Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Denver Calling

Denver got another one of my friends!  Val and Damien moved to Denver over a year ago in search of job opportunities and now  Lauren, Val's sister, is going to join them. 
After hearing the news we decided to meet up in North County (closer to the majority).  Karl Strauss restaurant was an easy choice as the beer is good and they have a decent Happy Hour. 
Flight of the month for 4$, not bad...

It wasn't easy to get a table at 5:30, but they managed to squeeze us in.  (Who knew Rancho Bernardo would be so crowded on a Tuesday?)
 It was fun to catch up with Amy and Andre as well; why does so much time have to pass before there are opportunities to get together with old friends!?

Make beer, not war- the answer to our problems. 

Lauren, it was so fun to see you before you become a Denverite!  
We are super excited for you! 
Fred and I REALLY need to make it to Colorado soon.  It is on the list... 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Estero Beach Resort, Ensenada

Fred and I have been hesitant to go to our local Mexican border cities because of the horror stories fed to us by the media.  Although this has not kept us away from Mexico, just the border, we had finally had enough and made plans to go for the night and see for ourselves how the border cities have actually changed.  Luckily my cousin Nancy and her hubby Vinny wanted to come along with us to explore.  It was Vinny's FIRST time to Mexico and I was hoping that the experience would be a good one... and it was.

After researching and researching (and ignoring the red alert warning that pops up on Tripadvisor) I picked Estero Beach Resort right south of Ensenada.  What a great hotel!  Upon arrival they immediately offered us beachfront rooms for just about half price (which we were planning on asking for, but they made it way too easy!).  The restaurant, bar, and pool were a two minute walk away.  The location was at the point at the end of the peninsula, and so was totally secluded and more than safe. 

And the restaurant was incredible.  These nachos took a while to reach our table but were well worth the wait.  They were so delicioso. 

After a late start in the morning and a delicious breakfast (I had french toast that was carefully doused in cinnamon and sugar) we walked around the property and enjoyed the views. 

This was the second day in a row Fred and Vinny wore similar color polo shirts. 
Great minds think alike!
After check out we drove about 30 minutes south to La Bufadora. 

La Bufadora is a marine geyser that forces sea water upwards into the air every minute or so.  It is one of the largest blowholes in North America, although Fred said it was pretty docile today.

La Bufadora is also famous for its seafood, which we had to partake in.  These grilled clams au gratin were to die for. 

We couldn't leave without having some fish tacos!  We grabbed a bar stool outside and lazily enjoyed the view and the company. 
I love Coca-Cola is glass bottles!  It reminds me of my childhood. 

Fred and Vinny, figuring out what to put on their tacos... so many choices!

There were samples of this pineapple drink which Nancy just had to purchase.  It was insanely delicious.

We ended the day shopping for luchadores masks for Vinny's nephews in downtown Ensenada.
What an amazing mini-vacation (practically a stay-cation).
I am so bummed that we have listened to the media as long as we have.  I am ready to go back right now! One day was not enough.  I LOVE Mexico...
Thank you for coming with us to dispel the rumors, Nancy and Vinny!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandma's 85th

The day was spent in Irvine at the park with my Braun family. 
All of my cousins (with their kids), some aunts and uncles (along with their parents), and my sister and nieces were there to celebrate my Grandmother's 85th birthday. 
Fortunately, and unfortunately my Grandmother is sharp as a tack and is totally on board with technology.  (She was just saying today she is one of few seniors who only have a cell phone instead of a land line.)  I obviously say it is fortunate that she is doing so well because I have some of her genes; the reason it is unfortunate is because she may read this blog post and will know I am telling people it is her birthday!  The only reason she agreed to this get together was if we didn't mention her birthday too often (or at all). 
We ate and chatted and played. 
It was a great day.

"The years teach much which the days never knew." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

San Diego Zoo Institute

Man, was Fred jealous of me- going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with luggage. 
I was accepted into the 2012 San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research Teacher Training- a three day, two night teacher workshop aimed to increase teaching conservation in middle school science classrooms.  This was by far the best teacher workshop I will ever attend.

We slept at Roar and Snore.  I could see all sorts of safari animals from my personal tent, and could hear the lions roaring at night.  So cool!

We split up our time there with many different activities.  We learned we can borrow a kit from the research center that will allow our students to test the gender of various condors through PCR and gel electrophoresis.  This equipment is not cheap, and not at my school.

We took a tour of the Beckman Center (where most of our classes were located). 
The Frozen Zoo, within the Beckman Center, is a conservation effort to freeze the cells of various organisms for future use, and is the biggest of its kind.  They currently have over 800 different species.  One of the species in the Frozen Zoo is the northern white rhino, an organism that will be extinct within our lifetime (there are only 8 left, and they are all past breeding age).

Another project at the Beckman Center is the raising of California Mountain Yellow-Legged frog.  These important predators were put on the endangered species list in 2001, but the institute was able to start a successful  reintroduction program. 

The first night there we had two hours of free time (otherwise we were on a busy schedule).  The gorillas are always fascinating.

One fun bioacoustics project we had was to record the sounds of wildlife at the Safari Park.  When listening to these animals on different frequencies back at the lab, it is interesting to hear sounds from animals that our human ears cannot pick up.

Gloria the Keeper (who dreamed of this job since her first visit to the zoo when she was eight years old) showed us one of the many animals she takes care of, an armadillo.

One of the highlights of the workshop was doing the photo caravan tour (we got to feed giraffes and rhinos. 

This was half of the crew of teachers from all over California.  It was a super three days.

A teacher workshop with alcohol?  Crazy!
Completely unrelated to the free alcohol, this has been an unforgettable experience...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Beaches and the Del Mar Races

Yay! So good to see my nieces.  After driving home from Ventura county I met up with my sisters and my nieces at Tamarack beach.

Raya and Josh are visiting from Idaho.  They had already been here for a week since Josh's sister got married so I had to maximize our hang out time.  My dad, his friend's Gary and John, Andy and his son, Josh and Raya, Marla and the girls all met at the beach for the day. 

The following day Dan and Marla, and Josh and Raya all went to the Del Mar racetrack.  We parked at the Solana beach train station, then took the free double decker shuttle.

I love the race track.  I have only been a few times, and never had a bad experience (loosing money or winning.. it is fun no matter what!).  Marla got her first dose of the track, but she is one of those who would rather have those few betable dollars in her purse. 

I won 32$ in the second race.  Not bad, a net profit of 28$!

My aunt and uncle (well, my aunt) watched the girls while we went to the track.  Fred met up with us for dinner and dessert at their house in Carlsbad afterwards.
Everything was delicious!