Saturday, January 11, 2014

I love visitors!

Within the past few months, I have been lucky enough to have some important people in my life come visit me in Monterey. Here's a little recap:


My parents and brother spent a week here and celebrated Turkey Day with me as sea lions barked in the background. We were able to spend a lot of time together - catching up, hanging out, eating, walking, relaxing, driving, hiking, etc. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to spend with my family and it was fun to be in warmer weather instead of the bitter cold of IL.

Thanksgiving lunch at Old Fisherman's Grotto on Fisherman's Wharf! My mom had the crab and the rest of us had the turkey. We all had the wine (of course!)

This was my dessert - I know, I know. I normally don't even like pie, but this pecan pumpkin with vanilla bean ice cream was outta this world.

After lunch - we visited the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The jellies were my favorite!

One day, we did a whale watching boat cruise in the bay. There were thousands of jellyfish in the water, and we also saw sea lions, dolphins, and many humpback whales.

I was in awe - whales are the most amazing creatures.

Other highlights of the trip included Pinnacles National Park, 17 Mile Drive, Jack's Peak, and many, many delicious meals. Thanks for visiting, family!

Christmas Break:

My, oh, my was I happy to have a break from school. I had three weeks off and I did my fair share of relaxing, cooking/baking, exploring, and sleeping and it was glorious. I spent the first 10 days by myself and I worked quite a few hours at my on-campus job. It was so nice to come home at night and not have to do homework.

For the last 10 days of break, Jerrod came to visit! We hadn't seen each other in over four months and it was a happy and much needed reunion :)  Instead of just hanging out in Monterey, we rented a car and explored some parts of CA that neither of us had seen before, visited friends, and spent quite a lot of time outside.

Here are some highlights:

We got some surprise boxes in the mail that definitely put us in the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Eve dinner was spent nomming on sushi - we devoured 38 pieces. That's gotta be record breaking for two people (although Jerrod ate most of it).

We also saw The Hobbit on Christmas Eve (I didn't fall asleep during this one. Much better than the first!) Later that afternoon, we headed down Highway One to catch the sunset (I would drive down the highway everyday if I could - one of my favorite things about living in central CA.)

Following Christmas, we headed up to San Francisco for the day. As we got into the car, we both realized we had no set destination or plans, so by the time we entered the city, we ended up getting lost. I wanted to visit a certain coffee shop, so we plugged that into the GPS, and it landed us in a hip, trendy neighborhood that ended up being a perfect stop for lunch and coffee. We also made sure to see the Golden Gate Bridge because you can't go to SF without at least one picture, right? 

Best latte I've ever had - thanks Blue Bottle Coffee!

Later that night, Jerrod and I met our good friends Libby and Jack for dinner at Magnolia's Pub & Brewery- they picked the perfect spot: homemade fried chicken, beer, good conversation, and a whole lot of reminiscing. Following dinner, J and I did a night drive over the GG bridge - no traffic, twinkling city lights, and an open highway ahead of us. 

The next few days were spent in Northern California (which has completely stolen my heart - I cannot express how beautiful it is.) The drives are stunning, the vineyards are endless, and coffee shops are everywhere. We met up with my friend Abby and her boyfriend, Doug, and headed into the wilderness of the Lost Coast (and I say wilderness because we were far from civilization!) 

Before heading into the wilderness, a little somethin' somethin' happened that I don't think any of us were expecting. Actually, I don't think - I know. Obviously we needed food to eat the next couple of days so we headed into a grocery store. As we headed out with our bags, our eyes were immediately widened at the sight of a tub of puppies sitting outside the door. That's right - a tub of puppies. Of course we oo'd and aw'd over them because they were adorable. Walking away, Jerrod stopped, walked back, picked up a puppy, said, "I'm getting a puppy," and well, that's that. We got a puppy who needed a good home (as the guy who was practically giving them away didn't look so good.) 

Say hello to Massey...
It has recently been confirmed that Massey is a Pitbull/Shar Pei mix (also referred to as a Sharpull). Look at those wrinkles! We hope that he keeps those as he grows. 

After a puppy entered our life, we faced reality again and headed into the wild. The poor little guy was scared, shaky, and uncomfy in the car, but that didn't last long - we finally got his tail shaking and it hasn't stopped since. What I'm about to show you is the six(ish) mile long road that we had to eventually drive on in order to get to our campground. 

Did you enjoy the drive? Gorgeous isn't it? [Mom - I'm sure you're happy I didn't share this with you prior to going, eh? : )] In normal CA winter, it rains on the coast, but there has barely been any rain this is quite obvious that this road would not be driveable in rain. Eek!

We camped at the Usal Beach Campground in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and it was amazing. We tented under gigantic Redwoods, we were a short walk to a black sand empty beach, and the fresh air felt so refreshing. The beach was also home to some gigantic elk...and holy moly...we saw them fight! You always see those things on TV or on Planet Earth, but to witness that in person was fascinating. Their antlers make a distinct sound as they crash and twist with each others. So neat. Jerrod and Doug later saw some irresponsible, picture-taking campers get a little too close and get charged by one. ACK! No thanks. I kept my distance. 

The stunning Usal Beach at sunset

Our camp food was delicious - Doug and Abby were amazing and brought a whole car load of gear for us (as Jerrod and I both flew to CA and couldn't exactly pack our own stuff into our suitcases.) Thanks to them, we were able to stock up on stuff that we could keep chilled in the cooler. Ribs, sausages, bacon, beer [all you really need, right?]...and veggies, fruit, lunch food, and cookies...and dog food! Campfire food is unlike anything else in the world, am I right? Oomph. So good.

Taking a brand new puppy into the wild to camp and hike for two days isn't normal, but our little guy was a CHAMP! We were so impressed - he loved it. We did a pretty long hike one day and he was either trotting/running alongside us, plopped in J or I's arms, snuggled inside Doug's flannel, or squirming inside my backpack...

A view from the hike - you can see some fog hanging out - so pretty!

Other highlights from the trip: multiple drives down Highway 1, photography adventures, New Years dinner in Carmel, NYE with a bunch of my friends, seeing/teaching/watching/learning/exploring/running with Massey, cold brew coffee dates, endless amounts of food, and so much more! Here's a few more photos to end this post. Cheers!

Happy NYE!

Exploring the beach (which he LOVED!)

This little love is back in Texas with Jerrod now. He's living the ranch life for a couple of months and is loving it. I'm looking forward to seeing both of them and my family & friends in a few months! 

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