ivan’s grandma is the best cook.  really, everything she makes is amazing.  this past year she put together all of her family recipes and published a cookbook.  i couldn’t be happier.  what an amazing legacy for her to leave.  ava is always complementing me when i cook and asking me if she can have the recipe when she’s older.  now she can, already put in a book and you can too.  buy it here or if you live in arizona you can buy it local at my mother in laws bakery, sweet cakes cafe in mesa.  i promise its worth every penny.


one of my families very favorite recipes is her southern style pancakes.  i tell you they cant get enough, i always double the batch.  i cant even cook them as fast as they eat them.  i also always make her gourmet syrup.  after you make this syrup you will never eat store bought again.  i sent this recipe over to my sister recently and her family raved about it too.  try them out.


grandma sue’s southern style pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2  tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 beaten egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

4 Tbsp. melted butter


in a mixing bowl add flour, cormeal, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt.  stir together.  make a well in the center and add eggs, melted butter and buttermilk.  stir until moist.  batter will be lumpy.


makes 8 small pancakes


gourmet pancake syrup

2 cups buttermilk

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. Karo syrup

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking soda


in a large 6 quart sauce pan add buttermilk, butter, both sugars and karo syrup.  cook on medium heat stirring often until it starts to boil.  turn down to low and simmer 5 minutes.  take off burner and add vanilla and baking soda.  it will foam up a lot, this is why the large pan is important.


this syrup makes a ton.  keep it in your fridge for up to 3 weeks.





















we love mexican food.  i mean really love it.  we eat it a lot, probably 5 times a week if not more.  i’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to get green chili in arizona.

first up is guayo’s el ray in miami, az.  they make their own chips and the flour are our favorite.  we always get several baskets full.  their green chili cheese crisp is my favorite.  its a cheese crisp topped with their green chili and tender beef.  the sauce is buttery and the tortilla are homemade and delicious.  ivan gets the green chili burro filled with green chili + beans + cheese.





another favorite in miami is burger house.  i have never tried the burgers but the green chili there is as good as guayo’s el ray.  we always get the green chili burro and grab a few extra to bring home.  you go up to the counter to order and pay then sit down.  its more fast food and el ray is sit down.  both places are worth the drive and you might have a hard time deciding which one to go to like we always do.  so sit down and enjoy your meal at el ray and the drop by burger house for a few burros to go.

another favorite is here in phoenix called rito’s.  its a little hole in the wall with outdoor seating.  the place is always packed but the line moves quickly. the menu is small with just a few items to chose from.  we like the green chili burrito enchilada style with green sauce. the kids like the cheese quesadilla with a side of guacamole.  the burrito is huge so you can share it or bring some home.  the neighborhood is a little rough so if you feel nervous go during the day.  i grew up in phoenix and feel completely comfortable and safe but as you can see there are bars on the window to order.  somehow these sketchy places always end up being my favorite.






IMG_4880 IMG_4873


another good green chili burro is at xaviers casa renyoso in mesa if you are looking for something in the east valley.






if you know us or have read our other blog then you know our youngest son was born with infra cardiac TAPVR.  its a congenital heart defect that if untreated is deadly.  there is no chance of survival without open heart surgery.  i wanted to talk about CHD (congenital heart defects) today because it is so near to my heart.

– congenital heart defects are americas and every other countries #1 birth defect.

– nearly 1 in every 100 babies is born with a CHD.

– CHD is the #1 cause of infant death in the united states.

– there is no known cause of CHD.

these are just some of the statistics relating to CHD.  no one knows why my baby was born with TAPVR.  we didn’t even know he had it until he was 2 weeks old.  i had a normal pregnancy + delivery.  i delivered jack in the hospital and brought him home 24hrs after delivery.  at a week old i noticed his bowels slowing down and he started spitting up.  i knew in my gut something was wrong. you can read more about that gut feeling and jacks recovery from TAPVR here.  we found out that he needed open heart surgery at 2 weeks old.  i was the most scared and at peace i’ve every felt in my life.

i remember talking to my pediatrician right after we found out he needed surgery, they were getting him ready to be flown over to the hospital where he would have surgery, and i asked her is this bad?  is this really bad?  she said as far as heart defects go this one is very serious but its fixable.  your only hope for survival is surgery.  it hit me not at heart defects are fixable.  there are moms who lose their babies to this. before jack i didn’t personally know anyone with a heart defect.  i really didn’t know much about heart defects at all.

i tell every mom to please pay attention to your baby’s pulse ox test.  its that little red light they wrap around your baby’s toe.  ask what your baby’s pulse ox number is.  they get an immediate answer right after they wrap the light.  it should be very close to 100.  if its not ask to have them re-tested.  jacks initial test registered at 85, cardiac failure.  had i known this i would have asked questions.  i had no idea what that light tested for so i didn’t ask the questions i should have.

jack opened us to a world we knew nothing about.  he also opened us up to a life of heartache + recovery + love + true happiness.  we live every day to the fullest.  we know what it feels like to watch someone slowly die, to not know if you are going to have another 5 minutes with them.  this doesn’t mean i don’t get frustrated or have bad days.  this means i have more patience.  i have less regret.  i tell my family i love them.  i tell people i appreciate them.  i surround myself with positive + happy people.  there’s no time to waste.  be happy now.  life is full of trials.  you weather the storm + you come out a better person.  the trials are real and they are hard but they are here to teach us, to help us grow.  if you asked me a year and a half ago if i was grateful for the trial’s with jack i would’ve have said no.  today i can truly say i’m happy with the mother/wife/friend i’ve become.  i love deeper and am more honest in the things i want for my life and my family.  jack has taught me more than i could have ever learned on my own.

jacks second birthday is april 15th.  a day which at one point i thought he’d never see.  instead of presents for jacks birthday we ask our friends and family to make a donation or drop off a gift to be delivered to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.  a place that we called home along with so many other families.










Family Beach Picture Rocky Point Mexico

puerto penasco is one our favorite places to visit.  i came a lot as a child and i love bringing my own family down there to the same beaches i spent my childhood on.  its changed so much since i was little. its such a small town so there are not many options for food but i wanted to share a few of our favorites.  the next time you take a trip down you should try them out.

las palomas resort and spa- this is where we always stay.  the rooms are big and there is plenty for the whole family to do.  the kids love the pool and water slide.  they have chairs and umbrellas on the beach to relax at.  they have golfing + spa’s + restaurants all right in the hotel.

taco’s el poblano- this is the first place we stop at when we get in town.  the waiter, fransisco knows us and just asks if we want the regular.  probably my very favorite meal in any city.  ivan and i get the caramelo taco’s, al pastor + cheese + guacamole + pico.  i top them with their green salsa and get a coke.  the kids get the cheese quesadilla’s and a fanta.

rosy’s- we get breakfast here.  we love the huevos rancheros and the kids get chocolate chip pancakes.

koffee hause- i get the stuffed french toast.  ivan gets the carne huevos rancheros, he says its even better than rosy’s.  the kids get the pancakes.

la curva- ivan loves the el pollo godorniz.  we love the chips they bring out before you order.  the mariachi’s sing to you at your table which the kids love.

thrifty’s ice cream- we go here after taco’s el poblano.  it’s just across the street.

max’s- i love their virgin bloody mary.  i know its an acquired taste but if you like a bloody mary they have the best i’ve ever had.

potato burritos on the beach.  also a breakfast favorite.  just wait for someone, prefferably sonya to pass by.  i like the soft and the crunchy with a side of valentina

mangos on the beach are our favorite snack.  just wait for someone to walk by selling them or there’s a stand outside las palomas resort.  i like mine with lime + chili + chamoy.  the kids like theirs with lime only.

get a pina colada in a pineapple.  you can find them off the side of the road just about anywhere.

visit choya bay mall for mexican blankets + dresses + vanilla and any sort of authentic mexican souvenir you want to bring home.  we also drive down to the fish market for fresh fish and shrimp and stop by mary’s for a shrimp cocktail.

we bring down our ranger, park our car at the condo and drive that around instead.  its a lot of fun and we can ride the sand dunes on the way into town.

on our home way we like to stop and grab tortillas in sonoyta.


Rocky Point Mexico

rocky point mexico

Rocky Point Mexico





i love when they play so much that they are this exhausted








everyday these guys on the beach would make a sand animal and everyday henri would recreate it in a smaller version


jack loved the mangos


my favorite beach snack



the left is the green salsa i love at tacos elpoblano


al pastor at tacos el poblano


tacos el poblano


la curva chips with sauce they give you before your meal


jack loved the pina colada







we love taking our kids on vacation with us.  we want to show them as much of the world as we can.  it’s not always easy and sometimes its exhausting. but the memories are what make it all worth it.  showing them the beauty of other cities, the different cultures and foods.  hearing them talk about their favorite city or vacation, that’s what its all about.  we travel frequently with the kids and we’ve gotten pretty good at.  here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

1. PACK LIGHT- this is key when flying.  the airport can be tricky with kids.  hauling your bags + strollers + carseats + kids into the airport, check in and the security line is difficult.  by the time you get to the plane you’re already exhausted.  our kids have gotten really good at navigating through the airport.  typically we have the kids each carry a backpack.  we love Fjallraven.  they are super light and have several different sizes so you can pick which size fits your child.  if we are taking a short trip we will pack their clothes in that bag and take 1 carry-on for everything else.  most airlines allow you to check your strollers and car seats for free.   for a longer trip we take 2 checked bags and use those backpacks to hold snacks + toys for the flight.

2. SNACKS- for those short flights i take a carry on in addition to the one full of our clothes.  usually this MZ Wallace Bag, it’s super light weight and has plenty of storage.  we pack dried fruit, nuts, granola bars and pretzels which are little to no mess and easy to eat on their own.  i also bring a few different candies or fruit snacks in case they get really fussy,  there’s nothing worse than an inconsolable child and ours are usually happy to have a treat.  for longer flights i let them keep their snacks in their backpack and get them out as they choose.

3. BE PREPARED- make sure everyone uses the bathroom and has a fresh diaper before you take off.  we typically take everyone to the restroom when we get to the airport and then again 5 minutes before boarding.  we also eat at the airport, most airports have good restaurants and this ensures they don’t eat every snack they have before take off and are hungry the rest of the flight.  we also grab a few water bottles to take on the plane.  the drinks they give on flight can be difficult trying to keep little one from spilling them on their tray tables.

4. TECHNOLOGY- we limit screen time at home so when we travel our kids are thrilled to play on the iPad or their Nintendo 3DS. we don’t let them play until we are well into the flight and they are starting to get antsy.  this will hold them over until we land.

5. TOYS + BOOKS- we always buy one new toy and stick it in their bag so they are surprised when they get on the plane.  something small like play doh or a drawing set.  paper and a pencil for tic tac toe or hangman.  we also really like Where’s Waldo and Seek and Find books.

6. TICKETS- designate one person to be in charge of tickets + licenses + birth certificates.  i put them all in a large Ziploc and stick it in my carry on.  that way we aren’t digging through our wallets and bags trying to find them all.  make sure you’ve printed your tickets ahead of time.

if you have a baby on flight with you make sure you nurse/bottle feed them while you are taking off and landing this will help their ears adjust and if you’re lucky they’ll fall asleep.

the last piece of advice i can offer is do NOT pre-board.  i know its tempting to be first in line but that just means sitting in a small confined space longer.  we board last.  let the kids get their energy out before getting on the plane.

happy flying.  its never fun but we always get compliments telling us how well behaved our children are on the flight.  i attribute this to being well prepared.




i love a good doughnut and when ivan told me he had fractured prune doughnuts at the suns game last week i knew i had to try them.  they are as delicious as he told me they were, if not better.  they are made to order so they’re hot when you get them.  eat them there while they’re still warm.  you can pick your glaze and topping or pick from one of their favorites.  we did both.

DSC03594 DSC03601 DSC03607  DSC03627

ivan and i loved the salted caramel which is caramel glaze + sea salt.  i also ordered a create your own with vanilla glaze + sea salt.  both reminded me of my favorite butter + salt doughnut from sidecar in newport beach.

we also ordered

carnival- honey glaze + rainbow sprinkle

this was the kids favorite, i liked it too

chocolate covered cherry

cookie + cream

oc sand- really good if you like cinnamon

blueberry hill

maple + bacon- we didn’t love the bacon on this one




these are my absolute favorite brownies.  i make them probably once a week.  they are so soft and moist.  everyone i make them for loves them.  i promise they’ll be a favorite.  they are not super chocolaty which i love.  they are so easy and delicious you will never make boxed brownies again.  try them out.


line up of ingredients


i like to chop my own pecans.  i think they have more flavor that way


bake for 30-35 minutes depending on your oven. i like mine a little more on the raw side so i cook them closer to 30



In a bowl mix
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. butter

4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

then by hand mix in (stir until just combined, do not over mix)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

top with
3/4 chopped nuts

pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan
top with nuts
bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes

for a more chocolatey brownie sprinkle chocolate chips on top along with the nuts



we often get asked by friends and family where they should eat or what they should do on their upcoming vacation.  this site is the perfect place for us to share our favorite restaurants and vacations.  ivan and i both love food and really enjoy trying new restaurants.  they don’t have to be trendy and cool.  we love a good hole in the wall.  we want this to be a place where we can share with you the things we like to do and places we like to visit as a family.

i always have friends asking me how i travel with four kids.  we decided that we want to experience new cities as a family.  this decision made us look at traveling in a whole new light.  for us its not about how many landmarks we can visit in a day or how many places we can see in a city.  its about creating memories in that city.  its about slowing down and taking it all in.  enjoying it the way a local would.  when we take the kids with us we go at a much slower pace.  we will share some tips along the way.  follow along on our adventures.


Vancouver, Canada


Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona


Astoria, Oregon


Seattle, Washington


Cannon Beach, Oregon


Portland, Oregon


Pine, Arizona




Huntington Beach, California


Depoe Bay, Oregon


Yachats, Oregon


Santa Barbara, California


Phoenix, Arizona

Back Bay Newport

Newport Beach, California


Boston, Massachusetts


Rocky Point, Mexico


Sundance, Utah

San Fran 012

San Fransisco, California

GrandCanyon 2004 (13)

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Hawaii 2004 (26)


Hawaii, Hawaii



it was a christmas miracle, we actual stayed in town this year.  it’s the one holiday i want to make sure we wake up to at home.  we’ve traveled for christmas and its just not the same.  christmas is also henri’s birthday and we’ve tried to make christmas day more about him and less about christmas but it doesn’t work out.  i’m still working out the kinks on how to celebrate the two events.  so far i haven’t found a good solution.  i’m still trying.  we took the train to the polar express.  we go every year and we all love it.  this year we took the 3:30 train and i don’t advise it.  the sun was blazing through the window the entire time and it just wasn’t as magical.  jack didn’t nap that day either so that contributed to the chaos. i like it much better when its completely dark outside.

annual christmas jammie’s

the train.
that face.  she’s the sweetest.  i have so much anxiety about her starting kindergarten next year.  its gonna be hard.
jack has a love hate relationship with trains.  he loves to watch them on t.v. he loves to talk about them. he even loves to ride on them.  but the one that we can hear from our house scares him to death.  if he’s outside and hears it he will come screaming in the house.  last time he tripped on his way in and was crawling through the door in tears.  or he’ll stop where he’s at drop to the floor, curl up and cry.  its pretty sad and a tiny bit comical too.
gosh these kids are getting big.  i don’t like it one bit.
ivans christmas gift.  a ranger, its become more of my daily driver.  i think i’ll get a scooter once my kids are grown.  really i hate having a big bulky suv.
we went to a cabin with friends a few weeks before christmas and honestly i think this was the first time i had seen snow fall. actually fall and build up.  not just melt off.  the kids loved every minute.
ava had her christmas concert.  to celebrate we got donuts.
henri’s concert was during school hours so i got him all dressed up before school only to have his teacher call me and tell me i was a day early.  he was not happy to wear “church” clothes all day.  i think i gave him so much anxiety making him spread his nervousness over the course of two days that he called me to get him early on the actual day.  complaining of not feeling well. oh well, theres always next year.  now if i can just get the day right.
we spent new years eve in mexico.  that doesn’t really count as a holiday, right?  so only not real holidays can be spent out of town.  real holidays we have to be home.  thats what i’ll tell the kids so i can get in a few extra vacations.
we sewed blankets to bring down to the hospital.  i  love getting the kids involved with these kinds of projects.  pch will always be our hospital.  i hope to teach the kids how much pch means to our family so they can carry on these traditions with their own.
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