One of the many things I love about the Ks is what fantastic gift givers they are. Every year they give us a Christmas gift that includes admission to a local attraction. This past year, we got passes to the Living Coast Discovery Center, a place I'd been dying to visit.
Here in San Diego, we don't have one big aquarium, like the ones in Atlanta, Monterey, or Chicago. Instead, we have several smaller aquariums that focus on local marine life. The Living Coast Discovery Center is one such aquarium which is also a wildlife sanctuary.
The parking lot is not at the actual facility, instead you are shuttled to the aquarium.
When we got there, we were greeted by the two fish that have become the mascots of every aquarium across the country.
And some less common mascots - a couple of turtles greet you before you can even walk through the doors.
While not large, the Discovery Center has a great assortment of animals - both marine and terrestrial. Like iguanas and snakes, shrimp and jellyfish. And one very active octopus.
I find aquariums are especially attractive for younger set, because they can get right up close to the animals. Hey seahorse, I SEE YOU!
Outside the main building is an a garden and composting area, and the "shark tank" which houses several type of ray and shark. We timed it so we could watch them being fed.
The shark tank also featured a turtle who had been injured by motorboats. The injury caused her to be missing the back portion of her shell, giving her no ballast. To help her, weights had been attached to her shell.
But it wasn't just sea and land animals who had a home at the Discovery Center, there was also an aviary. An aviary with owls, songbirds, and eagles. I think this is the closest I have ever been to a bald eagle!
The boys found their own little nest to curl up in.
Learning my lesson from our last museum trip, this time I was smart enough to pack a lunch. And we sat in the warm sun, eating our sandwiches.
There were plenty of spaces to eat, and have the boys run around a bit before heading back to the shuttle. It's nice in cases like this for the boys to have a little freedom. Eating is so hard with kids, that we've got into the habit of scarfing down our meals so we have hands free to manage the trouble makers. So on this day, we were able to sit back and watch them run around the deck as we took bites of summer sandwiches. I know it isn't summer yet, but when you're sitting in the sun, you can pretend. It's easy to pretend when you're greeted by something as summery as a caprese salad. Tomato, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic. Made easier to transport by grilling it between two pieces of crusty bread. And while this sandwich is arguably better warm, it still works pretty well when packed in a brown bag and enjoyed hours later.
Summer Tomato Mozzarella, and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup (From Cooking Light)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 piece Cuban bread, cut in half horizontally
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 large basil leaves
5 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Cook until reduced to 3 Tbsp.
- Brush top half of bread with oil.
- Top with basil, cheese, and tomatoes.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Brush bottom half of bread with reduced vinegar and place on top of sandwich. Invert the sandwich.
- Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sandwich to pan. Place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of the sandwich and press gently to flatten. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until cheese melts and bread is toasted. Cut into 4 equal pieces.