5 California Getaways from The LA Travel Show.

*Photos courtesy of Classic California and Visit Redding.

This past weekend I was thrilled to head out to The LA Travel and Adventure Show and in between representing IFWTWA at our booth, got to connect and learn about some great sights to discover and the ones I hope to get to again soon. I was so happy to see several California destinations and thought I would highlight five of my picks for traveling in our great Golden State!

CAMARILLO

From world-famous shopping (The Camarillo Premium Outlets) to wineries, golfing and monthly food festivals (Camarillo Ranch Throw back Thursday Food Festival), Camarillo is an adorable gem of a community in Ventura County with year-round great weather and small town vibes. Perfect for a laid back weekend, and next door to Ventura Harbor Village and Oxnard. (Speaking of Oxnard, check out their Salsa Festival coming this Summer!)

BUELLTON

Often considered the “gateway to The Santa Ynez Valley”, Buellton was once seen as a pit stop town and where you go for Pea Soup Anderson’s. Nowadays, Buellton is love and respected for its wineries, breweries and, of course, great food. Along with plenty to do within 5 miles in the Santa Ynez Valley towns of Solvang and Los Olivos (as well as a terrific place to stay near Solvang), Buellton is also a great option if you are traveling with an RV and want to hook up at Flying Flags RV Resort.

Photo I took afew years back in Pismo Beach

 

PISMO BEACH

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you might recall I adore trips up Highway 101 with stops to search for mermaids and sea life in both Shell Beach and Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach is in the middle of the Central Coast of California and much like Big Sur, boasts some of the best views and sunsets. Whether you want to surf, bike, hike, or wine and dine (and shop), Pismo Beach is a dream come true.

KERN COUNTY

Here is an area I am much too unfamiliar with. Kern County is where lays The San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield, Lake Isabella and an array of great sporting activities. Off road biking, rock climbing, kayaking and a slew of other adventurous outings  Perfect this time of year for snow bunnies, I look forward to perhaps paying a visit when the temps rise up for the Summer!

REDDING

I was so excited to meet the team at Visit Redding. And, a little proud they teased I should work for them, as I know this Northern California city and its surroundings quite well (thanks to my dear Ariel. Whom you have met on the blog!). From The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, to nearby Mount Shasta and Burney Falls, Redding is another fantastic option when you are searching for The Great Outdoors. It is one of my favorite areas of California to visit.

Where in California will YOU head next?! xo

 

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters Comes to Forest Lawn Glendale.

While cemeteries and memorial parks may bring some sort of solace and tranquility to some, most do not look at them as a venue to find beauty and enjoyment. If you take a visit to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, be prepared to leave with a new sense of meaning to graveyards. Forest Lawn is unlike any other resting place you have ever visited.

When Melanie from LA Explorer invited me along to the preview of Forest Lawn Museum’s newest exhibit, David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters, I was instantly in as I love Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself, and knew this would be a fabulous event to be apart of. Yet, what was mainly on my mind was the fact that Forest Lawn has a museum. A museum, at a graveyard?!

Pulling into Forest Lawn off of Glendale Avenue, a friendly face greets you at the drive up information center, and I was shortly given a map to assist me as I headed up a very large and beautiful hill to the top where the museum, church and Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings were at.

Views from the top.

As someone who has a very strong fear of death, it was humbling and somewhat comforting to be on such a beautiful road covered with world-class sculptures, statues and landscaping all around me. There certainly are moments you may forget for a second just where you are, and then you will be reminded as mourners pass you by. Forest Lawn has created a beautiful atmosphere for the living to enjoy, while still having all due respect to those there to grieve.

When I arrived at the top to the museum, I was taken aback by the views of Los Angeles. They rivaled Griffith Park, if not even better. All of our rain that has helped clear up our California drought  also adds to the fantastic views and clear, blue skies!

Entering their small museum, I was struck by the pieces on display; definitely “quality over quantity”  as I got to see an un-canny Mark Twain sculpture and vibrant stained glass windows.

Boasting a fun gift shoppe, I was my typical self and just had to get something in honor of David Bowie. I grabbed an adorable Ziggy Stardust make-up bag, and word is they will also soon carry Bowie tee’s.

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters chronicles Bowie’s first and only time playing in Mexico City 20 years ago. World-renowned rock and jazz photographer, Fernando Aceves, was at one of the legend’s concert in his home base on assignment. When Bowie opened the newspaper the next morning and loved the shots captured from the performance, he gave Aceves a call and invited him to come hang out with him and the tour mates while they were in town to document their visit.

With Aceves on hand at the preview, it was fascinating to get to ask this artist what it was like to hang with another brilliant creator. Affectionately referring to Bowie as “The Guy”, Aceves appreciated getting to know the human behind the legend; While David Bowie was the ultimate Renaissance Man, he was also real, which is what is painfully captured in these photographs; Bowie having fun, sipping his coffee. There was more more behind the creator, in between making music history time and time again.

Once these men were acquainted, on Bowie’s agenda was to visit and appreciate some of the most famous landmarks in Mexico City that paid homage to muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, as well as take in the beauty at the Frida Kahlo Museum and the pyramids of Teotihuacan. In Aceves photographs are glimpses in to several of these moments. There are the fun, laid back shots, as well as several showing Bowie in awe as he is, indeed, among the Mexican masters.

Fernando Aceves and Forest Lawn’s Art Curator introduce the exhibit.

With such a rich history between Mexico and Los Angeles, it is only fitting the the first stop on this exhibition tour is to Forest Lawn. Open daily from 10am to 5pm (excluding Mondays), David Bowie: Aming the Mexican Masters, will proudly be on display until June 1st. Learn more about the exhibit and both Bowie and Aceves, HERE.

And, after you check out the Bowie exhibit, no visit to Glendale’s Forest Lawn is complete without seeing the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings. These are the largest religious paintings in the Western Hemisphere, and this was a moment that left me speechless. On top of the massive size of these paintings, you can imagine my shock when we told that a curtain was hiding more of the art. I was not even seeing its entirety! The building they are housed in was built FOR these paintings, and are displayed in a theatre venue-like setting with a 20 minute video about its process and the paintings, shown throughout the day.

With free admission and parking, it’s no wonder that Yahoo Travel named The Forest Lawn Museum one of the best 10 free museums in the nation.There is something for everyone to see. Learn more and plan your visit HERE.

(*Disclosure: A special thanks to Forest Lawn and LA Explorer for having me at this media event. All opinions are my own.)

A Sunday Brunch at Copper Blues Oxnard!

I think it is safe to say I love me a great Sunday fun day brunch. There’s nothing like knowing you can enjoy that extra hour (or two) of sleeping in and lounging, then still be able to catch a great late breakfast or early lunch paired with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. Michael and I were able to do just this when Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen invited us out to see what makes their brunch ROCK harder than any others!

Following a gorgeous drive up Highway 101 to Oxnard, we arrived at the city’s beautiful shopping center. Boasting department stores, movie theatre, top notch dining and, of course, Copper Blues and their partner, Levity Live Comedy Club. Which are conveniently located next to one another.

Entering Copper’s feels more like a rock club than a restaurant, but don’t be fooled: They know how to do both, and how to do it right. Murals and portraits of famous musicians adorn every wall (Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, Keith Richards, just to name a few) while the ladies room had framed song sheets of such hit songs as Blondie’s Call Me. Everywhere you turn in Copper’s, there is something to see. And, that is to say nothing of their food.

Beautiful fountain and views out front. Photo: Michael Farah.

Copper’s is very gluten free friendly! Photo: Michael Farah.

Getting to chat with the Management team, I was fascinated to learn that EVERYTHING at each Copper Blues is made daily from scratch. From the Bloody Mary mix  to their apple and fennel sauce, it is made with love in house. Thus, making each bite taste more like a home-cooked meal than a restaurant.

While I opted for an order of their endless mimosa (which I was warned is mostly champagne. I wasn’t complaining), Michael was eager to take advantage of their Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar! Your server brings you your glass with ice and alcohol, then you’re off on your own to make your concoction however you like. Less mix, more bacon? More spice, less celery? It is all up to you. Not being a big fan of the spicy favorite, I had to try Michael’s (which mind you had bacon in it. I tried that too and it was an epic moment of flavor) and for once, I found a Bloody Mary tolerable. I think it is all about the mix and Copper’s does an excellent recipe.

While we awaited our main dishes, the team insisted we try their brunch staple, Bibimbap. Having not had this dish much, I was intrigued. At first look, it appeared to be some hot rice with an egg on top. After one bite? I could have ordered 2 more bowls of this! Filled with savory flavor and spices, kimchi and the option of bacon (Vegetarian for me), their Bibimbap was delicious and certainly a signature dish.

Bibimbap. Photo: Michael Farah.

Cajun Shrimp Benedict. Photo: Michael Farah.

While we awaited our breakfast plates, the live music set began. At Copper’s, they are not joking when they say they are a Blues Kitchen. Behind their full bar that looks out onto the restaurant, a stage rests there, right in the middle of the action. As the great Sunday morning band began, they combined dynamic energy while taking great takes on popular covers that made them their own. An energetic and fun cover of Sunshine in my Pocket while sipping my 2nd (or 3rd) Mimosa made for a great afternoon!

Michael ordered The Cajun Shrimp Benedict while I tried out the Smoked Salmon Omelet with a side order of their Potato Latkes. That is correct, friends, they have Potato Latkes that ARE gluten free! Along with that apple and fennel dipping sauce, I had to ask if the accompanying sour cream was also made in house. I was shocked its one of the few items that is not! Not being a huge sour cream fan, this was delicious and fresh.

Both our seafood dishes were hearty and just what we needed given the bottomless alcohol we were enjoying. Along with Copper’s weekly brunch, make sure to check them out for their “Wine Down” evenings, karaoke and fun to be had before and after you catch some comedy next door.

I am so excited to have a new go-to spot for brunch, and can’t wait to return to Copper’s. Visit them HERE and make sure to let them know Along Comes Mary sent you! 😉 xo

 

A First Time Visit to Hearst Castle!

Along on our recent NorCal weekend trek that took us to Thomas Hill and Linn’s, another highlight was my invite to at last visit The Hearst Castle. Being a California native, its a bit embarrassing that the castle has been on my to-do list FOREVER. Michael had not been, either, and off we headed to the gorgeous San Simeon for our Grand Room Tour!

With each tour lasting about an hour, we were due for at 2:20pm. That gave us ample time to enjoy Cambria’s Moon Stone Beach that morning. Nestled in San Simeon, Hearst Castle is about a 30 minute drive from Paso Robles and Cambria. A gorgeous ride over Highway 1 took us to the Visitor’s Center where you not only check in for your tour, but, the center also boasts a great cafeteria-dining style cafe, coffee stand, a beautiful boutique as well as their Hearst Castle theatre.

Reminding me a bit of my recent visit to Graceland, your castle tour begins on a bus ride up a stunning winding hill to reach the top of vista where, you guessed it, the castle lays. During our ride up, our guided tour begins with Paso Robles resident and Jeopardy host himself, Alex Trebek, giving visitors a glimpse into the rich history and the depths of William Randolph Hearst and his remarkable empire.

Arriving at The Visitor’s Center.
Photo: Michael Farah.

These views!
Photo: Michael Farah.

Tennis courts. Photo: Michael Farah.

Once we arrived, our Grand Tour quickly began with our insightful and resourceful host. He had a difficult task right out the gate as to explain where the infamous Hearst Castle pool is. It is indeed there, but, well, empty and under construction. The castle’s pool is so famous that he admitted many visitors are led to believe their tour is simply that of the POOL, and, not much else!

Made legendary (and what many think of when they hear of Hearst Castle) by souvenirs and stock photos, Mr. Hearst was known to simply “patch up” the pool over the years. So much, that major damage had occurred and was causing the grounds to be draining thousands of pounds of water a day. Now that a contractor has been decided by the city, you can rest assured that plans to have the pool restored by this year are under way.

As we moved on, I adored seeing the gardens and some of the guest bungalows where the castle’s staff and help resided. Throughout the grounds, sculptures and art adorn left and right. A very indicator that The Hearst’s were living quite comfortably as they built their home and, ultimately, a museum!

Our Grand Tour highlighted the party and grand rooms of the castle; where the holiday parties were held and the impressive dining room. Immediately, when you enter their grand dining room, you cannot help but have Harry Potter come to mind and, sure enough, the designers from the trilogy themselves visited Hearst Castle for inspiration and even pursued filming there. While the castle was unable to accommodate those Hollywood requests, the essence and looks are nearly un-canny. Hogwarts may just be alive and well on The Central Coast 😉

The Grand Living Room was spectacular. Decked out for Christmas time, each year the castle re-creates just how the Hearst’s had their home sparkle at the holidays…

Photo: Michael Farah.

The Dining Room Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

As our hour concluded, our last stop is an intimate theatre to watch some rare home movies and clips of William Hearst and the family. With all tour admissions, you are also able to watch an hour long film back at The Visitor’s Center.

With the castle as massive as it is, its understandable why their tours are split up into hour tours. Many visitors opt for more than one tour on a visit which can easily be planned. I would definitely recommend this if you are in search of seeing more of the common areas or bedrooms. The Grand Tour is certainly a great first timer’s visit as you get to learn about the pools, the Hearst family and their lavish hosting rooms.

To learn more and plan your visit to The Hearst Castle, mosey on over HERE to learn more! xo

A Gluten Free Haven at Linn’s Restaurant.

During my time living up on the Central Coast of California in the Santa Ynez Valley, I always loved any chance I got to head to Cambria. Cambria is 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 230 miles south from San Francisco. A humble, small town, Cambria is known for their stunning Moonstone Beach, as well as their annual Scarecrow Festival and a great Main Street drag of restaurants.

One of their dining staples is the absolute gem of a cafe, Linn’s. Linn’s Restaurant is known for their “Olallieberry”; a Youngberry crossed with a Loganberry. The primary fruit grown on their beautiful farm nearby, a Olallieberry tastes similar to the Knotts’ famous Boysenberry, or blackberry. While very tart, it did not provoke any crazy  “lip smacking” and was a great sweet treat…on the MANY dishes I recently got to experience on a visit to Linn’s!

Heading in on a rainy Sunday, we were quickly greeted by our Hostess, Kim and while the place was bustling, she assured us it would be less than a 20 minute wait. We were so engrossed with their bakery and gift shoppe that it felt more like a 5 minute wait. All decked out and ready for the holidays, Linn’s shoppe may not be ample, yet, they manage to have enough variety and beautiful adornments that you feel inside a proper department store.

Just a glimpse of their gift shoppe.

 

Gluten Free Olallieberry Muffin

We were soon escorted to our cozy corner table with a great window view of the rain coming down and the locals enjoying a stroll under their umbrellas. Mr. Linn himself, Aaron, soon came over to greet us and was an absolute delight to chat with. A Cambria native, The Linn’s have been operating their restaurant and farm since the 1980’s. If you want to know anything about Cambria and their townspeople, go have a chat with Aaron and he can fill you in on the what/where/when of the town. Great guy!

They’re also not shy to encourage you to try the entire menu. I was very excited to head to Linn’s as nearly everything is gluten-free (or they will gladly assist you if an item is not). Aaron’s Mom has Celiac, so they know first hand the excitement  you feel when you hear “Olallieberry Chocolate Brownie Cake….Gluten Free” or, my personal favorite: warm bread baskets that are gluten-free brought to your table.

We began our food journey with one of their most famous appetizers, their Ocean Rose Farm Abalone. Having not recalled experiencing Albalone, I was anxious to see why this is such a special dish. One bite, and I knew. Locally sourced Albalone from nearby Cayucos is served with two hazelnut encrusted medallions, lemon-thyme beurre blanc and a decadent jicama-jalapeño slaw. While not a gluten-free dish, simply mention if you need it to be, and they adjust the encrusted medallions for you. Perfection!

Albalone.

Moon Stone Beach Omelette.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Hearst Ranch Hamburger.
Photo: Michael Farah.

With so much already having gone down (chats with the locals, gluten-free galore, great coffee, great atmosphere), it was time for Mike and I to make our big decision: Whats for lunch?! I decided to take advantage of a late breakfast (Weekends they serve it until 2pm, other days, 12p) and try one of their favorite omelettes, The Moon Stone Beach with an abundance of Shrimp, Dungeness crab, tomato, green onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. While Mike decided on an old reliable: their Hearst Ranch Beef Cheese Burger with fries.

The Moon Stone omelette was to die for. The seafood so fresh, I would imagine it could have been caught that morning, while the flavor combinations of the cheese and veggies enhanced it perfectly. Mike enjoyed his burger, and the presentation was gorgeous and made it hard to want to dig in (Just a little….).

We were very stuffed by the time we had many options for dessert coming our way….check out what Aaron and staff insisted we try….

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

See all this, folks? Mike and I were able to get it all down…and, as some of you know, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I am pleased to say with the proper amount of insulin injections that day, I was able to keep my sugars in a  good range! I truly thought this could be my last supper. Death of a sugar rush. And, what a great last supper it would have been! 😉

First up, was that irresistible chocolate brownie concoction, followed by their famous Pecan Chew Cookie Delight with Linn’s Pecan Chew Cookie, Brazilian Coffee ice cream, house made caramel sauce, candied walnuts and just a little real whipped cream. Bravo!

 While I could continue to share my love for Linn’s, I will end here, and trust that you will do yourself a favor and head to Linn’s next time you are in Cambria. Learn more about them HERE and make sure to tell them Along Comes Mary sent you! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Linn’s Restaurant in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own and it was a phenomenal experience!)

 

Make it an Easy Morning with Overnight Chia Seed Pudding! #NOSHWithGroceryOutlet

Remember awhile back when I introduced you to Grocery Outlet? Well, folks, since then, I have been an avid shopper. Even with our closest one about 20 minutes away, you will commonly see me braving The 5 freeway to head on over.

While they have always had such a great variety of the types of foods and beauty care products I need, I was especially excited to hear that my favorite aisle at Grocery Outlet, with my gluten free crackers, cereals, and plenty of coconut oil, is officially their NOSH section.

Where else can you get Annie’s products for 99 cents?

NOSH indicates Natural, Organic, Specialty, Health. While alot of discount stores are hit/miss with healthy and organic offerings, I love that Grocery Outlet is devoted enough to make a section of these foods and treats. I headed over yesterday in search of the goods for a recipe I kept hearing I need to try: An overnight chia pudding! Both my friends and Naturopathic Doctor had recommended learning to cook with chia seeds, and I can see why:  A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1, 2):

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia seeds are also high in fiber (which actually comes from the carb content), protein and a powerhouse amount of anti-oxidants. Whats not to love, right?

I found a great HUGE bag of chia seeds on the NOSH aisle, as well as everything else I needed  to try out the pudding. And, thats not all I found on my trek….

And, want to know a secret? This was all under $40!

Not only was that maple syrup under $5, but, that was also an idea for the pudding. I ended up holding off, but, feel free to add a tablespoon of maple syrup or agave to your concoction, too!

OVERNIGHT CHIA SEED PUDDING

You will need:
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup of milk (I used Almond Breeze, also on the NOSH aisle)
A glass jar (I used an old Kombucha glass bottle. Mason jars are awesome, too)

Optional:
A dash of cinnamon, vanilla
A tablespoon of maple syrup or agave

Toppings:
Berries
Peaches
Nuts
Chocolate chips

Simply mix the first 2 ingredients, shake VERY well and put in the fridge. At about a half hour, take out for one more good stir and shake, then leave in fridge til the morning. Its pretty amazing how chia seeds expand, and in the morning, you will have this:

I was in a simple blueberry mood, but, you can get as creative as you like with the AM toppings. Having just finished that bowl this morning, I will say that I feel extremely satisfied and that I had a wholesome breakfast to start my day.

Make sure to mosey on over to THIS LINK and get a $3 off coupon for Grocery Outlet to see for yourself how awesome Grocery Outlet is. What will you create? 😉

 

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Grocery Outlet, but, the content and opinions are my own.Products and prices featured may not be available at all locations. Please check your neighborhood store for more info.)

A Farm to Table Evening at Thomas Hill Organics.

A term I have noticed suddenly coming to the front burner is “Farm to Table” dining. This means that your meal is sourced from locally grown (usually organic) produce and locally raised meats. I find it especially exciting when your dish is from right outside the door of a restaurant. I was lucky to try some remarkable restaurants offering Farm to Table experiences on our trip last month to Paso Robles and The Central Coast. First up? Dinner at Thomas Hill Organics.

After an afternoon at The Hearst Castle (recap coming soon!), Michael and I were in for a real treat when we headed to Downtown Paso Robles to be guests of Thomas Hill Organics. Founded in 2009 by Debbie Thomas, Thomas Hill Organics is actually one of the first restaurants to launch with that now infamous “Farm to Table” as well as source primarily organic ingredients that are brought to your table.

Utilizing the 10 acre farm on the restaurant’s property, Thomas Hill Organics is on the tree-lined Park Street in Downtown Paso. Strolling by, the restaurant is quite un-assuming from the window front. Once you head on in your greeted warmly by an intimate wine bar that houses the front of the bistro. With cheery holiday music playing, our Hostess quickly took us to our cozy table in the back of the building, where the restaurant action takes place. While there was an outdoor area, we opted to stay in to hide from the brisk cold, but, guess what? Walking by on our way out, it felt perfectly toasty as the heat lamps burned on. I would gladly opt for the patio, next time.

Our adorable table for two was next to a window and despite it was dark outside, there still is something fun about that window seat, am I wrong? We began our evening with a glass of their house white wine (Chardonnay that night) and it was really fun to see Michael, who usually is low-key about food and wine (as to where I am pretty straightforward if I like or dislike something), say “Thats a really good glass of wine!”

With a menu that changes nearly weekly, according to what is in season and available, (what could be more fun than never knowing what you would be able to order at your favorite eatery?!) Michael and I both had our eyes on the Weekend’s specials. He ordered their spare rib while I chose the Sole fish over a bed of veggies and cream sauce. Mike’s beef was atop roasted potatoes and some of the best carrots we have ever had. Yes, carrots! Easily, one of the most memorable sides we tried there. That is how fresh and flavorful their food is; we do not usually find carrots that memorable.

The presentation to these dishes were gorgeous, and while the meal appears compact, we were FULL by the time we left…..dessert may have been involved.

Incredible Sole dinner

Mike’s spare rib.

Panna Cotta.

The moment I heard that their sweet special was a Panna Cotta with freshly picked mint leaves and mango, there was no doubt we were ordering one of my favorite desserts. The dairy favorite was sheer perfection, and the cream easily some of the most fresh I have had. It complemented both the wine and our meals perfectly.

During the week of our visit to their Paso Robles location, Debbie and her team were busy launching the second location of Thomas Hill Organics in San Luis Obispo. A half hour from Paso, this is a such brilliant addition to “SLO” that will give both residents and visitors the chance  to experience Thomas Hill’s Farm to Table approach.

Next time you find yourself in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, do yourself a favor and make a reservation. Learn more about Thomas Hill Organics HERE.

 

(*Disclosure: I was provided a meal in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own.)

 

 

I ‘Member! My Year in Pictures 2016.

(*This post may contain affiliate links.)

For the past couple of years, I have loved when I come across “Year in Pictures” articles at the end of the year. It gives me a chance to remember some fun times and think about how far I have come with opportunities blogging.

For this year, I am giving me annual Year in Review a theme: To celebrate the 20th season of South Park (one of my favorite shows) coming to Comedy Central, an exciting exhibit hit Comic Con and The Paley Media Center in LA to commemorate their best moments over the years. Michael and I were there (of course) and I got these moments…..

Then, when South Park premiered their newest (highly political!) season, a little hilarious group of ‘Member Berries made their unveiling….

These fictional fruits do nothing but dwell on the past, “‘Member Ghost busters? I ‘member!” but, it made me want to make this a funny post and theme it: I ‘member! 😉

FOOD

‘Member San Francisco? The LA Food and Wine Festival? The Taste of LA? I ‘member!

I got to sip some of the finest wineries around and sample some of the best food on the West Coast, while I could never pick a single favorite, my brunch at Linn’s Restaurant in Cambria (story coming soon), my taste of Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey at The LA Times taste Weekend, and La Costanera in Half Moon Bay. These mentions are all in California and truly represented what “great food” or “a good meal” means.

NATURE

‘Member Carmel Beach? Burney Falls State Park? The Pacific Crest Trail? I ‘member!

While I can never get enough travel and time in new surroundings, I made out pretty well getting around, if I do say so myself. As Michael and I continue to find the most fun and unique places in our home state of California, we got a real treat dodging a horrible LA rain storm our January weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and I still think of my August trip to Chico and Mount Shasta many times a week. From walking the halls of Chico State University to discovering Burney Falls and walking a small portion of the Wild infamous Pacific Crest Trail, I truly discovered a favorite new part of California.

We also got to explore the South and spent a week in Tennessee and Alabama! I found out its not at all what I had thought, and they have an amazing Botanical Gardens in Huntsville.

MEETING ICONS

Sometimes, I surprise myself at how accurate my tagline is: You never know where I will show up. Between interviews with Robert Redford, Anna Kendrick and Jack Black, I would say it was a pretty high honor to sit in the same room with music icon, Justin Timberlake, and have him answer my questions regarding the music production process of a film (He starred in this year’s Trolls as well as having written the film’s soundtrack and arranged.). I ‘member! 😉

And, I am extremely grateful that I got to attend an amazing press preview of Mr. Garry Marshall’s last film, Mother’s Day, and, as you can see, meet this movie legend….

Mary and Garry.

He was so sweet to each one of us, and it was heartbreaking to have him among those we’ve lost in this heavy hearted year of 2016.

MUSIC

Speaking of icons, little did I know how amazed I would be at seeing Elton John in Las Vegas…

And, thanks to LA Explorer, I have a new favorite LA hot spot at Rockwell Table and Stage!

Not a bad year for Along Comes Mary. I know many cannot wait for this “cursed” year to end and I hope its a wonderful, magical and PEACEFUL 2017 for all. I ‘member! xo

 

 

Staying a World Away at Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Having stayed at some of fantastic hotels throughout California, I thought I had an accurate idea of what to expect when staying at a luxury resort. Little did I know that when I pulled into The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I was about to be blown away and discover the true meaning of a “Luxury Resort.”

With an impressive slew of awards (Including multiple times on Forbes’ Best 5 Star Resorts in the World and separate mentions to their spa and Addison, the property’s restaurant as well as TripAdvisor’s #1 California Resort), The Fairmont Grand Del Mar lays within the hills of San Diego in Carmel Valley amidst Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Yet, after arriving onto their 400 acres, I could have easily been in The Mediterranean or the South of France.

While I am not one to want a fuss upon my hotel arrivals, it was hard to resist the warm welcome from the Del Mar’s staff as doors were immediately held for me, offers to park my car and take my bags were given and warm cloths were graciously handed to me for a quick refresh with the resort’s signature lemon scented soaps.

Attempting to get over the fact I felt as if I were thousands of miles from home in France or Spain, but instead just barely two hours away from Los Angeles, I made my way to guest room and could not wait to relax. I had over 500 square feet of room waiting for me!

My bedroom

My bedroom

Since I had hit the road a bit early to take in some sights and beach time in Oceanside, I had stumbled upon a great Thai cafe and took some take out to The Fairmont with me. When I inquired about a microwave in my room, the front desk no sooner ordered one to arrive right away for me, and it was there by the time I walked into my room. Every amenity I could possibly need was there and ready for me: microwave, fridge, espresso machine, mini bar, water bottles, fruit basket. And, lets not forget how exquisite my room was….

My patio view.

My patio view.

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The highlight: Nespresso machine.

After enjoying my take out, I decided to take a stroll around the lobby a bit and take in as much as I could during my visit. Downstairs, I discovered a gorgeous library and study, a lively bar and several conference rooms and banquet halls. Back in my little haven (my guest room)? I was completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle as my suite was quiet and tranquil. The fountain below my balcony cradled me to sleep!

With an early morning ahead of me to Coronado, I decided to get some shut-eye and melted into my bed. Thank goodness for my wake-up call or I may still be resting. With time to enjoy a morning walk my next morning, I enjoyed my more “laid back” second night’s sleep and awoke eager to have one last Nespresso espresso (Ok, it may have been more like a double or triple shot) and take advantage of all the amenities of my bathroom. A jacuzzi tub, marble tile shower and plenty of boutique soaps and shampoos were awaiting me!

Taking a mile loop around the grounds, there were moments I felt in the French Riviera. Then, suddenly, one of the villa’s made me feel in the Mediterranean. Stunning sculptures and statues abound. One, of Saint Francis, was in my villa’s courtyard and not too far behind was a dog station. Making me very happy that The Fairmont is pet friendly.

Beautiful statue of a Siren by one of the pools.

View of the golf course.

Gift shoppe all decked out for the holidays.

When I returned to the entrance and lobby, I had the chance to check out their numerous award winning spa center, as well as their gorgeous gift shoppe and coffee house/deli. While I stopped to consider a Starbucks drink, I did recall all the Nespresso I had already had to buzz me up. While I declined, I was so appreciative at how personable and friendly the Barista was. Everyone on staff at The Fairmont treated me like an old friend, and I felt they genuinely hoped I was enjoying my stay, and, if I were not, I can assure you they would have gone above and beyond to make everything right.

Which is one of the top reasons why I would gladly give 5 stars as well, to The Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Another perk was the diversity of their guests. I saw couples, young and old, families, with young children to grown, business professionals like myself and some girlfriends who looked to seriously be enjoying some girl time R&R. While I have certainly stayed at resorts and hotels that seem deemed “family friendly” more than others, The Fairmont ensures the entire family can stay and have a fabulous time at the resort, while all other kinds of parties would equally have the same amount of enjoyment. A definite win-win resort for all!

Something else that makes The Fairmont a must-stay is, of course, the golfing. Golfers from around the world have flocked to San Diego’s Carmel Valley. Along with their courses, you can also plan your wedding on the grounds (Hear that, Michael?! 🙂 )

No matter what your reason (or budget) for staying at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I cannot recommend this resort enough. Their selection of rooms (ranging from a 500 square feet guest room to a villa at 4500 square feet) make it affordable for different budgets while the amenities and activities make The Fairmont Resort a vacation in itself.

You can visit The Fairmont HERE and make sure to like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter!

(*Disclosure: I was provided with a stay at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar in support for this feature. All opinions are my own and I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality!)

 

 

 

A Visit to Del’Oliva Olive Oil and Vinegar Shop & Giveaway ends 12-11! #AVeryMaryChristmas

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I am an avid olive oil user. Once favored by Chefs and considered ‘fancy’ if you used it regularly, olive oil has become a very common and “it” oil to use in the kitchen, and rightly so. Since I discovered the various uses for it, it has become my go-to. I also love when I stumble upon infused oils that enable me to enhance favorite dishes like  grilled salmon, drizzled not just with olive oil, but, lemon-infused. Heavenly!

You can imagine that I became a kid in a candy store when I headed to Del’Oliva on my IFWTWA tour of San Mateo County, California. Within the region is the adorable town of Birmingham. With a quaint downtown street lined with unique boutiques and eateries, one of the boulevard’s gems is  Del’Oliva; a gorgeous shop that steps you inside to the world of Italy with olive oil and vinegar’s….plus, perfect gifts for hosts and hostesses, and an intimate wine area in the back of the shop.

We soon met with Eddie Sohirad, Del’Oliva’s owner. From the moment you meet Sohirad, you can tell this is a man passionate about the correct ways of olive oils! Not knowing too much about the delicate process myself, it was fascinating to learn important facts such as:

  • Olive oil is very high in Polyphenols. This is a compound found in foods that has been scientifically proven to relieve pain and inflammation nearly the EXACT same way over the counter pain reliever drugs do. And, if that doesn’t sell you: Its been providing pain relief for over 5,000 years! Many people find that ingesting or even applying olive oil to the their temples if they feel a headache coming on, will relieve the pain.
  • While most food products require you to check an expiration date, olive oil actually depends more on the “Pressed Date”.  The sooner the date to when you’re purchasing, the better.  Once olive oil is pressed, those Polyphenols and its benefits goes significantly down. Rule of thumb? Check that Pressed On date, and buy one that was not too long ago.

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Wines to taste, too!

Wines to taste, too!

 

  • Extra Virgin is always the best. Another fun test to see about the oil’s freshness is: Take a small swig of the oil. If it gives you a slight burning sensation,  that usually indicates a fresh Extra Virgin olive oil.
  • Olive oil is best enjoyed, in the perfect world, within 4 hours of it being pressed. (I doubt that has yet to happen in my life yet).
  • You also may notice it should not be particularly, well, oil-y. Fresh olive oil should go down more like a juice.
  • While I’m a fan of infused olive oils, unless you are at a trusted source like Del’Oliva, many brands use infusion oils as a selling point to hide an older, inadequate olive oil.

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  • And, as far as balsamic vinegar, did you know unless it has a European certification, that all balsamic vinegar you’re buying in the supermarket are most likely imposters? Think of it like Champagne; only the real deal comes from France. When I grab a bottle at the pharmacy, it’s a “California Sparkling Wine”. 😉

Along with their gorgeous store, Del’Oliva ships throughout the USA, too. What a great place to shop for the foodies on your list, no?!

I am also excited that Del’Oliva is my kick off for my annual #AVeryMaryChristmas series of posts this month! The series this year will include holiday gift ideas, things to do to celebrate the season…ansd, maybe a giveaway…or afew 😉 Kicking off today, I have a mini bottle of Del’Oliva’s Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar to send to one lucky winner. Make sure to check out my sweepstakes tabs for all rules, and enter using the form below by December 11th. Good luck!

And, in the meantime, visit Del’Oliva at their website HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Day at The Huntsville Botanical Gardens. #TravelTuesday

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On our fantastic trip to Memphis last month, I admit that our following destination was not thrilling me as much as arriving to Tennessee did. Next up, we headed to Alabama. I was THAT person that believed there must be NOTHING to do in Alabama. Well, folks, if my post on all my gluten-free finds while there is any indication of just how wrong I was, events and sights to see are also in there, too.

Little did I know that I would spend a gorgeous afternoon at a railroad station, have delicious sushi and see a movie at one of those 21+ theaters and even get my Target shopping fix in (Just like home!). One of my favorite outings we had in Huntsville, though? A trip to their Botanical Gardens.

Bringing to mind The Huntington Library or Descanso Gardens here in LA,  these gardens rest on 112 acres and are the absolute playgrounds for kids young and old alike.

When we arrived, one of the first stops is The Hobbit House! A home easily under 3 feet tall, this Lord of the Rings-esque bungalow is the gateway of what is to come and just how FUN the botanical gardens are…..

THE FAERIE GARDEN

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As someone who loves mythical subjects (and collects garden gnomes), I truly could have moved into this land in the gardens! The majestic trees each have small doors on their bottom, while the small house (I could just about fit in there) has its trusty homeowner gnome at the ready to give you a warm welcome, and there are countless bird feeders and trays for both the critters and the faeries to munch on.

This is an ideal area of the gardens for a fun, faerie tea party photo shoot, or for your little ones as everything will be their size!

SNOOPY’S DOG HOUSE

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Now, this was a surprise to stumble upon! Near the playground and picnic tables, you will come up on a giant size red dog house and large bones. It becomes clear as soon as you see the Peanuts characters on the house, that this is none other than ol’ Chuck’s BFF, Snoopy.

Since The Great Pumpkin just had his big night, soon Charlie Brown will be learning the true meaning of Christmas from Linus. Making it such a great time to pay a visit and snap some holiday pictures, no?

THE CHILDREN’S GARDEN

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To me, the entire grounds of Huntsville Botanical Gardens is one big Children’s Garden! But, they’re pretty cool and have a designated garden for the young and young at heart. Remember when we started at The Hobbits House? In this garden, most decor is gigantic and you can even go down the yellow brick road……oh, yeah.

When you first arrive in the Children’s Garden (Which is actually more like EIGHT gardens in one), you can stand in an actual Space Station node….and play with Lego’s in there, too! Then, you can play in mazes and get your picture with an awesome wooden statue of Mr. Rabbit (from Alice in Wonderland).

THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE

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While The Butterfly House has now closed for the season (Until May), I was eager to see Huntsville’s exhibit after my amazing experience at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens butterflies in Claremont earlier this year.  Much like entering a greenhouse, this pavilion boasts a beautiful, intimate lake with exquisite flowers and orchids. All while the butterflies flutter around. While I appreciated its more ample size, I still appreciate that Claremont’s butterfly exhibit had an extremely knowledgeable staff inside with you to answer questions and teach you more about each of these stunning creatures.

GALAXY OF LIGHTS AND WEDDINGS, TOO…..

The gardens always have something great planned for each season. While there is bird watching and garden activities to explore, through December they will be hosting The Galaxy of Lights which brings to mind The LA Zoo Festival of Lights; a larger than life event, walk (or drive!) through the gardens to see animated, lit up displays as well as the popular icicle village!

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

This made me miss LA!

This made me miss LA!

The coolest thing? Select nights will be a walking tour, while others, driving AND, select nights will invite you to bring your dog along, as well! Get all the info HERE.

This was such a great visit, and I already look forward to returning again. If you’ll be in the Huntsville area, make sure to plan your visit HERE! xo

Staying at Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, CA

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Sometimes, don’t you find that lodging while away can be a bit, repetitive? Check in, acceptable room with the basics that you will need. Many times, we travel just to see the sights, and don’t necessarily mind if our accommodations are nothing to write home about.

That is why, I have a rule at Along Comes Mary to only tell you about the hotels that are daring to be different. To make you savor your time in your temporary bedroom, admire the art work, and feel like you are staying somewhere with great history.

Dinah’s Garden Hotel of Palo Alto is one of these unique locations. In the  1950’s, we were at the height of Americana and a legion of”motor touring.” motels, were popping up along all the highways. Dinah’s owner Raymond Handley and his partners were not interested in building another cheap “in and out” style motel along a highway. Rather they set out to create a truly unique lodging experience that would offer an “oasis of serenity and peaceful hospitality to every class of traveler”, says their website.

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A koi fish pond awaits you at Dinah’s, too.

And, that they certainly did. It also didn’t hurt that Handley and his wife, Milla Louise, were avid art and antique collectors. Dozens of their pieces are right within the rooms and guest cottages of Dinah’s.. You can find everything from a pair of 19th century life-size Indian processional elephants at the entrance of the hotel to my favorite piece seen: a 2nd century A.D. Gandharan stone Buddha in the lagoon area. Surrounded by the sounds of the waterfall and lake, this tranquil lagoon is one of the examples of how Dinah’s was conceived to take you away from the hustle and bustle just moments away.

You will find genuine, unusual works of art throughout the hotel and gardens. Check out this wooden bench!

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While Dinah’s made it hard for me to want to leave my room (Great view from my patio), my presence was requested at a fabulous drinks and appetizer soiree at the pool that gave visitors a chance to relax, mingle and hear some great live music while taking a swim in the pool or munching on some delicious small bites and wine.

You probably have a good guess what I enjoyed partaking in. Fess Parker Syrah and Morgan Wines Pinot were on hand, and I can never resist a Parker varietal.

After an incredible peaceful rest, I awoke eager to try something Dinah’s Pool Side Restaurant is known for: their orange juice. Fresh squeezed daily, this glass was another perfect example of just why San Mateo County prides itself on being as “Fresh As it Gets”. I have had some great OJ in my day, but, I can see why this is their go-to favorite beverage. Even the color was more, well, “orange” than usual.

Breakfast of Champions at Dinah's Pool Side restaurant.

Breakfast of Champions at Dinah’s Pool Side restaurant.

Having continually been named “Best Hotel in Palo Alto”, Dinah’s is an ideal location for those passing through, visiting students of Stanford (or maybe you are a potential student) or, even a great alternative to staying in San Francisco or San Jose. So much is at your fingertips in San Mateo County, and Palo Alto is one of the gateways.

I cannot thank Dinah’s enough for my wonderful, hosted stay. Visit them HERE and book your trip now! xo