Coastal CA

We just got back last night (Sunday) from our fun Coastal California road trip (with a little central valley mixed in).

We left Thursday night after dinner and made it down to Fresno to visit with Chris' grandma by late evening. The following morning we hung out with Chris' grandma, Aunt and cousins - going on walks, having breakfast together, and playing with all of the family's animals (4 dogs, 2 cats - including a new kitten, and 3 birds).

By afternoon we left to go to Fresno's famous Forestiere Underground Gardens (no pictures because the Forestiere family - which still owns it, request that you not publish them on the internet)

(photo courtesty of the Forestiere Underground Gardens)

The Underground Gardens are AMAZING. In the early 1900s a man named Baldassare Forestiere began digging underground and created a HUGE underground "home" (he ultimately wanted it to be an underground resort) to escape the burning Fresno summer heat. We took the tour and were totally amazed by how resourceful and intelligent Forestiere was - digging this little village with no formal training in architecture or engineering. He also planted many different species of fruit and experimented in grafting, and at one point had a tree that grew either 7 or 9 (I can't quite remember) different kinds of fruit. It really was truly amazing.

Afterwards we headed down to the coast and spent the rest of the day driving to San Luis Obispo

In SLO we ate dinner at Woodstock's (there was one in Davis too that Chris frequented), and watched the basketball playoffs. Later we watched Sex and the City at the movie theater pictured above (it was a pretty cool vintage theater inside).

Saturday we headed up to San Simeon, but on the way we stopped in Morro Bay and wandered around on the beach

And Chris got soaked when we ventured over to some rocks to watch the ocean waves (I found it quite hilarious)

When we made it up to Hearst Castle we took the introductory tour we had booked and I was FLOORED at how amazing it was, it was AWESOME! I've never been there before and I was completely amazed. Hearst Castle was a vacation retreat of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the early 1920s-40s or so. Julia Morgan was the architect, it was under construction for over 28 years, and it was the host of many movie stars, politicians, writers, inventors, etc. throughout Hearst's lifetime. It was SO SO SO SO cool, I'm already counting down till we can visit again and take another tour (I'll only bore you with a handful of pics, but we took A LOT)

Afterwards we drove up Higway 1 all the way to Monterey where we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which I haven't been to since I was about 2). I gotta say, for the $30 per person price tag, I wasn't super impressed. Not that we didn't have a good time, but $60 to me means it should have been GREAT (Hearst Castle was less per person), but we did see Elijah Wood and Dana Stubblefield while we were there

After we headed to Pebble Beach and the famous 17-Mile drive. It was cool to drive by the Pebble Beach golf course where the Masters will be in about 2 weeks (we already saw them setting up cable, TV tents, etc), and we saw the famous Lone Cypress

After we headed up to Soquel to hang out at Webb Ranch with Chris' friends Luke and Johnny and their girlfriends/wives Claire and Leigh (we went to Johnny and Leigh's wedding here a number of months ago). We hung out late into the night and ate good food and told scary stories around the camp fire.

Sunday morning we drove to Johnny and Leigh's house so Chris could give them some advice on a series of projects going on around their house and to visit some more. After, we tried to visit the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot (a place I've never been), but were thwarted when we found out they were sold out.

Instead we headed up to San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery house and spent a few hours touring the house and then we headed home.

We had a WONDERFUL couple of days together. As I've said many times, I always love going on roadtrips with Chris, just the two of us hanging out and talking and getting to explore new places. He really is a great buddy to have :)


Happy 5 Year Anniversary!

Chris and I met while I was going to UC Davis and got a job at Tower Records. He was a manager there and actually interviewed me with the other manager (he was also wearing a GIANT'S shirt, and when I left the interview I shook hands with him and said, "By the way, I'm an A's fan.") When I walked outside to my car after the interview I called my mom to tell her how it went, and also tell her that one of the managers, Chris, was super cute :) Poor Meryl, he had a girlfriend at the time, so I quietly pinned for him.

Fast forward about 4 months later and we'd developed a good friendship, he was no longer with his girlfriend, and I VERY much looked forward to working with him on Saturday mornings :) We started hanging out, in fact, our first "date" (at least I considered it a date, Chris really had no idea), was when I invited him to an A's game. Then we went to the driving range, a couple movies, a dinner or two, and pretty soon, Chris figured out I was pretty awesome (I'd known it about him all along). But managers and clerks weren't allowed to date, so we had to keep our relationship a secret until I quit 2 months later to move to Texas.

Things have been pretty awesome ever since then. I'm a little crazy and emotional, and he's laid back and level headed. I think we fit together quite nicely. It's been 5 years now (well, 5 years last month, we're a little late on our celebration because the house has kept us busy), and it's time for us to celebrate. Normally on our anniversary we just go to dinner and a movie (not really any different from normal weekend plans, just maybe a nicer place than say...Chipotle - but hey, we LOVE Chipotle). But because this is one of those rounded off numbers, we figured we were supposed to do something a bit more special. So because we LOVE road trips (we've gone on MANY together), we decided to take a little road trip down to Fresno to visit some of Chris' family (and check out a tile place because rumor has it they have white basketweave with a gray dot...), and then head up the California coast, an area (despite being an almost lifelong CA resident), I've never really explored much of.

So readers, I hope you have a MARVELOUS Memorial Day weekend, Chris and I will be driving, chatting, visiting, exploring, adventuring....and just having fun hanging out together. I'll see you next week!

(this is the first pic of us together, taken on our first road trip, when we explored the Southwest when Chris drove with me when I moved to Texas. Aren't we just so cute you just want to throw up :) or at least throw something at us? hehehe)


Ripping Up the Bathroom Floor

After revealing the condition of the subfloor and floor joists when I finished ripping up the tile, we learned that we needed to rip up a large portion of the floor in order to repair the joists. So, we got to it

Once we got enough of the subfloor removed it was time to start sistering 2x8's to the original joists. We made sure to install the new 2x8's longer than the area that we cut out for added strength

We also added in some blocking JUST to be safe

And we did some super professional testing by both of us jumping on it: it's not going anywhere.

The corner over by the toilet was a bit more tricky. The original builders (most likely the plumber) decided that it would be easiest to simply CUT OUT A FLOOR JOIST to install the toilet

(see the joist cut away on the top in the center of the picture? NOT good)

So we had to figure out how to reinstall the floor joists and also give proper blocking to support the floor while also maintaining the toilet plumbing. Ultimately we concluded that blocking forming a triangle would provide proper support, and we would beef up the joists where we could

We may add some more blocking, but the corner is definitely SUPER strong now, which is great news: no one wants to fall through the floor while they're on the toilet doing their business.


Ripping Up the Tile

With the tub finally out of the bathroom, it was time for me to FINALLY finish ripping up the tile (a project that was started back in November).

I got out my old friend the roto hammer...

...and got to work

Bit by bit I broke the tile up

And then came the time for ripping up the chicken wire at the bottom of all of the tile. They basically laid the tile like you do stucco: a layer of chicken wire, a layer of (in this case) mud (but it was basically like stucco - the material was really thick and very coarse), and then the tile on top of that

And little by little I started clearing more and more tile out of the room

And soon, I'd gotten it all out

With the bare subfloor exposed, we discovered a bit more dry rot, but nothing worse than we'd already discovered

Normally you don't want a hole in your floor with the ability to see down into your crawl space.


Starting the Bathroom

Last weekend my dad Vince, step mom Wendy, mom Tamara, step dad Clarke, step brother Erik, brother Adam and his fiancee Christine (phew!) all came over for dinner and Rockband playing into the night. I know, how lucky am I that my 4 parents and entire family get along and actually like hanging out with each other? We all had a SUPER FUN time together and I got MANY wonderful pictures of some serious rocking out.

But, there was also some business to attend to while they were here. Our bathroom has been in a state of disrepair for some time now. Back in November I started ripping up the floor tile (my dad had come over a few times and helped us demo everything else), but because the floor was so consumed with dry rot, I couldn't get very far

We had to wait until we could move the tub out of the room before I could continue ripping up the tile. That meant that we needed to find a place in the house where we could put it (the laundry room, but we had to wait for the garage to be done because many of our tools were being stored in there), and we needed enough muscle to even move it (our guess was that it weighed close to 500 lbs.)

So while my family was over eating and playing, we also had my dad, Clarke, and Erik help Chris move the tub.

Now the bathroom is ready for me to get to work

And the tub has found its new, temporary home in the laundry room

We gotta get a quote on refinishing that sucker...


When Life Gives You Lemons...

...make Lemonade. Literally.

We are super lucky to have a Meyer lemon tree in our backyard, about the only good thing we inherited from this house and the previous owners. In keeping with our weekend landscaping theme, Chris and I decided to trim, mulch, and pick a TON of lemons from our lemon tree.

Meyer lemons are WONDERFUL because they are super juicy, a bit sweeter, and fruit all year long. We haven't taken full advantage of them since we've moved in over a year ago, so we made up for it this last weekend

We picked...and picked....and picked lemons

And after about 20-30 minutes of picking we ended up with 3 bucketfulls

And we only picked about 1/3 to 1/2 of the lemons that were on the tree

After, we grabbed our buckets and hauled them inside to wash and cut

After lots of washing and lots of cutting, we had A LOT of lemons to juice

And while Chris used the handy dandy juicer, we whipped up a little juicing contraption for me (my bare hands, into a pasta strainer, into a bowl. I know, super fancy)

Once we had squeezed all of our bowlfulls of lemons, we had A LOT of juice to make lemonade from

(that's ALL juice!)

Next, it was time to get out another pitcher and mix up some lemonade! So we put in some water, ice cubes and sugar

Did a couple of taste tests, you know, just to MAKE SURE it tasted perfect

And it was mighty tasty!

Now we've got enough lemon juice to make us lemonade for a few MONTHS! And next time we mix a batch, we'll measure how much juice we use in it, that way we can measure out that much into small ziploc bags and toss them in the freezer, so each time we make a new batch from then on we'll just toss in the large, frozen, lemon juice ice cube and some water and sugar and be good to go!

Tasty lemonade = summertime!!! (now if only the weather would decide to stay consistently warm, I'm not liking all this rain business)


How to Rescue an Artichoke

Thanks to great readers we now have a wonderful recipe for eating our artichoke hearts and a great website to reference how to take care of it (they are truly two great resources).

Our artichoke has been doing better lately. We've been picking it at just the right time, they've gotten sweeter, and they're fruiting faster than we can eat them! (we're thinking about maybe canning some hearts).

Sadly though, when I walked outside last week, I saw this

We're not sure whether it was just too heavy, or that it had grown in a little sideways, or the wind blew it over, but CLEARLY there was a problem.

So we armed ourselves with some rebar...

...and got to work propping it back up

(while we normally use these ratchets to tie lumber safely to the car, apprently they can also be used to pull artichokes back into place. Who woulda thought?)

Shortly after we got it propped up we heard it start to crack like it was falling again, and realized that it was tipping over towards the right, INTO the vege garden. We quickly adjusted the rebar...

...and the artichoke was as good as new!

And then, on Sunday when my family was over for some good food and Rockband playing, my brother's fiancee noticed a little something...

It's so beautiful! And this morning when I woke up and went to go look at it again, it had opened even more

So so so pretty! I can't wait to see it open EVEN MORE!