Found | Natural Wonders Cafe

While I am glad there are plenty of delicious Mexican restaurants in San Juan Bautista, I was a little bummed that there are not many places in town with a variety of healthier options.  However, a little market and cafe recently opened in SJB just a block or two from our office called the Natural Wonders Cafe.  It is a little health food market that also has a small kitchen and serves a good variety of fresh, organic meals. IMG_7420

The owner, Alma, is a very sweet middle-aged woman with a thick accent originally from Mexico City.  She is quite possibly the most hospitable person I have ever met, and also loves to chat me up when I'm there to eat lunch.

"I've done a little bit of everything and lived in a lot of different places," she explained to me on my very first visit.  She has a background in marketing, advertising, and finance but her true passion is cooking healthy, healing foods and she always wanted to run her own business to share her cooking with others.  She loves to use spices from all over the world which gives all of her dishes a unique flavor, although I have noticed that all of them have a bit of a spicy kick to them!


It is so nice to have a guilt-free place to eat if I don't pack my lunch for work, and it is also great that she has quite a few shelves with the essentials I normally have to make a separate trip to New Leaf to pick up.

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Eating there is like enjoying a meal at home - she makes everything fresh in the morning, and she's so kind and friendly that I always leave feeling warm inside with a very full belly.  My favorite dish so far is her curried chicken on a bed of baby spinach....

IMG_7430I know people don't often find themselves in San Juan Bautista since it's just a small mission town without much around it, but if you are ever in the area... please stop in and have lunch there.  She could use the support, and I want to make sure she stays in business so I don't lose my healthy lunch spot!


Crest Ranch Christmas Tree Farm

I've already got #12 checked off my Christmas bucket list!  December 1st marked 6 years together for Brent and I, and I couldn't think of a more fun and romantic way to spend the day than with all of my best friends at a Christmas tree farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Although I wasn't looking for a fresh Christmas tree, I knew Cheryl and Rob were, so I recommended Crest Ranch Christmas Tree Farm in Bonny Doon.  I went there with my neighbors during my first winter season in California, and I fell madly in love with the view of the redwood covered mountains, the dogs happily running around the farm off-leash, and the thick, abundant Christmas spirit in the air.  I think Rudy was the best part of the whole day - the joy he took in running and leaping through the trees was completely infectious and had me giggling with delight.  I took a ton of fun pictures (also make sure to check Cheryl's post), but I had even more fun helping Brent edit this video of our tree-chopping extravaganza!

Found: River Cafe in Santa Cruz

Hidden away in a small parking lot shaded by tall trees of changing colors lies the River Cafe in Santa Cruz.  In my usual last-minute fashion, Katy and I decided to head there for breakfast just days before the Groupon I'd had for year was set to expire.  It's a tiny, oddly-shaped building lacking nothing in the charm department and serves breakfast and lunch composed of all fresh, organic ingredients.  The sweet, imperfect details of the place made me feel as comfortable as if I was eating breakfast in my own home.

I had the house made granola topped with Strauss Family yogurt, fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey with a soy chai tea latte.  The food is served on mismatched antique dishes and there's plenty of room on the decking around the café to enjoy the morning light.


Mission San Juan Bautista

It's on my summer bucket list to visit as many of the California Missions as possible and I'm a bit behind, but I did get to the Mission San Juan Bautista a few weeks ago with Cheryl. The Mission San Juan Bautista, translated: Saint John the Baptist (not that I have ANY clue who that is) was founded in 1797.  It's definitely the oldest landmark I've ever been to, so  the history of the place was just so amazing to me.  Although, Brent quickly squelched my lovely vision of its history by telling me the Native Americans were enslaved and forced to build the mission, forced to farm the lands, and forced to worship there.  Clearly I aced history class.

Bummer moment aside, we went to San Juan Bautista for the day.  We started with a really fabulous lunch at La Casa Rosa... check Cheryl's blog post for the details.

We visited a few antique shops (of course), then moved on to the mission.

The building and grounds are really beautiful in an imperfect, primitive way...

Especially the gardens with the wild chickens!

I think my favorite parts of the mission were the doors and windows...

The little details like the rustic floorboards and old books on display really made me feel connected to the history of the mission and the people who once lived and worshiped there.

This visit wet my appetite to visit few more of the missions in this area!

Boulder Dam Hotel

I suppose being in a long distance relationship isn't all bad... especially when you have a sweet boyfriend who turns a simple monthly visit into a weekend getaway at a historic little hotel just off the beaten path in Boulder City, NV.  Built in 1933, the Boulder Dam Hotel had a very old fashioned, welcoming air about it.  It reminded me of one of those beautiful estate homes in the south with the tall white pillars...

...and a warm, inviting sitting room.

Brent booked us a suite and the friendly receptionist was delighted to inform us we were lucky enough to get the Art Deco suite.   I felt like I stepped into a little apartment in Chicago in the 1920s - the decor definitely had a theme, but it wasn't overdone or tacky.  And I loved that we got a real key to the room!

The first floor of the hotel houses the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which detailed the history of the town, the people who flocked there in desperate need of employment during the Great Depression, and the building of the Hoover Dam.

After we toured the museum (admission is included with the room), I took the opportunity to check out all of the little boutiques and antique shops that lined the streets around the hotel.  I stopped by the Boulder Dam Brewing Company to pick up dinner and a growler of Hefeweizen, went back to the hotel, took a bubble bath, and finished a good book.  I fell in love with the little town and would love to go back... I can only imagine how cute the town and hotel are when they are all lit up for Christmas!

Found: Tarpy's Roadhouse

Picking Cheryl and Rob up from the Monterey airport a few weeks ago gave us a great excuse to swing by my favorite lunch spot just down the street... Tarpy's Roadhouse.  It's in an old building just off the Monterey Salinas Highway named after an Irish immigrant that settled in the area back in 1851, Matt Tarpy.  It's history is only part of the charm... check out the beautiful patio!

Oh yea, about the food.  Let's just say they know how to plate a great meal.  That's a burger under the giant pile of delicious goodies...

Found: Aptos Farmers Market

I love spending Saturday mornings at the farmers market in Aptos.  There's just something about getting up early, feeling the crisp air, and sampling fruit fresh from the farm that puts me in the right mind for the weekend - to really relax and enjoy myself without being a total bum.  There is a definite pattern I follow - Saturdays up early at the farmers market makes for a more productive, fun-filled weekend, whereas those Saturday mornings spent watching a movie and eating a heavy breakfast usually leave me in bed all day.  This is definitely the way to go... All of the fresh, beautiful food motivates me to cook and try new recipes incorporating more fruits and veggies.

My favorite store has even set up a booth recently, where they bring in lots of fabulous merchandise and host monthly seminars on things like beekeeping, making your own cheese, and caring for your own chickens.

I usually spend most of my cash on fresh flowers to fill my cottage...

Alright, alright... I'll admit it - the real reason I go is to eat this massive loaded baked potato for breakfast.  My thighs are crying, but my mouth is so happy!

I finally got a farmers market basket to make shopping easier than with a shoulder strap tote bag - I really love it!  I even shop with it at the grocery store now, too.

By the way, this picture was taken 0.01 seconds after I brought it home... surprise, surprise.

Found: Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

I can check #8 off of my summer bucket list Cheryl and I had a girls day last weekend, and we made a visit to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History to see the "All You Need Is Love" exhibit.  I really enjoyed the visit and was so touched by the message of the exhibit! My favorite room was the first one we visited - it was filled with historical and modern-day love stories from around Santa Cruz...

... a "I love fill-in-the-blank" chalkboard wall - on which (of course) Cheryl and I had to leave our mark!

One wall inside the room asked attendants to write their answer on the wall to the question "what is the craziest thing you've ever done for love?"

...and there were some interesting responses!  Cheryl left a message, too.

I had to leave the room when my favorite Ben Folds love song "The Luckiest" came on because it was just all too much and I wasn't prepared to cry in public.

Moving on to the largest room, we found it filled with large-scale art pieces, photographs, historical artifacts, and so much more... all in keeping with the seemingly limitless love theme.

The tears came back again when I saw the love stories people shared about their furry family members...

I think I enjoyed the interactive features of the exhibit the most... they really got me thinking and sparked some great conversations between Cheryl and I (not that we need much help in that department).

We took the "What's your love style?" quiz... and it was surprisingly accurate, I think!  Whichever color bead you moved over most correlated to the key on the wall describing your love style.  I moved the most pink beads over... my love style was Agape, with a side of mania - ha!  Interesting, considering I don't want to have children!When we got to the 3rd floor of the exhibit, I was delighted to see there was an arts and crafts station to make our own love collage!

There is also a permanent exhibit on the history of Santa Cruz I found very fascinating.  "Where the Redwoods Meet the Sea" - the best description I can think of for this magical place!

I loved the time we spent here, and I really can't wait to see what the next exhibit will be after this one is done in July!

Found: The Farm Bakery Cafe

My friend Olive introduced me to The Farm Bakery Cafe in Aptos - a perfect little lunch spot filled with fresh soups, sandwiches, baked goods, and a gift shop packed with all sorts of goodies. The general atmosphere is a clean, sunny building filled with tables in colorful tablecloths and fresh flowers.

I always order the club:

My favorite part is (of course) all of the treasures in the gift shop.

Love this little place!

Found: Mountain Feed & Farm Supply

Ben Lomond (just a hop, skip, and a jump up Highway 9 from my cottage in Felton) is home to one of my absolute favorite shops - Mountain Feed & Farm Supply. This place is unlike any other nursery/kitchen goods/gift shop/pet store... it might just be the only place like it that I've ever encountered!  We discovered it one day when Dad and Kim were visiting and we were exploring the mountain towns along Highway 9.  It was one of those, "OoO what's that place... PULL OVER!!" moments - and I am so glad we did!

First of all, they have little kitties that live all around the property - I was immediately sold on the place for this fact alone.

...and then I saw they had a kitchen goods shop, and I contemplated moving in.

This shop is packed to the gills with millions of things I wish I could stash into my little cottage kitchen.

I can literally feel my hoarder genes tingling in this place.

The entire staff is incredibly friendly and excited to be there, too.

There's also a gift shop - I did almost all of my Christmas shopping here.  And around Christmas time they were serving hot apple cider... it's like this place is something out of a storybook.

They carry lots of locally made goods - this soap is amazing.  I've used the honey & almond and the lavender... they smell absolutely divine.

Lots of bud vases, bags and hidden treasures...

The majority of the property is a nursery filled with lush plants, unique potting benches made from old wood accented with stained glass windows and many other fun little details...



Flashback Friday - Camping in Big Sur

I have a lot of posts and pictures to catch up on, so I thought Flashback Friday would be a good idea to highlight some things from recent past. Plus I love alliteration, so why not. I took a week of vacation a few months ago when I knew Brent had a break from his rounds and would be visiting.  We had no plans for the week, so we spontaneously decided to drive down to Big Sur and camp for the night.  A co-worker of mine had recommended I check out Kirk Creek campground (about 30 minutes south of Big Sur) so I had a feeling that's where we would end up.  We got lucky and scored the last available campsite in the small, unmarked campground and pulled up just before a few other carfulls of people scoured the grounds for available spots.  It was obvious why this place was full... it sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean, with a wide-angled view of the surrounding coast.  I have a feeling I will be heading back there again - the view was incredible and it was a nice, quiet little location.  I highly recommend it if you're ever in the Big Sur area!

I'm dying to go back again.  I definitely want to make this a regular habit - it's only an hour and a half drive, and it's without a doubt the most breathtaking place I've ever seen!

West Cliff Drive ~ Santa Cruz

One of my favorite spots here to get a quick dose of relaxation, great atmosphere and a beatiful view is West Cliff drive in Santa Cruz.  It's an easy place to drive to just to soak up some beauty and watch the sunset and surfers.  There are always people walking cute dogs, sitting playing music or just quietly taking in the scenery.  Here are a few shots from when Brent and I stopped by one night after I got off work a couple of weeks ago - such a great way to end the day, and a reminder of how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place!