week or so and let the rest of the fruit stay on the tree til we're ready for more.


Along with the oranges and lemons, I also find a few rogue Anaheim chiles that will go into tomorrow's eggs.


These tart but sweet cara caras are just the ticket for a nice, healthy shot of vitamin C on the side of this sandwich.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 14, 2015

Low Sodium Tri Tip Steak


We're returning to the barbecue this week for our Sunday entree. It's cloudy, cool, and rain is on the way but I think I have time to beat it.

Recently, just before Thanksgiving, I got the big "D" diagnosis...type 2 diabetes. Now, I have to be wary of what I eat and drink. Funny, though, since I've started monitoring my glucose, I've only exceeded the upper limit twice. Once when I had a cup of white rice with some peanut-sauce beef satay and the other when I had a flour-tortilla wrapped pork burrito.

Lesson learned: avoid white rice and flour tortillas. Rice is easy since I'm not such a fan anyway. I'll miss those flour tortillas, though (corn tortillas don't have the same effect at all on me, thank God).

Jan, the diabetes nurse at my doctor's office, has provided me with reams of flyers and sheets on how to eat better. One that really struck my fancy was what spices you can use to replace salt in different foods. That led to the rub used in the recipe below.

While I used literally just a pinch of salt, the meal came out delicious.  I had a little leftover rub that I put in the bag to spice up my usual roasted fingerling potato dish that I served on the side.



This meal also benefits from the hiqh quality of the meat...I found some exceptionally well-marbled USDA Prime tri tip steak on sale at Costco for only $7.99 a pound. Couldn't pass up that deal (although I can hear nurse Jan in my mind "LEAN meat, idiot!").

Quiet, Jan...it's Sunday.

INGREDIENTS

4 medium 1.5 inch thick tri tip steaks, about 8 ounces each
Worcester sauce (or pineapple juice, if you want to take the sodium content down further without sacrificing taste)

RUB:
1/2 teaspoon each of the following -
Mustard powder
Onion powder
Marjoram
Nutmeg
Paprika
Sage
Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon each of black and white pepper

Put steaks into as small of a resealable bowl as you can find. Sprinkle each side with just a very small pinch of Kosher salt and a few drops of Worcester sauce. You can also replace the Worcester sauce with a generous splash of pineapple juice.

Rub the meat generously on both sides with the rub. Seal in bowl and let marinate 3-4 hours minimum (if you use pineapple juice, it's better to marinate for at least 8 hours).



On a barbecue, over hot coals, cook on each side for three minutes for a sear. Move to indirect heat and cook 5-6 minutes on each side for medium rare.

Remove on a platter and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 4, 2015

TRIP REPORT: Monterey and Pacific Grove - Part 2

We've had a great, first day in Pacific Grove and Monterey (see Part 1 here), it's time to complete the trip.


In the morning, we went to First Awakenings for breakfast.  It’s nice that the inn has a continental breakfast, but we want the full meal.  This spot, in an old fish cannery just around the corner from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, really hits the target.

We have some really superb omelets, along with their great bacon and sourdough toast to start off our day.  This gives us some good nutrition and energy for our next activity, a hike across the bay to the 17-Mile Drive.
There’s a nice, wheelchair accessible boardwalk across the sand that bisects the beach from The Links at Spanish Bay golf course.  It’s about a half-mile walk across till you get to a little point where the 17 Mile Drive comes out of the woods and a vista point is available.  Since it’s a drive, you can take your car here – for a fee – but it’s an easy walk from our inn and we get some exercise along the way.  It’s also a great way to get up close and personal with the ocean.

At the vista point, we marvel at the view and have fun watching the many chipmunks that scavenge the area for food before walking back.
In the evening, we head over to Carmel to window shop and have dinner.  We’d never been to the Hog’s Breath Inn, formerly owned by the former mayor of Carmel…Clint Eastwood, so we thought we’d try it out. 
Underneath a jazz radio station and music shop, the restaurant has a large dining room and a pub, separated by a really nice outdoor area with multiple fireplaces, free-form tables, trees, and a large, painted backdrop on the building next door.  Way out back is the very cozy pub that looks like it was lifted from a Tolkien book.
This looks like the perfect setting for dinner!  We tell the maĆ®tre‘d that we’d like to sit out here and have dinner but he tells us that this is only the bar and just appetizers are served here.  If we’d like dinner, we’d have to eat inside in the dining room.
In we go.  As lovely as the outdoor area is, the indoor dining room has all the charm of a high school cafeteria.  I don’t care how good the food is here, I can’t believe it’s served in such an austere setting so we go back outside and just have a few apps and a couple of drinks.  It turned out very nice but, really, either redo the dining room or ditch the silly “no dinner outside” rule.
The next morning, we get in the car for a drive up the coast.  We head in the general direction  of Watsonville to see what we can find. 
Past the navy’s language school, you come into Marina where you can learn how to hang glide.  Continuing on we get to Moss Landing.
We stop to take a look at this beautiful fishing village.  There are a couple of restaurants and some antique shops but it’s mostly a working fishing fleet here so our time is short-lived.  Eventually, we make it to Watsonville where we buy some freshly picked strawberries to take with us and head back to Monterey.
Back in town, we walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and have free samples of the clam chowder that each restaurant is giving out.  It’s good but I remember coming here in the past and having one of the worst dinners in my life.  After the wharf, we go over to Cannery Row where we have a cocktail at a waterfront lounge with a friendly bartender.  Unfortunately, it has since closed.
Dinner tonight is back in Pacific Grove, this time across the street from Passionfish at International Cuisine where we have a couple of very good pasta dishes along with some good red wine, but still not as good as Passionfish, which will go down as the best place we saw on this trip.
Another sunset with our Watsonville strawberries and champagne, another night in our cozy little inn, and then it’s back to L.A. where we have a couple of days to rest before we pick Tim up from camp.

Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved