Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rental Sweet Rental

Over the last few weeks, John and I have been looking at rentals like a couple of crazies. I was really worried that we wouldn’t find a place, and you know what? We are finding so many good places it’s hard to make a decision! I am still in shock about it. I thought for sure with only having a month to find a place we would have to settle for some crap hole. How would I know? Neither of us has had to rent in 10 years. Lucky for us it’s a total renters market in town. That is also quiet surprising since the school year has yet to end. (We know there will be a ton of more places opening up in June and July.)

We found the perfect condo that had everything we wanted…dishwasher, washer/dryer, and a1 car garage.Then the next day we spotted an older home with tons of character, and only 3 blocks from down town!It has been a dream of ours to live within walking distance of downtown...but was it worth it not having a garage and dishwasher? Dang! We were really excited for the possibility of renting the older home, however it really didn’t fit all of our needs. In the end the practical choice won, meaning we filled out the applications for the condo.

We got approved for the condo within an hour of turning in the applications! Is that normal? We had no idea it would be that fast! The prob was that we couldn’t sign a lease until April 1st, because we had to wait to make sure all of the contingencies went through with the sale of our house. Needless to say the property manager was none too pleased with this news. We offered to pay her some cash to hold the place, but she never got back to us. I was a little sad at first, but then realized we could apply to the older home with the great location. It was a sign right?

We submitted our apps to the older house, but still continued to look at places. In our search we found ANOTHER great rental. It’s a two-bedroom place located behind a home, with a 1-car garage, a mini yard, and 5 blocks from downtown! Granted it’s a bit farther from downtown than the other place, but the place was a lot newer than 1940, and it had great storage which meant we wouldn’t need a storage unit.On Monday I got a call letting me know that John and I have been approved for the older house. Great. I had to tell her that we were actually waiting to hear back from another house that has more storage. At least she was nice about it. So the waiting continues.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Santa Barbara Mini Break

For John’s birthday I decided to surprise him with a mini break to Santa Barbara. Not the most original idea I know, but since we were out of town the weekend before I only wanted to go somewhere for one night. Since SB is only 1.5 hours away it was the perfect location!

I did my best in not giving him any clues because I knew he would guess it…I mean really…how many options were there? Well apparently A LOT. He first thought I was taking him to Vegas, then Arizona to hit some DDD’s.

Once we got on the road and started heading south I thought for sure he’d figure it out, but he didn’t! He first thought I was taking him to a Dodger game…then he thought I was taking him to Ojai! At first I thought these were fake guesses, but they weren’t!

I actually threw him off a bit by driving past SB and stopping in Ventura. I wanted to try to sell some of my clothes back to Buffalo Exchange. All of the consignment shops in SLO only give you store credit, but BE didn’t. Let me say that I’m SO glad I took my stuff there! They took about 10 pieces of mine and I got $50 in return, (or $70 in store credit). That is way better than I’d make at a garage sale.

I was also excited that we got to stop in Ventura because we had recently read about an authentic Italian restaurant in town that we wanted to try. It was called Sicily by Gino’s and it was REALLY good. We got a prosciutto and Parmesan cheese pizza.We even got to talk to the owner, which is always cool, and she told us how they only use the freshest ingredients. We told her you could totally tell, as the quality of the pizza was very similar to the pies we had in Italy.

During our lunch I finally let John know where we were going, and he said he really had no idea. Being the planner I am, I handed John a map of SB that had all the places we were going to go during the weekend. The main spot was Williams-Sonoma. For his b-day I got him a gift card there, along with my mom, and his mom! Every month when the dude gets the WS catalog he drools over it. Since we don’t have a WS in SLO, I thought it would be the perfect gift to combine with the mini break!

After lunch we headed back north to WS. Needless to say John was like a kid in a candy store. I can’t tell you how many rounds we made in there before I told him we needed to make a list to help narrow it down. Once we did that we were able to focus a bit easier. (Granted if I had told him ahead of time, we could have looked through our kitchen and seen what we wanted to upgrade.)Next we checked into our Motel. I was a little worried about this place, but it got a good rating on, and so far that site has never let me down. The only problem was that NO SB hotels let you book a room for one night. Isn’t that LAME?? I can’t tell you how many places I had to call. Most of them told me to call back the week of, and hopefully they would have a room. Luckily for us the Agave Inn had a room.

It was a sweet deal as most of the rooms had recently been renovated. I was glad John liked it too, as I’m sure it would not have passed my mom’s and sister’s standards.

After a mini rest we headed downtown to do a bit of walking and shopping. Williams-Sonoma didn’t have a few things we were looking for, so they told us to check out Sur La Table. It was our first time in that store and it was AWESOME! John found exactly what he was looking for and I even found a cupcake doughnut pan!! (You can bake doughnuts in it as well, but I want to try cupcakes.)

Next we headed to The Palace Grill…our favorite restaurant in SB. It NEVER disappoints. I’ve blogged about it before, and honestly I don’t know why I just didn’t repost this entry as I’m having de ja vu rereading it!

Anyway, I was planning on sharing a meal with john, but he talked me into getting my ‘ole stand by…because he wanted to eat it! I’m really glad he talked me into it, because it was really good.John also got the blackened fish.
He also LOVES the bread pudding here. I think it was the biggest yet.In case you were ever wondering what is the proper way to eat bread is John's in instructional video.

Even though we were stuffed to the brim we decided to stop off at an ‘English’ pub which was on the same block. John was pumped because they had Hoegaarden, and I got a cider. I was a little miffed because they didn’t have any legit English cider. Seriously…if you want to be an authentic pub, you need to have authentic drinks.After some enjoyable people watching, we did a bit more walking/shopping, and then went to Pinkberry!! I was so excited to go again, AND to get mochi on my yogurt. Let me tell you it did not disappoint AGAIN! I am really falling in love with that place. DANGER! DANGER!I got the DEAL OF THE YEAR on these sunglasses. They were regularly $98, but marked down to $54, and then $29. However when the clerk range up the price it, of course, range up as $54, BUT He gave them to me for $29! I then used a 30% off coupon and a $10 off coupon bringing the cost down to $11!! Deal of the year, I’m telling ya. (I'm trying to look tough in this photo).

We decided to get an early start on Sunday as we had a couple of rentals to look at back in SLO. Our first stop was to a bakery that I had found online. The baked goods weren’t that good, but once John saw some of the breakfast food he insisted we eat there. (We were heading to our fave Sambo’s).It was really good. I got the breakfast burrito and John got banana French toast. (John was also photoed out his morning...hence the reason he is not in this food photo.)
We stopped for another café and some more baked goods before we finally hit the road.

It was amazing how much fun we had in 24 hours. I’m actually mad that we don’t go down to SB more often…especially when we know of so many good places to go. 1.5 hours really isn’t that far. I think we will head back after we move.

Friday, March 26, 2010

DDD #20

On my way home from Ukiah I met up with John, and his friends in Emeryville at Rudy’s Can't Fail Cafe for our 20th Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! I can’t believe we have actually eaten at 20 different restaurants!

I got really lost finding the place…thanks to the GPS. The GPS is supposed to help you right? Not get you lost and get car jacked, right? It had me turn right instead of left and before I knew it, I was crusin’ through the ghetto with all these thugs hangin’ out in the middle of the street. It was the perfect scenario…a white girl in her cute little MINI Copper crusin’ in the ghetto lookin’ for for a burger joint! Luckily I know how to drive fast when I need to and I got out of there in a hurry. I even drove by PIXAR during the adventure, but I was a bit too stressed to be excited about it. Needless to say, I was very thankful when I saw John standing on the corner waving me down.

Rudy’s was packed, but the wait wasn’t very long. On the show they showcased burgers and a few other dishes, however I think the other dishes were ‘specials’ as we did not see them on the menu. BUMMER! I got a buffalo wing chicken salad, John got a blue cheese bacon burger, Jessie got a portabella mushroom burger, Nory got the Cajun bacon burger, and Kiera had a bottle.
Unfortunately this DDD was pretty disappointing. I’m not saying it was bad…it just doesn’t compare to the other places we’ve been to. I’d rate it a 19 out of 20…20 being the worst. I think our expectations should have been a little lower because it was mainly a burger joint. We have learned that lesson for next time. The fries were good, and the cheese on John’s burger was good, but the meat wasn’t anything special. Either they were having an off day or our expectations have really gotten high from the last few places we’ve eaten at.Overall it was a really cute place, the vibe was cool, and the atmosphere was totally funky. On to number 21...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Ukiah Visit in 9 Months

A few weekends ago John and I headed north to visit some friends. John’s travels ended in the East Bay to visit his college buddy Nory, his wife Jessie, and their super cute baby Kiera. I on the other hand traveled two more hours north to Ukiah to visit my friend Rebekkah. If you recall, I mentioned how she and her family moved to Atlanta this past summer. This was their first trip back to CA, so of course I had to make the trip!

The youngest Steinbuck, Addison, had her birthday on the day I drove up. Do you all remember when I was able to be there for her birth? I will never forget that day! It’s hard to believe that it was 2 years ago. Sydney, the oldest Steinbuck will be turning 5 in a few weeks so of course I had to bring them both birthday presents.Thanks to my friend Molly, I have recently become obsessed with Nerd Rope and have been trying to convert everyone in my path to become a lover of the Rope like I am. Hence the reason the kids found them in their gift bags.Come to find out, Addison is a lover of all candy, which is awesome. Syd on the other hand thought the nerds were a bit too sour. Bummer! Maybe I will try it again when she turns 7. I’m not giving up that easy.

One huge change that I noticed since I saw the girls in November was that Addison is talking like a wild woman…but I cannot understand a word she says! Ok…I take that back. I can understand like 2, but for the most part I am clueless. She will say something…I ask her to repeat it…she repeats it…and I still have no idea what she is saying! It was really frustrating. I know my mom told me when I was younger my sister had to translate for her all the time. At least Rebekkah knows what she is saying.

Sydney was lucky enough to have a birthday party with her friends in Ukiah at a local place called Jumperz. You would not believe how much the kids love that place! It’s crack for 5 year olds!

My visit seemed really short but I am very thankful that I got to see the Steinbucks since I’m not sure when I will get to see them again. Maybe Thanksgiving 2010? One can hope!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

DDD #19

Before we headed back to SLO, we had planned to go to the Cuban restaurant Mambo’s on our way out of town. However I waited until Sunday to check their hours and I found out that they were closed! BUMMER! Luckily we had a back up located in Eagle Rock called The Oinkster.

After the realization that we would not be having Cuban food, Maggie was still game to make the trek out East with us. (It’s always an extra bonus for us when we get to share our DDD adventures with our family and friends.) I had never been to Eagle Rock before and I always get excited driving on new roads in CA. (Is that nerdy? Whatever). We passed the WB studios, and then this HUGE cemetery where Michael Jackson is buried. There were tons of people on the side of the streets selling flowers just in case you forgot to buy some for the King of Pop. The drive out there was really pretty and there were even snow-capped mountains in the distance. I was surprised how big Eagle Rock was and it looks like it has a bunch of neat coffee and taco places. It was a beautiful day when we were there, however it gets really hot there during the summer.

The Oinkster is a BBQ joint, and it did not disappoint. Maggie got the reuben, John got the chicken and I got the pulled pork.
(Don’t you love how the food is over exposed? Nice work on my part right? Maybe next time I should make sure the food AND the person look good. DUH!)As you can see the portions were HUGE, but you must try everything when eating at a DDD = no sharing allowed. The fries were also flash fried for extra crispiness and accompanied with some great dipping sauces. I also got the Oinksterade for my drink and it was AWESOME. I think it was more of an orangeade vs. lemon, and it was SO good!

I am happy to say that The Oinkster is PROUD to be featured on DDD, as they have their stencil displayed:I also loved the architecture and signage of the building…it was totally 70’s.Amber’s Rule of Thumb:
If every type of dish at a restaurant is exceptionally good, i.e. beverages, sides, and main courses, then that is proof of an awesome eatery.

You know what? The Oinkster totally fits that category. I’m just bummed it’s not more accessible, and that it wasn’t our milestone 20th DDD. What will our 20th DDD be? I don’t know…stay tuned!

Monday, March 15, 2010

DDD #18

When we were in L.A. a few weeks ago we managed to go to TWO restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! It’s usually a challenge to go to one DDD on a weekend trip, so for us to hit two was great.

Crazy fact about the Grundman’s DDD quest:
Neither John nor Amber had ever been to a DDD in Southern California.

How crazy is that? Granted there aren’t a ton of them down there, but still…we go to L.A. at least four times a year. I think one factor is that we never made it a priority when we traveled there, because there are so many other good places to eat. However now things have changed.

Our first DDD was The Nickel Diner in downtown L.A. I thought we might have missed the lunch crowd by showing up after 1pm, but I was wrong! The place was packed and we had to wait…but no biggie.

The place was pretty small and the kitchen was right in the dining area, which was kind of cool. We actually saw the owner, which is always a treat, and let me say that her hair had definitely been styled for the show. But can you blame her? I would have done the same thing…and had my makeup done! She has a really cool Cruella DeVille vibe going on with her hair.
These lights are actually upside down lamps.
I started off with a homemade ding-dong, although it kind of looks like a hostess cupcake.
As you know I normally like to order what dishes were featured on the show. I was ready to order this awesome looking salmon dish but it wasn’t on the menu. I’m assuming it was a special. We also wanted to try the bacon maple doughnut that was featured on the show, but they ran out! At least they had the mac-n-chee which you can see here with John. He also got the pulled pork hash, which was to die for. So weird but SO good!
I got a bacon cheeseburger that was pretty good, but the mac-n-chee and pork were better.
We even dragged my sister and brother-in-law with us. Molly got a fish burger, and Michael got a chicken salad sando. Both very good. As you can see they were very excited to pose with their food. Such good sports!
After Michael posed for the photo he caught a woman’s eye and he told her ‘I don’t know why we are taking photos of our food.’ I turned and saw this cute lady with a huge smile and she asked me if I was a food blogger. I told her I had a blog but it wasn’t specifically about food. She then told me that her daughter-in-law was a food blogger. How crazy is that? I briefly talked to daugher-in-law and got her blog address. Here I am talking to her. (John was actually being impatient while waiting for me to pose with my food...hence the attractive shot of the back of my head.)
I found out that her name is Lynn, and her blog is called The Actors Diet. You should definitely check out her entry about The Nickel Diner. See if you can spot the cute chick in a pink sweater in a couple of her photos. She actually got some really good interior shots of the place.

Once again there wasn’t one sign that Guy had been there with his crew. No poster and no stencil. What gives?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So Cal Adventures

A few weeks ago John and I went down to LA for the weekend. My good friend Maggie helped us get tickets to the 2010 Paley fest, where we saw a panel with Modern Family and LOST.

The first panel we saw was Modern Family and they were SO funny! Let me put it to you this way. Normally you pay to see one stand up comedian right? Imagine paying to see 8…all on stage at the same time! Plus these are PROFESSIONAL comedians. Not some Joe Shmoe living paycheck to pay check. They were cracking jokes right and left and harassing each other. We even got to see a new episode of the show, which was totally unexpected.
Unfortunately I did not bring my camera with me, (as I thought they were not allowed), but we were in the balcony anyway. I did however bring it the next night for LOST and got a few good shots and videos. You weren’t supposed to use your flash so my videos turned out better than the photos, but Maggie emailed me a few of her photos, which turned out pretty good. For the LOST panel, She got to enter the auditorium before the majority of the fans, so she and her boyfriend, Jeff, got second row seats! Sweet right? Well what is even sweeter is that she saved John and I seats too!! So we got be in the first row of our section!

My expectations of the LOST panel were a little too high after seeing the cast from Modern Family. I didn’t really expect any of the producers to spill any beans about the plot, but I was hoping they would have given us a better clue than ‘water’. Really? That was the big reveal? Could they be any more vague? They also only showed us 2 minutes of an upcoming episode. A little week compared to MF.

Unfortunately the panel only consisted of 3 actors and the rest was writers, producers, and directors. The 4 actors were actually the most interesting and the rest of the panel was just ok. They actually thought we were there to be entertained which caused them to crack HORRIBLE jokes all night. They were such dorks! I know I was comparing them to the MF panel from the night before, but still…those dudes just weren’t funny. I know 98% of the crowd disagreed with me, but whatever…only 2% of the crowd weren’t dorks.

After the first panel Maggie and Jeff took us to MILK for some dessert. I had never heard of the place before, but my milkshake was one of the best ones I have ever had! Well let me rephrase that…John’s was the best I had ever had! He got The MILKIE Way Malt, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, malted milk, chocolate chips, and caramel-chocolate swirl. The vanilla ice cream was to die for! I got the Mint Chocolate Crunch Shake, which consisted of cool mint ice cream with chocolate chips and mint crunch malt balls. There were so many other items I wanted to try that I have got to go back. They should consider putting a sampler on their menu.
This is not a photo of our actual milkshake. Some how my camera got stuck in my purse…or maybe I couldn’t focus on anything else while shoving the ice cream down my throat. You choose.

Before we saw the LOST panel we treated ourselves again, but this time we went to Pink Berry.
I had never been to one before, and let me tell you it did not disappoint! The raspberries I had on mine were some of the freshest I’d ever had and overall it wasn’t that sweet, which was a nice change. I just read on their FAQ page that all of the fruit is cut fresh daily. Impressive!
I can’t wait to go back and try a new combo. I wonder if someone will open one here in SLO. There is one in Santa Barbara, so you never know. It will be interesting to see how fast they start opening in northern California.

Our weekend in LA was one of the best ones I had had in a long time. I’m not sure if it was because we got to go everywhere I wanted to go, but I know a big part was spending time with good friends and family. (L.A. food posts to come).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Other Blogs

A good friend of mine just started a blog, The Pennington Girl, so please welcome her by adding her site to your reader! The author is Jaymie, who lives in Washington with her husband and two super cute kids. She is also pretty crafty and just blogged about how she spruced up her daughter’s bedroom. I have known Jaymie for 20+ years and we still stay in touch…thanks to email. I am SO excited that she has started a blog so it will be even easier to stay in touch.

There is another blog I follow called Knock off Wood, where the author gives tutorials on how to build furniture just like Pottery Barn furniture. It’s awesome because she helps you save a bazillion dollars by being able to make it yourself. I of course have yet to have John try and make anything, but if that day ever arises I will be ready! Apparently she has only been blogging for 4 months, and that is how long it took Pottery Barn to find her and try to put the kibosh on her site. Check it out here…it’s pretty interesting.