Welcome to the Jungle

Back when I was researching places in Puerto Vallarta to stay, I also was looking into horseback rides in the Sierra Madre mountains. My mom and I took a ride there while in port on a cruise years ago, it was a great time. I was in contact with Pam from rancho el charro for months, sporadically checking in on how things were going down there. She moved down there from Ventura 50 years ago and never left. She has a ranch with a couple of handlers at the very end of civilization at the bottom of the mountains. I booked a five hour ride up to a waterfall on the Wednesday of our trip.

My brother had planned to meet us down in PV, arriving Wednesday afternoon. My hope was that we would all arrive back at the hotel around the same time. Shawna and I had coffee sent up to the room and then called an Uber at 9 in the morning,  we were ready for our day. Pam was meeting us at a library in town, not far from the hotel zone to take us to the ranch. It took a good 25 minutes or so to get to the ranch, it’s literally out there. Pretty sure a lot of the little huts and stores didn’t have electricity or running water, very rural. We joked about why she has to pick her customers up, no one would ever find the place, there was also no cell service.

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Pam’s horses were healthy and happy. After we signed our life away, we hopped on (much harder as I age, sigh) and we were off. Tomás, our wonderful wrangler led us out of town and up to the top of the mountain to a waterfall. He had his machete out making way for us to trail blaze, he would often get off of his horse to pick up fresh mangos and he also had a little snack for us to enjoy at the waterfall. My horse Lobo was sweet. His canter was a little uncomfortable and he wasn’t as sure footed on the way down. I thought for sure one time we were both going down when he slipped. Shawna’s horse, Frijolito was a pig and wanted to eat everything in his sight, but he was also hell bent on making sure he was the leader. So I took up the caboose taking in all the sights and OMG all of the big flying insects.

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The ride was long and very serene. It was just us, the horses and the jungle. fun fact, this is wear they filmed Predator.

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My ass (not that one up there) was so sore, probably would have paid off to have taken a few short rides before jumping into a half day excursion. We were hot and sweaty and ready to get back to the hotel to jump into the pool. Pam was kind enough to take us all the way back there.

My brother and his friend were already there, sitting in the lobby bar watching a soccer match. We said our hellos, went to change and met at the pool. There we had meet and greets, played some pool games and all sorts of shots were being ordered from our favorite bartender Jaime. We had Blowjobs, Donkey Semen, Sex with the Bartender and a few others that I have never heard of in my life. People would come closer and whisper “what was that you just had? It looked so good”. It was fun to yell the name and watch them either cringe or laugh.

We closed out the day with nine of us having dinner at the Mexican restaurant. I don’t want to talk down on the food but living in San Diego, it’s hard to beat what we have here. We ate, drank and talked for a couple of hours before dancing to music in the lobby.

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If you are ever in Puerto Vallarta and looking for a horseback ride tour, I would recommend you check out Rancho el Charro. You really can’t ask for anything more if you want a real ride in the jungle. I will most definitely go back.

 

 

 

Our Calm Before the Storm

I want to preface this post so I don’t get pushback. With months of Covid in action we now know that there isn’t one activity that is safe or risky, it’s all a calculated risk. We do know that wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands and being outdoors as much as possible are things that we can do to help keep us all safe.

Since SDUSD hasn’t yet opened the doors to on-campus learning, we decided to take a tropical getaway before shit gets real. With that said, I put a lot of time in researching a place to go that was warm but most importantly a place that had all of the above precautions in place. I joined social media groups to ask questions and followed people who were already at the destination or had just came back. I also didn’t want to be in an airport any longer than necessary, so a direct flight was a priority. 

We decided on heading down to Puerto Vallarta, the weather and ocean temps were great, the resort was on top of all their safety protocols and the flight was quick and easy. The flight left San Diego early one morning and it was the emptiest flight I have ever been on, I think there were about 15 of us on the entire plane. The airport in PV was also empty and it was a breeze to get through. Our luggage was sanitized before we got in our private vehicle to take us to our hotel.

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When we arrived at the resort we were greeted with hand sanitizer and a glass of sparkling wine. Once checked in, we headed straight to the room, dropped the suitcases, put our bathing suits on and went straight to the water.

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This is where we stayed 90% of the trip.

If you are already judging me, thinking that I am irresponsible or some other adjectives that I can’t think of right now, then you should probably stop reading these posts. There were some OMG moments on the trip,  things that are crazier (in retrospect) than being on an airplane. I won’t go into explicit details because 1. I don’t know the age of all the readers and 2. my parents read my blog.

The first couple of days that we were at the resort it was pretty much empty. We stayed in the pool, drinking, chatting and meeting new people. There were beach vendors down on the sand but they were very respectful and kept to themselves if you didn’t want to purchase anything. We did however almost die (sort of kidding) with our first dip in the ocean, apparently there was a red flag waving (cringe face) but that was news to us until later. The water was warm like a bath so we swam out. Long story short, the ocean was more aggressive than it lead on. I was able to get under the waves and get to shore but Shawna got caught in it and lost her brand new sunnies, that was the most devastating part. But she will claim to this day that mother nature was playing dirty. So we made our way back to the pool where we stayed all week; The red flag suddenly appeared out of nowhere and stayed put the entire week.

Doesn’t look so threatening does it?

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Our room was your typical room but we had an amazing view. We were never in it aside from sleeping and showering. We fell asleep with the doors open but since their hours of operation have changed due to Covid, certain younger folks would take the party outside. The door then had to be closed to block out the sound of their drunk chatter and music. Yes, this trip made us realize that we are now “those” old people.

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The Resort had two sides, adults only and family. All together there are about 7 restaurants but they rotated the nights that they were open. Two of those restaurants required fancy attire and since it was hot and very humid we decided early on that we would only dress up one night. Shorts and flips were where it was at. The first night we ate at the Japanese place on the family side of the resort. Food was fine, service was great, that was that.

Every night there was some sort of live entertainment in the lobby. The lobby or lobbies were all open air.

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Day two we woke up, ordered breakfast and coffee and ate on our balcony. The only plans we had were to pool. Lay by the pool, play in the pool and drink in the pool. We ended up meeting a really nice couple from New Jersey and a couple from Idaho. We had a fun time visiting with them and decided to all have dinner together at the Seafood restaurant. Everything was going fine until the Idaho husband started getting flirtatious with me. {Let me mention that he was a police officer in Idaho who spent a lot of the afternoon talking about respect.} While we were sitting down after dinner he put his hand on my leg while asking “is this okay?”. “No, it’s not” I said and I moved away. Looking back, earlier in the day at the pool, his wife was making some adulterous comments which meant nothing to any of us at the time. Now we think it was all a plan in action to swing.  Different strokes for different folks, not our jam.  I also want to say that reading this you may think, so what if he put his hand on your leg, that’s not a big deal. But it is, it made me feel uncomfortable. Especially since we spent the day with each other as couples and had to listen about how A. he was a police officer and B. how he doesn’t deal with disrespectful people. He is the problem.

Moving on, we spent the rest of the evening with our new New Jersey friends listening to people butcher songs at Karaoke in the Lobby bar, and we could not wait for it to happen again later in the week.

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Next up we test our luck in the jungle.

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Feta

The combination of these ingredients is possibly the best thing to happen to summer dinners. It’s one of those dishes that I could eat everyday until it makes me sick and then I never want it again. So far so good.

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Ingredients 

1/3 cup extra virgin Olive oil

3 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp Tabasco

Pepper to taste

Seedless watermelon cut into 1 inch cubes, chilled (10 cups)

Feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)

1 small sweet onion, diced

1 cup fresh mint, chopped

 

Directions

Whisk the first five ingredients in a big bowl until combined. Add the watermelon, feta, onion and toss gently. Sprinkle with chopped mint and dive in.

 

 

 

The Good Wine Ending

We woke up rested, refreshed and ready to explore Sonoma. I made reservations for tastings at four different wineries. We started strong at Anaba, the weather was absolutely perfect. We sat outside and really enjoyed everything we tried, it was a fantastic start to the day.

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Next up was Buena Vista Winery. This place has history which was interesting to learn about.

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We were charmed by the look of the grounds but our like quickly dissipated. The man pouring our just OK wines took his sweet time coming back for each taste. What should have been an hour tasting, for 5 wines turned out to be 5,000 hours. Allowing too much time for us to worry about the possibility of ticks falling out of the trees and burying themselves into our skin. Our window for lunch came and went and we couldn’t get out of their fast enough. We made it back into town with just enough time to drive thru a place and grab some fries before our next reservation.

Our next tasting was in an old Sears catalog home which was intriguing in itself. I didn’t know one could purchase a house from a catalog, that is how it works right?

We had a private reservation and it was a really fun experience. The lady pouring {I wish I remembered her name} was a close friend of the wine maker and she made it very personable. fullsizeoutput_df4

Here we tasted three chards and four pinot noirs, not exactly a horizontal tasting but the same varietal from three separate vineyards, does that make sense?

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The chardonnays were delicious and I think our favorite haled from Mendocino, that needs to be a wine trip in the future.

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Our last tasting for the day was held in a cute outside patio and was founded by three former football players. Three Fat Guys have a laid back approach with some pretty decent wine.

{I may have finished a bottle of their rose before we left Sonoma.}

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Dinner reservations were made at LaSalette a recommendation that I would most definitely pass on. qiKnqxcpR5+LfWsrWkc3Lw7uO3q64SQ9qANGAWL9gi%A

Sorry for the blurry photo, we had been wine tasting all day.

I ordered the Feijoada which I haven’t had since I was in Brazil and it was delish, not as good as my moms though.

{Hint, hint mom, next time we are up there maybe I can help you make it}

We finished with a dessert wine tasting and then walked back to our hotel room for a good nights sleep.

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The next day we planned on checking out Napa for lunch and hopefully a tasting somewhere. Every winery we wanted to visit had no availability but as luck would have it, we found a place right in town that had an opening for us.
We picked a restaurant that had open outdoor dining. We ordered wine and the most amazing peach and prosciutto salad that may have caused inappropriate food moaning.

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After a wonderful lunch and fantastic people watching, we headed for our tasting.

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Roots Run Deep tasting room was in an old house in downtown Napa. We were seated on a couch on the front patio.

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The one upside to the new winery protocols is that we get special one on one attention and this place ended up being my favorite of them all.

They are the ones behind the wines Educated Guess. You’ve probably seen the bottle at BevMo or even the grocery store, I know I have but never actually tried it. Their chardonnay was phenomenal and so were all the other wines. I liked everything they poured for us and if we lived up there would easily consider becoming wine members. It was such a fantastic ending in wine country.

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Once our last sip was gone we hit the road heading down to San Ramon for the night. We enjoyed a nice evening catching up with old friends. Unfortunately our plans for the next day were halted once the governor shut down certain counties again and we were all so disappointed. We were really looking forward to seeing a friends band play and to catching up with people that I haven’t seen in years. Alas, there is always next time right?

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We enjoyed a nice lunch outside before we chose to drive south for another night on the coast. But before we hit the highway we took a swing by my old house. So many memories held there.

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Our last night of a great Cali road trip we chose to spend one more evening in Morro Bay.

We had a really nice meal, perfect weather with sea lion company and relished in what a fantastic trip we had as the sun sank low.

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Side note- This martini had anchovy stuffed olives which sounded so good but in reality tasted like something the sea lion would like a lot more than I did.

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The rest of our drive was uneventful and we couldn’t wait to get home to our girls, human and furry.

It was such a great break from the mundane and even though everything was held outside {who complains about that?} we had amazing weather, pretty darn good food and wine.

Oh, and the clam chowder award goes to Moonlight Beach Bar and Grill in Cambria

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I will be back for another cup on another day.

 

Car Tripping

Our motel in San Simeon was right off of highway 1 which was most important. Unfortunately we were met with loud upstairs neighbors. I am not sure if it was children, dogs or grown men but they weren’t sleeping when the rest of us were hoping to. When the noise finally calmed down we were able to get some sleep. The next morning we grabbed a to-go bag of breakfast items from the front desk and then we hit the black tar, not that kind, jeez.

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While this guy pondered his next to-go meal, we headed ten miles north to the vista point to see some elephant seals.

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We planned on being in the car for most of the day so we hoped for the best {open restrooms and photo ops} when we did pull off of the highway.

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We crossed the famous Big Little Lies bridge however the photo cred goes to my brother, I just stole it for the blog.

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Once we hit Carmel by the Sea, we parked for some browsing and wine tasting. We lucked out with Manzoni Cellars. Winery tasting rooms were told minutes before we arrived that they were closing all indoor operations again. This place had two tables outside, luckily. The wine was good and we left with a bottle of Syrah.

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Ready for lunch aka clam chowder, we continued north to Monterey.

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The place we really wanted to eat at had a long wait so we stumbled into the nearest place and ate a mediocre lunch. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough to stay and walk around outside so we decided to continue our drive up the coast heading for the Golden Gate Bridge.

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We left the cooler weather behind and drove into Sonoma. I called a local pizza place at the square and we picked up our dinner before hitting the hotel. It was a long day in the car so we were ready for a good nights sleep, we had wine tasting to do the next day.

Road Trippin {nor cal style}

One Monday morning we packed up the car and headed north. We zoomed through LA aiming for lunch in Pismo Beach but apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. Downtown Pismo was insane, especially for a Monday during a pandemic but I guess everyone was ready for a break. Not wanting to wait, we kept driving making our first stop in Morro Bay.

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We checked into a little motel and went looking for a decent meal. I made a deal with myself to get a cup of clam chowder at each coastal town we stopped in so I could be the sole judge of what town gave me the best one. A little known fact about me, chances are if I order clam chowder, there will be a glass of Chardonnay along with it. Like give a Pig a Pancake but with soup and wine. Anyhow, after hemming and hawing over menus we ended up at the Dutchman’s Seafood House. It was fine, the clam chowder was the best thing we ordered.

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After our sole meal of the day we wandered around and weirdly enough stumbled into a tasting room. Chateau Margene is parked on the main strip of Morro Bay, you can’t miss it and they had really delicious wines, pricey but good. The guy pouring was family of the winemaker, knowledgable and made the experience nice. They also had ports which had us swooning after each sip. The sleepy town slowed down with the sun so we padded back to the room to divulge in our dessert wine and chocolate.

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On the drive up we found out the new tasting procedure for wineries, and it really takes the fun spontaneity out the of wine tasting experience but alas, we are all alive to talk about it so….I made reservations for tasting at three different Paso Robles wineries.

We started at Eberle. We had a table on the patio with views of sprawling vineyards, the wine was good but we didn’t leave with anything. The highlight was the standard poodle we met as we were leaving, I may have suggested smuggling it into the car.

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Next stop was Pear Valley Winery.

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This was a nice time and the wine was pretty good. They had some sweet muscats that we just can’t find much of near us.

After a really rushed lunch and a pretty bad sandwich, we barely made our reservation at Brochelle. This was a quaint tasting room with some decent wines and a good Syrah. The girl pouring was very personable and it was fun chatting with her. Satisfied and happy we decided to head back to the coast for another round of clam chowder when we found ourselves at one more winery. Luckily a quick call from the car, Windward winery has a spot to seat us for one last tasting.

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Windward specialized in Pinot Noir’s and I am no fan of Pinot Noir’s, however either my palate is changing or we just had some really good ones. We did a vertical tasting of PN’s and they were all good, surprisingly.

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Finally back on the road, we drove through Cambria and stopped at Moonstone Beach for dinner.IMG_4613

We had a really good meal and their clam chowder was so delicious.

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We decided to end the evening in San Simeon. By the time we checked in it was time to crawl into bed and veg to the murder channel, sweet dreams.

Our next day would be a long car day taking us all the way to Sonoma.

 

 

6 Years

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that my baby is turning 6 years old this week. It doesn’t seem so long ago that she was still in the NICU.

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This one has definitely kept me on my toes. Aside from being one of the cutest f*cking kids, she is stubborn AF.

But Seriously, this face.

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She wanted a My Little Pony party again this year.

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We stayed up Friday night grinding out the cake, it’s all chocolate under the fondant, she doesn’t want anything but.

We spent the afternoon playing pin the horn AND tail on the unicorn, made the family play The Floor is Lava and Uno, we ate cake, opened presents and then she requested cheese pizza for dinner.

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It’s been a sweet six years baby girl. I love you to the moon, around the universe and back.

 

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No Need for a Title

How is everyone holding up? School is out so that has to be a little relief right? I was not in love with homeschooling our girls. We have been trying to keep busy with plenty of beach days, cooking and A LOT of games. Here is a glimpse at the past two months.

Last day of Kinder and 3rd grade.

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Kaili helped me make Tzatziki, which we mopped up with beef kabobs and pita bread.

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On the warm days we got shaved ice and wandered the beaches.

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To escape the repetitious days, we headed to OC for a little break.

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There were sunburns and kayaks.

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Then the wind picked up and we almost lost grandma and Averi to the sea.

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Luckily, a full recovery was made.

At night, the girls challenged us to some Uno and displayed their piano skills before we all fell into bed.

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As long as the sun is shining or even if it’s hiding, we will be spending our days at the pool and beach this summer.

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I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

Scallion Pancakes

I was being spammed all over my Istagram and Feedly with these Scallion Pancakes. I don’t know why all of the sudden this recipe was haunting me, but you know what? Once I made them, it stopped. We are definitely being watched.

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*Recipe HERE from Bon Appétit

These turned out to be really delicious but I’ll be honest, it was more work than I was expecting it to be.

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My America’s Test Kitchen cookbook had step by step pictures that helped as an assistant.

I froze the leftovers we couldn’t finish, I imagine they will defrost just fine.

I made two different dipping sauces, one that came with the BA recipe and another I made with dark soy sauce, ginger, hoisin sauce and mirin. I think we liked that one a tad better.

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I am glad I finally made these but I don’t think I would do it again on purpose.

 

 

 

 

Isolating Photos

One would think with not being able to really leave the house that blogging time would be plentiful. However, turns out that is not the case. Can’t explain it. Some days are crazy busy, some are super lazy, sometimes great food comes out of the kitchen and sometimes we eat Amy’s frozen entrees….balance.

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Art days.

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Shayne’s ninth birthday and an AMAZING cake her mama made!

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Fun with the phone apps.

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Lazy days.

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Easter fun!

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Delicious food, homemade and store bought.

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Good books, good wine and school work.

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