#65- Wine with a View

The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay is just a phenomenal place to eat. to drink. to run. to golf. to stay. to indulge. to just BE. I suppose there isn’t anyone who would think otherwise with the brand itself.  I’ve had the pleasure of spending time here on just a few rare occasions, most notably their Spa (and subsequent discount for locals), their Coastal Running Trail and their amazing Wine Bar. It’s on these occasions that I secretly delight in feeling like a millionaire, if for no other reason then just proximity. I live close enough, so that makes me rich enough- HA!

I had no other big motive for putting this on my list (#65- Enjoy a glass of wine & listen to live music at the Ritz) other than wanting an excuse to go out and have a nice glass of wine, sans kids. Nothing wrong with pre-scheduling mandatory nights out, right?!  Which is what we did last week- 3 different flight samples and some appetizers while watching the Coastal Fog come in as the Bagpiper played and the outdoor fire pits got lit.  It was a perfect night- but I think you could say that about any evening spent at the Ritz…

#1- Drive the Fire Road

As mentioned in previous posts…where I live, it seems, there are dozens upon dozens of gravel & dirt roads that lead off into nowhere. It feels a little out of sorts to be surrounded by what feels like hundreds of miles of nothingness, only to find that it’s 20 miles aerial from Coastline (where we live) to inland Bay/ Bustling city.

When we first moved here and I would drive past all these roads, I of course got curious and went to Google Earth maps to see just what was at the end of these roads, if anything.  Well, there is one I drive past regularly called by all the locals as “the fire road” which, when I looked online, leads from here all the way to the Bay (kind of).  According to Google Earth, Along the way there are weird buildings, an abandoned airstrip, a fully outfitted Boy Scout Conference Grounds, small lakes, creeks, trail camps, outhouses and more.  Curiosity might one day kill me.

Part of our motivation to finally make the drive was the fact that the kids were with their Grandmother and we just traded in our commuter car for a “hiking shoe” as it’s been referred to.  What better way to give it a test drive than through unforgiving, steep, mountainous terrain?

Overall, it wasn’t as fascinating as say, coming across a treehouse complete with Rail cars in the middle of nowhere. More so than anything, I found myself slightly irritated by all the private property cleverly disguised as “businesses,” (tax evasion? I would have no way of knowing, but come on….)  such as the Ainsley Family Tree Farm as one example.  Really now? You want to tell me that 10 miles in on a road that is under lock & key with boulders & tree roots and crevices that make it nearly impossible to get to… you’re running a tree farm?  I’d like to know the cost of one Redwood please… oh, wait, there’s no way to contact you. That’s a bummer.

Anyway, when we finally got back on to paved road we found the entrance to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a GORGEOUS mini-version of Yosemite that I had no idea was there.  I mean, I knew the state park was there but the Camping options, the trails, the Gift Shop, the Information Center was A-MAZE-ING. Fabulous! We stopped for popsicles & water and then got back onto the road toward home, passing a bunch of other little towns tucked into these mountains.  It was great to see “the neighborhood” in a sense, and I’m really glad we did it. I’m even MORE glad our car held up to the challenge, we came across no illegal marijuana farms and no imbreeding-people eating-crazies waiting for their next meal…. I’m only a little paranoid ;)

#69- The Perfect Eyebrow

I once read about the 3 types of consumers: The first being the “jump-in-head-first, camp-outside-the-Apple-Store, gotta-have-and-try-the-latest-and-greatest” Consumer, who likely paid $1000′s of dollars for the first VCR, The second consumer being the one who’s practical and waits for the lines to go away and the prices to go down and the Consumer Report to come out,and the third consumer who bought their VCR second hand from a thrift store 30 years ago and still believes it to be sufficient (a.k.a. My mom). Or something of that way.  I bring it up because Brow Threading- an ancient Middle East practice of hair removal- was one of those things that I rolled my eyes at and figured it would never last, therefore I wouldn’t bother trying it, therefore would sit back and watch all the threading bars to go out of business.

Which may still very well happen. But, when I stopped and questioned my own pre-judgments about brow-threading, I realized I had no real reason to dismiss it and be that consumer who will forever find my tweezers to be sufficient and more cost-effective. Also, gnawing in the back of my memories was the time when my fashion-forward and trend-setting friend Christina offered to pluck my eyebrows once when we were teenagers, and then spent a large portion of the experience complaining about how my brow bone was lopsided, therefore my arches would never be symmetrical.  The horror! This was confirmed when I was fitted for my first pair of glasses in my early 20′s.

So, I decided to jump in and give this brow-threading a fair shot.  Since putting it on my list (#69- Try brow threading), I also decided for best results I would refrain from plucking my eyebrows until I had a decent amount of craziness growing.  This is what my eyebrows looked like after a 6 month grooming hiatus:

eye brow threading, "before" picture

eye brow threading, “before” picture

Not really much to work with, I know. And I swear this was 6 months worth.  I will never get Brook Shield’s eyebrow look back, EVER, at this rate.  But I had had it with the few hairs that did grow in, so one weekend in June after coming across a Groupon for a $5 thread job at the new Folsom Palladio I took the plunge.  Here’s my opinion of the experience:

1) I can’t imagine being a worker doing this kind of job.  How incredibly mundane and unrewarding. From my very humble perspective.

2) It took about 5 minutes total, start to finish.

3) In this short amount of time, the woman half heartedly tried to sell me an unlimited visit card for $50 for 3 months.  This was shortly after telling me that my hair growth-type appeared to be the kind that will never truly fill back in to it’s original pre-teen glory. She also mentioned that I came from the era of women who opted for the pencil-thin/permanently-surprised eyebrow, though mine wasn’t as bad as some she had seen. Clearly, Sales & Marketing are not her strength.

4) It felt like slowly ripping off a band-aid.  It hurts, kind of, but you know it’s silly to say it out loud at this age.

5) Afterwards my eyebrows were itchy and red for an hour or two, and then the area that was plucked promptly broke out.  Nothing a hot shower didn’t fix.

Oh, here is an after picture, which doesn’t really catch the shock-n-awe of having been threaded, but whatever:

Eye Brow Threading, "after" picture

Eye Brow Threading, “after” picture


I do believe this is an ideal grooming option for someone with thicker hair, darker hair, and hair in places other than eyebrows.  They do cheeks, lips, in front of the ears… I didn’t ask about Bikini lines, but…. I’m sure there is someone out there with a bottom line that won’t be crossed.  After all was said and done, I did feel “cleaned up” and fresh, so for $5 I could do it again and again, but from what I can tell most places charge about $15 starting.  Ehh.

#52- Bad Arnold, BAD!

Does anyone else have childhood memories that include watching movies that you just don’t quite understand because you’re only 7-10 years old and most of the concepts, plots or underlying story lines are just way over your head? I have several movies that fall in to this category, and most of them tend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger (and Robin Williams) movies. For starters, the biggest confusion is how any damsel-in-distress found him to be even remotely attractive (and yes, that was my thought as a child). Secondly, even at that age I could tell that he had zero acting ability….. why was he still making movies? Third, most of my childhood was also a string of friends using Arnold One-Liners from said movies.

Then, people had the audacity to elect him as Governor.  Sure, I enjoyed the “My Governor can kick your Governor’s Ass” bumper sticker just like you did, but the fascination still baffled me.  I decided I needed to watch these movies again, to figure out what it was I missed, to right any wrongs I had made, any misconceptions that haunted me.  So, #52- Watch Bad Arnold Movies- made my list.

We rented Kindergarten Cop, Twins & Junior.

Kindergarten Cop: Ridiculous, unlikely, totally cheesy.  But… did anyone else think this little charmer was Joan Kusak’s daughter?

I digress….

Twins: Equally ridiculous, unlikely, totally cheesy.

Junior:  Traumatizing.  Thank God Natalie didn’t watch this one. I felt myself throw up a little with every pregnancy symptom that a full grown, body-building Austrian man was trying to act out.

And how truly stupid was it that in all three movies, beautiful blondes fell in love with Arnold just by looking at him?  Even when he was 9 months pregnant, Emma Thompson (in the movie) willingly and hungrily had sex with him. EWWWWWWWWWWWWW……

If I could speculate, I would think it very possible that there was a dip in daily births across the country 9 months after this movie was released, because ain’t NOBODY can get that image out of their minds long enough to reproduce. I wish I could take an icepack to my brain to UNSEE this movie. *sigh*

#93- Monopolized

This game, Monopoly, used to be so much fun when I was younger.  Collecting money…getting rich… buying lots of stuff…. killing the opponent and watching them suffer a slow and agonizing descent into bankruptcy.

And now, comically, as I played as an adult this past week against Blake it was almost too painful to bare. Taxes after taxes, rental fees, doubled rental fees, hospital stays, jail time, leveraging properties to pay the bills.

“I can’t get ahead.”

Which was true, right from the start. Round 1 and he was sent to jail, paid taxes, lost a turn, backtracked and more. I felt bad, and didn’t want to buy any properties until he had a chance too.  But even then, by sheer luck, I never landed on any of his properties. He kept paying taxes right after passing go… It was literally depressing, and I found myself completely disinterested in playing after a few laps around the board.

And this mirrors life in a lot of ways.  It got me thinking, how is that enjoyable for anyone?  I suppose because unlike Monopoly, in real life you don’t ever really have to face the person you are taking money from. You don’t have to see their struggle, if you’re rich.

Maybe I took the game to heart too much.  It is what it is.  But after sitting in our storage closet for the past several years, this game went straight to donations that very night, and I crossed #93 (challenge someone in Monopoly) off my list for good.

Dannah Nielsen

no pictures please

#58- Tree housing

When we first moved to the Coast, and I suffered many sleepless nights, I spent a decent amount of time driving these crazy backroads and google-earth searching my neighborhood.  There is quite a bit of crazy going on in these mountains, in my humble, suburb-inner city perspective. Typically, my mind asks the same question every time I see a road, home, hiker or the like:  how can anyone be so far out in the middle of what seems to be nowhere?  Granted, the Santa Cruz mountains is really  only 20-30 miles wide from Coastline to City limits, but still. I need other human contact in a general mile radius to stay sane I’ve decided. The half mile to my closest neighbor is tough.

What I’m getting at, is not long ago I was told about a Treehouse not far from my home. I was told it was a site worth seeing and you had to hike in to get to it. After talking to several other locals and determining I wasn’t going to get attacked or killed (The hills have eyes?), and having another enthusiastic family of friends want to come along, I put it on my bucket list (#58) for the year and we finally made the trek today!

It’s quite a hike.  Uphill. approx. 3 miles, though we were originally told two. I carried Holly on my back the entire way so it was a workout worth remembering.  We passed a total of two other thrill-seekers besides ourselves (ourselves being Keith, Jen, Miles and Natalie).  We were hoping to also come across some known waterfalls in the area, but it was determined that the persisting drought made them non-existent. Towards the end of this windy curving trail it became a standing joke that surely, it was “right around that next corner.”  Several points along the way we stopped to assess the noises we heard, only to determine it was departing & arriving SFO jumbo aircraft shifting gears and working landing gear.  We were THAT close!

But, the end destination made it all worth it.  Private property, bordering two state parks.  It was loosely fenced off with polite and charming signs asking us to not trespass, and and added bonus were the railcars that found their way to the top as well.  No one was home, I’m not sure how often the owners visits- I am tempted to ask next time I see them.  They have several kiddos the same age as Natalie, so I spent some time trying to convince Natalie to get more friendly with them and they might just invite her to come play.  I want to come play.   I don’t have a good picture of it, but at the very very VERY top of those trees & treehouse is a Crow’s Nest set up that you have to climb up to using pulleys & harnesses.  I would love to see what that view is like!

#20- Rooted

Last Bucket list, I carved my name in a tree. This time I thought my love for trees should be a little more giving rather than taking (#20- plant a tree).

I have a lot of potted trees, and I pretty much live in a Redwood forest, so planting another one on our property didn’t seem like it’d make much of an impact. I spent some time thinking about where I’d want this tree to go (besides in the ground) that would be meaningful.  My parents house, and other family properties seemed unrealistic as well.

Then it dawned on me that this would be another fun project to take on with Natalie & her classmates.  And I love doing fun things in her class! After talking it over with her teacher, I planned a curriculum using another favorite children’s book (The Red Lemon) followed with some tasting & experimenting with three potential options- Lemons, Plums & Apples.  All this mixed in with some fun finger songs about things that grow in trees and we ended with a class voting on which tree should be planted in the school garden…

Dannah Nielsen Pescadero Grown Plum Tree

As each child voiced their opinion, I marked it on the appropriate tree.  I was actually surprised Plum was the big winner- although knowing these kids, it might have been because the girls liked the color purple, and once that momentum got going and the kids were all cheering and dancing…. everyone else might have followed suit and chose plum just to keep the party going.

So, I went out and bought a Plum Treeling. The following Gardening class for Kinder was a lesson on how to properly plant and care for the Plum Tree, and the kids got to work. I think they really enjoyed it!  We started out in one area, dug halfway down… hit a pipe (in the middle of nowhere??) and had to start over.  Then, we hit the jackpot with underground  critters & crawlers which was a good distraction for several minutes.

I loved that the Garden had it’s own heaping pile of compost from lunchtimes that filled in around the tree.  Next comes the deer fencing, and hopefully some Plums next year!  We are also working on a little plaque of sorts, to say it was a gift from Natalie as a big thank you to her school for a fantastic first year :)