AJ Meets the Stars, Universal Studios, California

AJ thought it was cool to take a picture with a movie star, but he wanted to know why she was famous.

AJ thought it was cool to take a picture with a movie star, but he wanted to know why she was famous.

Last week AJ and I took the Metrolink (commuter link train) into LA and took advantage of our season passes to Universal Studios. For just two people the Metrolink is far more convienant than driving. It only costs $10 and includes all transfers for the day. I figure for $20 I couldn’t beat the gas, plus parking, plus wear on the car, and most important frustration with LA traffic.

AJ enjoyed seeing all the animals.

AJ enjoyed seeing all the animals.

We really didn’t have an agenda when we got there. The weather was a bit cold and overcast, but that was good because there wasn’t hardly any crowds. Not only did we see all the shows and attractions (except for Crusty Fun Land because we don’t really like the Simpsons that much), but we went on several of the attractions twice. AJ decided that his favorite show was the animal actor show.

Since there wasn’t a lot of lines and we were just wandering the park, we got to see a lot of the actors roaming the park as well. We didn’t ask for any autographs, but we enjoyed taking pictures.

AJ with a NEST (Transformers) operative.

AJ with a NEST (Transformers) operative.

AJ and I with Gru and a minion. I was dressed for the occasion, I don't know why AJ didn't read the memo.

AJ and I with Gru and a minion. I was dressed for the occasion, I don’t know why AJ didn’t read the memo.

AJ with the Bishop from Water World.

AJ with the Bishop from Water World.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still closed. We checked.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still closed. We checked.

AJ hanging out with the dog that played in Evan Almighty.

AJ hanging out with the dog that played in Evan Almighty.

After we left the park we went to Olivera St. to have some authentic Mexican food.

After we left the park we went to Olivera St. to have some authentic Mexican food.

AJ’s Baptism

baptismfontAJ turned 8 last month which for him was significant in many ways. First, he is another year older. Second, and most important for us is he is old enough to get baptized. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints it is very clear that is a parents job to teach their children about “repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost”. It seems simple enough (I am a returned missionary), but as convert I wasn’t sure how to teach AJ about being a member all his life when I am not. Lucky for me Denise has been a member all her life. We have been teaching AJ since the day that he was born the importance of baptism. We have taken him to any and all baptisms we could go to. As such it was not much of a shocker to me that he was more than willing to do his Bishopric interview all by himself.

The baptism itself went great. It was standing room only as all of Denise’s family was at the baptism, plus many from our ward. Denise’s dad gave a very heart warming testimony.

After the baptism, we had a get together at the park with a very nice cake made by a sister in our ward. After the park we went bowling. Then to finish the day we went to the Soup Plantation in San Bernardino.

All in all it was a great day. All I can say to anyone who helped make this day in anyway possible, THANK YOU!! I recognize the fact that AJ has been helped along the way by many people. There is no great joy to a parent than to see their child follow in the way of the Savior, so that someday they can return to their Heavenly Father.

This was only some of the people who came to the baptism.

This was only some of the people who came to the baptism.

After the park we went to Arlington Lanes. I did horrible.

After the park we went to Arlington Lanes. I did horrible.

Sister Long made us this great cake, we won it at a Scout Camp auction.

Sister Long made us this great cake, we won it at a Scout Camp auction.

After the Baptism we all met at Bonamino park to get out the wiggles.

After the Baptism we all met at Bonamino park to get out the wiggles.

You would think with a challenge like that they should at least offer you a T-Shirt.

You would think with a challenge like that they should at least offer you a T-Shirt.

2016 Tournament of Roses (Float) Viewing Area

rosefindadventureFind Your Adventure was the theme of the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade. I thought this was a great theme for me this year to think about. We did not renew our Knotts Berry Farm passes this year (after 39 times we were kind of burnt out), so it will be up to find our own adventures this year.

To start the adventure off, Denise’s family was in town so we went to the viewing are of the Rose Bowl floats. It cost $10 for viewing area and $3 for the shuttle per person.

Before going to the see the floats we had hot dogs at the Dog Haus, one of my favorite hot dog places in Southern California. The novelty is that they use Hawaiian rolls for the bun.

The viewing area was very full with people but we enjoyed seeing all the floats up close.

Before viewing the floats we went to Dog Haus on Hill Avenue for lunch.

Before viewing the floats we went to Dog Haus on Hill Avenue for lunch.

I think this float best fits our family

I think this float best fits our family

Overall, the floats are interesting but up close the intricacy is amazing as well.

Overall, the floats are interesting but up close the intricacy is amazing as well.

The Sunny Side of Life float by Los Angeles was interesting to me.

The Sunny Side of Life float by Los Angeles was interesting to me.

There were two miles of floats and crowds at the viewing area.

There were two miles of floats and crowds at the viewing area.

We were told Stanford won their game.

We were told Stanford won their game.

Talking to the float technicians was interesting. They had some of the floats going.

Talking to the float technicians was interesting. They had some of the floats going.

For the VIPs they used old Yosemite touring vehicles.

For the VIPs they used old Yosemite touring vehicles.

This flying clown float was huge.

This flying clown float was huge.

I loved the colors on this dragon float.

I loved the colors on this dragon float.

When faced with the millennium falcon a faux light saber battle is a must.

When faced with the millennium falcon a faux light saber battle is a must.

The Disneyland float was very long.

The Disneyland float was very long.

We used the shuttle service from the Pasadena City College.

We used the shuttle service from the Pasadena City College.oa

America’s Export: Entertainment (A Visit to Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA)

The sign says it all.

The sign says it all.

I am extremely blessed for many things. One of the most being having a job. Not only do I have a job that takes care of all my needs I even have a bit to spare. I know it sounds kind of pretentious to be writing about how I can spend $300 dollars for a day out for my family. The way I look at it however is I have the money. It was made on overtime. Which was time spent away from my family. So, I should spend at least some of it spending time with my family.

I haven’t been to Universal Studios for over 10 years, so I figured I had the time and money I should go. We had a fun day and saw many interesting things.

One of the things that struck me the most about Universal Studios, Hollywood was how many foreigners were there. To highlight the point, they have studio tours in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. The predominant visitors seemed to be from Asia (Chinese, Indian, and Japanese).

I wonder what they see in us “Americans.” Looking over the many movie posters I saw I didn’t see much in common with those visiting the park. The actors, stunt men, and cast members were mostly white Caucasian. Not to mention the fact that it is all fake.

The Hot Chocolate family at Universal Studios "the entertainment capitol of L.A."

The Hot Chocolate family at Universal Studios “the entertainment capitol of L.A.”

The only thing I can think of it is it is distracting. Having been around the world I can say that the world yearns for that which is distracting. One could debate the danger of fake distractions, I think most people can agree that life has a lot of monotony in it. Thus entertainment, a distraction from that hum drum life becomes our export.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Megatron was very impressive. Very tall.

Megatron was very impressive. Very tall.

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime were kind of boring compared to Megatron.

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime were kind of boring compared to Megatron.

Probably the closest I will ever get to space.

Probably the closest I will ever get to space.

AJ and John goofing off on the tram tour.

AJ and John goofing off on the tram tour.

Denise looking at the building (the glass one) where they filmed Spiderman.

Denise looking at the building (the glass one) where they filmed Spiderman.

Some picture cars from Magnum PI and Back to the Future II.

Some picture cars from Magnum PI and Back to the Future II.

Denise checking out the 6 Points. Back in the day they could film 6 Westerns all at the same time.

Denise checking out the 6 Points. Back in the day they could film 6 Westerns all at the same time.

A view of Little Europe. The set for the Princess Diaries.

A view of Little Europe. The set for the Princess Diaries.

A view of whatville?! Oh wait that was Whoville.

A view of whatville?! Oh wait that was Whoville.

So Steven Spielburg bought a real 747 for $60K and then spent $200K to destroy it. All for a scene that lasted less than 5 minutes in the movie.

So Steven Spielburg bought a real 747 for $60K and then spent $200K to destroy it. All for a scene that lasted less than 5 minutes in the movie.

Normally this area is a fake lake, but today they were using it to shoot the back half of a United Airlines plane.

Normally this area is a fake lake, but today they were using it to shoot the back half of a United Airlines plane.

The new Hogwarts looks pretty cool. Hope to see it one day.

The new Hogwarts looks pretty cool. Hope to see it one day.

AJ was really excited to become a minion.

AJ was really excited to become a minion.

When we went on the minion ride they miss counted us, so to compensate they gave us a mini backstage tour and a pass to go in the front of the line on any attraction we wanted.

When we went on the minion ride they miss counted us, so to compensate they gave us a mini backstage tour and a pass to go in the front of the line on any attraction we wanted.

Silly Fun Land Spinners was basically the Dumbo ride with monsters.

Silly Fun Land Spinners was basically the Dumbo ride with monsters.

There was a lot of singers along the streets.

There was a lot of singers along the streets.

John practicing his drilling skills.

John practicing his drilling skills.

Denise enjoyed the Harry Potter merchandise.

Denise enjoyed the Harry Potter merchandise.

Marilyn Monroe was part of the night time studio tour.

Marilyn Monroe was part of the night time studio tour.

The flash flood scene is always fun.

The flash flood scene is always fun.

Norman Bates was not very happy to show us his checkout procedure.

Norman Bates was not very happy to show us his checkout procedure.

The 4D technology at Universal Studios is impressive.

The 4D technology at Universal Studios is impressive.

Smashburger was a good burger and very affordable.

Smashburger was a good burger and very affordable.

I was impressed that Universal Studios had cheap menu options.

I was impressed that Universal Studios had cheap menu options.

The CityWalk is the ultimate American mall experience in my opinion.

The CityWalk is the ultimate American mall experience in my opinion.

Islas Marietas, Mexico Myth vs. Reality

marrlongshotMaybe you have dreamt/heard of a mythical beach. A beach with white sands and clear water, a hidden beach, a beach in a little cove all to yourself. Does such a beach exist? The answer is maybe, but if you have found it there is high probability that someone else has found it too.

As the name denotes I am going to talk about the Islas Marietas (Marieta Islands), which is a set of small islands about 10 miles off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. Every travel brochure I saw in Puerto Vallarta talked about “the best kept secret” of the Islas Marietas. Can something be called a “best kept secret” when you go into a grocery store and the guy at the checkout counter is trying to sell you a tour to the location?!

Needless, to say there is a lot of myth vs. reality going on when it comes to the Islas Marietas. I am not going to claim there is to know everything about them because I don’t but I will say that I had quite an adventure visiting the island. I had seen a few ads about the island so I was interested in seeing what the reality was.

(click on any picture to enlarge)

I found it kind of funny that after each picture the sea lion got he gave his trainer a high five.

I found it kind of funny that after each picture the sea lion got he gave his trainer a high five.

Watch out, all pirates want money.

Watch out, all pirates want money.

There are lots of different ways to get to Islas Marietas. I was curious about the US Coast Guard boat being in Mexican waters.

There are lots of different ways to get to Islas Marietas. I was curious about the US Coast Guard boat being in Mexican waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My day at the Islas Marietas actually started the day before at the marina shopping for tour packages. If you mention the fact that you are interested in going to the island there are no shortage of people ready to sell you tours. On the high end you have big tour companies like Vallarta Adventures which will sell you a tour between $100-130 on the low end you can hire a panga boat to get you there for about $20. I happened to make some friends while I was in Puerto Vallarta and they pointed me out to a guy that they said would make me a good deal. In the end my expenses broke down as follows, denoted in pesos:

Tour Ticket : 800
Mandatory Conservancy Bracelet: 35
Port Fee: 25
Souvenir Picture: 100
Tip: 50
Total: 1,010 Pesos (about $62 USD)

My breakfast consisted of hot cakes, yogurt, fruit, and granola.

My breakfast consisted of hot cakes, yogurt, fruit, and granola.

I have to say that I doubt most people will get the same price I did. I spoke to a few of my fellow passengers, many of whom were Mexicans, and they paid on average 1,000 pesos for their ticket. Apparently, there is a gringo (aka foreigner) price, a Mexican price, and then a Puerto Vallartan price. My guess is there is also a family price, but I don’t have any family members that I know of in the Mexican marines. If you noticed I posted the price in pesos. My experience in Puerto Vallarta was that everyone there would except payment in dollars but it was kind of a double tax. First, the exchange rate at the store was 15 to 1, while the real exchange rate at the bank was 16.5. Second, paying in dollars always got me the gringo tax which immediately made everything cost 20% more. My point, learn to speak Spanish (even if you don’t know how try, the locals think it is cute) and pay in pesos for the best prices.

So, for my 1010 pesos I got a few things more than just a boat ride out to the Islas Marietas. I opted for a medium sized catamaran. My tour included transportation out to the island with guides that pointed out things along the way, a light breakfast (pancakes, fruit, yogurt, and juice), all the beverages I wanted (it even included alcohol but I don’t drink), a lunch voucher, some snorkeling time, some kayaking time, some paddle boarding time, a trip around the islands, some time on the “hidden beach”, and lunch.

A view towards the opening of Nuevo Vallarta.

A view towards the opening of Nuevo Vallarta.

Getting to the islands was fun. On the way we stopped at Nuevo Vallarta to pick up more passengers. Nuevo Vallarta looked to me to be a very fancy beach. While leaving Nuevo Vallarta we had breakfast and the guides talked about the history of Puerto Vallarta. There isn’t really much history to Puerto Vallarta. The city didn’t really become its own until the 30’s and it’s real popularity came when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed The Night of the Iguana in the 60s. I should note that from Puerto Vallarta it takes about an hour and a half each way to get to the islands, so be prepared to chill for awhile.

This part of the island used to be use as target practice.

This part of the island used to be use as target practice.

Circling the islands we saw some cave formations and a wall that was apparently bombed by the Mexican Navy. As much as I would have loved to go take a hike on the island we were told that there were very limited areas where people were allowed to make landfall. Apparently you used to be able to hike on the island, but in the 90s some hikers started a fire and it burned a lot of the island. Ever since the SEMARNAT (Mexican Conservancy) has taken over control of the island and limits what can be done there. The island today is home to thousands of birds and a special agave cactus that only grows on the island.

Luckily, for me one of the places you are allowed to go to is the hidden beach. The locals call it “lovers beach.” It make be secluded but I don’t know if I would classify it as hidden or a place for lovers. To get to the beach we first transferred from the catamaran to a panga to get to the site where the hidden beach cave is. To get to the cave you must swim about 200 meters. That was kind of easy. The hard part was the 100 meters through the cave. The hidden beach was created by a volcano crater that was partially carved out by the waves. Slowly carving a hole from the ocean up, the effect has been a cave that you must swim through to get to the beach. The natural tendency of the waves is to push everything away from the beach. This includes people who are trying to get to the beach. To make it a bit harder they make you where a life preserver, which is probably a good idea, but I found it hampered my stroke technique. The guides said everyone could go to the island but I don’t know if that was a good idea. I saw two kids that were not good swimmers not do so well. I thought they were going to drown but luckily three guides helped them.

This aerial shot gives a good perspective of how far you swim into the island.

This aerial shot gives a good perspective of how far you swim into the island.

I got a pretty good gash on my knee courtesy of the waves at the Islas Marietas.

I got a pretty good gash on my knee courtesy of the waves at the Islas Marietas.

The opening to the tunnel is small on high tide days.

The opening to the tunnel is small on high tide days.

Big boats are not allowed to be too close to the cave so you take a smaller boat known as a Pechanga.

Big boats are not allowed to be too close to the cave so you take a smaller boat known as a Pechanga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beach was beautiful, but there are some things you know to be aware. The pictures kind of show this myth of an excluded place. The reality is if the surf is calm enough for you to make landfall, there will likely be people on the beach with you. You are not allowed to bring anything with you except a camera and a life preserver. On the way back I got caught with a wave that pushed me up against a rock and I got a pretty good gash on my knee. Nothing major, but it did hurt (I like to think I am a blood brother with the islands now).

I couldn't believe that the NCL Jewel was leaving at 5PM. Talk about leaving the party early!

I couldn’t believe that the NCL Jewel was leaving at 5PM. Talk about leaving the party early!

 

Coming back there was a lot of music going on but I was kind of tired so I just chilled on the top deck. For lunch they gave us a hamburger and camarones embarazados (pregnant shrimp). The literal translation of pregnant shrimp sounds weird, but it really just means shrimp on a stick that has been cooked with fire (it is really good). On the way back we saw the NCL Jewel of the Sea (a big cruise ship) leave port. The catamaran was tiny in comparison to that ship.

Overall the day was great. If you get the chance to go and you are a good swimmer I would highly recommend it.

You know your at a Mexican port if there is a big flag.

You know your at a Mexican port if there is a big flag.

Being on a boat gives you a different outlook of the coastline.

Being on a boat gives you a different outlook of the coastline.

Conchas Chinas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The view from the highway was spectacular.

The view from the highway was spectacular.

Translated into English Conchas Chinas is the Chinese Conch. Despite the fact that when we were there we saw many Chinese tourists the place is named after very small round sea shells that are named after the curvy Chinas designs they have (think wavy blue tiles from Puebla, Mexico).

The beach is not that big. It is also not close to the center of town which is nice because you will see less tourists there. For a long time our group were the only ones on the beach. For about 3 dollars we rented 3 chairs and a umbrella for the day. Myself, I didn’t use the chair much because I was determined to get out and do some snorkeling. The water was pretty clear and I was able to see quite a number of fish.

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The cobblestones on this road were not that easy if you didn't watch yourself.

The cobblestones on this road were not that easy if you didn’t watch yourself.

It takes two public buses from Puerto Vallarta to get there.

It takes two public buses from Puerto Vallarta to get there.

Going to work on Monday was rough.

Going to work on Monday was rough.

Lots of sea urchins under water.

Lots of sea urchins under water.

My aunt Coco taking the stairs down to the beach.

My aunt Coco taking the stairs down to the beach.

I saw lots of little colorful fishes.

I saw lots of little colorful fishes.

Tacos Dorados, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico

You can get a lot of food for $4 (USD) dollars in Mexico.

You can get a lot of food for $4 (USD) dollars in Mexico.

When I think of what I can buy with only $4 dollars in the USA I immediate think of fast food. When I think of what $4 dollars will get me in Mexico I also think of fast food. The difference is that in Mexico it doesn’t have to come from a chain fast food place.

 

While in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico I discovered a new (to me) taco called the Taco Dorado. It is like a normal corn shell taco you get at any taco stand in Mexico but the difference is that they soak the cold tortilla in adobe sauce and then put the meat in it (in my case goat meat). The whole thing is cooked some more until the tortilla is a little bit crispy and then fried onions and some taco sauce (not spicy) are added in. I ended up having two of these tacos.

Click on the pictures to enlarge:

 

Tacos dorados are soaked in adobe sauce and are cooked until crispy on the outside.

Tacos dorados are soaked in adobe sauce and are cooked until crispy on the outside.

A look inside a taco dorado with birria (goat meat).

A look inside a taco dorado with birria (goat meat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the two tacos were extremely delicious, I was still hungry. Luckily for me the taco stand that I was at also had quesadillas. The quesadilla was made with carne asado (grilled beef), queso asado (mozzarella cheese), pinto beans, onions, and adobe sauce. The best part of the quesadilla to me was the tortilla. It was made fresh from a hand rolled ball of masa (corn dough). It was big too, my tacos and the quesadilla could not fit on the same plate. It was kind of like having a two course lunch because I had to eat my tacos before they would give me the quesadilla.

The quesadilla took up most of the plate.

The quesadilla took up most of the plate.

The prices for the tacos are in pesos (16.5 MXN= 1 USD).

The prices for the tacos are in pesos (16.5 MXN= 1 USD).

To wash all if it down I had a sprite. I know not so exciting but soda to me goes well with tacos. By the time I was finished I was very full, but I was not broke. My total bill (including what the lady said was a very generous tip) was 57 pesos. With an exchange rate of 16.50 that translates to $3.56 USD. Good luck getting the same in the USA.

Tortas San Luis, Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Most people think of the typical Mexican quisine as being the taco and they are right, but I (John) am a big fan of tortas. For those that don’t know what a North American torta (please note in South American that word is a different type of food) is best described to a Gringo (you if you can only read English) as a Mexican Hamburger. It is made out of a bolillo (a big bread roll), mayonnaise, and various savory toppings. My favorite tortas are in Mexico City, but abscent a trip to Mexico’s capitol city. I can’t leave Mexico without trying to find one.

While we were in Puerto Penasco, Mexico I went searching for tortas. Outside of Mexico City good tortas are harder to find, but every Mexican city I have ever been to so far has had at least one good (sometimes more) torta shop. Puerto Penasco was no exception. I looked around quite a bit and I am declaring tortas San Luis the best tortas in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

Tortas San Luis is located on a dirt road on Calle Cuatemoc with the cross street of Melchor O Campo.

Tortas San Luis is located on a dirt road on Calle Cuatemoc with the cross street of Melchor O Campo.

The first thing that made this place good was the price. A good torta is not expensive. In fact the most expensive torta (the one with everything but the kitchen sink loaded on it) cost $40 pesos ($2.5 USD). Most of the tortas we tried were $15 (about .90 USD cents). Our entire meal cost of $80 pesos ($5). That was 4 tortas (because I had to get one to go), 4 sodas, a side order of fries (because why not), and a 15% tip (10% is standard in Mexico, but we were kind of messy eaters).

Go big, it isn't going to cost your wallet much. Never found out what the trophy was for, best sandwich maybe?

Go big, it isn’t going to cost your wallet much. Never found out what the trophy was for, best sandwich maybe?

The second thing that makes a torta good is the size and toppings. Tortas San Luis had kind of simple toppings: chicken, ham, bacon, and pierna (leg). The choices were simple but they put a lot of meat on the torta. Besides, after you add cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, onions, avocado, and tomato it still bigger than most burgers you have ever seen (if you want to see something really crazy order a torta cubano in Mexico, but that is for a different blog entry).

Everything in this picture cost $1.50 USD.

This ham and cheese torta with fries cost about $1.50 USD.

The last thing that makes a torta is the bolillo, the bread roll it is served in. The original bolillo has French origins in that it has a very crunchy crust with a soft middle called the migajon. Also common in Central Mexico is what is called the Telera roll (a rounder bigger roll). In Puerto Penasco they had a different kind of bolillo called a birote. This was a longer skinny roll, that was a bit sweet (kind of like a crusty Hawaiian roll). It was different than what I was used to but it was still very good.

Unfortunately, the joy of the torta is a fleeting moment. Tortas are made quickly and thus made to be eaten quickly, but the food was good and my belly left full so I was happy.

The Beaches of Puerto Penasco, Mexico

So for the first week or so of October this was our home…

Our Taj Majal tent.

We call this our Taj Majal tent.

Yep, not much to it. It was kind of simple but the good news was it had a great view…

View of the beach.

View of the beach.

There isn’t much to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, but one thing it did have a lot of was beaches. That and Arizonans. At times I wondered if there were more foreigners than locals, but considering Puerto Penasco was basically founded by a foreigner (Al Capone build the first permanent structure) it kind of made sense.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico is a small town about 3 hours south of Arizona. As part of the Mexico Free Zone, this is a special zone where tourists are not required to have a tourist visa, it was very easy to get to. While there we spent a lot of time on the many beaches the town had to offer.

Playa Bonita

Playa Bonita was our base camp for the week. The resort we stayed at was called the Playa Bonita RV resort. It was $24 a night for a full hookup site. The amenities for a camp site were pretty good. It had electricity, wifi internet, a spa, and the best water pressure in a shower I have seen in all of Mexico. Looking at the RV park you could tell that some of the people had been staying there a long time. The even had a little club that they let us use which was nice. Most of our days were spent playing in the waves. On one day my Brother-In-Law rented a jet ski and gave our son a ride. AJ liked that a lot.

John and Denise

John and Denise

Cousins playing.

Cousins playing.

Resort and RVs

Resort and RVs

Sailboats and shade structures at Playa Bonita.

Sailboats and shade structures at Playa Bonita.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reef / Camino del la Cholla / Sandy Beach

Along the way to Puerto Penasco we saw two advertisements A LOT. One was about a free breakfast at some café (which we never found), and the other one was about Wrecked at the Reef.

We didn't go inside Wrecked at the Reef but we saw a lot of advertisement for it.

We didn’t go inside Wrecked at the Reef but we saw a lot of advertisement for it.

I didn’t go inside the Wrecked at the Reef Café but considering the threshold warned about not exiting with alcohol I figured it was not the place for me. Though as the name implied there was a reef. At the reef we did a lot of snorkeling. It was kind of reminiscent of the days before I was married and used to scuba dive a lot. Only the water in the Sea of Cortez was a lot warmer than the Pacific, so no wetsuit was required.

 

 

 

John snorkeling.

John snorkeling.

Underwater fish.

Underwater fish.

Stripped fish at the reef.

Stripped fish at the reef.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playa Encantada

One of the last things we did in Puerto Penasco was to look for seashells. Every beach we went to had lots of seashells, but the largest ones we found were at Playa Encantada. The name translates to the “Enchanted Beach”. I am not sure about that, but it was very quiet. Being farther out than most of the resorts and having mostly empty houses we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. We spent about an hour collecting some really big seashells.

playaencantadaaj playaencantadadenise

That Time I Made Cheese

My family has a long cheese making tradition. It started about 25 years ago when two of my uncles decided they were going to quit their auto-making jobs and try something new.

I have to admit cutting the cheese made my inner 8 yr. old boy laugh.

I have to admit cutting the cheese made my inner 8 yr. old boy laugh.

Wanting to try something new I found some citric acid and some rennet (cow gut enzyme) and decided to try to make my own cheese. The type of cheese that I decided to make was asadero (ranch) cheese.

The reason why I went with asadero cheese is because this is the cheese is pretty simple in the amount of steps required to make it. For those not familiar with asadero cheese it is what most Americans think of as mozzarella cheese, except real mozzarella cheese is made out of water buffalo milk and what is labelled mozzarella cheese is actually probably asadero cheese, because asadero cheese is made with dairy cow milk.

I was very happy to find Animal Rennet online.

I was very happy to find Animal Rennet online.

To make asadero cheese you need whole milk, salt, rennet, and citric acid. The whole milk is necessary because you want as much cream as possible. It is preferable to get unpasteurized milk, but that is not possible in California, so I made sure it wasn’t ultra-pasteurized. The citric acid helps acidify the milk to start the process of coagulation (curd making). You then add rennet in to take down the acid levels of the curds and to solidify the curds.

I used a cheese cloth to help extract the curds.

I used a cheese cloth to help extract the curds.

There are many recipes on how to make mozzarella cheese. Anyone can search for them online. I am in my own process to find the right technique to make asadero cheese.

What I found is the process was quite labor intensive. It took a long time but in the end I was able to get a nice 1 lb. ball of asadero cheese. It was a lot of work, it would have been easier to buy it from the store, but there is no beating fresh cheese taste.

My final product. I think I could have made it a bit smoother if I had pulled it a few more times.

My final product. I think I could have made it a bit smoother if I had pulled it a few more times.