travel adventures: carmel valley

Posted on: Friday, April 28, 2017

when my sister kerry visited in february, we did a little weekend trip down to carmel valley and had such a fun time! E and I have been down twice before, and really love the quaint small town and amazing, relaxed tasting rooms. Carmel Valley is just a quick 15 minutes inland from Carmel, and a pretty easy 20 or so minute drive to Bixby Bridge and into Big Sur. and, since i’m heading down that way this weekend (see you Sunday, Big Sur 5K! 👋🏼), I wanted to share a few recommendations on places to go in Carmel Valley and photos from our recent trips.

if time allows, I would recommend doing a weekend visit, but you can also do a day trip from SF if you prefer. what was super fun about Kerry’s visit was that we spent time wine tasting and relaxing in Carmel Valley, but also explored downtown Carmel for brunch, drove along the beach and 17 Mile Drive in Carmel, and drove to Bixby Bridge. Another time E and I spent a Saturday afternoon in Carmel Valley, did dinner in downtown Carmel and then explored/hiked in Big Sur / Point Lobos area on Sunday. this area of California is truly the prettiest and there’s so many amazing things to squeeze in!

the town of Carmel Valley itself is a totally walkable town and super dog-friendly – pups are everywhere! it has that small town vibe and truly incredible wine, without the sometimes pretentious vibe you can get wine tasting in areas like Napa. 😬 all the people i met during my trips there were super friendly and kind.

Without further ado, here’s some Carmel Valley recs!

{WINE, WINE & MORE WINE 🍷}
PARSONAGE – the southwestern, bohemian decor in this tasting room is so dreamy! i recommend getting a glass of wine (vs. a flight tasting) and sitting in the cute window nook to people watch what’s happening downtown. if you do want to do the tasting flight, it’s $10 to try 5 wines.

CHESEBRO this spot has super reasonably-priced wines (and wine club membership) with a modern barn interior. it’s right next to parsonage, so you can hit up two spots just a few steps away from each other. we did the tasting menu here, and I was surprised how much I liked the white wines they poured, as I’m usually not a big white wine fan! tasting is $10 and you get 6-7 wines, so easy to share with a friend.

COWGIRL WINERY – this is a female-run tasting room with a MASSIVE outdoor area with bocce ball courts, picnic tables, chickens running around and tons of areas to walk around and explore. inside, there is a really cute area of curated products like cookbooks, cheese boards, etc. this spot is also open until 6pm, which is an hour (or more) later than other tasting rooms in the area! this is a great spot for groups, and I recommend getting a bottle of the super reasonably priced ($18) and tasty house red to share.

GEORIS – this tasting room is in a huge 1930s adobe with a funky garden area and tons of outdoor seating areas. the tasting fee is $20 and you can order food and snacks made fresh from Corkscrew Cafe next door (more on that below!)

BOEKENOOGEN – we are members at this winery because we looooove their Pinot Noirs! They have a small(ish), rustic garden patio area and are right in the center of downtown. tasting fees are $10 to try 5 wines and $15 to try 7 flights. the wine here is realllllly good; it’s one of those places where every single wine I tried, I loved.

CIMA COLLINA – this past trip was my first time at Cima Collina and I was absolutely IN LOVE! they had 2-for-1 glasses of wine, so we opted for that inside of a traditional tasting and sat out on their glorious patio. they also have a massive outdoor fireplace, which is perfect spot to hang out when it starts to get chilly.

{FOOD, ETC.}

CORKSCREW CAFE – this is my favorite restaurant in Carmel Valley! They have amazing pizzas, cheese plates and other delicious snacks, plus a great local wine selection. They have a large patio, lined with brightly colored tables and hanging lights, plus a separate patio for people who brought their dogs along.

STIRRUP CUP PIZZA & RUNNING IRON DIVE BAR – Yummy, casual downtown pizza spot connected to an amazing dive bar. They bring your pizza over to you and the bar has a great selection of California beer.
EARTHBOUND FARM’S FARM STAND – this is on my to-do list for next time! you’ve probably seen this produce brand at the store, but I just recently discovered that they are based in Carmel Valley. you can eat at their all-organic kitchen and tour their gardens or go on a guided flower walk, which sounds super fun to me. if you’d prefer, you can pick up produce, gourmet groceries and flowers to go…which leads me to my next recommendation…
PACK YOUR OWN PICNIC! – Okay, obviously this isn’t a recommendation on a place to go to eat, but most of the time when we visit Carmel Valley (and wine country areas in general), we just pack picnics. just pick up bread and crackers, fruit, cheese and other goodies, pick any of the spots above with outdoor space and enjoy a meal in the sunshine!

{WHERE TO STAY}
BLUE SKY LODGE – this is where we stayed! it’s a little outdated, but it’s right downtown and inexpensive, and we loved the hot tub and pool area and that they had complimentary local coffee available each morning. // CARMEL VALLEY LODGE – this spot wasn’t available during our last trip, but it looked really cute and was also inexpensive. the garden area and cottage rooms looked super quaint and relaxing! // BERNARDUS LODGE – this place is more upscale, but looks totally dreamy and like a little spa (!!) haven in the middle of Carmel Valley // CARMEL MISSION INN – this hotel is located centrally located right on Highway 1, so it’s a great spot to stay if you’re only planning to do Carmel Valley for an afternoon and want to do other things in the Carmel/Monterey/Big Sur area during the evening or next day. it’s about a 15 minute drive to downtown Carmel Valley and a quick 5 or so minute drive to Carmel. the hotel itself was nice and we loved the hot tub and pool area. // AIRBNB – this is always my go-to for group trips and there’s lots of great options in the area!

travel adventures: tulum, mexico

Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2017

hi friends! as you may have noticed, a few weeks ago, E and I spent a week in Mexico! we stayed in Tulum, a small, eco-friendly, trendy beach town about an hour and a half south from Cancun. I received a ton of great recommendations and we went to a lot of places, so wanted to share my version of a Tulum travel guide with you!

WHAT TO DO:

We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb (pictured) closer to town that we loved! It had a private pool surrounded by a photo worthy pink wall and tons of plants, swings on the roof, and an impeccable interior. The bed was so comfortable, there was a clawfoot tub (!!) and our host had everything we needed – beach blankets, snorkel gear, a blender (v beneficial for making our own smoothies!), etc. The Airbnb was about a 10-15 minute drive to the beach and 3-5 minute drive into town (where there’s also lots of shopping, restaurants, etc. – more on that below). We really loved it! Here’s the link.

If you do want to be a little closer to the beach, I’ve heard good things about these hotels: MezzanineCoco, Be Tulum, and Azulik (pictured below – even if you don’t stay at Azulik, go walk around the property or have a drink there! It’s amazing).

WHAT TO DO:

BEACH! – every day, we would pack our beach bags and find a new beach area to hang out at. you can just walk through hotels to get to the beach, but can’t use their facilities unless you’re staying there. I heard good options are: Playa Pescadores, Ziggy Beach, Papaya Playa, Coco. we also liked Playa Maya, which was a little further down the road past Mezzaine Hotel. The water was super clear and beautiful!

mayan clay massage – this is a must! Getting a massage always feel necessary to maximize relaxation on vaca. I heard amazing things about Mayan clay massages in Tulum both at the Mayan Clay Spa and the Maya Tulum Resort. Basically, your entire body gets covered in Mayan clay, sets for awhile, then you get a traditional amazing massage. Our Airbnb host actually arranges for us to get private massages in the Airbnb, which was luxurious and super amazing. We did this on our last night in Tulum and it was a perfect way to end the trip.

swim in cenotes – cenotes are underground, natural sinkholes formed by water coming through the limestone rocks (read more about them here). basically, they are like swimming ponds that you can swim, snorkel and dive in – some even allow you to zip-line or kayak. we visited two very different ones: Gran Cenote (first three photos below), which is about 5 minutes north of downtown Tulum. you walk down steps to get to the water and are swimming in a cave, pretty much. there are turtles and clear water and it’s super cool). The second we went to was Casa Cenote (last photo below), which is 10-15 minutes north of Tulum, it’s off of a back road and the cenote extends back into the jungle! the water is deep and super clear – tons of people dive here, especially). other cenotes recommended to us were: Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Escondido, Cenote Azul, Cenote Carwash, Cenote Zazil Ha (last two are super close to Gran Cenote).

snorkeling – you can do this in the ocean in several good spots and in lots of cenotes too! we also drove to Akumal (about 20 minutes north of Tulum) to swim with turtles – super cool experience. We just rented masks from a little shop near the beach and jumped in the water – no need for tours or anything. The water is super calm and the beach is super charming and less rustic/earthy than Tulum beaches, in my opinion.

Tulum Ruins – I’m not typically a fan of touristy things, but checking out the Mayan Ruins in Tulum is definitely something I recommend doing! we walked the entire thing in about 45 minutes (while enjoying fresh fruit popcicles – my fave). it’s beautiful to see the ruins right alongside the water, and you have access to the beach to swim/snorkel from there too.

shopping – the main strip by the beach has tons of super cute shops. I highly recommend just wandering into the shops — I don’t even remember the names! A few recommended to me were Shalom and Le Troupe.

walk or bike around – I would recommend taking time to just wander down the main strip. Most hotels (and Airbnbs) have bikes available, so that makes it super easy! There’s so much to take in – both on the main strip and within the different hotel resorts. The landscape in Tulum is truly amazing – from the beach and crystal clear ocean to the wild and rustic jungle. Since it gets so hot, make sure to apply a lot of sunscreen and stop along the way to get a fresh juice or paleta (popsicle)!

 

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:

If we had a chance to visit a spot, the name is in BOLD. If not, it’s a highly recommended spot from our local host or good friends.

BREAKFAST
Tacos Honorio – in town, traditional Mexican breakfast

The Real Tabano – jungle side, yummy breakfast and delicious, fresh smoothies (literally the fruit was cut and blended right in front of us)

The Real Coconut – beach side, healthy breakfast spot inside Sanará hotel

Tunich – simple and tasty breakfast spot. They have super inexpensive cabanas as well, so that’s another affordable lodging option too!

Azafran – in town, fresh juices!

Raw Love – beach side, healthy breakfast (acai bowls!) inside Ahau Hotel)

DINNER
Hartwood – arguably the most coveted spot to get a table for dinner in tulum. everything is cooked on the wood burning oven and open grill. sadly, we weren’t able to get in the night we tried but apparently they now (recent thing!) take reservations – you just need to email them a few times. 😏

Mezzaine – beach side, up the road from the “main” area. Great happy hour (2 for 1 margs and beautiful view)

El Manglar – in town and was actually two blocks from our airbnb but sadly closed the day we wanted to try it! it’s the best pizza in tulum.

Mateos – jungle side, sports bar-esque bar and restaurant. we were given the fish taco recommendation from a friend and they didn’t disappoint! 🙏🏻
Restaurare – jungle side, amazing fresh vegan food.

El Camello – in town…this is where all the locals (including founder/chef of the v popular hartwood) eat to get best seafood! super simple, fresh, inexpensive.

Taqueria La Eufemia – beach side, didn’t get a chance to go but supposed to have very cheap food and fun vibe for drinks and hanging out.

Posada Margherita – beach side, and seriously my new favorite place in the world. it’s italian food, which sounds weird for mexico/the beach, but trust me – YOU GOTTA GO! they make incredible handmade pasta and all meals come with this incredible tapas board with pickled veggies, cheese and super tasty focaccia bread. the decor is also beautiful – see first two photos below for proof!

DRINKS
Gitano – jungle side, super trendy mezcal bar and restaurant with plants and greenery EVERYWHERE, twinkly lights and hanging disco balls. the food and drinks were super yummy and the vibe was 🔥.

Casa Jaguar – beach side and inside Ahau Hotel

Batey Mojito Bar – in town, SUPER incredible mojitos, which are not my typical drink of choice! they are made with freshly crushed sugar cane juice out of a VW beetle. the vibe is super fun too.

La Zebra – beach side, apparently “the best salsa party in town” and they have free salsa on sundays from 6-7pm and live music most nights.

TIPS AND MORE THINGS TO KNOW:

grocery & last minute items – e went to the Chedruai (kind of like a Mexican Walmart) literally more times than we wanted to, but they have everything – sunscreen, food (incl. large fresh produce section) + wine/beer, beach supplies, everything. It’s located on the road from downtown Tulum on the way to the beach.

SUNSCREEN! lots of it. you’ll go through it quickly.

packing recommendations  – unless you are fashion blogger (and LOTS of them go!), don’t bring heels or even wedges. I wore flip flop sandals exclusively the entire time. Most roads aren’t paved, so you’ll be walking on dirt or sand. I packed some denim shorts, but didn’t even wear them because they felt too sticky. I opted for flowy dresses and swimsuit cover-ups instead. I would also recommend chapstick with SPF (my lips got so burnt – v sad and painful) and bug spray, especially if you’re eating dinner at a restaurant on the “jungle side” (like Gitano).

carry pesos, as most places don’t accept credit cards and when they do, the exchange rate isn’t typically best in your favor vs. paying with pesos. don’t forget to tip – at restaurants, gas stations, the baggers at the grocery store (that was the big surprise to me – they don’t typically make any money EXCEPT tips), bellman at hotels, etc. I recently heard an idea that a couple brings 100 one dollar bills on trips to Mexico to tip everyone…really easy way to not forget to tip.

rent a car – I would highly recommend this! it cost $75 to rent a car for 5 days and it was fairly easy to pick up from the Cancun airport after we landed. having the car was necessary since we weren’t staying on the main strip, but even so, I would recommend a car to have easy access to get to different beaches, cenotes, in town, etc. it’s super affordable and the convenience was very appreciated.

more photos from our trip below – thank you for reading! if you have any questions or are planning to visit, please feel free to reach out to me! 💙

on holding space

Posted on: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Something I’ve been really thinking about lately is the idea and practice of holding space for others. I’ve been reading articles, talking with a few people about what it means and journaling to try to hash out how I can be better at practicing holding space. Some people’s actual job is to hold space – like counselors, yoga teachers, Hospice nurses, etc., but I can also hold space for others simply as a friend, wife, sister, and daughter. And so can you!

So what is ‘holding space’ exactly? What does that even mean? Coach Heather Plett describes it as “when we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome.” 

This can be REALLY hard for me – as I’m a natural problem solver, encourager, and “fixer.” I love being able to quickly and effectively help people fix a situation and move on. I can think of countless times my little sisters have came to me with problems or issues and my natural instinct is to get a to-do list together, figure out how to solve the problem and tackle the issue head-on for them. And I always try to be their #1 cheerleader, giving affirmations like YOU CAN DO IT! You’re awesome! This situation is no big deal!. 

But – what if, rather than fixing it for them, overwhelming them with info/affirmations or monopolizing their emotions, I just held space for them? Again, to quote Heather Plett: “to truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

There are lots of situations where someone might need us to to hold space for them – death and moving and breakups and relationship issues and stressful work situations and disappointments and just every day, regular bad days. We don’t always need someone to problem solve or encourage us through these situations or days; sometimes, we just need someone to simply BE THERE. Holding space can be tricky when our inclination is to tangibly help or do something or create results because holding space implies a lack of doing, but just BEING. Your presence sometimes is enough and exactly what someone needs in that moment to facilitate their growth, transformation and healing. So that’s what I’m working on lately. 💗

This article that I’ve been re-reading over and over again shares some tips for helping you hold space for others, in case you want to learn more:

Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom. 

Give people only as much information as they can handle.

Don’t take their power away – people need the autonomy to make their own choices. When we take decision-making power out of people’s hands, we leave them feeling useless and incompetent.

Keep your own ego out of it.

Make them feel safe enough to fail.

Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness. A wise space holder knows when to withhold guidance (ie. when it makes a person feel foolish and inadequate) and when to offer it gently (ie. when a person asks for it or is too lost to know what to ask for).

Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc. When people feel that they are held in a deeper way than they are used to, they feel safe enough to allow complex emotions to surface that might normally remain hidden. It becomes the space where people feel safe enough to fall apart without fearing that this will leave them permanently broken or that they will be shamed by others in the room. Someone is always there to offer strength and courage.

Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

As always, thanks for reading! What does ‘holding space’ mean to you? When have you held space for someone else or had someone hold space for you?

Image via herehere and here

join me at taste of the nation (year 3 for me!)

Posted on: Thursday, March 16, 2017

This is the third year in a row that I’ll be attending the incredible Taste of the Nation event in San Francisco next Thursday 3/23. This is the third year I’m going with my bestie Aimee 👯 and I’m so excited to share more about the event with you and try to convince/encourage you to join us!

The event is one of my favorite ones to attend each year, because some of the best restaurants, wineries, breweries and bars in the city come together to support an incredible cause – to end childhood hunger in the Bay Area. The stats around childhood hunger appalling. 1 in 5 children in America live in households without consistent access to food. That’s 13 million children. And 25% of children in California are “food insecure” meaning they don’t get enough food, period. Check out this fact sheet from No Kid Hungry for more hard realities surrounding the topic.

So back to the Taste of the Nation event itself – Attendees get to try food from 40+ of the THEEEE best restaurants like Central Kitchen, Tacolicious, Perbacco, Slanted Door, Flour + Water, the girl and the fig (one of my all-time faves), Soulva, Wayfare, and more! Plus, you get lots of drink samples from 15+ wineries and 5+ breweries. 🍷🍻

And here’s the best part: 100% of proceeds from the event support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America. I love the local element too, as donations directly go to amazing organizations here in the Bay Area, including 18 Reasons, California Association of Food Banks, California Food Policy Advocates, No Kid Hungry Bay Area and Children of Shelters. All of these organizations provide food, food-related education and programming, and more, to children and families in need here in the Bay Area.

So…join me! Support this incredible cause and provide children and families with the food and food-related resources they need to survive and thrive. And come eat and drink your way through some of the very best San Francisco spots.

VIP tickets are $250 and General Admission tickets are $150, but you can get 15% off the GA tickets with the code #TASTEFOODIES. Get your tickets here! 🍴

ARCHIVED TASTE OF THE NATION POSTS: 2016 event // 2016 event recap // 2015 event //

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