A Day in the North Bay

After an extremely lazy day 1 of 2016 (I mean LAZY!) I had to be out an about the next day.  I can only sit on my painfully comfortable couch for so long…

Since we were long overdue with our wine pickup, we decided to make a day of it – and it twas lovely!

Breakfast in Petaluma
Tea Room Cafe (A MUST!!) 316 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
You may have to wait in line, but it’s worth it!  We showed up around 11:00am on a Saturday and had no trouble finding a table.  We had the croissant breakfast sandwich and the chorizo scramble, with a chai latte and coffee.  Everything was delicious.  Don’t forgot to stop at the darling little shop next door (got this cute red beanie there)!

Wine tasting and relaxing
Paradise Ridge Winery  4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
We became members here… so you know it’s good!  Love love love this place.  The grounds are gorgeous – they have TONS of artwork/sculptures all throughout.  The tasting room is super cozy and the view is lovely.  This was the first place that I loved all the wines – red and white!  Definitely check this out.

Cruise down HWY 12 and enjoy the scenery between spots!!

Sipping tea and strolling
Sonoma Plaza 453 1st St E, Sonoma, CA 95476
There are so many great shops here!  From wine shops, to estate jewelry, from consignment boutiques to “general stores”.  A must stop if you’re in the area.  The plaza encompasses a beautiful park, and has plenty of delicious restaurants to choose from!

Basque Boulangerie 460 First Street East, Sonoma, CA 95476
We stopped here for a mocha, hot tea and chocolate covered macaroon.  YUM!

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A truly lovely way to start out the new year!

In 2016 I Hope

My best (person, friend, soul-sister) is so wise. May 2016 be the best yet

SARAH CUETO

The past year seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye. In 2015 I got promoted, travelled to Vienna, Austria, as well as to Chicago, Austin and Orlando, saw Garth Brooks live in concert (a lifelong dream of mine), adopted my pup, and took on an additional contributor role with Elite Daily. I was challenged within an inch of my life and also experienced some of my greatest joys. 2015 was a year of learning, growing, surrender and acceptance. 2015 showed me that in 2016…

I hope that you fight. I hope that you make mistakes. I hope that you watch something fall apart so you can learn to build something better. I hope you experience pain so that you may be given the chance to feel joy. I hope you see sadness so that you may learn to someday help others through theirs. I…

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Kale, Apple & Parmesan Salad. YUM!

This salad is super simple and extra delicious!

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Ingredients:
Depending on how much salad you want to make, feel free to increase or decrease amount of ingredients.
1 bunch Lacianto Kale
1 apple (I use fuji)
1/8 cup of grated parmesan cheese (or however much cheese you want!)
1/2 lemon (zested)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Start by de-ribbing (is that a word?  Remove the stem) the kale, and shredding the leaves.  Place in a large bowl.  Large dice the apple and add to the kale.  Toss in the parmesan.  In a separate small bowl add the olive oil, juice and zest from the lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk for 30 seconds or so until it becomes a little thicker.  Pour over the salad and toss.  It’s that simple and so good!  Good for you too 🙂

Year 29

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This is how I spent my 29th birthday.  On the couch with some Ben & Jerry’s in the most comfortable onesie ever

Only moments ago I was sliding on a piece of cardboard down the grassy hill near my house, fishing for crawdads in the creek, playing in the street until the sun went down…

Time flies,  faster with every passing year.  I find myself wishing for this day to end or saying I can’t wait for the weekend, but this year, my wish is different.  I wish for time to slow down…way down.  This year, I’m going to be more present, in every moment… even in the 4th mind-numbingly boring meeting of the day moments.  Friends, there are literally times when I am talking to someone and I hear absolutely nothing…nothing.  It’s almost impressive, but mostly sad.

While it’s easy to say “I’m going to be more present” I understand this must be an intentional effort.  Here are some things I plan to do:

    • Start each morning in prayer: “Lord, please guide my head and heart and help me be more present”
    • set a realistic schedule for my day (even scheduling in time for breaks!)
    • only use social media once a day (do this by deleting the apps off my phone!)
    • avoid the “what if” or “coulda shoulda woulda” thinking
    • engage my senses more
    • cuddle my dog for at least 20 uninterrupted minutes a day
    • have a regular sleep and exercise schedule
    • smile more, even to myself

And the most important of all:
Have peace that God is in control and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

While 26 is still the best year yet, 28 wasn’t so bad (less the last 5 days of it).  I enjoyed vacations in Bend, OR., Kauai, HI., Tahoe, Yosemite, Disneyland, Cambria, remolded my bathrooms, got a promotion, bought myself a brand new Subaru Forester (name pending, I’m thinking about Sheila), helped big-hearted folks create Bay Area Animal Rescue Crew and made a dent in finishing my master’s project.

So here’s to 29.  May you blow my expectations out of the water.

Punta Cana. The worst vacation. Ever.

Let me start by saying…

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I will never, ever, ever again go to an all-inclusive resort. NEVER. So while I try to make my posts include recommendations this one, will not.

This was the worst vacation. Ever.

Upon landing in Punta Cana, we were welcomed with a $10 charge per person for entering the country. No mention of what this charge was for, they were simply not letting people enter customs before forking over some cash. Second, the workers were very short with us. Perhaps it was the language barrier, or maybe Alex’s man bun, but either way, it was an unpleasant first impression. We found our pre-booked transportation and wearily walked to the unmarked white van.   From the airport to the resort, it was a bit depressing. There was garbage everywhere, and people seemed to just be. There were people standing around, everywhere, and I swear I saw a man standing alone in a field with what looked like an M16 (or the like). We got to our resort and there was literally a fence around it: one side, “paradise” the other side, slums. I immediately felt guilty for being there.

Location: Punta Cana, Dominica Republic
Hotel: Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana “Golden Club”
Dates: 27 Nov – 1 Dec
Overall Ranking: D (for DON’T ever come here)

As part of the “Golden Club” we were promised welcome drinks, which must have drank themselves. The lady pointed us out to a man who would drive us to our room – and upon meeting him, he snidely said “go over there and wait”. We went, and after 10 minutes of nothing, we walked back and he said “I said go here”. By this point, my resting b*tch face had set in, as he wasn’t even attempting to be friendly. He drove us to our room (there’s constant shuttles going so this was not special treatment) and opened the door for us. We said thank you and waited for him to leave. Instead of leaving he lingered, took off his hat and waited for a tip. Having worked in the service industry for quite some time… I felt absolutely no obligation to tip if I don’t think it’s deserved. This man was rude and I didn’t feel the need to validate him.

It was around 6:15/6:30 so we decided to go to the buffet – as we were too late for any restaurant reservations. Friends, don’t take this lightly – the food was awful. They had about 30 – 40 options and they all were awful. Awful. Seriously, I just can’t believe how awful the food was.   After every meal I felt… weird… I progressively felt worse and worse after each meal.

The following 2 days included lying by the beach in overcast, rainy, windy and humid weather, eating as little as possible (did I mention the food was AWFUL) and drinking plenty of Miami Vices. While reaching for a beverage in my minibar, I was greeting by a flurry of cockroaches. I immediately called customer service, and an hour later they sent 5 people up. Upon overturning the dresser, they discovered all the cockroaches in all the land lived underneath my dresser.

We came to this resort for a friend’s wedding – which was actually quite nice. We had the morning and early afternoon before the wedding, and it was the first day of sun – so we went to the beach. Unfortunately, the beach and swimming area was inundated with ocean weeds making it quite miserable – and smelly.

They warn you not to drink the tap water (though they wash all the food in it…) and I am pretty sure they use reclaimed water to water the plants and the entire resort had a sewagey stank to it… like, bad. Walking home from the wedding reception, the stank was exceptionally bad. Once we got to the room, I sat down to upload some photos and got greeted by another cockroach. At this point… I’m on the verge of tears, but grateful to be leaving the following morning.

Following this event, into the morning we were supposed to head to Las Galeras, (“heaven” compared to here), my beau got extremely sick. Boo prides himself on never getting sick, so when he says he is sick… he’s sick. We went to the doctor on the resort, and he wanted $130 to answer the question “are these symptoms consistent with anything you have seen?” Seriously?? You’re charging people for a “consults”? Pathetic.

At this point, we decided it would be best to just head home. We had had such a terrible experience, had already checked out of the resort (though we couldn’t bear another day there anyway), and didn’t feel it was a good idea to travel 4+ hours by van and ferry to the next location – not knowing how sick boo really was.

After 22 hours, lots of money and refunds declined, we safely made it home. It has never, ever felt so good to be home.

12/3 – my birthday, still sick.

Woof.

A Fall Day in Apple Hill

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful with loved ones and good food!  Thought I would share a fun fall post!

I’ve been wanting to go to Apple Hill for years, and this year, we went!  On our way home from a Tahoe getaway – we made a little pit stop.  Apple Hill is literally right off HWY 50 between Pollock Pines and Placerville – with lots of great stops within seconds of each other.

Not having a clue where to go, I did a quick yelp review – and was very pleased with my stops:

Bodhaine Ranch
YOU MUST STOP FOR PIE!  We got a slice of raspberry sour cream pie and it was insane… if you listen to anything I say, stop here for a slice o pie!  It was also a great stop to take some fall family photos.

Bill’s Apples and Felicia’s Dolls
To be honest, we just made a quick stop here to walk the grounds.  The flowers were glorious, and they handed out FREE spiral sliced apples.  I didn’t go into the Doll shop because, well, I don’t like dolls, but it was a cute brief stop.

Rainbow Orchards
GET AN APPLE CIDER DONUT!  Trust me… yes, again.  They are so delicious!  There’s also free samples of the apple cider, overflowing pumpkins and plenty of picnic tables.  Another photo shoot opportunity too 🙂

Enjoy your day in Apple Hill!

God id good friends.  God is good.

Touring London in 2 days!

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Me and my sweets in front of the London Eye

Believe it or not, it can be done!  I’d encourage my fellow travelers to allow an extra day or two if time allows, but if not, put on your running shoes 🙂   For me, traveling to Europe has to include multiple stops.  In planning an Ireland vacation, we decided to add an extra 2 days to stop off in London. I think we had a total of 40 hours or so in London … it was a whirlwind, but we hit a lot of the major destinations and had a blast!

Evening 1:

After landing in the afternoon, checking in and freshening up – we hit the town!  My partner had friends in London – so we met somewhere near the Westminster Tube, strolled around and grabbed a bite, and got to see River Thames, Big Ben & the House of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and the London Eye as evening set in.  We strolled around and stumbled upon the Sherlock Holmes Pub which was exactly what I pictured a London pub to be like – young drunks stumbling out, the interior smelling of sweet old beer, and a charming exterior!

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Silhouette of Big Ben & House of Parliament

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London Eye, Big Ben & River Thames

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Sherlock Holmes Pub

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Big Ben

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Day 2:

I too have a friend in England – about an hour and a half outside of London, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years.  When I told him I would be in London for 2 days, he insisted on spending some time with us.  I figured we would hang out for a few hours … but his agenda was a bit different.  We met around 8:30am and didn’t stop touring until 7:30ish… I was exhausted, but glad we got to see so many hotspots!

We started the day with the 8:00am Holy Communion Service at Westminster Abbey. It was really neat to sit in this amazing historical site and participate in such a special ceremony.  It was a quick service – and this is a free opportunity to get into the Abbey!

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The beautiful Westminster Abbey

After the service we strolled to Whitehall to watch the Horse Guards Parade, and then to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards.  Though both spots were packed with tourists – it was really neat to experience this tradition.  And yes, we took the obligatory photo with the guard.  Poor guy…

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Horse Guards Ceremony

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Changing of the Guards

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We then hit Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.  We just peeked in so I could see an original Van Gogh – but I wish we would have spent more time there.  We grabbed a quick bite (fish & chips of course…) and were on our way.

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Trafalgar Square

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National Gallery

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Next we went to the Tate Modern museum – but just the inside’s outside…. We had to walk through the museum to get to this amazing outdoor space – with people picnicking, kids playing in the water and people sunbathing. (I’m going off memory but I think this is behind the Tate Modern…)

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Next we strolled along the River Thames, attempted to get a beverage at an overly packed bar – failed.  Enjoyed some seasoned street nuts… whatever they were, they’re delicious, and ended up at Tower Bridge.  Crossed over and saw the Tower of London (not much of a tower…), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wrapped up our last evening with a delicious meal of Guinness stew and sausage with colcannon.  We walked over 7 miles and were completely exhausted!

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Tower Bridge

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Me and Boo – beyond exhausted at this point!

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The “Tower” of London (and my handsome beau)

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The last London Supper

The last London Supper

Final Day: 

For our final day we didn’t have to head out until noonish – so we decided to head back to Trafalgar Square, and to our joy, stumbled upon Covent Gardens.  You must go here!  We strolled through the little shops, and ended up getting some coffee & pastries and just hanging out.  Loved this spot!

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

Darling pastry shop in/near Covent Gardens

It was a whirlwind but we had an incredible time in London!

SF Date Night! Redford & Magic

In an effort to break the cycle of lounging on the couch, watching re-runs of Big Bang Theory, I decided to plan a fun date night out in the city.

First off, I am not a city girl.  I avoid the city at all costs.  Oh, and by “city” I am referring to San Francisco.  On the other hand, my partner is a city boy, and gets giddy over the sky scrapers and city scape.  Ergo, I decided to plan a date I knew he would love.   Boo loves magic, and having never seen a magic show myself, I thought I would give it a go.  I did a simple yelp review and came across the Marrakech Magic Theater.  I figured I would give it a shot, after all, it did have 240 five-star reviews!  I purchased tickets from www.goldstar.com and saved 50%!  They only had tickets for the 9pm show – so I sought out a cool dinner spot – and was pleased with my selection.  We ended up with a corner booth at Redford – a “hipster american rustic chic” spot that we loved!

Redford

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LOVE the look of Redford!

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You HAVE to get the Antipasto plate. Have to. We didn’t even have room for dinner after this! Absolutely delicious.

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This tastes even better than it looks…

Marrakech Magic Theater

The best part is that this is a show for an intimate group.  There was maybe 25 folks in the room – and almost everyone got to assist in the show!  Was a blast and very deceiving…

IMG_0826 IMG_0832Keep the spark alive!  Plan a fun date night you know your partner will love!

Crater Laker & Bend, Oregon

I’ve always imagined I would end up in a small, mountain type town, with beautiful lakes and snow capped mountains, great restaurants with outdoor seating, and residents really making it feel like a community.  Though I have dreamed of this place, I have never actually been to said destination.  Then, I went to Bend.

On the cruise up we decided to swing by Crater Lake.  WOW!  This place is gorgeous! It almost looks fake – this volcano inside a volcano!  A must see if cruising through southern Oregon.  I would also recommend staying at the Green Springs Inn & Cabins outside of Ashland.  It was in the middle of the… forest?… and we loved it!  The rooms were amazing – and the restaurant was great!  The gift shop even had a box for PCT hikers like I read about in Wild!

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Ah yes, Bend.  Bend is… well, it’s perfect.  It’s technically high desert, but Mt. Bachelor sits just a stones throw away, snow capped even in mid summer.  The downtown is absolutely delightful, with the Deschutes Rivers meandering through – full of folks floatin’. You can stroll the darling shops, great restaurants, craft breweries and chat with all the NICE people!  We actually saw a sticker saying “Be nice, you’re in Bend“.  Ha!

We had the privilege to spend the 4th of the July weekend there – and boy oh boy do they do it big!  The parade was massive, and after the parade everyone heads down to the park by the river for a huge festival.  Tons of booths, drinks, food, games – you name it.

Accommodations:
We rented the cutest studio!  Just 2 blocks from downtown and perfect!IMG_8409 IMG_8410IMG_8412 IMG_8411

Exploration of the Cascade Lakes:

Devil’s Lake – The most clear, turquoise lake I have ever seen!  And freeeeezing!

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Loved this shot I got of some paddlers!

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Todd Lake – super peaceful and secluded with beautiful views from the parking lot!

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Mt. Bachelor in the background

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Elk Lake – not a great shot – but a perfect spot to rent a kayak or lounge on the beach.

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4th of July Madness!  This is where you want to celebrate ‘merica!

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Yes, that’s a dog up there 😦

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Pano of the post parade festivities!

Craft Breweries! 

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Side trip up to Sisters
must do!  

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The town of Sisters is absolutely darling – and not far from Bend. You MUST eat at Cottonwood Cafe!

First Fridays! SO happy we stumbled upon this!  I would actually encourage you to plan your trip to Bend during a First Friday.  All of the shops offer free beer/wine/cocktails and snacks and the whole town comes out!  There’s live music on just about every corner, and it really solidifies the sense of community.

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Beautiful Bend

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We had an incredible time, and can’t wait to return!  (I might be actively seeking career opportunities…)

Until next time… I’ll be dreaming of Bend.

God is good friends.  God is good.

Egg & Veggie Pie

My workday starts at 6:30 in the morning, and I have a 30-45 minute commute…so it goes without saying I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning.

I do however know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so I definitely make an effort to eat a nutritious meal. Here’s a recipe I whipped up that will last me all week! Hopefully I don’t get sick of it…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper (I prefer red)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 1 cup diced pancetta (Italian bacon)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 store bought pie crust (don’t you judge me!)
  • Salt and peppa!

Preheat oven to 350°. Read defrosting instructions on your piecrust. Line 9 inch baking dish with piecrust.

Prep veggies   In a nonstick pan, over medium heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally. I cooked this for about 10 minutes, or however long you would cook your regular bacon. I like it crispy so I went a little longer.  Scoop out the pancetta and put onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb extra grease.   With remaining grease in pan sauté veggies, season with salt and pepper, about eight minutes or until soft.   Beat six eggs, season with salt and pepper. Combine all ingredients into a bowl and pour into piecrust.   Bake for around 30 minutes and enjoy! Refrigerate whatever is left over.  

Mangia!

God is good friends, God is good