It’s been a long time since I’ve written to the sound of raindrops on my roof. The added thunder and hail last week provided just the right soundtrack for this holiday-themed edition of My #SantaCruzLife.
Read on for a holiday baking hack, convenient gift-wrapping tip, plus visit Bay Area museums for free. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for a bonus reader-contributed tip for your scaly pets!
Blood Orange Brownies
What happens when you take a regular old box of brownie mix and substitute the vegetable oil with blood orange-infused olive oil? Well, let’s just say you get bragging rights to the best dessert ever at your next holiday function.
No one has to know you started with a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix, bought in bulk at Costco. Once you add the citrusy secret ingredient and grease your pan with it, too, it’s as good as homemade.
I learned this brownie hack straight from the source, The True Olive Connection in downtown Santa Cruz, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting room. Owners Susan and Mike Pappas have all kinds of culinary tricks up their sleeves and are always happy to share them. Blood Orange Olive Oil is one of many TTOC items that have become pantry staples in my home.
If you want to get extra fancy, go ahead and sprinkle powdered sugar on top of your brownies, or for extra zing, some fresh orange zest. Just be prepared to see an empty plate soon after serving—these don’t last long!
The True Olive Connection has two locations to serve you, one in downtown Santa Cruz and one in Aptos.
Shop Local, Wrap Local
I don’t generally encourage ducking in and out of bookstores when I can so easily linger and lose track of time. But when I’m in a hurry and need a gift, it’s off to Bookshop Santa Cruz I go.
I don’t know how many times the complimentary gift-wrapping station at Bookshop has come in handy. If you don’t know about this super convenient amenity, it’s located against the wall adjacent to the magazine section.
There are always four choices of stylish wrapping paper, along with coordinating ribbon and stickers. For a busy mom on the go, being able to shop local and leave the store with the gift wrapping done is huge. It means we can stop on our way to a party and arrive with a beautifully wrapped present.
If you haven’t shopped Bookshop Santa Cruz in a while, you’ll love their expanded selection of gifts beyond books—there is truly something for everyone. While you’re there, sign up for the Readers’ Club and receive 5% back after every twenty items purchased.
Discover and Go Museum Passes
The answer to both these questions lies in your library card. If you don’t have one, visit any of our ten branches in person to apply—you can even print an application form here (valid photo ID and proof of address is required).
One of the perks of having a library card in the Santa Cruz Public Library system is Discover and Go, a program that provides California library cardholders with free and discounted tickets to local museums that you can print at home.
There are over 40 participating museums all around the Bay Area and beyond, including the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and a pinball museum in Alameda.
Want more insider tips? Check out My #SantaCruzLife: The Churro Guy, A Hidden Car Museum & an Animal-Friendly Halloween Tip
Bonus Local Tip!
I’m a fairly new momma to a beautiful bearded dragon, who eats a lot of crickets! I’d been frequenting PetsMart until I was referred to a little local spot on Seabright Avenue called Pet Shop Santa Cruz. This family-run business has changed me and Puff’s (my magic Dragon) lives forever! Not only are their live crickets cheaper individually than anywhere else I’ve found in town, but they have a “cricket card” program that allows frequent buyers to purchase 200 crickets ahead of time (for about $20) and recieve 100 extra, FOR FREE! Check this place out 🙂 ~Jill Wimmer
Do you have a great local tip that you would like Christine to feature in an upcoming edition of My #SantaCruzLife? Use the form below to share it with us: