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Four Seasons Punta Mita

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Since I was a kid I have been going on summer beach trips with my family… to me it’s the perfect way to embrace the lazy days of summer and enjoy time  together  before the hustle of our everyday life and school routines start back up.  Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring exotic cities and seeing the world, but sometimes taking it slow, feeling the sand  between your toes and chasing waves with your lovelies is all you need to embrace life…

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Punta Mita is a  45 minute drive outside of Puerto Vallarta.  This trip was about being  together and relaxing at the beach so I did not explore  the town or local areas… we really stayed on site all 5 days except for 1 dinner off resort…and I could have spent much more time  there and been blissfully happy.  We arranged transport via FS and were met by a nice driver, cold bottled  water and a car with car seat included.   It was  a  quick drive  and we were  greeted at  the lobby with fruit drinks, goodie bags for  the kiddos  and  efficiently taken by golf cart to our room…  The beautiful entranceway and personalized check-in service made for a great welcome.

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Our Room….
WOW…I am surprised  we ever left the space…it was  a huge 1 bedroom garden suite with a private  plunge pool.   In typical FS style  the  kids were welcomed with their names spelled out in sponges, adorable  little  turtle  stuffies  and a  basket of cookies (with their names spelled out) and chocolate milk.   It really still feels like  a  dream.    We used  the plunge pool several times  a  day, while  baby was napping, just before  bed  or just because it was  there  and ready.  My parents had a typical garden view room without the pool and it was  lovely as well, but I was greatful for  our room which was perfect for our family…The closet was huge, there were 2  bathrooms and space to lounge around.

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The Resort…
The place   was   beautiful and  huge.  Walking the space you are  greeted  with  iguanas, funny looking  chicken -birds  and beautiful landscape.    They have  golf carts ready at all times  to take you to any location and the kids  enjoyed the ride.  There really was  something for everybody and it never  feels  crowded.   The kids  loved  the lazy river, tons of fun beach toys for  building  sandcastles, snorkels, kayaks and hourly samples of slushies and of course the kids  area.   We  loved the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, the cabana’s by the beach ,the breathtaking ocean and the  fun activities  available.  My parents did a tasting class on local alcohols  and  I enjoyed a morning yoga class  on the rocks…

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The Weather…
We were  worried  about going in the ‘rainy season’ but we were   greeted  with sunny skies our entire 5 days there.  2  days we had  a small drizzle  around  dinner time  which cooled things  down but did not  prevent folks from swimming or walking by the beach…Of course its HOT…but  being from Houston we are use to that.  I think its gotta be  better  to go in  the spring when its not so hot but  we had  no problems with rain and really enjoyed ourselves despite the heat…you are at the beach!



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The Food…
Breakfast  was  definitely our favorite, they had a  buffet with something for  everyone.  I loved the daily fresh juice  drinks.

Ketsi - its the casual restaurant near the pool over looking the ocean.  We had breakfast here and a few lunches.   We enjoyed the fresh fish tacos both by the pool and at  Ketsi

Bahia - is  the restaurant  by the ocean  and we  had  dinner here a  few  times, delicious steaks, salads and  seafood.   The  ‘catch of the day’ fish, esp mahi mahi was  amazing with their tasty sauce concoctions.

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Si Senor .. we went off site for  dinner once in the Punta Mita  town and loved this restaurant.  Concierge will arrange  a quick taxi over and back and the food is amazing (and less expensive  than on site)  If we had more time  we definitely would have  returned here and checked out other restaurants in the local  town.  We shared  an assortment of dishes  from blue shrimp, grilled octopus to lobster and every dish was  delicious.   Really the prices are  excellent for the freshness and quality of the food you get!



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Overall, this trip was  about Four Seasons Punta Mita.  We picked the resort and then planned the flights/trip.  We really never left and every second was paradise.  Its a perfect place to spend with family, kids or as a couple.  The people were friendly, the kids had a blast, the resort was beautiful and the beach was more  amazing than the pictures you will find.  We would return in a heartbeat.



Pondicheri is an Indian fusion restaurant inside the loop in the West Ave area. The location is perfect for meeting up and has a rare trendy urban feel inside Houston. You can almost feel like you are in NYC or Chicago…well almost… When the weather permits it would be great to eat outside as well. I have been here for breakfast and lunch but breakfast is definitely my favorite. Love the Indian twist on breakfast; omelets with saag paneer top it with their own version of a spicy Indian ketchup are delicious. The breakfast sandwiches (Masala Pav) are amazing…brioche with lamb curry topped with chutney and a fried egg.

Pondicheri is an Indian fusion restaurant inside the loop in the West Ave area. The location is perfect for meeting up and has a rare trendy urban feel inside Houston. You can almost feel like you are in NYC or Chicago…well almost… When the weather permits it would be great to eat outside as well. I have been here for breakfast and lunch but breakfast is definitely my favorite. Love the Indian twist on breakfast; omelets with saag paneer top it with their own version of a spicy Indian ketchup are delicious. The breakfast sandwiches (Masala Pav) are amazing…brioche with lamb curry topped with chutney and a fried egg.

Indomie Mi Goreng
Usually ramen reminds me of that time I was busy, the fridge had nothing but expired milk and some nondescript vegetable covered in mold, and I was missing home and left to scour the pantry looking from something slightly edible.
This is different though, I promise. I truly crave this tangy ramen packet!
One of my favorite ramen dishes. The noodles are toss with sweet and spicy flavors and so addicting… My little sister introduced me to these dried ramen noodles and they are crazy good! Not the soupy instant ramen you are use to eating, instead these Indonesian noodles are meant to be eaten dry, so read the instructions carefully when preparing. You boil the noodles and DRAIN the water and then toss them with the packets: sweet thick soy sauce, flavor powder, chili powder and chili oil and fried onions.
Tasty alone or mix it up a bit.  I usually add in some veggies or a fried egg  so that I don’t feel guilty for eating ramen. Promise you will enjoy it, so go find it in the ramen section of your asian market and give it a try. Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Indomie Mi Goreng

Usually ramen reminds me of that time I was busy, the fridge had nothing but expired milk and some nondescript vegetable covered in mold, and I was missing home and left to scour the pantry looking from something slightly edible.

This is different though, I promise. I truly crave this tangy ramen packet!

One of my favorite ramen dishes. The noodles are toss with sweet and spicy flavors and so addicting… My little sister introduced me to these dried ramen noodles and they are crazy good! Not the soupy instant ramen you are use to eating, instead these Indonesian noodles are meant to be eaten dry, so read the instructions carefully when preparing. You boil the noodles and DRAIN the water and then toss them with the packets: sweet thick soy sauce, flavor powder, chili powder and chili oil and fried onions.

Tasty alone or mix it up a bit.  I usually add in some veggies or a fried egg  so that I don’t feel guilty for eating ramen. Promise you will enjoy it, so go find it in the ramen section of your asian market and give it a try. Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Southern California with Kids (part 3) – San Diego

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Hotel Del Coronado


Located on Coronado Island, this wooden Victorian style hotel is beautifully nestled on the beach.   The actual rooms are nothing fancy: the main building rooms have old ‘Victorian charm’, some are slightly newer style (at the California Cabana or Beach Tower area), and of course there are the Beach cottages that you can rent… it’s not the actual rooms that makes this place special but the location right on the beach as well as the amenities.  This place is huge and open to everyone so people come for the restaurants, bars and beach space…..as a result , you can’t expect personalized service or staff to know your name and give you that extra TLC you would get at a boutique luxury hotel.  But it’s really a great hotel/resort that can fit so many types, families with kids, couples and weddings, or chilling at the beach bar types.  I have been to San Diego a few times and stayed at different hotels and I find in the summer San Diego can be overpriced for what you get.  It’s hard to find a nice hotel on the beach that has a lot of amenities and can fit your bill.  We enjoyed this stay and would return here again to enjoy all that San Diego has to offer.  There are shops, ice cream parlors, pizza joints, bars, beach side restaurants, fancy restaurants, coffee shops and even s’mores on the beach!  We had a great time and enjoyed the option to stay on site and have a meal and lounge at the beach or to take the car and go off to explore as we wanted. 

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The Munchies…
… on site at the hotel Del. 

…remember, prices are always higher when you eat on site so you just have to reset your expectations.  And overall the service is very slow everywhere, but you are on vacation so relax and enjoy….

Sheerwater
– waterfront restaurant at the hotel - It serves seafood and traditional American style meals, we enjoyed our dishes and it’s well situated overlooking the main walkway towards the ocean. 

 
1500 Ocean  - this is the pricier version of Sheerwater on the resort. The restaurant is more fancy and the prices are a bit higher but I felt the meal was similar to Sheerwater.  Because we had the kids with us, we preferred Sheerwater for its casual atmosphere, but if you are having a romantic meal, this is a better choice.


ENO pizzeria and wine bar – Small space on the resort that serves excellent pizza cooked right there in the outdoor oven.  Most of the seating is patio side but it’s a great place to grab a drink, some good salads and tasty pizza.


Babcock and Story
– this is a casual bar/restaurant on the resort and open more extended hours so you can grab a bite at off times.  We had some very tasty meals here when we were just trying to grab a last minute bite and I wish we had eaten here more in retrospect.  Everything we ordered was great from the breads, cheese , soups to the entrees.  Deceivingly good food and probably my favorite place on site for food (not atmosphere)

Sundeck Bar and Grill – deck side casual place right on the beach, it is great for grabbing a burger and some drinks. 


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And of course there is so much good stuff in San Diego you have to try offsite as well…

Clayton’s Coffee Shop – close to the hotel Del, this was our go to place for breakfast.  Set up like a diner and serves solid breakfast foods.  I enjoyed the corn beef hash. 


Taco’s el Gordo – tasty pork tacos, many locations so give it a try.


Neveria Tocumbo – now I stumbled across this random ice cream shop that sells mangonada and I loved this stuff.  Fresh chopped mango over mango ice cream lathered with chomoy sauce  (a spicy Mexican tamarind mix).  Nothing located near this place and its truly out of the way and just a typical Mexican ice cream shop…but I love this snack so much…wishing I could find the same here


George’s at the Cove  - this restaurant has one of the best views of the coast in La Jolla.  Serves solid dishes and you really cannot beat the view.  Make reservations 


El Pescador Fish Market – small place with great seafood in La Jolla, tasty soups, delicious sandwiches and seafood dishes.  Grab this and enjoy it at the park!

The Wanderings…

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La Jolla area – a beautiful part of town, perfect place to stroll and explore.  You can enjoy shopping in the small town or go along the water and watch for seals, relax on the lawn or explore tide pools. 


San Diego Zoo – amazing zoo and although we only spent 1 day here, I’m sure you could do a few and still enjoy it.  Perfectly set up with so much to see.  Go early and start at the back and work your way forward.  Take the double decker bus tour around the park, enjoy the onsite safari ride and of course the cable cars that bring you up to the sections further back.  Everything you have heard about this place is true and more.  I don’t know how you could not enjoy this place!


Legoland – now this is a good place if you have younger kids, maybe toddler age up to 10 would enjoy this place.  My boys worship legos so this is a fun place for us.  We enjoyed the rides, the kids liked driving their own cars and getting a ‘driver’s license’, they have a section of entire scenes created by lego master builders that is really neat and the water park is fun if you have the time…also I LOVE the fried green apples desserts I found here…..really, if you find this place ,try it…I kept going back for more and even looked up recipes after we came home to try to recreate it!  So good!!!!

5 - year journal
For someone that is so commitment-phobic it seems a daunting task ….. Keeping a journal for 5 years?!? But really it’s one of my favorite moments in the evening, to sit down and capture the essence of my day in just 5 little lines…..of course I have crazy weeks where my schedule is whacked and I’m running low on sleep and I may not fill 5 words let alone 5 lines, but it’s so amazing to look back and see what I was doing or thinking or eating that same day 3 years ago….it really brings me back in time and makes me laugh or cry…I’m a sucker for memories and trying to slow down each precious moment and somehow locking away that feeling or smell forever….

5 - year journal

For someone that is so commitment-phobic it seems a daunting task ….. Keeping a journal for 5 years?!? But really it’s one of my favorite moments in the evening, to sit down and capture the essence of my day in just 5 little lines…..of course I have crazy weeks where my schedule is whacked and I’m running low on sleep and I may not fill 5 words let alone 5 lines, but it’s so amazing to look back and see what I was doing or thinking or eating that same day 3 years ago….it really brings me back in time and makes me laugh or cry…I’m a sucker for memories and trying to slow down each precious moment and somehow locking away that feeling or smell forever….

Southern California with Kids (part 2): Los Angeles

London West Hollywood Hotel

We stayed here for a wedding and it’s really more a trendy chic night on the town hotel and not a kids place. Small boutique hotel, pretty layout and excellent service. The rooms are suites with a sitting area, small desk and huge spa-like bathroom and soaking tub… It was a great place for a sunset wedding and the food for the wedding was delicious…so I am sure the restaurant for the hotel must be great. Beautiful rooftop pool and views of the city. The area had some cafes/shops in walking distance and was nice.

Wanderings….

John Paul Getty Museum…This place is an amazing art museum and villa overlooking the city with beautiful gardens. Seriously, if you have the time, check this place out…it’s so worth an afternoon stroll…and best of all, it’s free. I am not an art history major and I don’t spend hours staring at some ancient painting pretending to appreciate the period, I promise…even if you only do a quick stroll through the actual art museum part, this place is worth seeing just to enjoy the peaceful grounds and gorgeous views….

Santa Monica …I like this area, wandering Third Street Promenade to watch street performers and do some shopping, wandering over to the Pier and just enjoying being a tourist.


Munchies…

The Griddle- west Hollywood Hills
Good breakfast place with yummy classics and huge Oreo pancakes… something for everyone to enjoy in the morning

Fritto Misto Italian Café – Santa Monica
Nothing amazing but an okay Italian meal. A bit heavy on the cream but maybe that’s what makes it tasty here

Soowon Galbi – Korean BBQ
LA has some great Korean BBQ, plenty of restaurants to choose from, better quality of meats, and good selection of banchan (side dishes). If you have never had Korean BBQ you really are missing out! It’s a great meal to share with family and friends but don’t wear your best outfit cause it will have to go to the cleaners right away to knock out the aroma of grilled meats. You pick a few meat selections, get a seafood pancake and then they will bring you rice, a tasty Asian salad and plenty of side dishes to share with friends while you grill your meats table side.

Il Cielo – Beverly Hills
Delicious Italian restaurant with a romantic feel. Everything we had here was tasty and I would definitely recommend this place!

its truly a game changer, this thing called Motherhood…

I’m suddenly aware of all the lovelies around me, hardly able to contain my excitement at sharing what yesterday seem to go unnoticed…

the way the sand glitters like gold reflecting back at the sun, the tiny sand crabs frantically burrowing under as the waves wash by, the cool swishy feeling of digging your toes into the ground…each day really is more beautiful than the last with ‘mini-me’ by my side.

its truly a game changer, this thing called Motherhood…

I’m suddenly aware of all the lovelies around me, hardly able to contain my excitement at sharing what yesterday seem to go unnoticed…

the way the sand glitters like gold reflecting back at the sun, the tiny sand crabs frantically burrowing under as the waves wash by, the cool swishy feeling of digging your toes into the ground…each day really is more beautiful than the last with ‘mini-me’ by my side.

Southern California with Kids (part 1): Orange County

Marriott Newport Coast Villas in Orange County

I commuted to Orange County from Chicago on off for a year after college for my first job so I really wanted to stay in OC for a few days although we were in town for a wedding in LA. The Marriott Newport Beach is a perfect place to stay, especially if you are staying with family or a bigger group because the rooms are 2 bedroom condos with a full kitchen and patio area on a beautiful space overlooking the coast. The rooms are pretty simple and not fancy but they are set up like mini 2 bedroom condos and its really the beautifully landscaped area and location on the coast that makes this place great. There is a beautiful pool and lots of fun activities around the ‘resort’ to keep everyone entertained so you can enjoy just being outside in sunny southern California. We enjoyed these large outdoor chess boards and pool tables right by the pool, beautiful Koi fish ponds, sand boxes, and had fun just rolling down the hills while looking at the coast. We also liked that you can walk (or take a quick drive) to the beach. Newport beach is a beautiful area and this was a great area to stay and feel at home while having resort/hotel amenities… we would definitely return and stay here again.

Wanderings…
Beaches: We just take it easy and enjoy being at the beach. Just climbing the rocks, enjoying the breeze and looking for tide pools is hours of entertainment. There are so many different beaches in OC to choose from so it’s good to explore a few of them and find your style. Some are secluded and you feel like you are the only ones to discover this bit of paradise and some are full of surfers and families.

Balboa Island is a small cute space and you can take a ferry ride, something simple and quick

Munchies….

We ate at mostly casual places around the area, this was not a gourmet foodie trip but a fun in the sun with my babies trip.

A & J Restaurant in Irvine
This is a Taiwanese restaurant, small place in a shopping strip with delicious dumplings, onion pancakes, rice dishes and noodle dishes. Very little English is spoken and the menu is mostly in Chinese, so we just point and guess and LOVED everything we got. We got dumplings, beef soup and onion pancakes to share with the kids and add spicy dumpling and more dishes for us to enjoy.

Mamma D’s Italian Kitchen
We got take out from here and ate in our ‘villa’ and enjoyed it. Close to where we were staying, tasty pasta dishes and comes with bonus warm gooey bit size chocolate cookies. A good place to have a meal if you are in the area!

In and Out Burger…of course…how can you go to California without enjoying a burger here. To be honest, there are lots of burger places in Houston that are excellent and for me, I’m a Smashburger fan, but I do enjoy the In and Out and I know it has a major fan base, my hubby included, so its always a good choice when in California.

Nuoc Mia at Long An…(sugar cane drink) now this is only if you enjoy Asian style drinks…. and don’t mind driving to little Saigon area to find this place…It’s a tiny shop that grinds up fresh sugar cane to make the most delicious drink (do not go if you are diabetic)….They mix in a few kumquats which add the perfect citrus twist and I personally love this drink…but I know its not for everyone…

I’m NOT like a bird…love traveling and the anticipation of exploring a new place, but the physical act of flying makes me a little lightheaded, gives me palpitations and that swirling sensation in my belly on take off, landing and every single ’ we are experiencing some turbulence’ moment…but sometimes, just looking out the window is so awe-inspiring…I mean WOW, takes away all the petty little things that run through your mind…how can any of those small things matter when you are soaring like a bird…the world really is bigger than any of us…

I’m NOT like a bird…love traveling and the anticipation of exploring a new place, but the physical act of flying makes me a little lightheaded, gives me palpitations and that swirling sensation in my belly on take off, landing and every single ’ we are experiencing some turbulence’ moment…but sometimes, just looking out the window is so awe-inspiring…I mean WOW, takes away all the petty little things that run through your mind…how can any of those small things matter when you are soaring like a bird…the world really is bigger than any of us…

Code black : Life in the ER
Who works a stack of 12 hour nights shifts and then watches a movie about work just before switching to a 6am shifts?!? An ER doctor of course…
A great peek into the reality of our current healthcare system and a must watch for anyone not just an ER doc…. We all have been or know someone that has had to navigate the complex halls of a US emergency department and this is a good look at both how broken it is and how vital it is…. It offers an unfiltered look at the flawed system without pretending to have the answers…
We watched this at Sundance Cinema in the Theatre District of downtown Houston. Glad to finally discover this place, perfect setting for date night or a movie with friends…. It has a restaurant/ bar so you can grab some drinks or pizza and enjoy a nice show together… Try to get there early so you have time to relax and pick up the food … Definitely will be returning soon…

Code black : Life in the ER

Who works a stack of 12 hour nights shifts and then watches a movie about work just before switching to a 6am shifts?!? An ER doctor of course…

A great peek into the reality of our current healthcare system and a must watch for anyone not just an ER doc…. We all have been or know someone that has had to navigate the complex halls of a US emergency department and this is a good look at both how broken it is and how vital it is…. It offers an unfiltered look at the flawed system without pretending to have the answers…

We watched this at Sundance Cinema in the Theatre District of downtown Houston. Glad to finally discover this place, perfect setting for date night or a movie with friends…. It has a restaurant/ bar so you can grab some drinks or pizza and enjoy a nice show together… Try to get there early so you have time to relax and pick up the food … Definitely will be returning soon…