You Had Us At Chocolate

We love food tours.  Giving our tastebuds a bit of employment while exploring an area is a pretty fantastic adventure.  And, Great Food Tours delivers a wonderful chocolate adventure in Beverly Hills, California.  Learning tidbits of history in this famous city while sampling delicious chocolates is a win-win situation.

Our guide, Lyndia, started our tour outside Sprinkles Cupcakes. This small shop is home to the Cupcake ATM.  Yep, cupcake ATM.  We did not order a cupcake from the machine, but we love that anytime of the day or night, we can get our cupcake fix.  According to our guide, the ATM cupcake came about when the owner, Candice Nelson, was pregnant and wished she could get a late night cupcake.  Good news, if you’re in Las Vegas, New York (Upper East Side), Dallas, Chicago or Atlanta, you too can partake in the Cupcake ATM experience, or you’ll just have to visit Beverly Hills.

Cupcake ATM full view

You won’t get money from this ATM machine.

Their cupcakes were tasty, but then we had their ice cream and realized we found a winner.  Directly next door to Sprinkles Cupcakes is Sprinkles ice cream and cookies.  Our sample included a scoop of triple chocolate ice cream.  Serious yum.

Sprinkles ice cream store front.  It is modest to look at, but their ice cream rocks!

Sprinkles ice cream store front. It is modest                to look at, but their ice cream rocks!

The interior of the ice cream shop.

The interior of the ice cream shop.

Double chocolate ice cream heaven.

Triple chocolate ice cream heaven.

We continued our journey to another sugary stop called Sugarfina.  What a find.  The ambience of Sugarfina made us feel like royalty.  We had a few minutes to select our samples, but not really enough time to drool and inspect all the choices available.  So after the tour, we came back for round two.  An interesting tid bit about this stop is the owners traveled the world sampling candies from around the world – and Sugarfina was born.

Sugarfina adorned with a Beverly Hills palm tree

Sugarfina adorned with a Beverly Hills palm tree

Fancy-pants without being over the top

Fancy-pants decor but not over the top

Our samples

Our samples – Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Seeds and Dark Chocolate Orange Peel – sugar at its finest.

Sugarfina samples - labeled

After we flipped out over all the great flavors and cute gift ideas, Lyndia took us to our next stop: Edelweiss Chocolate Factory.

Edelweiss is a gem and one with quite the history.  Starting in 1942, Edelweiss has been frequented by many celebrities since its opening and continues to have its frequent fliers.  Their chocolate stands on its own, but perhaps one of the coolest pieces of history is that Edelweiss is the cause for the adorably famous I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel get jobs on the factory line at a candy company.  According to our guide, after Lucille Ball was exposed to the conveyor belt in the back of the candy shop, it inspired her to conceive of a comedy skit involving making candy.  She wanted to learn how to make the candy so she worked onsite for three weeks.  Being able to tour their facility made this tour worth the money.

The famous conveyor belt

The famous conveyor belt

A tribute to a piece of history in the making - the famous I Love Lucy episode

A tribute to a piece of history – the famous I Love Lucy episode

One might think the tour would end at Edelweiss, but it didn’t.  We motored on to another fancy-pants chocolatier, Vosges Haut-Chocolat.  This place blew our mind.  We enjoyed endless samples of chocolate in a chocolate palace with decor inspired by  Katrina Markoff’s travels and culinary expertise.  And, man, this place does not disappoint.  Clearly, her concept of “Travel the World through Chocolate” is one that is nurtured by the fusion of ingredients that deliver not only a tasty experience but a sensory one as well.

A sign inside the shop

A sign inside the shop – pretty much sums it up.

Gorgeous decor

Gorgeous decor

Vosges Haut-Chocolat sample

A wonderful piece of chocolate

Incredibly different chocolate experience

Incredibly different chocolate experience

We thought the tour was over.  But, nope….one more stop: Beverly Hills Brownie Company.  Holy brownie – our head was spinning with all the different choices.  We sampled the classic chocolate brownie, which was decadent and a slice of happiness. A brownie lover could keep their tastebuds busy for days without repeating a flavor.  Wow, just wow.

Oh, the choices.

Oh, the choices.

And, that our friends, is how you enjoy some chocolate – in style.

-Peace out,
The Franci

Riley’s Farm – Go Back In Time

Riley’s Farm – Go Back In Time

Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen, California is a property with many layers and definitely worth checking out.  We scored a Groupon to check out Hawk’s Head Publick House Tavern and cashed it in this past weekend. We had a great lunch with good friends while reliving a bygone era. The food was good, but the setting was wonderful.

Hawk's Head Sign

Hawk's Head Building

The Colonial style building housing the Hawk’s Head Publick House Tavern.

From the moment we walked into the eatery, all of us felt we’d been transported to another era.  The Tavern’s menu is limited but offers something for everyone.

Here are some interior shots:

Hawk's Head Publick House

Interior of tavern

Another interior shot

Another interior shot

A coat rack

A coat rack

The wait staff wear period piece costumes and much of the food features apples.




(Left) Stilton Cheese, bread and green apple platter, (Right) Apples and Sausage


(Left) Chicken Pot Pie, (Middle) Shepherd's Pie, (Right) roast beef sandwich

(Left) Chicken Pot Pie, (Middle) Shepherd’s Pie, (Right) Roast Beef sandwich

…and for dessert – something with a little apple.

Apple Dessert Menu

What we chose….

A little slice of apple heaven.

A little slice of apple heaven – Crumb Crust Apple Pie.

Love the costume

Love the costume of our waitress

Riley’s Farm is not open everyday, but they seem to always have something going on.  Schools visit to witness reenactments of  history such as the Civil War, weddings take place on the property, they have a working farm where you can pick-your-own-fruit, enjoy dinner theatre, or simply do as we did – show up for a meal and take in the serenity of the surroundings.

Riley's Farm Map

Hope you get a chance to check out this gem.


Blog-almighty…I’m back

Blog-almighty…I’m back

I can hardly believe it’s been two months since I last posted.  The truth is we have been working on researching working overseas, specifically the UAE.  Besides checking out blogs, reading articles, and devouring three books concerning the UAE culture, we’ve been collecting all those important documents that you know you put in a safe place…only to learn safe is too safe. 🙂  Only one mantra ran through my mind whenever I felt a rush of panic seep into my soul, “Keep Calm, Carry On.”  It worked. I found all documents needed.

As for our exact plan, nothing is final yet, but we will likely start a new adventure August 2012.  In the meantime, we are working toward minimizing our possessions and getting organized.

We have experienced a few outings in-between the digging through boxes and research.  Two I thought I were spectacular involved visiting an olive farm and attending a theatre production called “I Love Lucy Live On Stage.”

Graber Olive House – we found this place simply by buying a can of their olives in our local Ralph’s grocery store.  We noticed they are a local company residing in Ontario, and they give free tours of their olive packing process.  Great olives, great people, and a great tour.  I will be a fan forever.  (Tip:  The Graber Olive House has two stores. The best deal may be their Orchard Run olives.  These are the usual ripe, flavor packed Graber olives but of various sizes – and only available here.  At less then $4, they also cost about half of what a can of their olives will run you in the grocery store.)

Inside yummy goodies galore occupy shelves – yum.







I Love Lucy Live On Stage is a hoot.  For two hours the audience is transported back to an era where they are part of a live taping of the “I Love Lucy” show.  The production shares nostalgic radio commercial spots as well as fun moments on the I Love Lucy show.  The production is still running, so if you are in Los Angeles (or are just a Lucy fan), take a few hours out and enjoy a Lucy experience.  (Note: the theatre has a first come, first served seating policy.)

–Peace out, Trenquilla


Images from San Diego Comic-Con 2011

Images from San Diego Comic-Con 2011

In order to see the full size image, simply click on the image.

Trippin’ at Comic-Con 2011

Trippin’ at Comic-Con 2011

Our 4-Day San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) pass that included Preview Night allowed us to enjoy SDCC for a variety of reasons.  We enjoy Preview Night, the panels, the exhibit hall, the art, and the creative ways the Gaslamp Quarter changes to support the Con.  FYI:  Last year this 4-Day + Preview Night pass cost $105.  2012 price is $175.


You know you’re on the right path when you see this…a person in costume.

5:30 PM – excitement building to get into the Preview Night

Inside the Exhibit Hall – crazy town









Oh, what a night. Maneuvering the Exhibit Hall at SDCC is somewhat challenging because you have to dodge oncoming shoppers while simultaneously checking out all each booth has to offer!  In three hours we accomplished seeing a fair amount but did not finish seeing all the Exhibit Hall had to offer.  Since we do not partake in the lines for free swag, it was a night of oohing and aahing.  My conversations usually started something like this:  “Aaaaah, what a cute furry hat thingy.”  OR, “Ooooh, those spider earrings rock this Con.”  Seriously, preview night starts the Con off with a bang and makes us all happy inside.


Key purchases:


15 minutes into Preview Night we purchased these terry cloth Star Wars robes

John’s is the black one. Now we can spar using our iPhone Lightsaber ap. LOL

A fun pair of earrings.










We had two objectives: (1) Get tickets for next year, and (2) finish what we started on the Exhibit Hall floor.

Sadly, we met only one objective – finishing what we started.  We left early to get next year’s tickets purchased but were dumbfounded when we saw the line.  Holy Comic-Con…not worth the wait.  Apparently, people lined up the previous day and spent the night.  Crazy.  Oh well.  We’ll roll the dice and hope we can buy tickets online.

FYI: Last year Comic-Con sold out of Preview Night passes for 2011 by the last day of the Con, and many were super annoyed.  So, Comic-Con decided to be fair this year…they would only release a certain amount of tickets for next year each day.  No chance we were gonna be able to purchase them without giving up several hours so we decided to give up trying.

Line for 2012 passes…never mind.










Key purchases:


Commissioned art for the classroom by Dan Parent

A closer look at the artwork.

Zombie coloring book – too fun.

A special sketch Tommy Castillo created on the last page of the coloring book.

















Monica and I arrived at Comic-Con at 6am to get in line for panels taking place in Ballroom 20.  More people camped out for Ballroom 20 this year.  It looked like a concrete pajama party when we arrived at 6am.  Around 9:30am people began streaming into Ballroom 20 and we were two of them!  Woo hoo.

The line to get into Ballroom 20 wrapped around the building and out to this marina area. Crazy.











FYI: Panels involve a group of individuals who come together for a discussion.  At Comic-Con these panels often involve popular television shows and include celebrities. There is a moderator facilitating questions to the panel with Q & A toward the end of the panel’s time frame.  Comic-Con is pretty much all about lines.  In fact, while waiting in line for Ballroom 20 one member of the SDCC Staff said, “Only at Comic-Con do you get in a line to wait in another line.”  If you don’t get in line early enough the chances of getting into a panel are weak.  If a series of panels are good you can pretty much bet on few people leaving the room.  Yes, you are allowed to do this. Once in you don’t have to leave.  Therefore, getting into a room is quite a feat.  Some camp out. Twilight fans began lining up for Hall H for Thursday morning’s panel two days early. It’s nuts, I know…but they get in.

Tuesday night people began lining up for the Twilight Panel














We enjoyed Torchwood, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, Eureka, Warehouse 13, and True Blood panels in Ballroom 20 (seats 4250):

I do not watch Torchwood.  I will now!  From the opening moment of the panel with Captain Jack jumping around the stage like a little boy, I had a good feeling about the cast coming out to interact with the Comic-Con audience.  I wasn’t wrong.  Here are some endearing and funny moments from the panel:

John Barrowman (Captain Jack) stated: “I’m a nerd at heart and proud of it.”

Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper) responded to an audience member who shouted out “Wooo Hooo” by saying, “Call me.  Seriously, call me.”

Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins) discussed how she was introduced to getting the part for Torchwood.  She explained that her husband said, “I will serve you divorce papers if you don’t take this job!” – He is a huge fan of the show.  She then said, all cute and bubbly, “Thanks, babe.”

John Barrowman (Captain Jack) was asked by an audience member if he would sing something for the audience.  He was kind and obliged.  Audience members were shouting out songs for him to sing. He blurted out, “I’m not singing ‘Spring Time for Hitler.” (LOL)




This one I watch with deep affection while biting my nails.  What a great show!  The panel started out with the producers, writer, and make-up artist talking about the show and their experience over the course of a Season.  Once the actors came out, it was easy to spot their uneasiness with the sheer amount of people in the audience. However, within ten minutes they were all chattin’ it up, laughing and seemed to feel more comfortable.  

  • Announcement: October 16 at 9 pm – Season 2 will begin on AMC
  • A zombie school exists in Atlanta.  I loved learning this!  Seriously, if you are selected to play one of the zombies you have to go to their zombie school.  Coolness.
  • Jeffrey DeMunn relayed his story about how he came to work on the series.  Frank Darabont called and asked Jeffrey, “Jeff, how would you like to come to Atlanta to kill zombies?”  Jeffrey’s response: “I’ll do it!”
  • It was mentioned how plentiful ticks are in Atlanta.  Steven Yeun explained how he completed a tick check in the morning after waking and at night before bed.  He continued by sharing a “tick” experience. One had gone into a special hiding place, and he said when he noticed it he said, “Holy F-…”  He stopped, looked at the audience and stated, “I’m not allowed to say that word here.”  So instead he came up with the term “Holy FRESH.” LOL  That could be funny on an episode.

The forces that made the Walking Dead be.

The cast.

More of the cast.










This panel started out with a bang.  The voice of Howard’s mother came screaming from the empty panel.  Quite a funny moment.  The Big Bang Theory cast is a hoot and well worth the 6am wake up call.  One of the funniest moments was when an audience member asked Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) and Simon Helberg (Howard) to imitate Howard’s mother.  In Ms. Wolowitz’s voice, Simon simply said, “Howard!” But when Melissa Rauch took her turn, she belted out “Hooowwwaard. What is this Comic-Con?  Is this that sex convention I heard about on 20/20?”  (The laughter in Ballroom 20 belted throughout the room.)

BONES – cancelled (bummer)

The cast of Eureka seems like they must have a blast on set.  One of the coolest moments of this panel was when the entire audience of Ballroom 20 sang “Happy Birthday” to Colin Ferguson (Jack).  I also enjoyed Felicia Day’s interaction with the original cast members.  Eureka panel did not disappoint.

The panel of Eureka.










One fun aspect of the Warehouse 13 crew is Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo) from Eureka moderated the group.  They too had a blast interacting with each other and the audience.  In fact, Eddie McClintock took his smart phone and ran around the Ballroom floor recording how many people were in the audience.  Good times.  One audience member asked the panel if they could create artifacts specific to using at Comic-Con what would they be?  One response was a device that allowed one to be transported into multiple panels at one time, and another was a device that would put more clothes on some of the costume people.  Funny group.

Allison Scagliotti (Claudia)

Eddie McClintock (Pete) and Joanne Kelly (Myka)

Saul Rubinek (Artie)









The panel most people were waiting for all day.  The moderator for this panel is hilarious.  He definitely pushes boundries, but then again, so does True Blood.  What I think is so adorable is despite the shows outlandish and provocative moments, the actors always seem so tame.  Hard to believe they do what they do.  This panel was the only one of the day that gave out free swag.  A True Blood backpack, journal, novel, and a t-shirt that showed vampire teeth and a message “Grow a pair.” LOL  I think my favorite moment (and there were many) was when an audience member asked a question of the panel — and this member was young (no older than 10) — Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica) said, “You shouldn’t be watching our show.  You’re too young to watch our show.” Funny moment.  The cast and the kid were somewhat perplexed but quickly moved on.  As for the photos below, I took many pictures of the entire cast, but these were the only ones that didn’t come out blurry.











Our day of panel marathoning proved to be a fun and a panel-packed day.

Saturday – Day 3
A day to pretty much relax.  However, we did put a few hours in at the Exhibit Hall, you know, spending a few dollars on original art.  In the afternoon we took in Harry Potter 7 and enjoyed the Zombie Walk down 5th Street while we ate on the patio at a restaurant called “Sadaf.”  Fun day.

Key purchases:

Billy Tucci began John’s commission and Billy didn’t like it…so he started again.

Completed version…awesome.













David McAdoo’s piece for our class.

Alina Pete’s take on our raven and reading.












Sean Dietrich’s helpin’ us get kids to read.

We commissioned artwork from Sean Dietrich for covers of some of my scrapbook albums. This is the first one…our trip to Cancun/Chichenitza.














Incredible Bride of Frankenstein and the Monster decanter set.















Zombie Walk:






















Sunday – Day 4
Another day of panels, however today’s panels were mostly education related.  We took a last walk around the exhibit hall and then went to participate in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sing-A-Long, but discovered not much participation was going on, so we left.

Bye bye Comic-Con.  Hope to see you next year.

Peace out, Trenquilla

Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity Knocks

Now and then opportunity knocks, and 17 high school students in the San Diego, Imperial, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties answered.  They found an opportunity to be print or broadcast journalists from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for 10 days at the CCNMA-San Diego Multicultural Journalism Workshop at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) in San Diego.  This week John and I are taking part in their journey by being among the volunteers teaching within the program.

PLNU is a destination in itself.  If the opportunity to become a reporter is not impressive enough, students pay NOTHING for the experience to work with and learn from journalists all the while living in the cozy junior/senior college apartments near the beach with roommates – meals included.  Each apartment includes a spacious two-bedroom, two-bath layout that offers bunk beds, multiple desks (there are six in our apartment), free wi-fi, and a full kitchen.  In addition, our group has access to all meals in the Nicholson Commons dining room, all for FREE, – and, yes, the food is quite edible.

PLNU is next to a beach where walking down a hill (about five minutes from our apartment) without leaving campus grounds allows the enjoyment of the morning mist, the aroma of sea salt, or even a barefoot walk in the sand.   But this campus is not located on just any beach, it is part of the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. I am seriously amazed anyone graduates from this campus because the beauty of this location is spectacular.  Multiple locations around the campus are perfectly situated for viewing the ocean.  It is a heavenly campus and while Point Loma Nazarene University might not be a place to put on the bucket list, it is still worth visiting if the opportunity arises.

Peace out, Trenquilla