Monday, June 6, 2016

Vacation All I Ever Wanted: Sayulita, Mexico

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man oh man did I LOVE Sayulita.

My sister and her husband have gone on weeklong vacations to Puerto Vallarta ever since their honeymoon 3 years ago. Last year my family (sister, bro in law, T, V and I) decided to all visit PVR together. In planning, I wasn't able to find the perfect place for all of us in the actual city of PVR, so I started searching outside towns and landed on Sayulita. It's a small (population 4000) fishing/surfing village about a 40 minute drive north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. After a few days of reading up and searching blogs, etc, we decided to book our stay there. I seriously cannot tell you how lucky I am that we ended up in Sayulita. It's probably the cutest place I've ever been in my life. It's like if World Market was a town. With fish tacos. And a gorgeous ocean. And filled with gorgeous people...seriously, it's almost alarming how good looking people in Sayulita are.


We stayed in this dope-ass huge house in the hills of Sayulita, overlooking what seemed like the whole town. It had two huge master bedrooms, a nice kitchen, a casita where Tony and I stayed, a rooftop deck with a queen sized hammock, an insane view and a pool. Literal heaven.

Our days consisted of sleeping in a bit, walking down to town for food followed by shopping or hours at the beach. We'd hope a $5 cab the short, but steep as hell, distance back up to the house for a dip in the pool and a rest before cleaning up and heading back down to town for dinner and drinks. Around 9 or 10 we'd go back home for a few poolside beers or tequila shots and a night swim before turning in. Again, literal heaven.

The water in Sayulita was aaaaamazing. It might have to do with me being from northern California and only experiencing cold water beaches, but I swear I could have spent all damn day floating in Sayulita's warm waves. The beaches were clean and friendly, and these people (angels?) will bring you a bucket of beers for like $5! HEAVEN.

The dining options in Sayulita were out of control! Such a tiny, hoppin' little town with tons of restaurants and bars to choose from and everything I had was delicious. The Real Fish Taco is located just steps away from the beach and was insanely good. We heard from several frequent travelers and locals to hit that up and I'm really glad we did. We dined twice at La Rustica for dinner - the first time for the wood fired pizza and the second time for the pasta. In addition to the food, their margaritas were killer. I had a spicy pineapple one that I'm still dreaming about. Like, my mouth is literally watering for it as I type this. My sister had the best carnitas burrito of her life at Burrito Revolution. They also had the coolest playlist I've heard at any restaurant, ever. Van's favorite thing in the world is a cheese enchilada, and we were able to find him one at Mary's. I also had a bite of Tony's marlin taco there and it was SO good and meaty!

While T, my sister and my brother in law hit the town for a few hours after dinner a couple of those nights, I was usually heading back home a bit earlier since I have a 4 year old that needs sleep and consistency and all those 4 year old things. One night, though, Van and I went to the bar at Leyza with everyone and had a blast! Van played foosball and danced to the band from the dancefloor that overlooked the town square and ocean from the third floor balcony.

In general, the trip - Sayulita, was a dream. It absolutely exceeded every expectation I had. You can get tacos al pastor from a food cart next to a green smoothie joint. While dining you can watch as VW buses, golf carts and caballeros pass by down the narrow, cobblestone streets. Visit the town square on a Friday night and listen to the Cubano band play and watch the tourists and expats dance alongside the local children dancing with their parents. Lay under an umbrella in the sand of the Pacific while a mariachi band plays for a group of locals partying on the beach a few yards from you. I'm telling you...heaven.

I think Van summed up the vibe of the trip best as he was floating in the pool the night before we were to leave. "I am sad that we are leaving Mexico, but it's good that we are Mexican." You said it, V.

Here's a little video I made. I want to weep watching it, I love and miss it there so much.

Monday, November 30, 2015


Our first friendsgiving potluck took place last Saturday and was a smashing success. Food and drinks and toys and kids and chatter everywhere, a cozy fire outside, a soul music playlist...seriously, such a great way to kick off the start of the holiday season.

 T and I invited several of our favorite friends and their kids to come party potluck style the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I took care of the main dish in addition to preparing a couple simple sides and an appetizer. We bought a few 6 packs and some soft drinks, made a boozy apple cranberry punch and pretty much relied on our party to fall together. And it totally did.

I made these bomb chicken thighs with chorizo and orange zest (no potatoes this time), a green salad, delish green beans with garlic, pine nuts and basil, minestrone and a bruchetta appetizer. Our guests came through with a cheese and cracker plate, creamed corn, cranberry brie bites, two macaroni and cheeses (!) and lots of different desserts and drinks.

After most people had eaten (we kept it casual - it wasn't a sit down dinner or anything), we made smores and had drinks by the fire.

It was such a chill, nice evening. Can't wait for next year's! Here are some tips I've learned that might help for planning your own friendsgiving, or large gatherings in general:

  • Don't try and be a hero. Make what is feasible for you and rely on friends to help out. We specified on our invite that guests were to bring a side, app, dessert or drink to share. As the hostess I was able to make a big main dish and regular sized sides knowing that our guests were going to contribute. 
  • Pick easy dishes and dishes that you can prep in advance. I had my minestrone done in a flash earlier that day. I also parboiled my green beans and had the garlic for them minced so that before our people arrived I could saute them together really quickly and serve warm. The main chicken dish took hardly any attention at all - you basically throw some things together and forget about it while it bakes.
  • Clean your kitchen as you go! And make sure before you begin cooking that your dishwasher is empty.
  • Fire! Build a fire outside if you have the means. There's literally no better tool to get your guests gathered together and chatting. Everyone wants to be by the fire. Plus, smores.
  • Make a good playlist!With songs that people like; ones that are easy to listen to. I love Led Zeppelin and Wu Tang but that's not the best music to have conversations over. For this party I went with a 60s/70s soul vibe and picked the songs myself. You can listen here, or Spotify has a bunch of great playlists available.
  • Let things go and have fun. People will move your flower centerpiece arrangements in order to talk with the people across from them. Kids will drag toys into the living room, wine will spill....whatever. Have a good time and deal with it tomorrow. :)
Happy holidays!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Old Ballgame: V + T's First Giants Game!

A couple Saturdays ago we escaped the hot, crappy heat of our town and headed to the breezy, beautiful city by the bay for some wandering and Tony and Van's first Giants game!

We planted ourselves in the Haight for a few hours to walk among the hippie stores, make a stop at Amoeba Records and grab a snack.

Van and his homies
He recognized so much album art it was hilarious - "look, it's Tom Petty! I see Led Zeppelin! Look at all these Beatles ones!" Cracked me up.


After a yummy pizza lunch we headed to the park. Van was so excited because he could immediately recognize the signs and McCovey Cove from watching games on TV. 

Tony bought him a foam finger at the entrance, and since we were among the first 20,000 people through the gate, we also scored a cool SF GIANTS black and orange license plate. Woop! 

We treked up to our crappy seats (OMG we were sooooo high up), got V some popcorn and watched the Giants work the Phillies 5-8. It was a really great first game to attend.

Van hung in there for all nine innings! What a champ! We can't wait to go back. We're so lucky to root for such a badass team in the most beautiful park in the country in such an awesome city. Go Giants. We love you forever.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tacos Forever - Grilled Tilapia Tacos with Lemony Cabbage and Cilantro Pesto

Some days Van crawls into my spot in our bed and says, "Hi I'm Mama. I like The Band. I eat tacos and drink iced tea." He's pretty spot on. That's me in a nutshell. Classic rock + tacos.



To make 8 of these delicious fish tacos, you'll need:

3 tilapia filets
smoked paprika
garlic powder
purple cabbage
8 corn tortillas
veg oil

cilantro pesto:
one bunch cilantro (about one cup packed real good)
3/4 cup sliced almonds
5+ garlic cloves
1 cup hard, peppery cheese (I use a dry, aged peppercorn jack but have used other cheeses in the past - I think many will work here, as long as they are hard)
olive oil

Heat your grill.

Finely, finely chop your cabbage. Add a good sprinkling of salt and a hearty squeeze of lemon. Let it hang out until it's time to assemble your tacos. The cabbage will get a bit softer and juicier and all around better.

For the pesto, throw everything except for the oil into your food processer. Make sure you help your processer out by grating or slicing your cheese before putting it in to blend. Pulse your ingredients while adding olive oil until you've reached a good pesto-y consistency. When your done, you should have about 10 ounces of pesto. Woop!

Sprinkle your tilapia with salt/pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika on both sides. Cook on greased grill for a few minutes per side until done. You can also do this in a pan. know...just cook your fish.

Brush your corn tortillas with oil and heat them on your grill for a couple minutes.

Fill warm tortillas with cabbage and tilapia, top with pesto. Go to town.

Sorry about these iPhone photos. I wish I had busted out my good camera. They're probably way better tasting than these pictures would lead you to believe.

Oh! And that pesto is literally good on anything. You'll have hella leftover. Freeze it in ice cube trays for later. Spread it on bread for sandwiches, top your tri tip with it, make little shrimp crostini with it, spoon it into your mouth from the's quite versatile.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Baby Love - A Simple School Themed Shower

One of my best friends (one of my oldest friends, too - we've been buds since we were 9!) is having a baby in July! A girl baby, at that! Woop! This is a little extra exciting because among my friends and family it's been boy after boy after boy these last few years. I'm thrilled baby K will be adding some feminine energy into the mix.

As soon as she announced her pregnancy, myself and two of our other friends pretty much decided that we'd throw the shower. We knew we'd really have to step up our party planning game because the mama to be is really the queen of crafty and we wanted to do her and baby proud. I think we succeeded!

We held the brunch shower in my backyard over the weekend. Mama to be is a teacher, so we thought it'd be cute to include some school-ish details with the d├ęcor.

I made these cute little vases by gluing and tying crayons to some jars. I also purchased some mini pink pencils to use as well. Centerpieces generally consisted of a couple thrift store golden books, a small floral arrangement, a handful of wooden blocks from the dollar store and an apple. Cute, ya?

We also spray painted some cans and decorated them with alphabet and number magnets.

We found some cheap thrift store picture books and flash cards that we could use as garland. I punched some holes, strung some ribbon and bam. I also made some using scrapbook paper. These hung over the food table, drink station, patio tarp thing and the area behind where the mama sat to open her gifts. My sister and I also made a few tissue paper flowers and one of those paper chain things just for kicks.

For brunch I prepared a spicy sausage, kale and gruyere strata, a zucchini, tomato, parsley and fontina strata*, three kinds of simple croissant sandwiches (turkey + avocado, ham + havarti, salami, mortadella + provolone), a big garden salad with a lemon vinaigrette, caprese skewers, a fruit tray and yogurt parfaits. The grandmas-to-be brought an assortment of mini desserts and co-host M made a yummy, boozy punch with basil, raspberry lemonade and lots of orange juice and champagne to make your own mimosas. She had a ton of left over mason jars from her wedding which we used as glasses for our guests.

*I'll post my strata recipe another time. Do you make strata? They save my life when cooking for a crowd. They are so easy, so adaptable to any taste and they can be completely prepped the night before. They actually need to be prepped the night before. Such a hit. Thank heavens for strata, I say.

A few weeks before the shower I snapped some maternity photos of the mama and daddy to be. One of the co-hosts had them printed and framed and placed around some of the communal tables, along with some fun framed baby photos of the expectant couple.

We had a few different cards printed out with different prompts on them for the ladies to fill out - What's your favorite thing about being a mom, What's your favorite thing about your mom, and What's your favorite motherhood memory. Mama to be actually had a hand in this by letting us know early on that she didn't necessarily want "advice" from her friends and family, but would rather they share a special memory with her about being a mom or about their mother. I thought this was such a great idea. Our friend and shower co-host is going to compile the responses in a scrapbook. In addition, I made a little "Dear Baby" template where guests could write a little note to the baby if they wanted.

We aren't really big on organized games, but we did want something optional and fun for the guests to participate in - other than, you know, stuffing their faces and drinking mimosas. We contacted the grandmas and asked them to share a few funny stories/quirks about their kids. We chose a handful, printed them out on cards and had guests guess which of the baby's parents the story is attributed to. The winner received a couple outdoor lantern candle holders. Pretty simple.

Since baby's name is Adalene and baby's mama is a teacher who loves rice krispy treats, my sister made some as favors with an icing A on them. We figured our guests deserved an A for their attendance. ;)

 All in all it was a super sweet day. I can't freaking wait to squeeze that baby's face off.

And if you care:
Invitations here
Spotify playlist here