San Diego County Fair 2017: Where The West is Fun

Last year, I didn’t have a chance to write about the San Diego County Fair itself. So this year, I decided to take as many pictures as I could while we were there and write about our favorite parts! I will try to write about the Zucchini Race in a separate post. Hopefully, I will get to it!

Because we were “exhibitors,” we were able to enter through a different gate that had no line to get into the fair. That alone is one of the big pluses of entering the Zucchini Race every year!

After checking in at the agricultural building with the boys’ zucchini cars, we walked around to look at all the different displays located in the area.

We always seem to come to the fair during chicken week. So those were the small animals on display this year.

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I’m afraid these displays of chickens are what got us started on eventually wanting a chicken coop!

This is the hydroponics display. It is different every year. But it is always beautifully set up.

After the races at 11 AM, we head out into the main part of the fair. We always gravitate away from the all the rides and carnival games… but there is one thing you just cannot avoid: Fair Food!

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Somehow, we always end up at Chicken Charlie’s. This year’s interesting offering: A Krispy Kreme fried chicken ice cream sandwich…

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The menu at Chicken Charlie’s!

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Meet the Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger. It doesn’t sound like it should taste good but it does! It tasted so good that the kids ate it all up and didn’t leave any for Josh! It is kind of expensive ($10.99 for one), which is why we only bought one and all seven of us shared it.

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The fair special for our sides: french fried onion rings, fried zucchini, and chicken tenders. Lots more of the fried zucchini than anything else… and only Josh and I liked it. Silly kids don’t like their veggies even when they’re deep fried!

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One of many ice cream vendors at the fair. The signage here is always a little bit overwhelming!

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I still remember coming to the fair with my parents and my brother when I was a teenager, and getting frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate on a stick. I should have gotten one just for old times’ sake. But Corran and I really wanted funnel cake instead. The rest of the family got ice cream.

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Our favorite part of the fair: The Garden Show! Josh likes to walk through here and get ideas for our yard.

Since this year’s theme was the Old West, the displays weren’t quite as vibrant as in past years. I still loved them anyway.

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I love this part of the garden show! It is called the Children’s Garden, and we take our kids here every year. They have different activities for kids about eating healthy, and learning about fruits and vegetables. They even get to go home with a small plant. Last year, we came home with a few tomato plants and they gave us so many yummy cherry tomatoes! This year, the kids came home with bell pepper plants and beefsteak tomato plants.

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The kids digging for gold nuggets so that they can each bring home a plant! Gwen LOVED this activity. She has always enjoyed playing in the dirt. There were also craft activities on the other side of the garden, like coloring and making a ladybug out of egg carton pieces.

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I love to walk around and look at all the plants on display in the children’s garden. There are fruit trees, berry bushes, and all sorts of raised beds full of edible plants.

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I had to take a picture of this flower rainbow. Just lovely.

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One of the many peaceful displays at the garden show. So inviting!

 

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My kids loved this model railroad display. It must have taken a lot of time and effort to set this up!

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Another annual visit to the Gem and Mineral Show in Mission Tower. Every year we come here to look at rocks. This is Matthias’ favorite place. He has always been our family rock hound.

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They have these grab bags for sale every year too! The kids always enjoy opening up their bags when we get home to see what interesting rocks or fossils they received. Two of my kids also got a free polished rock from the vendor. Gwen held tight to hers for the rest of our day.

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I had to take a picture of these small animal carvings! They really are very tiny!

Our next stop was the home and hobby building, which is right next door to Mission Tower. We had never actually been in here before, but I’m glad we were able to this year! It is full of collections of different objects: rockets, disneyland pins, quilts, matchbooks, Star Trek memorabilia, even fake plastic food. If you can collect it, it was probably here! The baked goods competition was also here (my secret reason for wanting to come take a look). I am considering entering next year.

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This was a fun collection! Packing Peanuts!
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This right here is one of the reasons we come to the fair. You happen upon these jewels of activities that you just were not expecting! Each of my kids was able to make a marble out of polymer clay and take it home to bake it until it was hardened. They were so enamored with the process of making these that we had a hard time keeping them away from their clay marbles once they were done designing them. Josh and I are considering having this as a little hobby for the kids.
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Say Bye to Ian!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip to the fair. I know that there are no pictures of the rides, but they would have been quite expensive for all the kids to ride everything (although some years we have gone on the rides and they are a lot of fun too!). Usually for our family, the fair is a place to learn and still have fun!

-Lynn

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Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California

Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.

Click here for more info about Lego Star Wars Days

This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.

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This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.

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After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.

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For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.

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There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.

The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.

We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.

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I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?

Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.

We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.

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One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).

We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.

Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.

The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.

We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!

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This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.

After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!

We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!

 

 

Flashback Friday: Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms

Living in Washington, D.C. when Josh was stationed there from 2003 to 2008 was not always easy, but there were two events that I loved, and we tried our best to experience annually: Cherry blossom time in the spring and Christmas at the White House in December.

Since it is cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C. now (article linked here about how peak bloom was March 25), I thought I would post about it. It’s been 9 years now since we moved back to SoCal after living in D.C., but I imagine that it is still much the same and still beautiful during cherry blossom time.

The following pictures are all from either April 2006 or April 2008.

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Two-year-old Corran at the Washington Monument. This boy is now taller than I am! At this age, Corran was very interested in space shuttles and rockets, so to him the Washington Monument was a “rocketship stuck in the ground.”

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Cherry tree by the Washington Monument – April 2006

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It is magical to walk under these trees. Yes, there were crowds everywhere, but somehow, it didn’t matter very much. We were all there to experience beauty.

These, of course, are not cherry blossoms! These are tulips at the Floral Library run by the National Park Service. The Floral Library was always a must-see when we were at the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms. It is a lovely photo opportunity and a wonderful place to take your children.

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Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms in foreground

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A close-up of the cherry blossoms.

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When you visit D.C., be prepared to walk, and walk, and walk some more! We went to this area numerous times when we lived there and still did not get to everything that there is to see!

-Lynn

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The White House in spring

 

Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wildflower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

-From “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake

 

Last year, we went to Borrego Springs around this time hoping to see the wildflowers. We did get to see wildflowers last year, but not as many as when we were there in 2008. Last year, we also found these amazing metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows.

This year, we were able to go to Borrego Springs with Josh’s family. It was a fun day trip with our kids, our nephews, Josh’s parents, and his sister. During a superbloom year, there are a LOT of people who visit Borrego Springs to see the wildflowers. We left as early as we could and were in Borrego Springs by 9 AM, but there was already quite a crowd there!

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We like to stop at a turnout on the S-22 before heading into town. The overlook we stopped at last year was busy so we had to stop at a different turnout.

Our first stop in Borrego Springs was the Borrego Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle. They offer free daily wildflower maps every year. The staff there has always been kind. The store there is also a good place to browse for books and gifts. My son, Matthias, is a rock hound and picked up a pocket-sized book about rocks during our visit last year. I wish I had taken pictures of the building when I was there. The Nature Center is located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA. The Nature Center is not related to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. In fact, when we drove past the street to the Visitor Center, there was a police officer directing traffic just at that intersection!

Once we drove into town, the traffic let up a little bit but it was still very busy. It was not too difficult to find parking near the Nature Center though. Josh and I were able to run in for the day’s wildflower map.

This was today’s flower map. It’s really informative and the lady who gave it to us explained to us which places were the best to go. We didn’t make it to every place on the map unfortunately. I think we needed another day or two to hike all the trails and visit all the flower fields.

It was very sunny and quite warm while we were out so sunscreen and lots of water were a must!

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Palm Canyon Trail, Hellhole Canyon, and Little Surprise (the trail we hiked last year) would have been difficult to find parking, so we decided to go visit the flower fields off of Henderson Canyon Road. This is the area we visited when we only had two kids, Corran and Matthias, in 2008. The flowers were spectacular here.

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Desert sunflower buds – my nephew Sawyer found these for me to photograph

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Desert sunflowers carpeting the area off of Henderson Canyon Road

The desert sunflowers were everywhere here. We also saw sand verbena, desert lilies, and brown-eyed primrose across the street, away from the hills.

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Sand verbena – lovely purple flowers. When we first got out of the car, I think the scent of these flowers was what we smelled. Possibly combined with the scent of orange blossoms from an orange grove close by.
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Desert Lilies – These were my favorite flower this year. They are a little unobtrusive so you have to be looking for them or you will step right over them.
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Brown-eyed Primrose – I had to look these up once we got home, but these pretty little flowers were everywhere this year! This one is all by its lonesome but most of the others we saw tended to be in little bunches.
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We walked by the desert sunflowers on a dirt road skirting these rows of palm trees. One of the boys said these palm trees looked like they formed a cave.

 

We saw quite a few creatures during our walk, fortunately, no rattlesnakes! There were many of these caterpillars around. Later, I found out that these are white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.

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Can you find the ladybug? Always nice to find these helpful insects around! We also saw a beetle or two as well as a lot of gnats and flies!

After taking pictures of the field of desert sunflowers, we headed down the road to the west end of Henderson Canyon Road. This was an interesting hike. We saw quite a few different flowers than we did in the flower fields.

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Saguaro Sculpture in Galleta Meadows, near the intersection of Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Springs Road

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This is the area in which most of the metal sculptures are located. We did not visit too many of them this year, though we did make the sea serpent sculpture our last stop before heading out of Borrego Springs.

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Ocotillo – with buds. We found a lot of cactus and ocotillo during this hike.
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A closeup of ocotillo buds

The beavertail cactus were in bloom. Their hot pink flowers are so bright they almost don’t look real!

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Teddy Bear Cholla with Brown-eyed Primrose

The flowers in this area were mostly desert dandelion, desert chicory, and blue phacelia.

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Desert dandelions
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There are so many wildflowers in this picture that I don’t think I can name them all. They make a beautiful picture though.
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Sand verbena and desert chicory
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Beavertail cactus with desert chicory
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Purple mat – these are tiny tiny purple flowers. You almost don’t see them unless you are looking at the ground as you walk.
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Blue phacelia – I’m glad I didn’t run into the teddy bear cholla that was right by these!

There were a few flowers that I wanted to see that we didn’t find – monkeyflowers, dune evening primrose, and canterbury bells. Maybe we will find them next year!

The flower fields are beautiful, but the trail hikes are also beautiful and a lot like a treasure hunt. We almost stopped at Little Surprise Canyon on our way out of Borrego Springs, but three of our five kids had fallen asleep! So we will have to save that hike for another time.

Some links to more information about some of the flowers and plants we saw:

Desert Sand Verbena

Brown-eyed Evening Primrose

Desert Sunflower

Beaver-tail Cactus

Teddy Bear Cholla

Purple Mat

-Lynn

 

 

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15th Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas, NV: The Food

Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.

For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!

We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.

Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.

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Antipasto salad

The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.

The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.

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The macarons we bought from Le Macaron, a shop in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian. Flavors going clockwise starting at the top right: Passion fruit, Hazelnut praline, Basil White Chocolate, Lavender White Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Salted Caramel. $17.40 for 6. I think the Salted Caramel had gone bad by the time we ate it. The Basil White chocolate was good, but the Lavender was too lavender-y. I think my favorite might have been the Passion fruit.

I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.

The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!

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A lot of the Christmas decor was still up even though it was a few days after New Year’s.

We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.

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The next day we ate at Bellagio.  They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.

We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.

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There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.

The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!

After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!

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We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!

-Lynn

 

Seven Magic Mountains: Land Art

Lynn and I took a short trip to Las Vegas, Nevada for our 15th Wedding Anniversary.  We are not gamblers, but there are many different things to do and see in the area. We may do a few posts on the area, and things we did.

While driving from Las Vegas to Primm, Nevada to go to outlet malls, we saw some brightly colored things in the distance.  They are easily seen from at least 2 miles away as you crest over a hill on the Interstate 15 South.  To me they looked like they giant blow up dancers that car dealerships sometimes use.  Lynn did a quick search on her phone to see what they are and found out that they are land art and made of giant stones.

I am always intrigued by odd things while on road trips, so on the way back to Las Vegas, I made sure to stop and see this exhibit.  There are two exits from the Interstate, both of which have road signs.  Both exits are a couple of miles from the actual exhibit, but it is an easy drive.  There is also parking on the road side, and trails to the rocks.  It is a short walk, so just about anyone can do it.

Seven Magic Mountains is a large-scale site-specific public art installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. The “mountains” are large local limestone boulders stacked on top of each other.  They are either 3 or 6 boulders high, and are painted with day glow paints.  They color of the paint is amazingly bright against the drab brown of the deserts.

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This is short time exhibit.  It opened on May 11th, 2016 and will only be in place for 2 years.  If you happen to be in the area, this is a fun thing to check out.

-Joshua

 

Packards Coffee Shop and Dudley’s Famous Bakery

I am putting these two businesses together in a post because I didn’t take enough pictures at either place! I will be sure to take more pictures when we go back, since I think both of these places will be a regular stop for us when we are in the area.

Packards Coffee Shop is a small coffee shop in Ramona, CA. The main reason we wanted to stop there? The big blue box in the front!

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Josh took this picture during a job in the area
We were just passing through, so I wasn’t able to try their crepes. I think the next time we are there, I will definitely have to order some! You can take a look at their menu on their Facebook page.

Josh and I picked up some iced Vietnamese coffee, said hi to the 11th Doctor, and took a few pics of the kids with the Tardis out front. The coffee was refreshing as an iced drink and very strong! Just the way we like it.

The folks in the shop were really nice! I’d definitely stop in there again. Packards is located at 680 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065.


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Another stop we made was Dudley’s Famous Bakery in Santa Ysabel. It is in the same marketplace as Julian Pie Company off of Highway 78.

Usually, we stop at the Julian Pie Company to get some apple pie and a dozen cider donuts to take home. This time, we stopped in at Dudley’s to eat lunch. When you walk in, there is a little gift shop to the right (my kids were immediately drawn to the rocks). The deli and shop area were straight ahead, with restaurant booths along the wall. We ordered our sandwiches at a small counter and then sat down to wait for our order. Our family of 7 took up two booths! While we were waiting for the food, I couldn’t help noticing the multiple racks of bread set up nearby, or the stacks of boxed apple pies on the table right by us! The sandwiches were really yummy, but it was the bread selection to take home that floored me. There were so many different kinds! I wish I had taken a picture of all of them in their neat rows. There were also sweets like three different kinds of streusel and cinnamon pull-apart bread. We ended up taking home this…

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Really good pie by the way, but I missed the cinnamon ice cream.

We took home these too. There was a promotion to buy 4 loaves get 1 free. I’m kind of a bread fanatic so I couldn’t resist.

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Dudley’s bread is sold in a lot of the grocery stores in our area, but I don’t think all the kinds we saw are available at every grocery store.  The rosemary and olive oil bread disappeared quickly as did the Hawaiian sweet bread. The bread in the bottom right corner is Pecan Maple and that was really, really good as a french toast! I froze the Russian Pumpernickel, which reminds me… I should probably go get that out!

Dudley’s bread can be found in about 70 locations in California. The particular location we went to is at 30250 Highway 78, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070.