Cancun {Part 3}

This was our first Christmas away from our kids which is in part why we decided to get away. I couldn’t imagine just sitting in our living room without them. We woke up a tad gamey on Christmas morning, luckily we had a special in room mimosa breakfast ordered for 8:30. Then we planned our attack to hit up Isla Mujeres. We went back and forth with just hopping on a Catamaran right outside our hotel to cut out the trip off of  the resort grounds and down into town to catch the Ferry. Buuuut, we weren’t keen on being on someone else’s schedule and having them choose where we were going to have lunch. In the end we decided to just do it ourselves. We hopped in a cab and jumped on the ferry.

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Once we were off the ferry they had people renting golf carts. We quickly grabbed one and within minutes we were in ours heading south down the island. Only 7 km long, its an easy trip around the island. Our friend at the resort told us to go to The Joint, a bar that someone he knows, knows someone else that might work there. Or so that is how the story went. About ten minutes into our cruise we unexpectedly and surprisingly ran straight into….

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That was some luck. We parked and went up to this outdoor bar. There were a couple guys playing some Sublime and a local bar dog. Shawna ordered a mango margarita and I ordered the best espresso martini of the entire trip, you guys it was so good. So good in fact that I ordered another to go. It’s legal there, well I assume it was since the bartender put it in a to-go cup for me.

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Not a terrible view to sit with a bevi.

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Once back in our cart we continued around the island. It’s just beautiful.

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We stopped every so often to walk down the the water and then I was able to get some cell service so we stopped at a cemetery and I called my girls to wish them a merry Christmas.

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Once we made it around the island we parked near Playa Norte. This is where there were restaurants and the beaches had chairs to rent. We had a pretty good lunch on the beach and I was very confident that it was el fin of tequila for me on this trip.

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After lunch we walked up the beach until we reached some open beach chairs. We plopped down, set our alarm and here is the best part. Fell asleep.

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We woke to the alarm and headed back to the mainland with plans of playing pool volleyball. But once we were back we ended up skipping it and just sat in the jacuzzi chatting with people.

For dinner we got all fancied up and went for one last Italian meal. Their garlic cream soup was so incredible you could bathe in it. I will see if I can recreate now that we are home. They had a Christmas show that night, once that was over I was beat.

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We woke up on our last day to rain. Once we were all packed we went down to the cafe for breakfast. Our flight wasn’t until later that day so were able to spend a little more time with friends at the pool until it was time to say our goodbyes. The trip home was a piece of cake and we were back in our own bed by midnight. It was a really good trip, just long enough. If we decided to do another all inclusive I would focus more on going where the food and wine is a bit better. But It’s going to be hard to go back to a hotel that isn’t all inclusive, that is definitely the way to go.

Cancun {Part Two}

A couples massage was booked for the next morning and it was the best way to start the day. After the massage we had access to the hydro-pool and hot tubs. Since it was still raining on and off we chose the warm option.

 

After drying off in the sauna we made our way to get breakfast before the storm.

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This was the worst day in the way of rain. It would dump bucket loads and then stop and continue throughout the day. We took this opportunity to join in the sushi making class.

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The entertainment staff was in charge of all things fun. Classes, pool games, volleyball…you get the point. They were the best out of all the staff at the resort. This is what happens if you give them your phone.

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Alejandra and Dylan made our stay just that much better.

If you can believe it, this was my first time making sushi. I didn’t do to bad but I think I’ll stick to ordering it.

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Most of our time was spent in the pool, drinking, and playing. Some days we played water volleyball, some days we played music trivia and some days we just floated around. Sometimes there were even boats of fresh skewered fruit floating around as well. We also met a lot of nice people that became instant friends. I wish I had more pictures but our phones were always under a towel somewhere.

Then the weather took a turn, the humidity dropped and the sun came back out. It was just perfect.

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Another afternoon we took a cigar making class. To sum it up, I learned WAY more than I ever needed to know about cigars. After the class a few of us shared a cigar and then decided the pool was more important.

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Each night we went to dinner and the evening show. We ate at the French restaurant and the Italian restaurant twice. We had amazing dishes like duck confit,  rack of lamb and and a garlic cream soup. We also had some very underwhelming dishes like the escargot and basically every dessert item on any menu.
Next door was a sister resort that we had full access to but it wasn’t adults only.  Several people mentioned to us that we should head there for their Brazilian steakhouse, so we took an evening to try it out.  To sum it up, it was a waste of a dinner. Harsh? Maybe. The salad bar was a sad excuse, some of the meats were okay but most weren’t very good. The one thing that stuck out the most were all.the.kids. It’s funny we hadn’t been around any children for a handful of days and it was like a heightened sense of chaos at that restaurant. The next day we were talking to another couple and told them about our dinner and the first thing out of the women’s mouth was “aren’t kids there?” Ha, what were we thinking?

The shows were also not great, probably just local talent that they can find. If you are used to Vegas shows or cruise ship entertainment, you need to take these with a large grain of salt. The guest singing talent show however was the best. One of our friends went up and sang a Bon Jovi song. He started out a show that turned out to be a lot of fun.

We all ended up in the club and danced the night away.

To be continued.

Cancun {part one}

A couple of weeks back we left San Diego before the sun was even awake, viva Mexico. We headed to Cancun for an adult only Mexican holiday. It was a long day of travel but we had the best seat companion, Lily the dog.

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By the time we got our luggage, hopped into our ride and barreled through the traffic it was late into the evening. We chose to stay at Secrets Playa Mujeres, an adult only all-inclusive resort. North of the hotel zone where it’s more quiet. We were greeted with Champagne and shown to our room.

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Our room was nice, we had a soaking tub in the bathroom and the patio, a rain shower with all the amenities one would need. After we dropped off our stuff, we headed down to the first restaurant we saw for dinner. Sadly, we were not impressed with our dishes and had our fingers crossed that this wasn’t setting the bar for the rest of our meals. After dinner we went back to the room to unpack and shower. We decided dessert was a necessity. We put on pj’s, ordered room service and ate in bed while binging the Investigation Discovery channel. Pretty sure that channel stayed put all week, those stories are horrifying.

The next morning we ordered breakfast and ate it on our patio amongst the breathtaking views. We sat and wished the clouds away.

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The weather didn’t heed our wishes and the rain came on and off and ON for the next couple of days. Not that that hinders anyone, everyone was still doing their thing while we sat out in one of the many jacuzzi’s. When it did stop, we moseyed down to the beach to drink in the beautiful grounds.

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This was our first all inclusive experience. Since cash wasn’t needed (aside from tips for the staff) I was sort of hoping that they would have a set up like Great Wolf Lodge. A bracelet that has your room key and a credit card that you wear the entire time. Leaving you not having to worry about a lone room key. When I asked the concierge if I needed to carry the key everywhere, she replied, “you do if you want to get into your room.” Side eye. So no matter what, we were stuck with a key to carry around all day and night.

There were around 7 restaurants on the grounds. steakhouse, seafood, Asian, French, Italian a buffet/cafe, an upscale Mexican and coffeehouse. Plus 24 hour room service. The food was hit or miss. Some things were incredible and some were incredibly bad. Case in point…This shrimp dish was delish.

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This potato soup served during the same meal, was absolutely not delish. It tasted like raw potato water.

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Each night we ended up at the dance club which is a really strong word for what it actually was. Some nights were busy but most were quiet. They did have a couple of pool tables but the sticks weren’t taken care of so after the second day we gave up.

We had a really good meal at the seafood restaurant the following day. We ordered the whole fried fish, the octopus, the chocolate crepe cake and the apple crumble. I was excited to have all this with a cold Chardonnay but the wine was very underwhelming. They poured a basic brand from Chilé and honestly none of the varietals were good. But I guess that’s what happens when we are so spoiled with wine where we live.

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We ended the day on the patio in the tub with wine. We learned that if you want to order a bottle of something through room service they will charge you, but if you just order 4 glasses of wine, it’s included. Brilliant.

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To be continued.

Chicago

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I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Chicago, my first time! The day of travel would have been just fine if the plane actually took off and arrived at the gate when it was supposed to, however we had a lot of down time on the tarmac. Dinner reservations were at 8:45 that night so we went straight to the room and back out into the city in search of the restaurant.

Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard was a must do. Unfortunately her flagship restaurant The Girl and the Goat was booked out until November so we decided to try her Asian restaurant Duck Duck Goat. “Reasonably authentic Chinese Food” is what the waiters say when they greet you at the table. The place was buzzing for a late Thursday evening. The space was tight and the volume loud. Sitting almost too close for comfort next to other diners, we ordered off of the “chef recommended” menu. I only have a couple pictures since the lighting wasn’t doing me any favors.

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We started off with the wood fired duck hearts.  The were tender, smoky and served on a creamy bed of garlic aioli. Delicious.

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Along with those we ordered the duck spring rolls, braised pork belly and ended with the   char siu bao. The bao dough was probably the best I have ever had, so light and fluffy. It was all really good. Happy with our decision we moseyed on closer to the hotel to meet a friend for a drink.

The next day we walked out on the river and hopped in a water taxi toward Willis tower.

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Not wanting to wait in line for the sky view we kept on walking to Union Station where I had my first Chicago dog.

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I’ll come clean, I don’t really like hot dogs. I felt that I had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. Eh, it tasted like a hot dog that had too much stuff on it. I won’t need another one.

The rain started to arrive as we were along the riverwalk so we tucked into a winery for a couple glasses of wine. I really dig the vibe of the river front, I can see spending warm afternoons out there listening to music and people watching.

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Cold and ready for a hot shower we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner numero dos.

Reservations weren’t until later that evening so we started at a speakeasy bar called Brando’s. Remembering I am too old for crowds, we weren’t sure if we would be able to stand the elbow to elbow nowhere to sit room. However the happy hour prices and delicious dirty martinis swayed us to fight the sporadic nudges of the flannel wearing strangers. Then a barstool opened up and we made ourselves comfortable until dinner.

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Rick Bayless, he’s my favorite . He was who graced the screens of my early culinary classes and whom I grew to admire years after. Eating at his restaurant Frontera Grill was the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to finally see Chicago. I wish I had a better experience to share but it was just very underwhelming.

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We started with pork tamales and tamarind margaritas. Both were just OK. I’ve had much better in San Diego and our waiter was less than gracious.

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The entrees were molé enchiladas and a fish dish. The fish was better than the enchiladas. If you want really really good Molé Enchiladas head to El Comal or JV’s tacos in San Diego. Can’t be beat.

The best thing we had were probably the plantains, they could have stood to cook a little longer but dipped in crema and molé they were pretty darn good.

 

Unsatisfied we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.

I had the next day solo, so after lounging in bed with multiple cups of coffee I ventured out. I walked down to Navy Pier and had a mango smoothie along the water. I had some company stop by.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the afternoon so I just started walking along the lake.

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So unreal, just breathtaking! Are we sure this is a lake?

I found myself not far from Lincoln park, I decided that would be my destination and a place to stop for lunch.

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I found a little restaurant outside the Lincoln Park zoo that suited my needs. A glass of rosé and a sandwich. The wind picked up and my toes were going numb, yes I wore flip flops, duh!

I also found that cabs were much easier than ride shares out there, do you guys agree?

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Back at the hotel I poured a big glass of Syrah and submerged myself in a piping hot bath. We were invited to an event at the House of Blues later that night, so with time to kill we went to the hotel bar for a bite to eat and a drink.

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The short trip ended with an open bar, live music, late night pizza and amazing company!

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It was a perfect little getaway. I love being in a new place, it’s one of my most favorite things. Like any place, I could have used a couple more days. If I ever get back there, I have a list ready!

 

 

 

Weekend at the Lake

We decided to spend Memorial weekend up at Lake Arrowhead. It has been over a year since we were last up there and now that Averi is a bit older and a tad easier, we thought….why not?

We rented the same VRBO that suited our needs perfectly last time. Plenty of rooms, a fire place and a nice deck with a hot tub.

Once we hit our first destination on the mountain, Lou Eddies Pizza, Kaili hopped out of the truck and threw up. We high fived her for making it to the top and saving us a huge mess to clean up.

After a few sips of 7-up, she was ready for pizza.

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Full on delicious pizza, we checked into our rental, unloaded ALL of our stuff (crazy the amount of stuff we need for just a few days) and hit the store.

Then it was time to play.

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We wandered around the Village and stopped at a new Tap Room for a couple of coconut margs and snacks for the girls.

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It was absolutely beautiful up there.

Dinner was enjoyed on our patio. Grilled rib-eyes and wine, while the girls splashed in the hot tub.

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After bath and pajamas, we indulged in S’mores while the sun went down.

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The next morning we woke up and headed out for a hike to “Heart Rock”.  We had zero phone service by the time we got to where we thought the beginning of the trail was but it turned out we were in the wrong spot. Luckily other people were in the same predicament and working together, finally managed to find where we needed to be. Unfortunately, Averi decided she was done with nature and her mood went to shit.

There were loads of Ladybugs all over the place, to the point where it was actually making my skin crawl.

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About a 1/4 mile up the trail Averi had given up and I had to carry her. I wanted to throw in the towel and just let Shane and Kaili finish it,  but Shane talked me into continuing. We took turns carrying the little terrorist to the end. We didn’t really get to explore the waterfall or the heart shape rock since the girls were well, you know.

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Kaili did a great job and had a lot of fun, that is until I told her I wanted to take her picture. Tell me how you really feel Kaili.

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Shane carried Averi all the way back to the paved road where she managed to use her two feet to make it to the truck.

We were all famished and ready for lunch so we stopped at a highly recommended Mexican spot that sits cliffside the mountain. The food was really good as were the views.

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After lunch, Averi’s mood lifted so we headed down to the village for some play time.

The girls finally got to go on a few the rides, something we have been hearing about nonstop since we arrived.

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The pirate ship was the clear favorite.

Then it was our turn, we sat outside and had margaritas while the girls had ice cream.

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We wandered up to the grocery store for some goodies to build a charcuterie board for dinner.

Once the girls were down for the night, we sat outside enjoying our meal when a visitor let himself into our yard.

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We tried calling the number on his tag but no one answered. Shane said he remembered seeing this dog the last time we were here so while he walked down to that house, Zuess and I enjoyed some cured meats. Then he was happily reunited with his owners.

Sunday morning after some espresso’s made with my new Staresso, which I LOVE, we went back down to the lake for lunch.

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We shared some appetizers and a few cocktails, which were all really good.

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A neighbor of the house we were staying at invited us to a block party later that afternoon. It was an interesting group of people and after an hour or so of chatting, we had had enough and decided to head back to the house to try and eat up some leftovers.

Before heading home Monday morning, we took once last glimpse of the lake. We left beautiful weather and headed back into town welcomed by a grey sky and cooler weather.

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It’s always a good time up there and I am ooking forward to enjoying a Christmas in Lake Arrowhead some time in the future.

Long Time No See

It’s been forever since I blogged huh? I just don’t seem to have the time now that Kaili is out of school, or should I say my free time at night is spent watching trashy reality shows? I mean, how good is Bachelor in Paradise? And it just started.

Last I left off Averi had turned two years old. She had her doctor visit and she is perfect, a little small in the weight department but this girl eats so I am not concerned. We’ve been through this with Kaili already, it’s so much easier on the mind the second time around. About four days after that doctor visit Averi came down with a fever that lasted three days followed by a rash. Turns out she had Roseola and I am sure she caught it at the office.

I had been having a hell of time with her at night. She would cry and cry for hours before finally giving in and going to sleep. I was all set to move Kaili out of the room and go big, letting her cry it out without going in there at all, per her Pediatrician’s advice. But after her bout with that nasty virus, she went back to her old self and no more crying at night. Who knows what that was about, hopefully we are good now, because I was about to lose my mind.

We’ve been busy spending time at my parents house in OC. The girls have been swimming, to the petting zoo, playing at the parks and splashgrounds.

Our good friends came out for a visit from Arizona and of course the first stop was breakfast at World Famous on the beach.

Averi doesn’t dig the beach, just like Kaili wasn’t fond of it. Luckily Kristi and I got a chance to head to the beach sans kids and it was magical. We  laid in the sun and played in the water without any worries.

We also had our sitter come and watch the girls while we spent the day in Ramona wine tasting! The girls had fun, we had fun, everyone wins.

Kaili has another month until Kinder starts and soon after that we head to Rio. I will try to be better about writing but I promise I will be blogging the Paralympics and our trip to Brazil!

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Weekend Getaway

The week before Christmas we took advantage of some of Shane’s Hilton points and booked a hotel in Santa Monica. We stayed just a few blocks from the pier and near all the shopping and restaurants which we didn’t take much advantage of…because kids.

We started off by stopping in Venice for lunch and a walk along the canals, something I have never done. If I could give up a backyard I would love to live in Venice, some of those houses are amazing. After our first stroll down one of the canals we passed Maura Tierney. (actress in The Affair, one my favorite shows)

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We spent the rest of the day walking around Santa Monica, ending at the Pier for an ice cream and a glass of wine but the cold weather and a cranky toddler drove us back the hotel before dinner.We couldn’t bring ourselves to try and go out for dinner with the kids on a Friday night so we ordered room service and hung out in our room.

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We all slept in the same room which wasn’t too terrible but Averi is a very noisy sleeper and she did a lot of whining in her sleep which kept me awake and eventually woke up Kaili before the sun. After breakfast we went to the LA farmers market. Full from breakfast we were so bummed we couldn’t try all the amazing food, lesson learned. We browsed all the booths and stores, stopping for espresso and hot chocolate. I couldn’t leave without trying a beignet, warm and delicious, I really was regretting breakfast.

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I thought Kaili might combust if we didn’t get her down the the Pier fast enough, she had been talking about it since she woke up. She got to go on all the kiddy rides and then three adult rides with me. After the little rides weren’t doing it for her anymore she told me she wanted to go on the Dragon swing. This wasn’t a small  swing either, this was the real deal. I was always a fan of scary rides but this one ride always scared me because you aren’t strapped in and I always lifted out of my seat a bit. So when she said she wanted to go on it, I hesitated and then asked her repeatedly while in line if she was sure…She was. We sat in the middle row to be on the safe side but it probably didn’t matter if we were on the very end, she had the biggest smile even when I was a little freaked out. The girl needs to get taller so she can go on all of the rides.

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As the kids were dining on corn dogs the clouds rolled in and it started to pour. We took cover in the aquarium under the pier but after 30 minutes we were all ready to move on. With the rain still dropping and our hotel a few blocks away we decided to eat at the tourist trap Bubba Gumps, hoping by the time we were done it would be clear to walk back.

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The food wasn’t too bad and the atmosphere was noisy enough to drown out our kids so it worked out well. On our way back to the hotel the rain picked up and we ran the rest of the way arriving completely wet and ready for warm baths.

After a better nights sleep, we headed home after breakfast making it just in time to start the Seahawks game. Kaili has been asking to go back to Santa Monica so I say it was a win of a weekend.