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From Strong Roots…..

Grow Mighty Girls

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Family Travels

Packing List—-Mexico

In my eternal quest to pack lighter and smarter, I’ve decided to undertake a post game analysis of my packing.  My hope is that by thoughtful consideration of what I packed and what I used, I will inch ever closer to packing that which I only really, truly need and will use.

Big picture, I did pretty well with my Mexico packing.  There is some definite room for improvement but I’ve certainly seen worse!  So, here’s what worked (and a little bit about what didn’t).

Any good beach vacation requires swimming suits.  I brought four.  I know, I know, overkill!  In all fairness, I rotated through three of them on a regular basis.  There were 2-3 trips to the pool or beach on a daily basis and I hate putting on a damp suit so I generally got a new one for each trip.  There were also plenty of times when I wore my swimming suit to the store or the restaurant with just a quick cover up over the top.   All in all, these suits saw a lot of wearing time.  Perhaps I’ll pare it down to three next time, though.

I brought two versatile cover ups that I adored and wore a lot.  The first is this romper from Trina Turk.  It’s a little shorter than I would normally wear at home but felt perfect for vacation.

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The second is this cover up, also from Trina Turk. IMG_1156

The picture doesn’t quite do it justice (photo credit to my daughter) but it’s loose and comfortable and just long enough to wear without anything underneath if you so choose.   The neckline gives a great peek-a-boo view of the swimsuit underneath.  It’s also pretty fabulous loosely tucked into a pair of denim shorts.  I seriously wore this every day.  And I love a piece I can wear every day.

Speaking of shorts, I brought two pairs.  I only wore one.  I wore my distressed AG Hailey shorts every single day.  I swapped out tops depending on the situation but these were well used!

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I also spent a lot of time in this great navy terry skirt which was scored last season at Anthropologie.  It was casual enough for beach walks and dressy enough for dinner.  Styled here a few different ways….

 

I brought three dresses but really lived in this fabulous piece from Amour Vert.

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It was perfect for art walks, shopping and dinners out.  A quick sweater over the top makes it warm without sacrificing style.

I also brought a pair of cozy lounge pants.  These French terry tapered pants from Cuyana saw a lot of action!

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https://www.cuyana.com/french-terry-tapered-pant.html#black

Ditto for this fabulous top, also from Cuyana.

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This was the perfect early morning beach stroll and end of the night deck lounging top.https://www.cuyana.com/french-terry-hoodie.html?int_source=pairitwith#quartz

 

To round out the wardrobe I had a few basic tanks and tees from Amour Vert and one long sleeved shirt.  I wish that I had brought one more long sleeved option, perhaps something that buttoned or zipped up for more versatility.  I also brought one running outfit which I used four times for working out and once for zip lining.

Shoes were easy this time.  One pair of Birkenstocks in silver, one pair of flip flops (Tkees from Nordstrom) and a pair of running shoes.  I was barefoot most of the time!

Two hats got the nod and were both well used.  The sun is brutal down south!  The straw hat was a find from our Paris trip two years ago and the ball cap is a more casual option I picked up in Glacier Park last summer.

 

I love to play with accessories when I travel and undoubtedly brought more than I should have.  What I ended up wearing and loving this trip were big, dangly earrings and simple wrap bracelets.  This combo can elevate any outfit and feels fancy without trying too hard.

 

And, of course, my Ray Ban aviators.

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Nothing better than some classic shades.

And that’s a wrap.  Next time I’ll pack even smarter.

San Jose del Cabo—-Friend Edition

One of our great pleasures in travel is traveling with friends.  More on this later but suffice it to say that we had a great time traveling in Mexico with our dear friends.  Our time in the Cabo area was fun filled and enjoyable and I hope the below tips will help make your trip better, too.

The first consideration is, in fact, where to stay.  I didn’t know this before we booked accommodations but San Jose del Cabo is NOT Cabo.  It is a smaller, more intimate town just to the east of Cabo.  It is also much closer to the airport which is an added bonus for me.  We stayed in San Jose on this trip and visited Cabo and I am so thankful that we stayed where we did.  Cabo (or Los Cabos) is busy, hectic, tourist filled and a bit pricey.  San Jose del Cabo is a 25-30 minute drive down the road but has a local, small town vibe that is refreshing.  Yes, there are tourists and yes, there are touristy things to do but it felt much more relaxing than being in Cabo itself.  We spent our first night at the Cabo Azul resort which is beautiful and everything you would expect in a high end resort.  I was happy to leave the next day, though, and check into our condo at Las Mananitas.  This is a relatively small, beachfront condo community which provided everything we needed for our week long stay.  I’ve included the link here and you will see my review of the property on the site as well.  https://www.vrbo.com/466060?utm_source=direct&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=earned:vrbo:sharecopylink:USA&utm_content=466060

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Las Mananitas

 

Next up, transportation.  We flew into San Jose, arriving at 6:00 at night.  I had decided to get a rental car for this trip.  (See my previous post).  Regardless of your mode of transportation, once you leave baggage claim, get out of the airport as fast as possible without talking to anyone.  There are men all over trying to get your attention, scam you, sell you something.  Arrange your transportation ahead of time and know where you will meet your driver/shuttle/taxi.  Go directly to that meeting spot.  You will be tired, and hungry, and dirty and overwhelmed and everyone you are traveling with will be a hot mess, but DO NOT GET SUCKED IN!  As a side note, Uber works in San Jose and surrounding areas but cannot pick up at the airport.  They are also currently in a pissing match with the taxi companies and local government because, as far as I can ascertain, Uber just hasn’t greased the wheels in Mexico quite enough for smooth operations.  We were told at one point by a “security guard” that Uber was in fact illegal.  This turns out to be a scam perpetrated by the taxi companies and I suspect it will be a nonissue as some point. There is a good review here if you are interested.  https://www.gringogazette.com/?q=content/uber-finally-legal#sthash.kF4U1zih.dpbs 

That being said, we found Uber to be a great way to get around the area.  We took it to restaurants, into the center of town, into Los Cabos and even back to the airport.  The area is also very walkable and safe and we enjoyed many strolls to and from dinner.

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Playa Palmilla
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Playa Palmilla

 

Now that you are here, what is there to do?  There are, of course, all the usual vacation suspects.  Reading, lounging, swimming, walking.  We found a great public beach, Playa Pamilla, a short 5 minute Uber ride from our condo which was perfect for beach play and swimming.  Much of the beach in San Jose is NOT safe for swimming but Palmilla is much calmer and was very safe the few days that we were there.  We loved the Thursday night art walk in downtown San Jose.  It runs every week from November through June with galleries and shops staying open late and artists and dancers displaying their talents in the town square.  We spent one day ziplining with Cabo Adventures which was fun for the whole group.  Our other big activity was a cooking class at Flora Farm.  Flora Farm is a great farm to table operation in San Jose.  They offer a beautiful setting, delicious food and cooking classes a few days a week.  The class we took was informative and fun for our group (ages 9-51).  I have reviewed these all in detail on tripadvisor.com.  You can find them under my profile @JenniferH456.  Here is the link for Flora Farms to get you started https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g152516-d6424449-r653275229-Flora_Farm-San_Jose_del_Cabo_Los_Cabos_Baja_California.html?m=19905

 

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Flora Farm

 

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Flora Farm

We did take a day trip into Cabo to check it out.  We did a bit of shopping (Pandora charms for the girls’ bracelets) and had lunch.  It didn’t take us long to grow weary, however, of the noise and bustle and head back to our hacienda in San Juan.

Food and drink options are plentiful.  These are also reviewed on Trip Advisor but, some highlights were Cynthia Fresh, El Fish, Cantina Sardina and Las Cazuelas del Don.  Las Cazuelas is a must do if you get the chance.

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St. John’s platter at Sardina Cantina.

 

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Las Cazeulas!

 

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Gorgonzola pasta at Cynthia Fresh!

Last stop, shopping.  El Wine Shop is a great place to get your morning coffee and buy your wine.  They offer a large selection of Mexican as well as European and American wines.  La Comer is the large grocery store in town and is well stocked with food, alcohol, clothes, games, boogie boards, etc, etc, etc.  The main plaza in San Jose offers a huge number of local shops and art galleries.  We didn’t buy much on this trip which is a bit rare for me but nothing really tugged at my heartstrings.  The girls each chose a dress at La Comer ($5).  My oldest and I split a pair of earrings ($20) and my youngest bought a bracelet with her name on it ($6).  We bought a bottle of tequila for my co-worker ($20) and eight bottles of vanilla (less than $1 each).

And that’s a wrap!  Leave me a note if you have questions or comments!

Winter Getaway

It’s winter in Montana which means the temperature is well below freezing, the snow is deep and the wind is howling.  It means that I’ve grown weary of hats, mittens, scarves, boots and cold cars.  I’ve lost my patience with dark, cloudy days and darker nights.  I’ve tried lots of strategies for winter survival in the past but at the end of the day there is really only one solution.  Head south and seek the sun.

In years past we have ventured to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Maui.  Maui is my all time favorite but given the fact that I have to operate within my means both time wise and money wise, Mexico got the nod again this year.  Searching time efficient flights led us to the tip of the Baja peninsula in San Jose del Cabo.

We left Montana in the midst of a winter storm.  The temperature the morning we got on the airplane was -11 degrees.  We flew to Seattle for our one and only layover where there were 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Those of you who know Seattle know that they just don’t do snow there.  It literally paralyzes the city.  The majority of flights in and out of Seattle that morning were canceled.  By some beautiful twist of fate, our flights were two of the very few that got in and out that day.  (Our flight to Cabo was delayed by 2 hours but given the alternatives it was just fine).

Upon arrival at the Cabo airport we were greeted by the usual gauntlet of Mexican men attempting to sell us something.  A ride, a time share, a whale watching trip, a cab, a dog, some chocolate.  I don’t know.  It’s one of the few things I legitimately hate about Mexico. I hate being pressured, in a foreign country, to buy, see, watch, look at, and consider hundreds of services and goods that I absolutely don’t need.  I hate that they won’t stop until I very firmly, and almost impolitely, say “NOOOOOO!”.  Seriously.

But we got through the airport and out the front doors and to our car rental shuttle bus.  We arrived at Payless rentals only to find that our reservation was for the downtown location and not the airport location.  No worries.  We are tired, hungry and cranky.  We can totally wait for you to make 4 phone calls to try and straighten this out.

Now, if you followed our journeys through France a few years ago, you might recall that I feel very brave about renting and driving cars in foreign countries.  I did it in the Loire Valley to great success.  So I thought I would try it in Mexico, too.

I have to admit that in some ways I underestimated this trip.  I’m quite busy planning our summer travels right now and really didn’t devote the usual time and energy to Mexico planning.  While this is generally okay, it did bite me in the rear end in the car rental arena.  I booked through Expedia and was quoted a price of around $100 for the 8 day rental.  Bargain!  Upon arrival at the car rental counter, I discovered that the basic, mandatory, third party liability insurance would jack the price up to $325.00 for the 8 days.  Not a bargain.  If I wanted to add full coverage, the cost would be around $450.00.  Lord.  What’s a girl to do????

I took the “basic” option and drove away.  First stop, a toll booth.  I pushed the button to take a ticket, got ready to pay (much digging in the purse ensued), and stopped at the booth to pay my money.  No one was there to take my money.  Hmmmm.  A guard walked across the road and gestured that I should just take the ticket from the machine and drive on down the road.  Okay.  I tried to drive my car but the damn thing had shut off.  I took out the keys in an attempt to restart it and the alarm started going off.  Yep, that’s me.  In the toll booth, in Mexico, with my car dead and the alarm going off.  Fun.

By this time my husband and I are losing our cool with each other, the kids look a bit shell shocked and I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking.

After much effort, and a few ulcers, we finally got the alarm off and the car restarted and proceeded down the road.  After approximate a mile, I heard sirens and saw lights in my rear view mirror.  Great.  5 minutes in Mexico and the policia are coming for me and my rented car.  I pulled to the side of the road and watched the ambulance whiz past me.  Relief.

Driving again, we finally approached the end of the toll road which is apparently where you pay.  I gave them the ticket, dug in my purse (again) and paid the two dollar toll.  I could not wait to get to the resort!  I navigated a few roundabouts (why are the rules about those different in every country?) and wrong turns and finally ended up at the resort where we were spending our first night.  Sweet relief.

I overpaid at the restaurant for some nachos and rose wine, thanked my lucky stars to be in the tropical weather, laid my head down and went to sleep.

Tomorrow, onward and upward.

Side note: I returned that rental car 2 days later.  Turns out that I’m just not cut out for can rental in Mexico.  I find the driving to be chaotic, I didn’t do my research to understand the traffic laws, and I was constantly worried about what would happen if the car got damaged.  Would I go to Mexican prison?  Would I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees and damages?  It also turns out that Uber works really well in San Jose del Cabo and in Los Cabos.  And it turns out that we were in a really walkable and lovely neighborhood with a Payless car rental shop just one block from our resort.  It was fate.  I was able to return the car early and even got a $225 refund for my trouble.  Totally worth it.

San Francisco Family Edition

Family edition is a whole different beast from solo edition.  Seven people moving through the big city is not a nimble operation.  It happened, though, and we lived to tell about it.

My sister and I have recently begun to appreciate that we should travel more with our parents.  Time is moving on and there will come a day when they either aren’t able or aren’t willing to join us on our escapades.  For now they are quite willing participants, however, so we schemed up a trip to San Francisco to visit my sister and take in the city.  My daughters and I flew in a day after my parents and younger brother arrived.  We were fortunate enough to find an Air BnB in the Mission just two blocks from my sister’s place.  It had high ceilings, a nice kitchen, two decks with gorgeous views of the city and a steam dryer that somehow turned my slightly wrinkled shirt into a dripping wet piece of cloth.  But I digress.

All good arrivals should start with a glass of wine.  #noexceptionshere

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The view from our deck.  You guys, seriously.  This place is the best.  You can find it on Air BnB. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19969592?s=51

 

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My Cuyana travel bags in the bathroom.  These are the best.  And so pretty!

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After we settled in and had a little happy hour we headed to Blue Plate for dinner.  I raved about this place in my previous post about San Francisco.  It was so good we had to go again.  The deviled eggs are still amazing!  #prettiesteggsever

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Our first full day started with the girls heading to Palo Alto for a little shopping while the boys toured Alcatraz.  I can’t report on what happened there but they seemed to have a good time.  After surviving the train ride we headed straight to Blue Bottle for oat milk cappuccinos and hot chocolates.  Must caffeinate before shopping.  The milk art never ceases to amaze me here.

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Coffee was followed by a loooong stop at the American Girl doll store.  The girls brought the dolls, had their hair done in the salon and purchased new outfits.  It all took about an hour and felt like an eternity.  But they loved every minute of it.  They are also old enough now that I felt okay leaving them in the AG doll store while I stole across the street for some fizzy water.  Must hydrate.

These two are serious shoppers.  I’m biased but I happen to think they have learned from the best!

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After more shopping, we trained home, regrouped and headed to dinner at Foxsister.  This eclectic Asian restaurant in the Mission offers a diverse range of foods, perfect for a large group.  We adored the Korean BBQ, fried chicken and garlic black bean noodles.

The following day saw us heading downtown.  First stop, more Blue Bottle.  I forgot to mention the waffles earlier but they are amazing!  Made to order, hot, crispy, sweet.  Don’t miss these if you find yourself at a Blue Bottle.  After coffee and waffles we headed to the nail salon for manis and pedis while the guys checked out the cable car museum.  Again, I can’t really report on what happened there but they seemed satisfied enough.  We were quite pleased with our few hours of pampering before we hit the city streets again.  I love how creative the girls are with their nail color choices!

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We lunched on clam chowder in bread bowls.  My oldest adores clam chowder and was properly astounded by this whole operation.

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We journeyed home by way of Heath Ceramics and Tartine Manufactory.

 

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The day ended with persimmons with ricotta and honey and Halloween themed gingerbread houses.  Random but real.

 

Our final day in the area involved a family trip to wine country.  This sounds quite lovely in theory but in reality is no small feat.  Challenge #1……moving 7 people from San Francisco to Sonoma Valley.  This obviously necessitates renting a large SUV.  The largest SUV ever, in fact. The SUV is perfect.  Everyone fits in it relatively comfortably (it’s not really a family road trip unless someone is a little uncomfortable) and all of our gear can stow in the back.  Large SUVs are pretty great when you live somewhere remote, like Montana, for example.  They are actually a large pain in the rear when you are in a large city, like San Francisco, for example.  In the city the streets are narrow and the turns are tight and the parked cars are a real hazard.  Also, the cyclists.  Real life hazard.

I love a good challenge, though, so we got the SUV, drove back to the apartment, picked everyone up and hit the road.  My sister had found a corn maze in Petaluma and thought we should swing in there on our way to the wineries.  Sure, sounds great!  Let’s go!  How hard can a corn maze be?????  Challenge #2…….

 

So pretty!  And innocent looking!

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Earnest little explorers. #confidenceiskey

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Our view from the lookout tower.  Can anyone see the exit?????

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Nope.  We can’t.  All of our family dynamics played out in that damn corn maze.  Sibling squabbles, righteous indignation, parent-child dysfunction.  It was all right there.  For the whole world to see.  We had to get out of there, and fast!  So we did what any self respecting adult would do and headed for the entrance.  Yep, we came out the same way we came in.  Whatever.  We got out.

Relief!

 

No longer being foolish, we headed straight for Iron Horse winery.  I love this place.  If you ever get the chance to go, you must.  The wines are gorgeous and so are the views.  We were lucky to hit it on a Sunday which meant that the Oyster Girls were on site selling oysters and shrimp.  Not much better than oysters and bubbly in my opinion.

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The views….

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Bubbly all day!

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Picnic lunch in the gazebo after our wine tasting.

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The kids did quite well at the winery.  The beautiful outdoor setting led to lounging, being silly, taking pictures, and sketching.

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#sistertime

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I’ve been here many times and it really never gets old.  There were a lot of hassles getting to and from here (and one impossible corn maze) but it was worth it.

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The following day we left the city behind and flew home.  We packed a lot of adventure into a few days.  We ate great food, drank great wine, laughed a lot, rolled our eyes, got annoyed and impatient, made our way and found our way home.

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