I hope you enjoyed celebrating the end of a decade and beginning a new one.
I have been very busy these past four weeks. On December 20, my cousin arrived from Peru and stayed with me 82% of the time. She also stayed with my parents a bit. She graduated university in Lima, so I decided to give her the trip of a lifetime. I began planning in August and gave her the news via video chat. As soon as she arranged her passport and visa, I got her plane ticket, all was set!
While our names are pronounced the same, they’re spelled differently. The funniest part is that we have the same birthday, just 15 years apart.
We did a lot while she was here. She met a lot of my friends (not all pictured) and enjoyed practicing English. We enjoyed cuisines from various cultures, but Korean was her favorite. That, and my chicken wings at home on movie nights. We took road trips, train trips, and she even cooked Lomo Saltado for my family and I on her last day here (traditional Peruvian dish). She left LA yesterday and it was hard to see her go. My brother, his wife, and I, all went to the airport and walked her through check in until she had to go through security. We said our goodbyes and waved at her as she disappeared through the crowds.
Here are some photo highlights of the fun we had while he was here.
Happy travels, Maylin. Until we meet again!
Howdy! If you’re popping in because you received my holiday card, HI! Thanks for stopping by! :-) if you want to read more about my travels through the year, scroll allllllllll the way down (if you’re on a phone) or click on the tags in the right (if you’re in front of a computer). Enjoy!
I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving week. Mine began rather eventfully. My family and I headed up north to the Sensorio display of lights. It’s been sold out for weeks so I was super happy to have reserved this a while back. My good friend Patty told me about it and it looked like something my family would enjoy. We drove up in two cars to make sure we were completely comfortable with all our winter gear. We arrived to the city, had a late lunch and freshened up at the beautiful craftsman home I rented on AirBnB. We headed to the display as the sun was beginning to set. Pictures just can’t do it justice. We got drinks (beer & wine) and enjoyed them as we walked through the display.
I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my home and I began the preparations on Tuesday. I bought the turkey at Whole Foods and put it in a brine right away. Wednesday I made sure I had all the ingredients for the side dishes and desserts. Wednesday night I made pecan pie, creamed scones, and cranberry relish (Anthony Bordain recipe). Thursday morning I took the turkey out of the brine and let it come to room temperature. I seasoned the turkey and put it in the oven. Later in the day I made garlic-cheese mashed potatoes, rolls, and stuffing. My mom made gravy, and my brother and his wife brought 805 beer which my dad very much enjoys. It felt great to be able to prepare thanksgiving dinner for my family.
In the middle of the Thanksgiving hubbub, my friend Jane flew in from DC for a visit! It was great to spend time with her again!! We are obsessed with the show Jack Ryan so we agreed to watch all the episodes except the last. We watched the last episode together while yelling at the tv! So much fun!!!
Since Jane was here, we went out to dinner with our friend Caroline to celebrate both their birthdays. We went to 71 Above in downtown LA, where we ran into old high school classmates! We spent time catching up on old times! It was a great evening with great friends and an incredible view!
The last thing I did during Thanksgiving week was put up my Christmas tree. My parents, brother and his wife all helped put up the tree and decorate it. I had some custom ornaments made as well. I’m very happy with the outcome.
Looks like I’m ready for the holiday season. I’m looking forward to seeing family from abroad next week. From the other side of my family, I have a family member coming to stay with me for a month and we’ll be exploring California for a month, from North to South, visiting friends from all over. I’m so grateful for all the fun to be had, but more importantly to have my family close to me.
It’s been quite busy lately, getting ready for holiday mode.
The highlight of September was going to Sedona to attend my good friend Yaneisy’s wedding to Rafael. It was such a lovely, intimate ceremony and I felt honored to be part of this small group of people that had the privilege of witnessing such a beautiful event. I stayed a few extra days and had the opportunity to explore Sedona and its natural beauty. I even had dinner at a great restaurant with tables right next to the creek. What a treat!
I subscribed to a new streaming service that has wine content all day long. Like Netflix for food & wine. As a subscriber, I had the opportunity to go to a live filming with a Master Sommelier. I took my wine buddy Gerry with me. Then we went to Fogo de Chao for dinner. Quite the day nerding out on wine!
I’m so grateful to have so many friends who enjoy wine over at my house for various wine dinners. From two of us to eight of us, it’s always wonderful to share great moments and create new memories.
On October 12, 2018 I went to the James Beard Award VIP Dinner at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills. While enjoying the various food offerings I met a woman named Patty. In the past year we have become good friends and have shared some really great times. Fast forward to October 12, 2019 and we went back to the SLS hotel to celebrate our 1 year friendship anniversary at Somni. It was a phenomenal dinner to celebrate such a great friendship.
Last Sunday I went to a Kaskade concert with my friend. I danced for a good 6 hours. It was so much fun! I got sick afterwards but definitely worth it!
I’m looking forward to some family time up north in Paso Robles next weekend and hosting Thanksgiving at my house. I hope I can squeeze in a wine dinner with friends in December.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since Chris went to heaven. I am so grateful that I have tons of beautiful memories with him and can look back at the wonderful times we had. I don’t feel sadness anymore, but I do miss my best friend. As I look through old photographs, I feel content and satisfied that we enjoyed life to the fullest. He made life so fulfilling. I always feel humbled that such a great man chose me.
Part of the ability to now be in a good place is due to the great support of my friends. I love the quote, friends are the family you choose. I have chosen an amazing, loving family whose friendship has allowed me to flourish and stand here today. I’m so grateful for all of these wonderful people.
Thank you all for being part of my journey. As I receive more and more pictures, I will update this post.
I haven’t posted since I returned from Morocco, but that’s because I’ve been having too much fun! I’ve been meeting up with friends, catching up, and enjoying some fun outings!
Last month, my wine buddy Gerry and I went up north for the day to check out some wineries. We had way too much fun and geeked out in wine!
I had the chance to attend an all rosé tasting with some great wine folks I get to see twice a year! We totally killed all the bottles!
I had the opportunity to visit The Huntington a bit more. It’s so wonderful to see all the effects of summer with the flowers in full bloom!
I flew to DC to visit my friend Jane to celebrate her birthday about a month early. I. Had. A. BLAST!!! We went to Monticello in Virginia which is Jefferson’s home. We also went to Jefferson Vineyards where of course I bought wine!
I’m grateful that Jane is also a foodie because we went to several restaurants that were amazing. First we tried Estuary! And we ran into Michael Voltaggio! We chit chatted, introduced ourselves and got some scoop on a new place opening in LA soon!
We also went to Gravitas.
We had famous Maryland crab at Cantler’s in Annapolis. DELICIOUS!!!!
While in Annapolis, Janes friend Cara joined us, and we all walked around the town, and then went sailing in the harbor. What an awesome time we had!! And I got to drive the boat!!!
My friend Patty invited me to a pop up dinner in Santa Monica and it was super interactive and fun with fire fire fire!!!!
With school starting, I’ll be hunkering down for the next four months to focus on my work. Not to say I’ll be a hermit, I still have some fun things in the pipeline. But it won’t be as frequent.
I am am excited for my trip next month to see my beautiful friend Yaneisy marry her beloved.
I had a great time and had some amazing highlights of the trip. While driving to Casablanca our tour director has us go through the whole alphabet noting the trip’s highlights. So here is the list... it may not mean anything to you, but it’s meaningful to me. So I will end my Morocco chronicles with this list, and know that I’m back home :-)
Morocco lessons from A to Z
Flag special Moroccan beer
Goat in the trees
Hamam steam bath
Independence of Morocco in 1956
Imam leads prayers inside mosque
Jalaba (men and women wear it)
Kasbah as a fortress
Kasbah as an in
Kingdom of Morocco
Oranges with cinnamon
Phosphate is main export of the country
Pastella- fish eaten
Rabat the capital
Tim Buk Tu
University oldest in Fes
Veil Moroccan women wear
Water men (we took our group pictures with them at the Souk)
Yallah means let’s go in Arabic
Ziz valley and river
We left Essaouira at 8 and drove up the coast headed to Casablanca. This road is like California’s Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful stretch of beaches and small little towns, with scattered homes and villages. We made it past Safi which is where they had a phosphate plant. Phosphate is the number one export of Morocco, and it was stinky.
We stopped for lunch at Oalidia and I was able to enjoy raw oysters on the half shell and Spider Crab. It tasted just like regular crab. After lunch we continued on inland a bit to expedite our trip and it was a smooth ride so I passed out. I didn’t even notice when our Tour Director came around the bus to collect our evaluations.
We made it to Casablanca by 5 and we had until 6:30 to get ready for dinner. Since I have an early flight tomorrow, I started to organize use all my packing into now, two suitcases. I didn’t finish so I just went to dinner and had a wonderful goodbye with everyone. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Rick’s Cafe from the movie Casablanca, even though it was filmed in Hollywood. It was cool to take a picture of it!
We left at 8:30am this morning. I slept well since I was exhausted last night from walking 7 miles all day. We drove west toward the city of Essaora which will be our home for the night.
En route we stopped to see goats on tress. These goats are on Argan trees, and help farmers with pruning. Afterwards we stopped at a co-op of women that produce argon oil. They sold several products that contain argan oil. I was able to taste honey from the argon flower, it was very very sweet! I did not buy anything because I felt as if these prices were a bit inflated. I also walked next door to a wood shop where they had gorgeous items made of beautiful wood. A tray I liked was $500 US dollars which I thought was absolutely nuts. I did look at the details of it and it was beautiful, but I didn’t buy it. We continued to our hotel and right away I went to my room and I got ready to go out. I researched the best seafood restaurant and walked there on my own. Most of the people in group went to the rooftop or across the street where our Tour Director suggested. As my usual, I went against the grain a bit. My lunch was absolutely delicious and I had a nice time in my own enjoying my food and view of the beach.
I asked one of the people who worked at the restaurant where I could buy argan oil where locals go. They told me exactly where to go. So I walked about 20 minutes north into the Médina and I found the place they suggested. I ended up buying the same products as at the co-op for half the price. The girl that worked at the store told me that they charge twice as much at the co-op because they are giving demonstrations of how the oil is made. I was happy I didn’t buy anything at the co-op! Since I was in the Médina and I had a lot of free time I de used to keep walking and I found a little place that sold shoes for super cheap so I got a pair. Then I found a wood worker who sells his woodwork and it was literally a 10th if the cost from earlier in the day where our Tour Director had taken us to. He showed me his pictures of the wood he works with and showed me how he makes his pieces. I could see he was the actual maker of the products and I could see his workshop. So I was happy to buy directly from him. I found a beautiful tray with mother of pearl embedded into the wood. I continued walking around a bit then decided to head back to my hotel to relax a bit.
After relaxing for about an hour, I met with my tour group at 5:30 and we were taken to the Médina. We walked around and I was able to see the other side of the Médina which I had not made it to previously. We also went to where cannons used to be for a view of the whole city. It was a nice walk.
I chose to return to the hotel and freshen up then met for dinner at 8. We drove to a rooftop restaurant to watch the sunset and enjoy some tapas and drinks. There was a couple from Australia celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I told our Tour Director about it and they received a desert dish, then had a dance to Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now, I don’t believe in coincidences. This is the same trio that sang mine and Chris’s wedding song. Not sure how I held it together but it was very emotional for me. It truly made me miss Chris so much! I held it together and we ended our evening and went back to our hotel. It was a wonderful day!
Happy Fourth of July!!
Today was the most packed day I had so far! We were out at 8:00 and went straight to the Jardín Majorelle and Berber Museum. It was a beautiful garden that also had a memorial to Yves Saint Laurent.
We continued our city tour to a palace where a prime minister once lived at least a hundred years ago with his multiple wives and 24 concubines. Most of us feminist women on the trip were a bit annoyed.
We were taken to a place where they have wonderful products made of natural things found in Morocco like Argan Oil, rose water, and several spices. We also went to a beautiful place where they had items for the home and rugs. At 1:30, 6 of us decided to stay for lunch in the Médina. At 3, the tour director stopped at the restaurant and 4 people returned to the hotel, and two of us decided to stay and walk through the Souk. My walking buddy was Ruth from Boston. It was wonderful! First we went to a carpet place ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. Boy am I glad I didn’t buy rugs at the places our Tour Director took us to. I would have paid 5 times more for the same rugs! I ended up with three rugs and I paid a fraction of the cost, I was extremely happy!
We continued walking around the Souk and it was a much more pleasant experience than in Fes. The aisles are cleaner and wider, and there was less pressure from vendors to buy things. More importantly I felt safer walking around. Ruth and I ended up meeting a lady that came from the south of France and owns a shop where she sells items she buys from Morocco, and Marrakech specifically. She said she comes to Marrakech every three months to purchase her stock to ship to France. She allowed us to follow her around and it was fascinating to see her do business with the people there. She ended up taking us to the main square where I was able to get henna in my hands. I’m thrilled to do this because I’ve never had anything on my body and I know I’m not the type to ever get a tattoo, so this is pretty cool to me! We also purchased a mixed fruit drink which was delicious. We enjoyed our fruit drinks as we walked back to our hotel in 90 degree weather. We arrived to our hotel and sat in the lobby for a bit to cool down. While we waited, Ruth’s travel mates came into the lobby and were headed out for a walk. We asked to join them and Ruth and I quickly went to our rooms to shower and returned to meet them in the lobby. We walked across the street to the mall and walked around a bit. Then we had dinner in a restaurant. It was a nice time to share with these ladies.
I had an amazing time and I’m so happy with how things fell into place with the rugs especially. Looking forward to the next city by the beach!
We left our hotel at 7:30am to head out to Marrakech. We drove through the city of Boumalne Dades and headed west toward the Atlas Mountains. We made a stop in the city of Ourzazate (“whar-zuh-zat”). The city has 3 studios that had previously been used for movies. One of them was called Oscar Studio. They are converted Kasbahs used for filming. Pretty cool!! Oh, and I held a snake!
We drove over the top of the Atlas Mountains reaching an altitude of 7,400 feet. It was cool to see the road below!
As we descended, we stopped for lunch at a small place on the side of the road. It was a welcome stop for several people because the road down the mountains was a bit scary for some. I’ve been on more dangerous roads and honestly I think I slept through a lot of it so I was not really phased. We enjoyed a lunch of meatballs in a sauce/blend of onions and spices. It was followed by orange slices with cinnamon sprinkled on top. The cinnamon here is not as strong as the cinnamon back home so it’s actually very tasty!
As we continued to descend, there was more and more greenery and we began to enter the plains. Also, the temperature began to drop. While we were in the dessert, the highest temperature I saw was 43 degrees. But in the plains it dropped to a more comfortable 28. Since I’ve been traveling quite a bit since last year, I memorized the conversion formula from Celsius to Fahrenheit.
C x (9/5) + 32 = F
So 43 would be: 43 (9/5) + 32 = 109.4
If you know me, you probably know that I can’t go outside in this heat. Not because of the heat, rather, my skin is extremely sensitive. So I’ve been doing my best to be completely covered up. So the drop in temperature is good!
We arrived to our hotel in Marrakech around 4 where we had an hour to freshen up and then go out to shop. Our Tour guide took us to a store where I’m positive he gets a kick back. My good friend Jane was just here a few weeks ago so she recommended a private driver. I spoke with him while I was at the store and he told me that the specific store I was in had things marked up significantly because they do in fact give guides a commission. So I didn’t buy anything there and thanked him for the intel. I only bought wine across the street from a liquor store. After shopping we all returned to the hotel and we got ready for a dinner out. We met up at 7:30 and drove to the Souk. We walked in and saw the masses of people beginning to appear. There are hundreds of stall selling everything under the sun. It’s amazing! Our tour director walked us through it all and then we ended up at the restaurant. We had a lovely dinner with entertainment! At the end of dinner we all walked back through even larger crowds and had a horse & buggy ride back to our hotel. It was a great evening!