The new year. January first. So many aspirations and goals tied to one day.
It seems like people are generally moving away from setting up huge year-long goals of drastic change and personal renovation. Instead, we’re doing things like intention setting and focusing on more realistic, small self improvements.
In the era of Wellness Warriors – where self love, understanding, and forgiveness are the new ways of life; along with mediation and warm morning lemon water – we are still constantly striving to be better but also allowing for large doses of grace and acceptance when we inevitably slip up.
Gone are the days of swearing off sugar for 365 days and setting alarm clocks to sound before the sun for a workout. We want consistency and manageability now. At least I do.
Today is just like tomorrow will be. There isn’t the same novelty to the first day of the new year anymore. Each day is simply another chance at being better. Of course there will be some days when a second glass of wine will be poured or a savasana will be missed. More often than we’d like, living in the moment will fall under the shadow of impatience. Judgment and negativity will sneak into our lives when we are tired and feeling scattered.
There will be back-stepping but hopefully mostly forward moving. Hopefully, with strategic and achievable goals in mind, your progress will be better than you’ll believe. (…Literally like this pasta sauce recipe. I thought it would be too thick with little flavor but it turned out to be a dream!)
Better-than-you’ll-believe creamy squash pasta sauce
This sauce is vegan, diary and gluten free. The coconut milk and roasted delicate squash blended together make it creamy-dreamy. The roasted garlic adds a comforting savoriness. Serve over your pasta of choice with an added green for a complete meal.
1 medium delicate squash
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water (or as needed for consistency)
4 -5 garlic gloves (still in bulb to roast)
2 – 3 Tbs of avocado oil
Salt and pepper
Cut delicate squash into 1/2 inch pieces (not you don’t need to peel the skin off of delicate squash) and coat with avocado oil, salt + pepper, and nutmeg to taste
Spread squash out on a baking sheet and add your garlic bulb in tinfoil with a small amount to avocado oil drizzled on the top to the same sheet
Roast both at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
Once roasted, transfer into your blender with 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water (adding more if needed)
Blend and scrape down the sides as needed until creamy (remember to vent your blender for the steam to escape)
The week after Portland I flew to Chicago for work. Oh, what a town! The food scene there is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Every.single.thing. I ate was delicious. I probably came home a few lbs heavier but there are no regrets (just mourning for the yummy pasta and pizza and burgers and burrata (so much burrata)).
I touched down Tuesday evening and immediately meet my manager/friend for dinner at the hotel we were both staying at, The Ace Chicago. Inside, we found an equally chic and cozy restaurant called City Mouse, where we split an order of grilled carrots, burrata, fried artichoke, and octopus. 😋
We had a productive working session as a team on Wednesday, complete with another yummy lunch. That evening I got to try RPM Italian, Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s restaurant. This might not be cool to say, but I love celebs. I’m not into reading trashy magazines about them but I do like following my faves on instagram and going to their restaurants when I can!
In theme with Chicago itself, everything I had at RPM was delicious. We started with the Giuliana salad (will have to recreate), and an order of the burrata and fried artichokes. For our main meals, we tried the lobster ravioli and the chicken parmesan. The standout for me was how good and fresh the pasta was that came with the chicken parm. In all honesty though, the whole meal was carb-y, cheesy bliss.
Ok, so aside from all the nom food… it was COLD in Chicago. I know, I know, when I went it wasn’t even as bad as it is going to get BUT this California girl was freezing nonetheless. That night I actually went to bed thinking, well at least it isn’t snowing…
And, of course, guess what I woke up to on Thursday morning… snow.
We spent the day working from City Mouse; with a pretty view, hot tea, and cozy soup and a grain bowl for lunch. Not too shabby!
I worked a half day on Friday and then MIKE ARRIVED! Our first stop was the bean (or Cloud Gate). I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to see this landmark but there is just something appealing to me about that steel shaped giant bean! It was so cool to see it in person. Next time I’m in CHI, I’m making another stop here but in the early morning when it isn’t so crowded.
Also, it was freezing…! So we left after about 5 minutes. Hmm.. maybe a summer trip is in store?
Next up was a drink at Cindy’s in the Chicago Alethic Association Hotel. Cindy’s is a convenient ~5 minute walk from the bean. We didn’t have a reservation (I learned resos are key in CHI) but luckily were able to slip into two seats in the back.
This is another place that seems like it would be cool in the summer, with their rooftop patio and gorgeous views. Although there was a fire pit outside, we opted to stay indoors. The cocktails at Cindy’s were good but the company was better. It was good to see Mike after a few nights away!
Like I mentioned, Chicago is a reservation city! (Which I actually prefer because, based on my experience, they do sit you within five minutes when you have one – unlike California where reservations don’t really mean anything.) It was still early but I knew we had to figure out dinner. Mike did some Googling and found this place called The Deerborn, which was recommended to us (by the big G) because it was “similar to OCK” (our favorite restaurant at home). Let me just say, Google can have ALL OF MY DATA just for this recommendation alone.
I don’t know enough adjectives to rave about this place with due justice.
In classic Ashley and Mike form, we ordered a few things to spilt. Starting with the French onion soup (which we now want to make at home) and the mezze platter, that included dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, babaganoush, and the best flatbread to soak up all the dips in. It was basically my dream … on a platter.
To be sure we were nice and full, next we ordered the mac and cheese and maple fried chicken. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Also, we’ll be saying screw it to the turkey next year for Thanksgiving. We’re making maple fried chicken (and mac n cheese, and an epic mezze platter, and onion soup).
On Saturday we walked to a cafe nearby to caffeinate for the day. My go-to, to-go order is an almond milk cafe au lait and, as to be expected in the magical city of all good food and drinks, wasn’t disappointed once. I’m also a huge almond milk snob and ask to see which one they use before placing my order soooo double points to Chi-town.
Next we decided to bear the rain and hit up the Christmas market. What a mistake! We didn’t even do a full loop before we left and sought shelter in the mall nearby. Ok it was time for pizza. DEEP DISH PIZZA.
Everyone I asked recommended I go to Lou Malnati’s for the best deep dish in town. We got there around 11:30am and I’m glad we did! It takes about 40 minutes for them to make your pizza (which is expected for deep dish) but when we left, the waiting area was packed.
We ordered a pie with spinach and mushrooms, despite the menu mentioning it isn’t truly deep dish unless there is sausage on it. Which I can say, I wholeheartedly disagree. Our pizza was deep-dish-delicious sans sausage. It was ooey and gooey and buttery crusty. Oh, and the tomatoes on it. Perfection in every bite.
Ok, we’ve made it to the part of the blog post program that I am going to stop talking about how frickin’ good all of the food was and tell you my favorite part of the trip (if you can believe it wasn’t the noshes).
Two words: Paper Machete
Actually, four words for more context: Green Mill Paper Machete
The Paper Machete at Green Mill was recommended to me by a colleague. When I was bummed that Second City tickets were sold out, she told me to go here and to be early!
The show starts at 3pm. We got there at 2:07pm and snagged the last open table by the stage. One beer for Mike. One martini for me; gin please.
The band rehearsed. I complained about how loud it was (I have v sensitive ears) and started to wonder if this was really the best use of out last afternoon in the city…
The showed started and before the first act was over, I knew. I knew it was going to be real good and real raw. I was ready for the ride.
The Paper Machete was a 2 (ish) hour live magazine where performers acted out various current events. The first was a monologue my the First Lady, Melania; so good and so funny and such a relief to know most of the audience was Democratic.
There was also a pianist, a trio of female singers, a few other skits sprinkled in between, and the headlining band (which I still think was a little too loud but it was fine). Mike and I were belly laughing almost the whole time. I also fanned out at the end and asked to take a picture with the girl band (one of the members had already gone home though, boo!).
Buzzed (from both the martini but also creatively from being around such talent) we left hungry and ready for dinner. Remember when I said Chicago is a reservation city? Well, we didn’t have any for dinner that night. Whomp, whomp.
We tried a few places near the hotel but most had a 2 hour wait. A little defeated we walked up the stairs in the SoHo house to the Chicken & Farm Shop. They sat us immediately and I was nothing short of suspect… Why wasn’t there a wait?
I still can’t answer that question because um, this place was reason enough to go back to Chicago. We ordered the collard greens, chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese, and the best burger I’ve ever had that was infused with bone marrow that should be how all burgers are ever made…!
On our last morning in Chicago, we got ultra touristy and went to the Skydeck. Basically we stood in line for 1.5 hours and paid $50 for 60 seconds in a glass box 110 stories up.
I was a little nervous I would be scared to step out onto the glass floor, but felt so rushed I didn’t have to think about it. We shared the box with another party and we were both trying to cram as many pictures in one minutes as possible. It’s actually pretty chaotic. I wouldn’t do the Skydeck again but it was worth trying something new!
After that, it was a wrap. We hurried back to the hotel to pack, hit up Ballast Point for one last pint, and we were on our way to the airport.
Chicago, you stole my heart (my stomach and my skinny jeans). I can’t wait to see you again.
The best birthdays I’ve had have been the no-fuss kinds; filled with good food, friends, and family. Throw in a weekend away and it’s golden.
I turned 29 last Wednesday and, after celebrating with Mike, a bottle of wine, and stuffed pasta shells, we were on our way to Portland early Thursday morning. Friends from Santa Cruz flew in later that night and friends from Washington drove in on Friday morning.
Since we all wanted to stay together, we opted to stay in an airbnb in Vancouver, WA vs. staying directly in Portland. Our airbnb was pretty baller but with 6 people and all the money we spent on XL Lyfts, I’m not sure I would pick suburbia over downtown again.
After some avo toast at home base, Mike and I headed into the city to enjoy our day together. Our first stop was a gem that my manger recommended called Knot Springs. You. Guys. This place. An oasis in the outskirts.
We treated ourselves to a 2 hour “soak,” forgoing any spa treatments or workout classes that are also offered there. We were greeted with plush, trendy patterned towels and a cup of hot custom blended tea. Then we showered (required before getting in) and were given a tour of the tubs. The whole idea is to alternate between warm, hot, and cold water to revitalize your system. (There are a whole bunch of other benefits they list but I forget them!) We spent the next few hours dipping in different temperatures of water, trying our hand at some light yoga in the sauna, and enjoying the industrial views (I know that sounds like a contradiction). Not a bad way to spend a Thursday afternoon!
We stopped for beers and fried pickle spears at Wayfinder after. Mike is picky about his fried pickles and prefers spears to chips. So, whenever we see spears on the menu, you can bet we’re going to get them. Wayfinder had good beer and looked like a cool spot to go to in the summer but it had nothing compared to our next stop, Product Row Cafe.
Mike and I love a good food crawl, and initially, that was our plan for the night – small noshes at multiple restaurants – until we sat on the enclosed patio at Produce Row Cafe…
The twinkle lights were dreamy. The wooden tables and wall paneling gave the place a rustic feel. The DJ playing mellow tunes set the right vibe.
…Plus, the cocktails and the company … intoxicating. 😉
We left full of nom food and good spirits.
The next morning we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings. I love when I find local spots that use good ingredients like this place did. I ordered a coconut milk cafe au lait and sipped it on our walk back. It was creamy dreamy and had the added bonus of keeping my hands warm while we got our steps in on the walk back. It was a chilly weekend up north!
Caffeinated and dressed in layers, it was time to head into the city for some sours. I love a good sour beer, and they paired perfectly with the baked brie we ordered as a snack.
We stopped at one more place (with legendary artwork in the bathroom, pictured below) for another round before walking to an event called My People’s Market that celebrated a diverse marketplace of multicultural vendors.
At the market we sampled wine, tasted ginger cotton candy, and browsed different booths with things from T shirts with political messages to essential oil rocks.
Next we filled up on bread, fresh olive oil, pasta, soup, salad, and all good Italian things at Nostrana.
On Saturday morning we explored the Japanese Gardens, which was as gorgeous as expected (and also had the biggest leafs I’ve ever seen). Aside from the chilly weather, it was fun to wonder around the gardens together, with plenty of pictures sprinkled throughout the adventure. 🙂
Next up it was time to warm up. …with sake and sushi (staying in theme of the day, obviously). We made our way to Bamboo Sushi and I had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had. The honey miso roll… drooling just thinking about it. Plus, what’s better than miso soup on a cold day?
We ended our day with adult slushies and karaoke at one bar (as you do) and then at dinner at Bye and Bye, a vegan restaurant that I was pretty stoked to go to. I ordered the BBQ platter that came with BBQ tofu, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. The food was good (!) but I think the atmosphere would have been better for lunch as it was pretty dark in there.
One more XL Lyft ride and we were back at the airbnb ready to hit the sheets (hi, weekends with late 20/mid 30 year olds!).
We’ll all be reunited again at mine and Mike’s WEDDING! ……in 6 months… what? time is flying. …should we have adult slushies at the wedding? 🙂
My friend Kiera does my hair and she’s the bessst. I only go about 2x/year to get my hair colored. Every time she blends the perfect blonde for me, but also makes sure it is low maintenance enough not to be back in the salon chair every 6 weeks.
I went a little blonder this time and, although my timing is off (right before fall instead of summer), I’m liking it. 💁
Voting with fam
I think mostly everyone knows the midterm elections are on November 6th. And if you’re like me, your ballot usually remains unopened in the stack to To Dos for far too long. I knew my deadline was quickly approaching to get that baby filled out and mailed back, which is why I jumped on the opportunity to have a little “voting party” with my dad and grandma earlier this week.
I recommend doing this with the obvious disclaimer that things might get a little tense. Politics and family… what a combo! At least I got something checked off my to do list 😉
We had our annual women’s summit this month (talk about inspiration and empowerment) and the day ended with a fun bottling wine activity. You’ll find us all opening our bottles together mid-December; the earliest we can break out the corkscrews . 🙂
Veg-vibes is about to get some upgraded photos BECAUSE I HAVE THE NEW PIXEL. So far, love.
Stay tuned for more pictures.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October in Canada, so every year we host Canadian Thanksgiving at our house to get together with friends and enjoy some favorites from the great white north. This year we had dill pickle and all dressed chips, Canadian beer and whiskey, a poutine bar, and nanaimo bars. A day filled of buddies and lots of butter. 🙂
the GREEN CREAM
I got this face cream in my bi-monthly Love Goodly box and it is lovely. It is infused with broccoli, avocado, coconut, olive, aloe & fresh herbs.
I use it every night before I go to bed and it feels luxurious. Also, as the bottle suggests, “a salad for your face? ” All about all of it.
Woah. It has been a busy 2 months. Mike and I have attended 3 friends weddings, I went to Spain in September, exciting things have been happening at work, we’re looking at houses on the weekends, you get it.
I didn’t get a chance to post my Friday Favorites in August, which is kind of annoying because I’ve done it every month this year. Oh, well! Read on to see what I’ve been loving over the past 2 months.
We were lucky to celebrate 3 beautiful couples getting married this year (coincidentally all within 6 weeks). I love weddings and seeing all of the individual touches that reflect the couple.
Our first wedding was in August on a sunny afternoon in Half Moon Bay. It was a gorgeous garden wedding, followed by the best food in a cute restaurant.
In early September, we headed over the hill to Santa Cruz and to toast Lauren and Ian (who we’ve been to Vegas, Yosemite, and many other places with over the years). Every detail of this wedding was immaculate and beautiful.
Just last weekend we witnessed our friends and neighbors get married at a cathedral in downtown. The celebration continued at a local winery. It was the sweetest venue with bistro lights and a cozy, fall vibe.
All 3 weddings were a blast!
Vegan coffee creamers
I forgot how good Nut pods was until we went camping in early August. I brought this creamer because I knew I liked it and figured it would keep relatively well in the cooler. It’s so creamy dreamy, I can’t get enough.
I’ve also been loving Califia’s Better Half. If you know me, you know I love anything Wiz (…get it? A playon to Wiz Khalifa? Ok, ok, inside joke… 👋 Michelle;)
Flirting with Fall
HELLO FALL! Pumpkin everything (I said it). And cute falling leaf window decals. All about all of it.
My patio lettuce
My mama Llama gifted me a romaine plant for my patio. It’s very convenient when you want to add a pop of green to your meal and don’t have a ton of food in the house. It’s actually the lettuce you see in my cheap & easy BBQ jackfruit post.
It’s also a delicious addition to veg hummus wraps.
I’m hesitant to admit this but I don’t test my recipes multiple times before posting. Mostly because this isn’t my full time job and I don’t have the bandwidth to try and tweak things. But also because my version of cooking isn’t fussy. It’s about using whole ingredients, using what I have on hand, and not wasting food.
When I’m making something that I think will be good, I’ll snap photos during and, if it turns out delicious, I’ll post it. Veg-vibes is far from professional though. Some strangers and some friends have asked if I plan to dedicate more time to my blog to get more of a following. To this, I (mostly) jokingly answer: I just don’t have the time to be famous right now… 🤷♀️
BUT I still love blogging. I like being able to go back and see how I made that one thing that was really good* or sending blog posts to people when they ask for recommendations about a place I’ve been to. Heck, sometimes I’ll scroll through my own blog just because I’m bored. You know, low-key lurking …yourself status.
I find joy in posting recipes I’ve created and travel recaps for friends, family, and the occasional internet passer-by to read but, veg-vibes mostly serves as an artifact for me.
And when it comes to what I create in the kitchen, I’m not about elaborate recipe tests or special trips to the store. My posts are short and simple without a whole lot of prep.
…But of course, there is an exception to that rule: jackfruit.
Y’all. I was intimidated by attempting to make the all-trendy BBQ jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork. Uncharacteristically, I even recipe tested and made it once before actually posting.
I’m happy to report that both times it turned out pretty damn good. And, at $1.99 a can from Trader Joes, jackfruit is a lot cheaper than pork! I highly recommend you give this recipe a try. It’s in line with the veg-vibes’ way and is actually really easy to put together; although more time intensive than most of the meals you’ll find in this corner of the internet.
Feel free to double the recipe and freeze half (defrosting in the refrigerator the night before) for a quick lunch or dinner in the future.
Earlier this month, I flew out to Malaga, Spain (birthplace to Pablo Picasso) for a work trip. As to be expected, the tapas and wine were plentiful. The town squares were beautiful; complete with marble floors, palm trees, and fountains. There were castles and cathedrals to explore; new trendy stores housed in old historic buildings; sea breezes and siestas.
We arrived on Sunday, after flying from San Francisco to Paris to Malaga. Our hotel was only a block from a canal that runs through the city, which made for easy navigating. After unpacking and showering, we met a few colleagues at El Mesón de Cervantes.
The restaurant was a short 10 minute walk from the hotel and rated well on trip advisor. We started with wine and olives. Something I loved about Malaga was that instead of a bread basket, you get a olive bowl to start your meal when dining out. We also ordered grilled octopus, Iberico ham, mushroom risotto, and salmon.
The company was good, the food delicious, and the wine flowing. Not a bad first night there!
…That was until I got back to my hotel.
We got back around 11pm, which was around 2pm in California. I Facetime’d my mom for a little bit before falling asleep. Sadly, I only stayed asleep for about 4 hours before waking up pretty distraught. I am prone to homesickness and being solo on this trip hit me hard.
Fortunately, I was able to chat with my mom and Mike again, since it was still early at home. Unfortunately, not being able to sleep on my first night was some cruel foreshadowing to how the rest of my week would be.
I finally fell asleep around 6:30am and, with a start time of 9:30am on Monday, felt pretty worn-down during those first meetings! Particularly because I didn’t sleep on the flights to Spain either.
Thankfully I was able to take a quick nap before dinner that night. Siestas were the real deal in Spain. Like the locals, we ate most dinners late and stayed out after for drinks a few nights. Naps in the middle of the day equaled survival.
On Tuesday our meetings were in a new location, which meant figuring out how to get there early in the morning with little sleep (I seriously could not fall asleep there at a decent hour). We were lucky to have the canal to help navigate the city but unfortunately, there was construction near the co-working space we had booked. A lot of Google Maps action on this trip! Eventually we made it to the location and settled in for a day of meetings.
I tried to squeeze every minute I could out of the schedule to catch some shuteye. This often meant skipping breakfast before meetings in lieu of sleeping in. In between meetings, I had a chance to step outside and grab a coffee from a cafe recommended to me by the co-working space organizer. She raved about the churros and chocolate at this place and although I really wanted to try them, I was feeling rundown. Instead I opted for a banana from a small fruit stand nearby (also stocking up on oranges for vitamin C) because I knew that was what my body really needed.
I was able to head back to the hotel midday and, on the way, grabbed a nourishing hummus bowl for lunch. Eating healthy while running on little-to-no sleep was a top priority for me.
I caught a few Zzz’s before heading out again to explore a castle in the town. As one of my colleagues described it, the castle offered layers and layers of history; a history lasagna, if you will. I was excited to check this bad boy out but sadly, after a steep walk up to the enormous brick building, we discovered the entry fee had to be paid in Euros, and not credit card.
Back down the hill it was. (We did get a few pictures at the top though so, still a semi-successful trip.) And time for (more) tapas! My friend Keely and I chatted over beers, olives, ham and melon, Spanish cheese, and spicy potatoes. The food was so good but arguably a lot before heading to a team dinner. 🙂
On Wednesday (half way through the trip) I succumbed to my lack of sleep and skipped the morning session of meetings. Because of my role, I was lucky to have the flexibility to do this; and gratefully so, because it was the little nudge I needed to make it through the next few days. Ah, what your body and brain can do after 6 hours of sleep…!
I met up with everyone for lunch at a foodcourt in a nearby mall and let me tell you, this food court was not your standard strip-mall nosh-mill. This place was fancy. Who doesn’t love a foodcourt with some swagger?
After lunch, a few of us grabbed espressos. We were handed legit stay-here-and-sip mini shots.
“…Um, excuse me? Can we please get these to go please?”
“No. No take away. Sit, sip, and enjoy.”
Wait, wha? Such a cultural difference. This cafe actually did not have to-go cups. You were meant to stay there and enjoy your coffee, not rush off to your next meeting. Similar to when I was in New Orleans, where things just move slower, I was like, this is annoying. I was also too timid to ask for almond milk anywhere in fear of my California stripes showing… Instead I drank everything black, which I don’t normally do. All this to say, it took some grit to pound my espresso and make it back in time for the next meeting.
Having the luxury of enjoying a coffee without taking it to-go is nice in theory but, in execution, I’m more of a let’s get this java on the road kind of girl.
That evening we went to dinner at Recyclo Bike Cafe, where – like the name suggests – there are a bunch of bikes decorating the walls. I picked this place for 2 reasons; 1. it was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and 2. I wanted to take pictures for Mike, who loves bikes.
I had been eating a lot more meat than I normally do so wanted to stick to something veg for dinner. I opted for the black beans, avocado, and feta tacos. They didn’t come on a standard corn tortillas, but more of a corn bun (pic below), which turned out to be very filling.
After dinner we walked to the port to see the ocean. I was all for getting steps and hopefully tiring myself out. We saw some cool sights; both historic and modern. Our evening ended with a stroll on the beach and then back to the hotel (for another sleepless night… boo!).
Thursday was our last day before leaving on a very early flight on Friday. Not sleeping finally caught up with me and I woke up with a cough and a running nose. Plus, I woke up late which is always freakin’ stressful, let alone when you’re not feeling well.
I got ready in a flash – brushed my teeth and hair, threw something on that resembled an outfit, filled in my eyebrows – and hustled to the meeting location; walked along side the canal, detoured for construction, finally there.
Cough, cough. Tissue for a running nose. Trying not to be disruptive…
Eventually it was time for lunch. I wondered around the allies nearby and came across a cute vegan cafe. I ordered a burger and asked if they had french fries or, “chips?” (mentally wondering, is it only “chips” in the U.K. or here too?). After a fews rounds, and with the help of a nice Italian tourist who translated a bit for me, the cafe owner explained she made herself a batch of sweet potato fries that I could have a few of. She turned one in her finger and told me “just olive oil, salt, and garlic.”
A small part of me thought, this would not fly in America with our restaurant/food laws… That voice was quieted quickly. When in Rome Spain! I was walking back to the office shortly after with the best vegan burger and homemade sweet potato fries (chips?) I’ve had in a long time.
I tried to solider through afternoon meetings but ended up leaving early. I slept for a solid 4 hours back at the hotel and woke up feeling much better. Just in time for our last dinner in Spain.
We walked down to the port again. Olives and beer to start. Fish dish after fish dish followed, tapas style. I was feeling better but not 100% and ended up eating a lot of bread instead of trying to stomach the clams.
I went back to the hotel to pack after. And, instead of trying at another failed attempt of sleeping, decided to just stay up until 5am when it was time to leave for the airport.
We flew home via New York. It was a relatively easy flight, and I was pretty excited for a full night of sleep when I got home. Despite being tired and a little homesick, Spain was a trip of a lifetime for me. Maybe one day I’ll be back!
So you know all of the times I’ve mentioned hiking Half Dome in the past few months? Well, it was a bust. Sadly, Yosemite was closed down because of fires the weekend we were supposed to go.
The group of friends we were going with made last minute reservations at Camp Nauvoo in Placerville. Mike and I decided to meet them there for the weekend but enjoy the 2 days we’d taken off in wine country.
I’ve been wanting to stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn for some time now and, with an already planned few days off, we booked a room. We arrived Wednesday evening, greeted with glasses of bubbles to kick things off. Then we found a cozy spot in the lobby. Generally I think hotel lobbies/bars are underrated. Mike and I love ordering a drink (and maybe a few noshes) and just hanging out in the lobby. The seating is usually plentiful and comfy; you don’t have to travel far (just a few steps from your room); and who doesn’t feel like a badass charging your final bill “to the room?”
On Saturday morning, our biggest accomplishment was clocking some hours on our wedding website. Over coffee and tea, we wrote “our story,” listed our favorite places to visit and eat near our house, and outlined wedding logistics for our guests. A fun thing to do together and – added bonus – something off of our To Do list.
Next, we thought it was a good idea to walk into town to a local market for some picnic ingredients and then to a winery. Overall our picnic was fun but the walk there was a sweltering one.
The heat was all but forgotten once we had our snacks and wine. We were supposed to be wrapping up hiking Half Dome at that point… I’ll say vino and charcuterie aren’t bad alternative plans.
We took a Lyft back, changed into our bathing suits, and headed right for the mineral pool at the Fairmount. My biggest complaint about this hotel was their only hot tub was in the spa area, that you had to pay to use. I was initially annoyed when I found out about this but, pleasantly, the regular mineral pool was like a bath (love it) and felt silky smooth. I didn’t miss the hot tub after all.
After a dip, we laid out and caught up on some reading, which is one of my favorite vacation activities. I dozed off for a little bit and woke up hungry. We went back to the hotel to shower and change, anticipating heading to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Sadly the menu didn’t look that great… Instead we walked over to Cochon Volant BBQ, which is a cute hole in the wall eatery with good BBQ, cold beer, spicy sauce, and sub-pare sides.
Mike and I spilt an order of the Carolina pulled pork, coleslaw, and mac n’ cheese fritters. We ordered 2 pints and sipped slowly on the patio in-between bites. (Sad I forgot to take a picture!)
We ended the night with a game of corn hole on the hotel lawn. It was one of those perfectly warm nights that follow a dreadfully hot day.
The next morning I woke up early for a free yoga class in the gym. Rule of thumb: never pass up a free yoga class! I felt so great after spending a full hour tending to it (#YogawithAdriene) that morning. If only I could make that happen every morning…
Not wanting to research another place to eat, we went back to the same restaurant and ordered the same breakfast as the day before. Then we went for one last dip in the pool before packing up and heading out to part II of our vacation.
Next up? Camping. We arrived at Camp Nauvoo much later than anticipated because of traffic. Most of our party was already there, fully immersed in camping. We piled our stuff in these carts the camp provides and trucked everything up a hill to camp. After pitching our tent, we caught up with a few friends there before dinner.
Every year on this annual trip the meals are broken up between groups. The “Friday group” made Indian for dinner that worked out better than I think we all expected. We went to bed on the earlier side. I read once that sleeping outside can help reset your sleeping schedule and I think it’s true. I always sleep well camping.
I woke up early on Saturday and attempted to shower but the water was freezing. Wah! Baby wipes it was…
After a quick breakfast (and a cup of much needed coffee; one of the perks at Camp Nauvoo is their keurig) we were off on an adventure to a nearby swimming hole.
A steep climb down a sandy hill and we were the only ones at this swimming hole oasis. The rocks were a little slippery, and the water took some getting used to, but this place was pure feel-like-a-kid-again magic.
We splashed around, ate sandwiches, and drank rosé for about a hour before skirting our way over rocks and through waterfalls to a deeper section. There was a mossy flat rock that we all sat on and watched people from another party rope swing. Of course Mike wanted to join in on the jumping fun, which I was pretty nervous about. And since we’re getting married (!) he had to take my feelings into account… 😉
In the end, I knew if Mike felt safe doing it, he would be fine. So he jumped. And he jumped. Again and again, he climbed up there and made my heart stop for a few seconds every time. Haha
I, on the other hand, kept my booty on that moss covered rock the whole time. Over the years I’ve learned most things are more mental than physical. Physically, I knew I could jump and be fine! Mentally… I didn’t trust myself to actually let go. And that’s the last thing you need on a vacation; some chick dangling (crying) from a rope swing, stuck suspended in air because she couldn’t let go.
We eventually retraced our steps, climbed up the hill, and drove back to camp. We had pasta for dinner, played a few games, and slept under the stars one last time.
Some people like stocking their cabinets with a lot of food. A whole bunch of canned goods and snacks waiting there to be eaten. I don’t know why but having a brimming pantry oddly just makes me a bit anxious… A part of it could be that we don’t have a ton of space to store food. Living in a smaller condo, I basically have 3 shelfs that I keep my non-perishable items on and I don’t like them jam packed. Is this weird?
Anyway, all of this to say, I had 2 cans of black beans and some breadcrumbs I was itching to get rid of. A quick look in my refrigerator confirmed there were also 2 eggs ready to use. Time for some homemade black bean burgers, y’all.
This recipe is only 5 ingredients and can easily be made in bulk to freeze and heat up again later. These black beans burgers are the best non-meat patties I’ve made so far. The egg and breadcrumbs bind the beans well so they don’t fall apart when you’re cooking or eating them.
I added some cumin for flavor and they were perfect. Although I’m not sure they are cheaper than buying already made veggie burgers, I love that I know exactly what is in them.
In May Mike and I tried to hike the Shirley Canyon trail in Squaw Valley. We weren’t able to finish the hike because of snow at the top and a looming storm. The weekend was still fun but we made a plan to come back and conquer the trail before we are set to hike Half Dome in August.
This past weekend was the chosen one. On Saturday we left our house at 7am and drove up to Tahoe. We arrived just after 10:30am, grabbed a quick snack for fuel, and headed to the trail. It was hotter and a lot more crowded this time around. We even contemplated turning around because there were so many people at the start of the hike. Luckily, the crowds dispersed eventually… The trial has a lot of sections that you have to climb over boulders or granite slabs and I found it stressful to have people around or behind me.
In the end I’m glad we didn’t turn around but holy, this hike was hard. When we made it to the point where we turned around last time, I thought we were about 3/4 there. Sadly I was dead wrong. We were maybe halfway at that point. I swear, the Shirley Cannon trial can be alternatively named the Trail that Seemingly Never Ends. At this point, basically every person we crossed paths with had the same sentiment as us. We were all like, will we ever make it to the top?
We eventually got to Shirley Lake, a glimmer of hope and motivation! At this point, we were covered in dirt, we had reapplied sunscreen numerous times, and – while we were well hydrated – we were cutting it close to running out of water. No big deal, I thought. We are so close anyway. We’re basically there.
Wrong again. So, so wrong.
About 30 minutes – a many inclines – later, we were finally at the top. Lucky for us, making it to the top of this hike means you have access to a pool, hot tub, beer, lunch, and a free tram ride back to the bottom.
Overall, our hike took longer than we thought it would. We only had about 2 hours to spend up in paradise. We ate quickly and jumped right in the pool. Ahhhh. It felt incredible to be done with the hike and just chillin’ out. We dipped in the hot tub after and then decided to catch the first tram down before the line got outrageous.
I’m not opposed to hiking Shirley Cannon again. It is a really beautiful trail, despite it being a long way to the top. I think half of the struggle was not knowing how much time we had left though. Next time we do it, I will know what to expect; which I think will make it more manageable.
We checked into our room at the resort around 4pm. I didn’t want to take a nap but of course, fell victim to sleepiness. I dozed off for about 45 minutes and woke up with a headache. Bummer!
We had reservations at a new Italian place on the resort grounds and I was determined not to let my headache ruin our dinner. Likely against the advice of a doctor, I ordered a glass of wine and took an ibuprofen.
Luckily my headache quickly went away. I almost never take medication so I think my body responded to it strongly and almost immediately. I was thankful to be able to enjoy the evening with Mike. Especially because our food was so good! I will never pay for anything but house-made pasta in a restaurant again! Ha.
We started with complimentary bread and olives (such a nice touch!) while we sipped our wine, enjoying the gorgeous mountain views. For an appetizer, we spilt an order of the calamari and each got a pasta dish for dinner.
After dinner we had a nightcap in the hotel lobby while listening to some live music. Romantic!
Having had a long day, we went back to our room around 10pm. Mike crashed but I wasn’t ready for bed (maybe because of my nap?). Instead I indulged in a bubble bath, the rest of my wine from dinner (is that weird that I nursed the glass that long?), and a book. Not too shabby.
Obeying our Squaw tradition, we started Sunday with coffee/tea and a hot tub sesh. After showering and packing up, we met my grandparents nearby for an early lunch. We left the Tahoe area around 1:30pm and didn’t get home until 7:30pm! There was a huge accident that added about a hour to our ETA.
We also stopped in Pleasant Hill to try Urban Plates for dinner. I follow Ashley Pitt over at A Lady Goes West and she raves about this place. I will say there is a lot to rave about. I ordered a plate of organic chicken, Brussel sprouts, and mac n’ cheese (with a side of bread included), plus a glass of a red blend for $21. It was a good way to end the weekend.