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PLAYGROUND

orange county is not known for its food.  its not like l.a. we have a lot of big chain restaurants and it can be tricky finding really great food. so when we found an amazing restaurant in downtown santa ana i was thrilled!  i have to admit initially the menu threw me off.  it has some really unique options and i typically don’t love fusions or anything that seems like they’re trying too hard to be different. its not that i won’t try unique foods, i’ve eaten everything from fish eyes to frog legs and i’m not particularly picky.  i just feel like when restaurants try too hard to be different it usually ends up bad.

playground is different.  i promise!  the first time we went was with a group and we ordered a bunch of food and shared, which was a really great way to try a little bit of everything.  every single item we ordered was amazing!  ivan and i went back a second time and a loved it just as much.  the menu changes up a bit weekly but these items were there both time.  i highly recommend going!  i wish i had taken more pictures. everything was amazing!  while you’re over there drive through the floral park neighborhood, its darling.

these were our favorites–

Brussels Sprouts (Caesar, Cotija Cheese, Cornbread Crumble, Jalapeño, Radish, Scallion, Cilantro) Amazing!! i dream of these.

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Cauliflower & Sweet Onion Pakora, Cucumber & Tomato Raita,
Spicy Green Chutney

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Charred Tamaki Gold Rice & Macadamia Nuts, Salted Coconut Cream, Avocado, Pickled Veg, Wraps

Wild Mushroom Fried Rice, Parmesan, Black Truffle Aioli, Scallions

Kecap Manis Pan Fried Noodles, Housemade Spicy Chile Paste, Crushed Peanuts, Cilantro

Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken

Maple Glazed Pork Chop

Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding

Super Slutty Rice Pudding, Salted Caramel (the name is weird. ha! but promise its delicious. not your typical rice pudding. they fold whipped cream into it making it so light and delicious.)

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BEST GREEN CHILE IN AZ

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.

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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.

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

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PUERTO PENASCO MEXICO – CITY GUIDE

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

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

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

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jack loved the mangos

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my favorite beach snack

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the left is the green salsa i love at tacos elpoblano

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al pastor at tacos el poblano

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tacos el poblano

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la curva chips with sauce they give you before your meal

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jack loved the pina colada

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FLYING WITH KIDS

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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.

 

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FRACTURED PRUNE

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.

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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

 

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BEST BROWNIES EVER

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.

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line up of ingredients

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

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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

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

add
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

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CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS 2014

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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HALLOWEEN 2014 IN MEXICO

we headed back down to mexico for halloween.  we were on the fence about going or not.  we are going to be out of town for thanksgiving and i don’t want them to miss every holiday.  of course it sounded fun but would the kids be bummed to not trick or treat?  ultimately we all decided a weekend of fun was worth missing out on a night of candy.  plus i always take the candy away and throw it out the next day so they weren’t missing much.  we don’t need any cavities around here.  i brought down a box of full sized candy bars and assured them our candy was better than anything they would get trick or treating anyways.  i hid the candy around the condo and we did a scavenger hunt a few times.  they had a lot of fun with it.  elle has asked a few times when we are going trick or treating.  i do feel bad for her, she was sick last halloween so she didn’t go out then either.  next year we will stay home but i am happy with the memories we made this year.


oh tacos el poblano i could eat you everyday and not get sick of you.  thats exactly what we did.

have you heard of kinder eggs?  my kids are fascinated with the girl on you tube who opens egg after egg showing you the toy thats inside.  apparently they’re too dangerous for the good ole u.s. of a but not for mexico.  we stocked up.  and yes they are a choking hazard, jack tried to put the little hamster that came inside his in his mouth.  no worries i got it from him before her devoured it.  oh and that sleeping picture of jack has nothing to do with kinder eggs i just love his fat face!
these four are really mine!  all mine.  well ivans too.  but they don’t think so.  they think they’re biologically mine since they came from my belly and ivans just some nice guys who came in and was like sure i’ll take care of you and your four kids.  what a guy. but really he is a great guy.
halloween was super crazy windy.  like what i would have thought hurricane winds were made of.  but what do i know i live in arizona, no natural disasters here.  then poor jack got stung by a bee.  3 of my kids have been stung by a bee in the last 4 months.  i thought bees were on the decline or something.  apparently not, most of them hang out at our house.  i was a little nervous wondering if he might possible be allergy.  checks out that he’s not.  now we just need ava to get stung and we’ll have the whole bunch.  I’ve always seen kids screaming and crying and flipping out over bee stings.  i guess they’re not as painful as i thought or i just have super human kids.  none of them have really cried.  jack started scratching his arm, as you can see.  henri didn’t shed a tear he just came in the house said i was stung by a bee and i pulled out the stinger.  he really is a freak of nature. like can give 8 vials of blood without flinching.  the phlebotomist are always impressed when they ask if we want two people to hold him down and we say no.  now i think he might actually cry if two strangers came in and pinned him down.  (he has all sorts of allergies thats why he’s constantly giving blood) and elle got stung when she touched a bee on the ground.  i wasn’t home but when i got home she didn’t say much.  anyways enough rambling about bees.  mexican breakfast is the best breakfast and a massage on the beach trumps all other massages anywhere ever!

 

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