Big Bear Getaway, Part 1

Hanna Flat, Fawnskin & Big Bear Lake

This weekend, my grad school friends Julie, Emily, Virginia and I packed up the truck and headed southeast to Big Bear Lake. Big Bear is an awesome little alpine escape that’s a quick 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, yet feels like it’s a world away. We stayed at the charming Hanna Flat campground and had an amazing time listening to the howling wolves and staring up at the towering redwoods touching the star-studded sky.

Julie and Alyssa tackle the tent

After a two hour drive and a lunch of greek yogurt and funyuns (hey – the gas stati0n had nothing else and we tried four different exits to find food!), we arrived at our campsite and tackled challenge #1: the tent. I don’t know if there’s some of man code in my family that makes them believe that women can’t assemble tents, but both my husband and father chuckled when we described how we’d be staying in Emily’s suave six person tent. “Oh,” they said. “Have you ever assembled a tent?”. Well, no, I hadn’t, but I can make a fierce grilled cheese… so I’m pretty sure i can do anything. (Confidence. I has it.) Here’s photographic proof that I helped assemble the tent – and no tents, tools or woodland creatures were harmed in the process. And yes, it was a pain to assemble but – totally bearable. Kind of like getting a tattoo. Annoyance < Awesomeness.

Boulder Bay, Big Bear Lake

Once the tent was properly set up, we donned our bathing suits and headed over to the gorgeous Boulder Bay. Boulder bay is surrounded by multi-million dollar cabins with huge bay windows overlooking the mountains and lake. It’s pretty much paradise. Emily and Virginia bravely swam in the cold water while Julie and I skipped rocks, chatted and soaked up the sun.

 

Log Cabin Restaurant has so many good eats!

After a couple hours swimming, we headed to my favorite Big Bear establishment, the Log Cabin restaurant. After sharing our ghost photo from last time with the management (much to their delight) we ordered a delicious dinner and headed back to our campsite. Stay tuned for the next post to read about my big bear tummy, and why I didn’t get this blog posted today. (Let’s just say that after the 10,786th time this has happened, I might finally be realizing that eating clean for a long time and then eating junk is a recipe for disaster.) Did you have a good weekend too? What’d ya do?

My adventures in Seattle

This weekend, I took an adventure up the Pacific Northwest to the lovely wet city of Seattle. My friend Monique is getting her MSW (Social Work – isn’t that awesome?!) at the University of Washington, and I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time! Matt was supposed to be going with me, but his company just had to go and win a technical achievement Academy Award, so he was schmoozing with stars while I ate freshly fried mini doughnuts and posed with trolls. I flew in Saturday morning with my long underwear ready to go (I had been egged on by other Southern Californians about how cold I would be.)

Yummy things at Pike Place Market

Monique and I dropped my stuff off at her place and headed downtown via bus to the world famous Pike Place market. This place is a foodie’s dream, with stalls heaping with colorful fruit and glossy-eyed fish draped on ice. We shopped around, sampling the various goods and stopping for lunch at a Japanese stall. I got the vegetarian yakisoba and it was delicious – hot and sweet with fresh, crunchy cabbage and thin peels of carrot. We had dessert of mini-doughnuts – powdered sugar, sprinkled and cinnamon sugar.

Miss Monique samples a dougnnut

I also had to buy some dark chocolate pasta, just because the idea was so novel to me. I’ll be making chocolate pasta for dessert the next few weeks – I’m thinking chocolate linguine with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I’ll blog it! I posed for a picture next to the famous Pike pig, and then we headed back to the bus so we could check out one of my favorite novelty stores, Archie McPhee. If you haven’t heard of Archie McPhee, I highly recommend you visit their online store. It’s a great place to buy all kinds of things you don’t need, like pickle finger puppets and potato guns.

Bronze pig appreciates bag of freshly fried doughnuts in hand!

After Archie McPhee, we walked a mile to the Fremont Troll. The troll is a piece of community art commissioned by a Fremont resident. The troll was a popular attraction and we had to get our picture taken a few times to make it troll-gawker free.

TROLLLL!

After the troll, we headed back towards the Northgate area and then had dinner at Taste of India. This place was awesome because they gave us free chai and pakoras while we waited for our table. I had the butter paneer masala and it was amaaaaazing – so creamy, tangy and rich over the basmati rice. We sopped up the sauces with piping hot garlic naan. When our bellies were full, we headed over to the local $3 movie theatre and watched Midnight in Paris. The plot of the movie was charming but I thought the ending was poo-poolicious. After the movie I passed out on Monique’s lovely futon. We woke up Sunday morning and picked up a sandwich at Jimmy John’s, where I was delighted to order a giant dill pickle. Sadly, my pickle had a hair on it of mysterious origins (discovered after my first bite), so I lost my pep for pickles, but my sandwich was still deee-lish.

Moments before I discovered the hairy pickle.

We drove 30 minutes to Snoqualmie Falls, where the air was frigid, wet and cold. The view of these giant manmade waterfalls was breathtaking – the water crashed angrily onto the river below, and rocks broke the surface among the crystal blue water. We explored the park area around Snoqualmie falls for a bit, shopped in the gift shop, (I scored a cast iron bumble bee – yeah!), and then went back towards Monique’s house for some more local adventuring of my favorite kind – shopping!!!

Breathtaking Snoqualimie Falls

We shopped till we dropped and then swung by Cupcake Royale, where I picked up a “Dance Party” cupcake, with vanilla frosting. It was pretty amazing with a glass of wine! We also got ingredients to make homemade tacos! Here’s a sneak peek – but tune in next time to learn how to make flour tortillas that are a million times better than the packaged ones.

Yummy homemade tacos

On Monday, I ventured to the university district to see my Uncle Daniel, who works downtown. We had a good time eating lunch and bantering back and forth about why California was the superior state. Okay, fine, we never agreed on that, but I have decided that although Washington is lovely, California wins with its sunshine and perpetual blue skies. It was fun to see him on the west coast, as I usually only see him in Minnesota on short family vacations when we’re visiting my grandmother.

My Uncle Daniel and I

This weekend was exactly what I needed – a long weekend to decompress, enjoy some girl time, and do fun things instead of laundry, thesis writing and errand-running. I definitely did not track my meals which will probably get me into trouble this week at the scale, but I’m taking full responsibility for my actions and can say with very little regret…damn, I ate well and enjoyed it! Cest la vie.

Tune in soon to see us get our tortilla on! I hope you had an amazing weekend and are having an even better week!

Grad students DO smile! See?

Weekly Weigh In #3

Today was my third weigh in, and I’ll admit that I approached it with a somewhat pessimistic attitude. After last week’s weigh in, I was frustrated and disappointed that a week of staying on plan had gained me a gain! This morning, I got on my scale and was irritated that the number hadn’t budged in the direction I was looking for – in fact, it had stayed exactly the same. However, through my drama I knew I had to wait until I actually weighed in at the Weight Watchers meeting to make any decisions about the plan or my progress. So every time that little weight-loss rebel popped up on my shoulder, I told her to stuff it!  And happily, today I am

down 1 pound

It’s not a gigantic loss, but it’s a pound. And if you think about a pound in terms of hamburger meat, is a good chunk of blubber. I needed this little loss, because I needed an “attitude adjustment”, and now I’m encouraged to keep tracking, keep exercising, and keep losing weight.

My breakfasts as of late... Greek Yogurt, Fruit and Coffee. 5 points!

I’ll admit – this weekend will have challenges. I’m visiting my friend Monique in Seattle (She’s getting her Master’s in Social Work at U-Dub – cool!) and I tend to get a little out of control when I’m out of town and having fun. Wine, popcorn, dining out – these are the traps into which I often fall. But she’s also health conscious and I think we’ll try and hold each other accountable and get some exercise into our days. I’m now down 3.2 pounds in three weeks, and next week I’d love to hit five pounds.

So yay! Weight Watchers is working! I’m working! It’s working! Sometimes, a little encouragement is all you need!

 

Taking it slow in SLO

Love Birds

Hey everyone! I have just returned from a lovely mini-vacation with my husband at the awesome Madonna Inn, a themed hotel off the 101 freeway in San Luis Obispo. Matt got me a night in the Love Birds room for our first wedding anniversary in August, along with a signature massage at the Madonna Inn Spa. As a christmas present for him, I got him a massage – so we ended up getting a couples massage to end our awesome mini vacation. Ahhhh.

Avila Beach

On our way to the Madonna Inn, we stopped at the lovely Avila Beach to walk the pier and explore. It was about 65 degrees and kids were splashing in the waves while the ocean breeze cleared our minds as we strolled along the pier. After our walk, we stopped into a little candy shop and bought one of my personal favorites, salt water taffy!

Salt water Taffy

After Avila we checked into the delightfully gaudy and tacky, yet somehow charmingly cute Madonna Inn. The Love Birds room had awesome parrot wallpaper, a fainting couch and floral and bird nest vine light fixtures.

Love Birds at Madonna Inn

My personal favorite part of the room was the bathroom – decked out with a heated toilet and bidet and rock shower! Let me tell you – a heated toilet seat has made its way to the list of “things I want in my dream house when I’m rich”. Nothing like toasty buns!

Heated Potty!

In true Matt and Alyssa fashion, we decided to blow off plans for a fancy dinner in favor of an American nostalgic classic – DRIVE IN MOVIES!!!!!! We drove past it on the way to our hotel and I freaked out, because I haven’t been to the drive ins in years, and Matt had never been! We stopped by Trader Joe’s and loaded up on our picnic dinner of sourdough baguette, cheese, salami, olive tapenade, chocolate berries, orangina, popcorn, wine and cupcakes. It was quite a spread and gave me quite a tummy ache, but that’s a story for Wednesday’s blog re: over indulgence. Can you believe it was a total of $17.50 for two people to see two movies with a bag of large popcorn? UNREAL! Movies here are $11.75 a piece!

Goodies

The first movie was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and I know why they’re called Mission Impossible – because watching them all the way through is impossible. I made it about half way before the cheesy action scenes did me in and I caught up on Words with Friends. Best part about a drive in movie? You can text, talk, stretch, snort or harass your movie-mate as much as you want, because you’re in the comfort of your own car! After Ghost Protocol, the awesome vintage snack song came on for a brief intermission and then “We Bought a Zoo” started. We Bought a Zoo isn’t movie of the year or anything, but it was cute and charming and had  a fun storyline.

My lovebird

After the movies we went back to the Madonna, where I climbed into the nest (comfy king bed) and conked out. In the morning, we woke up for our couples massage, had a blissful rub down, and then had an AMAZZZZZZING breakfast the Madonna Inn Copper Cafe. I seriously have not had a biscuit so incredible in… a long time. They were fluffy and sweet, topped with a drizzle of honey butter, and their smoked bacon reminded me of home (Hi Dad!).

Copper Cafe Breakfast

After breakfast, our full bellies and blissed-out bodies piled into the stinky car (smelled like olives, popcorn and salami) and drove back to our smoggy valley home. All in all it was a beautiful, relaxing weekend. It’s so important to shake things up every once in awhile and get a break from things like laundry, grocery shopping, Facebook and Twitter. I feel refreshed and revived and ready for the new week (and ready to start tracking – our first Weight Watchers meeting is FINALLY on Thursday!).

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo – it was awesome! Did you have a great weekend, too?

Midwestern Magic, Part 2

Grandma and I

After leaving the Wisconsin Dells, we arrived in Maplewood, MN around 5 pm – perfect time for a barbeque! It was great seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins – and my sweet grandmother, who’s turning 90 in a few weeks but still has a razor-sharp wit. My dad was grilling up salmon burgers and cranberry walnut bratwurst, and the table was heaping with apple ambrosia dip, roasted potatoes, smoked salmon and three types of pie. We ate and then sat around being merry – here’s proof.

Some of you reading this blog know that I’m a big klutz – and if you don’t, well, you do now. As I oohed and ahhed over the beautiful handcrafted doll house at my grandmother’s house, somehow my big old booty bumped into a little TV tray and sent diet coke splashing everywhere. Thankfully everyone was cool about it and helped me blot at the carpet, but how embarrassing! My butt apparently has a mind of its own – thank god it doesn’t have its own zip code. (Just a few days later my butt took down a plate of grilled cheese. I guess my butt is striking back for being sat upon all these years.)

Top the Tater

After the BBQ, I had a strange craving… for TOP THE TATER! You folks in the Midwest might know what this is – a sour cream dip filled with chives and other herbal seasonings. My cousin Sarah bought some once with Old Dutch potato chips (locally made in Minnesota) and I was hooked by the salty, creamy combination. I figured… when in Minnesota, do as the Minnesotans do – so I splurged at 11 pm (come on now, only 9 pm Cali time) and bought some Old Dutch and Top the Tater to eat in solitary bliss in my hotel room. Yeah, yeah – bad weight loss blogger (HONEST weight loss blogger!).

A classic photo I found in my Grandma's album - hopefully this is the ONLY topless picture of me on the internet!

The next day we spent at my Grandma’s house catching up, looking at old photos and helping her with some household stuff – I learned how to properly wash windows. Did you know that the correct way to wash windows is to wipe downwards on one side, and then wipe horizontally on the other? No streaks! We relaxed over lunch and told old stories – and then we were back in the car with my dad, heading to Chicago to see my cousin Becky get married! Come back Monday to read about her awesome and unusual midnight wedding snack!

Midwestern Magic, Part 1

Wisconsin Dells in October

Matt and I began our trip by flying into Chicago… and then renting a car and driving four hours away. DOH! Here’s why. My grandmother and lots of other family members live in Minnesota. Airfare was considerably higher to fly into St. Paul, for some reason, than it was to fly into Chicago. So – we rented a sexy Nissan Sentra and hightailed it to the Wisconsin Dells (halfway to my grandmother’s house in MN), where we spent the night in a seedy Super 8 and then woke up to to do some tourist stuff – including nomming on delicious Dunkin’ Donuts!

I touched the rocks as we squeezed by!

First up: An Original Wisconsin Dells Duck tour! Ducks are amphibious vehicles used in World War 2 – they’re half boat, and half truck, so they can journey on land or in water. We started our tour by splashing into the Wisconsin River – marveling at the changing leaves and awesome rock formations. The duck crawled out of the water and into the woods – through narrow rock crevices and trees like these. The tour guide was a sarcastic college student no doubt used to pleasing the more elderly of the group, so he had a good time ribbing me about my “Elton John Sunglasses” and why Matt and I weren’t hard at work unlike all the retired folks on his boat. It was fun!

Moo-ve over Wisconsin, we're comin' thru!

After our duck boat tour, we were on our way to Minnesota – but not without a stop at the “cheese factory”. Proving once again that my career in marketing communications has no effect on whether or not I fall for traditional marketing tactics, I told Matt we HAD to stop at the advertised “cheese factory” off the highway. Cheese Factory? More like tiny cheese store with no aforementioned factory and lots of cheesy (har har) tourist tsotchkes. There was, however, a chance for me to fulfill a life long dream of posing for a photo with three very mild-mannered Holstein cows. And by mild-mannered, I mean fake – because come on – what sane person  would really sit on a cow?

Bringing the bib back in style - one fried cheese curd at a time.

We picked up a bag of cheese curds for the hell of it and we were off again, with one more stop to make at the Norske Nook to pick up a blueberry pie to bring to the family. Norske Nook is a Norwegian bakery and eatery based in Osseo, WI – a tiny smear of a town with wide roads and beautiful old farm houses. As a little girl, my grandfather would take us to the Norske Nook and my sister and I would press our faces against the glass of the pie display case, oohing and ahhing over the many delicacies that lay before us. We got our giant blueberry crumble pie – and with one last stop at Culver’s for a quick lunch of butter burgers and fried cheese curds, we were off to Minnesota!

Check back on Friday to read all about our time in Minnesota – including tales of my unfortunate diet coke-butt-bump and late night adventures with Top the Tater!

PS: If you enjoy this blog (And I hope you do! If you don’t… well… *tear*) , please “like” it on Facebook at facebook.com/doublechindiary ! Big thanks to all of you that already have!