Another San Diego Weekend!

Time for a memory preserving photo dump post! (And, yes, it's mostly of FOOD.) When I learned that I earned another Hot Chocolate Ambassador trip, it was an easy call to choose another visit to sunny San Diego. We had such a lovely time last year and there were a few repeat destinations, as well as a few new ones. 

On our first day, we strolled the Embarcadero and ate amazing tacos at Puesto.
Also, the Mercado margarita was TOP NOTCH. 
Although, at $16, it had better be! After our stroll, we did some required pool sitting 
and then headed out to dinner at Roy's. We enjoyed a Roy's traditional Mai Tai the last time we were in San Diego, but hadn't enjoyed the food since our Chicago days. 
We decided on not renting a car again, and utilized some great coupons for newbie rideshare users. So on Saturday, we got a Lyft to La Jolla (Use code CROOKED for $10 your first THREE rides!) and spent the day strolling and communing with seals and sea lions.
This was so much fun. We rested our tired feet from all the walking at Karl Strauss Brewing and had some tasty beers and I ate a lovely seared tuna salad.
After taking a Lyft back downtown, we walked over to Little Italy to check out the Saturday farmers market. Alas, it was all being packed up as we arrived, so we consoled ourselves with tasty cocktails at Underbelly - my whiskey drink was named after Totoro! The ramen looked amazing, too.
Saturday night we made a return visit to La Puerta for their humongous burritos. This time I got 'California style' and it had FRENCH FRIES inside! I was thankful for the digestive walk back to the hotel.
We slept LATE on Sunday after all the walking we did in La Jolla and Little Italy (nearly 7 miles worth) and visited Old Town for a late lunch and some shopping.
Churros from Coyote Cafe filled with dulce de leche. Yummmm.
We also found the most AMAZING store of rocks and minerals behind the restaurant that we missed on our last visit (SA Imports), and bought all sorts of awesome treasure for our kids.
Our last dinner was an impulse decision to go into one of the MANY Italian restaurants in Little Italy and Bencotto did not disappoint.
Lo and behold, what was on the tv that night as we packed up?
A perfect ending to another perfect trip. Stay classy San Diego!

Every year I earn one of these trips, I feel so very thankful and fortunate. It has given my husband and I the opportunity and impetus to start taking vacations together again, even though it's a pain living so far from family that can watch our kids. But, now that we have the logistics of this yearly Spring tradition figured out, I'm hopeful that we (and my sister in law) can continue it for some years to come - whether it's part of my Hot Chocolate Ambassadorship or not. As always, I'm so grateful for their generous program and for everyone who visits my little space on the internet!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 3.20.17

This winter has been a doozy around the Pacific Northwest. According to our favorite weather blog, we've had a year's worth of rain in five months. We're no slouches about getting out to enjoy the sun in this part of the world, and I think even more so this year. We had just over two days of sun this week and it was all the sweeter for having been absent for so long.

A lovely day calls for a poke bowl! I hadn't hit up my favorite food truck in ages, and it just so happened to be nearby this week. (I get the mixed tuna and salmon poke, lightly seared with spicy aoli and brown rice.) And over the weekend we took a spin by our favorite nearby park for walking paths to enjoy the weather.
The kids were trying to observe a hawk surreptitiously in the photo above. Everyone at the park got a front row seat to a very 'circle of life' moment when a it went in for the kill on mister bunny rabbit. Blergh! They got out their binoculars and watched as he picked at his prey. Once the hawk took off with it, everyone took a look at the entrails left behind. Some even took pictures! GAH. I did not. You're welcome. Now seems like a perfect time to talk about food...

It's a short week of menu planning, as my husband and I are taking off for a weekend in San Diego! I've been planning my reading material and our dinners out - but if there is a MUST do, hit me up. I have orders to get some Extraordinary Desserts and multiple recs for tacos. We might rent a car this time around to explore beyond the downtown area, too. Until then:

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Buffalo Chicken Chili in the Crock Pot (from Slow Cooker Gourmet - I just cook chicken breasts in the pot to make this recipe even easier!)
Wednesday - Hoisin Stir Fry Bowls with Spicy Peanut Sauce (from Budget Bytes)
Thursday - Spaghetti with Ground Turkey (same recipe as Saturday Night Pasta, changing up the pasta and protein)

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Choosing a Vacation Read (and March Book Haul)

My husband and I are hitting San Diego again next week and I'm so excited because that means it's time to plan reading material! Is there anything more fun for a book lover than choosing what to read for a vacation?? I am normally a VERY decisive person, but when it comes to paring down books/ebooks for travel, I can ruminate on it for WEEKS because I love it so! 

Now, I use the term 'vacation' loosely, because what I bring along on a road trip with the family is different from what I might bring on a weekend trip to sit poolside, and different from what I'd bring on an overseas adventure. The many considerations I ponder:
Is this a quick and relaxing trip? If so, I will most likely go with similar reading fare. Something that jives with my summer reading or romantic reads lists.
Is this a long and relaxing trip? It's been a very long time since I went somewhere relaxing for more than a weekend - before kids, for sure. But I do vaguely recall these days and tend towards filling up the Kindle with one doorstop I'd like to tackle and the rest akin to something I'd read on a shorter trip. However, the long book should be something adventurous or romantic, like one of my favorite epic page turners. Probably not the time to take on A Little Life. On the other hand...
Am I gearing up for a long flight that has nothing to do with vacation? I remember reading The Passage as I was travelling home when my mom was dealing with her first bout of cancer. I find that reading fluff, when I'm not feeling fluffy, is pointless. I'll never forget that amazing book. But, for the life of me, I cannot imagine reading it on a sandy beach. I tried to read Angela's Ashes poolside when I was on a trip in college and still have never finished that book.
Am I going on a long/touristy kind of trip? This is the best kind of book trip! I haven't taken such a trip since my unforgettable European travels with mom. How I would have taken advantage of a Kindle 20 years ago! Alas, I read a fair amount of Wally Lamb, John Irving and Pat Conroy - long and engrossing, in order to only lug around one or two books. Now, if I were to gear up for such travel, I'd probably approach it the same as a long relaxing trip, but less fluffy - maybe I'd finally crack open A Little Life, add some literary fiction, mystery and hopefully historical fiction - bonus points for books set in my travel destination! I always wished I could have read the Robert Langdon novels BEFORE I visited the many amazing locations in The Da Vinci Code. Alas, they were still wonderful revisiting them in my mind as I read Dan Brown's novels.
All this to say that it can be upended, or heavily influenced, by my usual considerations when deciding what to read next. Did something just come in from the library? Do I need a palate cleanser after reading something really emotional? Am I burnt out on a particular genre? Did I read a bunch of shorter books recently, giving me room to pick up something with more heft? Did a NetGalley come in that I should review soon? 
It's been a long time since I shared the stack! So here's what I'm looking at right now:
The Lost City of Z by David Grann (Soon to be film starring Charlie Hunnam, which might have been part of my decision to grab this from the Choice Reads section...)
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (This much revered Hugo award winner finally came in, right as I bought it on a Kindle daily deal!)
Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton (The comparison to Station Eleven, which I really enjoyed, has me intrigued and was highly recommended by a Litsy friend.)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (There was a lot of hype around this one when it came out a few months ago, but reviews seem to be mixed now...)
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (Part of my catching up on Middle Grade award winners - this one a National Book Honoree.)
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (I have been meaning to give this author a try and a fellow book lover on Instagram said this was a good one to start with, but I also have two digital books of Williams' on hold.)
The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee (Similar to History of Wolves above - lots of initial hype on this purported sci-fi meets Gossip Girl that has mixed reviews. But I am still curious!)

Digital Books in the Queue:
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (NetGalley ARC)
What's Become of Her by Deb Caletti (NetGalley ARC)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The Nix by Nathan Hill
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tiny Little Thing and Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

I may tuck Good Morning Midnight in my bag, since it's a pretty slim book and read one of the Beatriz Williams books or Taylor Jenkins Reid, since they seem relaxing vacation-y. As always, I am open to suggestions!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (3.13.17)

Welp, last week was quite meh around here - just weekdays filled with the usual and the weekend being shot with a sick kid. I think I jinxed myself when I told a friend at the Y that the only ones who've been dealing with winter colds around our house are myself and my son. Although I suppose this still holds true, since my daughter decided to change things up with a lovely stomach bug. We're chillin' at home today, but luckily we were able to enjoy the annual Shamrock Shake treat before it all went down.

Daylight saving time is certainly not helping matters. Both kids were totally sound asleep when it was time to get up and that is hardly ever a problem - I had a lovely glimpse into the teen years this morning... Every year I'm reminded of this hilarious Last Week Tonight video. No, it's not because of the farmers!
Here's hoping we get back on track with our sleep schedules this week.

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Parmesan Tomato Basil Soup in the Slow Cooker (from Little Spice Jar)
Wednesday - Chicken Shawarma (trying this recipe from the New York Times)
Thursday - Pesto Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato and Roasted Asparagus (a favorite from Damn Delicious)
Friday - Spicy Avocado Enchiladas (going St. Pat's GREEN for our Friday tex-mex with this staple from The Novice Chef)
Saturday - Seven Flavor Beef (a favorite Saturday indulgence, recipe from Wild Ginger)
Sunday - Greek Turkey Meatball Salad (pulling leftover meatballs from the freezer for this tasty salad recipe from The Perfect Pantry)

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!