Family Getaway at the Hofsas House Hotel in Carmel, CA

Last month, my mom, husband, girls, and I drove up the coast to stay at the Hofsas House Hotel in Carmel. We were so excited for a little getaway and had the most wonderful time! Upon arrival, we were greeted with Martinelli’s and gourmet cheese from a local cheese shop. I was immediately in love!Travel to Carmel California  karainthekitchen com 1If you’ve never been to Carmel, it is the most charming little coastal town. It’s the perfect home base for your vacation because Big Sur, Monterey, and Pebble Beach are all nearby.

Interesting facts about Carmel:

– There are no addresses in Carmel. To give directions, you tell people between which streets you are located. Because of this, you will see many homes with names.

– Because there are no addresses, residents must go to the Post Office to get their mail. It’s the social hub of town!

– There is actually a law on the books saying that you may not wear high heels over 2 inches high! Insurance people were worried about accidents with the cobblestone roads and uneven roads from tree roots :)

– Every bed and breakfast serves a continental breakfast.

– There are no commercial hotels in Carmel. Only homey, mostly family-owned Bed and Breakfast-type properties.

– There are also no chain restaurants in Carmel.

– Clint Eastwood was once Carmel’s mayor!

– Carmel is devoid of neon signs, expect to see lots of beautifully crafted wooden signs instead.

– There are no traffic lights either!

Carmel is incredibly dog friendly as well. We wanted to bring Maverick but the weather stopped us from doing it. A wet dog in a car is not the best, so we will just have to make another trip to beautiful Carmel with Maverick in tow next time!

Breakfast in the lobby consisted of authentic French pastries, yogurt, juice, and fruit.Carmel #KarainCarmel - karainthekitchen.com (1 of 1)-3I settled for the pain-au-chocolate, of course.Travel to Carmel California  karainthekitchen com 1 2The girls sitting in the children’s sized antique wingback chairs in the lobby. Ada deep in thought, Lola happy as a clam :)Carmel #KarainCarmel - karainthekitchen.com (1 of 1)-2Hand-painted mural that welcomes you into the Hofsas House:Carmel #KarainCarmel - karainthekitchen.com (1 of 1)-18Carrie now runs the hotel that her grandmother (pictured below) started. As a child, Carrie would visit her grandmother and help her by taking guests up to their rooms. She always knew she would end up here, it was just a matter of time. I love stories about family and multi-generational bonds! Carrie went the extra mile and really made us feel like family during our stay.Carmel  KarainCarmel  karainthekitchen com  1 of 1 4Look at the beautiful ocean view from our balcony:Carmel  KarainCarmel  karainthekitchen com  1 of 1 6

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Turning 30 With The Monterey Bay Aquarium!

For my birthday weekend, Matt & I drove up the California coast and spent the weekend in the Carmel Valley and Monterey. We got a late start, as usual :) I was really proud of myself for not forgetting a thing for the girls or us, though! My wonderful mom watched the girls and they were in heaven having a sleepover at Nonnie’s house.

After the 3 hour drive, we could not have asked for a more welcome sight! We pulled into the Quail Lodge and it was so peaceful. They just underwent a huge renovation and it shows.

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Loved the giant tub and tiled shower!

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This is the breathtaking view the greeted us when we woke up:

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I wished we could have stayed there forever!

From Carmel, we made our way to Monterey (about a 20 minute drive). We went to The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which turned 30 this year — just like me! They have a one-of-its kind exhibit called Tentacles that opened in celebration of the landmark birthday. It is all about cephalopods and has the most incredible installations.

They put up these tentacles outside that blew in the breeze and reminded me of Ursula :) Evidently they made people talk and speculate about what was going on at the aquarium while they tried to keep it under wraps.

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This special series of exhibits is the first of its kind because cephalopods are known for their mastery of camouflage and hiding. I can’t believe what a great job they did making every species visible!

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You are led through exhibits and I especially loved the history of sea monsters and creatures.

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They have an interactive cephalopod selfie station where every time you make a different face, it changes your coloring into different shades one might use to disguise itself. So much fun!

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Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon 2013 Recap

On the year anniversary of my first marathon, I’ll post my recap of last year’s Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. Congratulations to all of you who ran it today! I am insanely jealous & hope that I’ll be running it again next year. It just wasn’t in the budget this year and I have a pinched nerve in my back right now. Lovely :)

Last Saturday, I ran my first half marathon ever! It was amazing. It was a gorgeous course running from Santa Ynez to Solvang (30 min. from my hometown). I ran with my cousin & friend, and we stuck together the whole time! I keep thinking that when my children look back on this picture, it will be neat to see the gas prices waaaaay back in 2013!
Rach forgot her bib in her mom’s car, so she got a random bib 2 minutes before start time! It was so funny to hear people at the aid stations give us water and say, “Great job, Kara! Go Roxanna!” It’s her sexy running alter-ego :)

Before the race & scenery along the way:

We got stuck in the porta potty cube of death before the race! There was a big square lined with potties on three sides. People were lined up in all directions, it was madness. We ended up in a line that was actually 4 lines merging into two. There were probably 200 runners waiting, and we all were saying there was no way the race would start on time because there were so many of us still waiting. WRONG. They started anyway. And we still had to check our bags because we didn’t want to lose our spot in line! So here I am crossing the start line, running while putting my phone in my armband and hooking up headphones!
The residents along the course were AMAZING! We saw a woman walking a turkey, people sitting in lawn chairs cheering us on, but the best were these people:

Sitting at the end of their property, in the back of their pickup truck with their dogs, waving an American flag. They said, “God Bless America!” as we ran by and I was so happy to be home. You just don’t see or hear that sort of thing in Santa Cruz!

Lindsay, Matt, & the girls met us at about the halfway point in Los Olivos. I could see the big flagpole for about a half mile, and it really gave me a burst of energy knowing that they were there waiting for us!

I ran up and saw Ada cheering, “Go Mommy, you can do it Mommy!” And Lola didn’t know what was going on until I kissed her cheek :)
I didn’t think I was going to be in the picture below…

I was feeling pretty amazing after scaling Corkscrew Hill to Josh Groban’s Awake. I felt like I was in a movie! The golden rolling hills, the oak trees, the green lines of vineyards…it was so beautiful. I absolutely loved running with Jessica and Rachel. It was so good to know that when one of us was weak, another would be strong and lift the others up!
So there was this bison, a very protective mama! She charged Rach when she went in for a picture, and it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen! She moved SO fast and everyone running was cracking up. I wish I had a video!

I LOVED miles 4-9. I was in my groove and my calves had loosened up. By mile 10, I needed a potty break and so did Rach. We stopped and then continued on, my hips and pelvis hurting more with each step. I’ve worked so hard since having Lola to get my shifty hips tight again, and I feel like all of my hard work held up until mile 10. My body was exhausted, and I had eaten all of my Skittles & Shot Bloks. It felt like all of my ligaments just relaxed and I could feel my bones moving and rubbing against each other.
At the 11.5 mile mark, I saw a sign with a hot pink shirt on it. I thought, “Hey, I have a shirt like that.” Then I realized that Rachel’s pic was on the poster next to it! It was my awesome sister-in-law, Kandie! She made a poster and came at the point where I wanted to quit. If it weren’t for her at the bottom of that hill, I probably would’ve walked up it instead of run! Sorry for the big sweaty hug, but I was so happy that you came out and surprised us…we needed it at that point!
I wasn’t mentally prepared for the hills at the end. I looked at the elevation map and thought once I made it past Corkscrew Hill, I was home free. Do not discount those rolling hills those last 3 miles! They may look small but they are no joke. I was getting goosebumps and felt like my legs were going to give out at the tops.
I kept saying to myself, “You run 2 miles in your sleep. You run 2 miles in your sleep.”
When I finally rounded the last half-mile (worst of my life), I could hear people cheering and knew the finish line was close. I first saw my Nana & Bobba, which was a surprise because they were driving up from a long week of serving at the Los Angeles Temple! I know they were tired and it meant so much to see them there! I almost burst into tears. Then Matt lifted Ada over the railing and she ran across the finish line with me.

What a perfect way to end a race. See Bobba in the background? :)

She was smiling and waving at everyone cheering us on. I have a future race buddy on my hands!
She loved wearing my medal & almost snatched one of her own!

The three of us, after completing our first half marathon together! My hot pink compression socks saved my calves…and made me stick out in a crowd. Matt said he was looking for my socks! They are miracle workers.

Afterward, Rach & I took advantage of the free massage booth. That should be a part of every race…best feeling ever! I walked (slowly) away with a bruise on the top of my left foot, and my right pinky toe is still numb. My knees and ankles are starting to feel back to normal.

Ada wanted to ice her feet along with Rach :)


Then we headed to Kay’s Country Kitchen in Old Orcutt for the best breakfast food in the West. Seriously. Matt and I split the BAGS Omelette and Texas French Toast. I ate my full halves of everything. Matt says he doesn’t like me running half marathons because I eat all of the food he was planning on finishing for me!
I finally got my big Dr. Pepper that I was dreaming of the whole run.

Our gun time was off because of the porta potty debacle, but my official chip time was 2:57:27.5. I am happy with that because I wasn’t out to set a record, I was out to push myself to finish and never stop. Not bad for having surgery 44 days previous! I feel so empowered and strong after finishing this race. I am so grateful for a strong body and for a will to push forward and work hard. I am so grateful for a Father in Heaven who gave me this body, this beautiful Earth to enjoy, and these wonderful people I get to call family to support me in all of my endeavors along the way.

We decided that this needs to be a Mother’s Day Weekend tradition, so I am excited to run it again next year with more friends and with this experience under my belt! Thanks for a wonderful time Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon!

Virginia & Travel Home

Some more pictures of the girls in the snow up at Mountain Lake Resort :)
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We got hot chocolate after this since our thin California skin was frozen! We drove around Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus.
Go Hokies!
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The house my grandpa lives in was built in 1870. It’s beautiful, as you can see!
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The girls had fun walking down to feed the cows with Grandaddy…except Ada ran so fast when one came too close to her!IMG 2524
We went to “dinner” (can’t really call it that because we went at 3:40 PM! Ha!) at Cracker Barrel and I didn’t realize they had a shop in front of the restaurant! They had some adorable Christmas decor.
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The next morning we hit the road and drove the 4 hrs. up to Washington/Dulles.
This picture is of Lola as she was pitching a fit…no nap for her. The second I held up the camera she pulled this face! Little ham :)
Our portable DVD player saved us for this portion of the trip. Thanks Mommy!
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When we got to the airport, we’d forgotten to gas up so had to leave the rental place and go get gas. This put us behind a bit and my dad was texting and calling like crazy while we were getting through security and to our gate. I kept ignoring him because I had two kids and baggage to worry about…then he says, “Where are you? I came to surprise you and my plane leaves in 5 min!” Needless to say we booked it off the tram and met him just in time! The gate agents were telling him, “Sir, all passengers all rows…” then the woman saw him kissing and hugging his granddaughters and goes, “Oh…you have 8 minutes.” haha :) Lola was happy to get some cookies from Scotland and Ada had her backpack filled with gummies he brought them. Thanks for taking the detour to see us for a bit Cap’n Walt!
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The girls were complete angels on the flight home. On the bottom left you can see a sleepy Lola sitting on Ada’s lap. Then Ada was content with Papa’s noise-cancelling headphones (which were hilarious because they made her talk really loud) watching movies the whole flight.
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Lola was exhausted and fell asleep on me for a few hours.
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When we got off the plane, we headed to baggage claim. Matt waited for the bags while the girls & I stood out of the way. He started talking to an older man, and I noticed them talking quite a bit. On the drive home, Matt told me that the man had asked him, “Are you the one traveling with your wife and two little girls?” Matt said yes and the man proceeded to tell him that he could tell that our girls were loved. He said tell your wife that she is doing a wonderful job because he could tell these girls were listened to and raised well. I totally started to cry when Matt was relaying all of this to me, partially out of exhaustion and partially out of a nagging comment someone had made. It was a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father letting me know that I’m doing a good job and my girls are just fine :)

We got home around midnight and are just now recouped from the trip, visiting family, Thanksgiving, and all that’s been going on. I’ll post a recap of our two Thanksgivings soon!

Ever been to the East Coast?

What’s your favorite college football team?

Mixed Conference!

I just got back from the most amazing food bloggers’ conference! It is called Mixed Con, put on by the fabulous Paula of Bell’alimento & Susan of Doughmesstic. Bloggers that I look up to and got to meet! I applied to be a volunteer and they accepted me! I was so floored and honored.

When I walked in the first morning, Paula gave me a big hug. I’m like, yes, we’re going to get along :) I’m a hugger too. And Susan asked if my eyelashes were real and was showing me off to people! They know how to make a girl feel good :)

It was held at Mountain Lake Resort in Virginia. I used to go here when I was a little girl (and the lake was full) to feed the ducks with my grandparents. You might recognize the hotel from the movie Dirty Dancing! My grandma actually wrote a book about the history of this place and dedicated it to my sister and I. I was disappointed that it wasn’t in the gift shop! When I asked my grandpa about it, he said that he sold the last of them and can’t find anyone who still prints them the way they were originally done.

Isn’t the resort beautiful?

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I was assigned to be the Dixie/Imperial Sugar Crystals girl. Anything they needed, I did! I met Kim & Christy who were so much fun to work with. I put together the jars for the Sugar Suite and helped make sure things ran smoothly while we all made sugar scrubs and ate food. Check the sugar scrubs out on Dixie’s site, they are so easy and Kim’s hubby made some adorable labels for them. I made the lip scrub and my girls keep asking for more brownie…that’s how good it smells! Bonus: it’s edible :)

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The conference had relevant, useful classes. I learned so much from Andy at AdThrive! I loved Bree’s photography course! She took my headshot and I’m so excited to see it :)

Helene & Tami inspired me with their gorgeous food photography. I want to buy lots of props from antique stores now.

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Sweet Meredith from In Sock Monkey Slippers…we had the same shirt on! No, I’m not pregnant, just leaning awkwardly :)

Love this girl.

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McCormick was a platinum sponsor and had workshops for us on Saturday. How cute are these pink lemonade cupcakes?! Not only do they look like cups of pink lemonade, they taste like it too.

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I had fun decorating a little cake. Lynda from Me & My Pink Mixer took this pic of me in action. Thanks, Lynda!

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I started doing the ombre thing and was going to blend it with a fork…then they made us switch to the next station! I was bummed cuz I was in the zone man!

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Karen & Alan from Hello Cupcake were there to teach us some of their tricks & techniques for decorating. The things they make with candy & frosting are insane!

These flower petals are made with marshmallows! Love the effect of the sugar on the petals. I got lots of inspiration for Ada’s birthday!

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The cool thing about Mixed Con is that you are virtually unplugged because there is no cell reception up there. They do have wifi, but it wasn’t the most reliable. I couldn’t even get on it with my laptop so didn’t even bring it the second day! No TV in the rooms, either. I liked it! I liked that everyone was talking with one another instead of live-tweeting everything.

The other cool thing is that everyone was SO friendly!! I’ve been to events and conferences before where the “big” bloggers hang out and are cliquey and exclusive. Not at Mixed! If someone walked up to your table or circle of people, they were welcomed with a hello and joined in the convo. It was so refreshing!! I think I met just about everyone at the conference and made some great friends. Come visit me in CA :)

New buddies (in addition to those already mentioned):

Kate from Food Babbles

Kerry from Milk Glass Kitchen

Emily from Jelly Toast

Courtney from Neighborfood

Shari from Tickled Red

Christy from My Invisible Crown

Lindsay from The Live-in Kitchen

Jenn from The Whole Kitchen

Caroline from Chocolate & Carrots <—she had her baby boy with her and I guessed his age right away…made me miss my girls even if I did get to see them every night :)

Marly from Namely Marly

Angie from Big Bear’s Wife

Bethany, Jen, & Carolyn from the Center For Food Integrity

Janet from The Army Mom

Crystal from Mrs. Happy Homemaker

Shaina from Food For My Family

Roxana from Roxana’s Home Baking

Kelly from View Along the Way

Nikki from NikSnacks

Lauren from Healthy Delicious

Melanie from Melanie in the Middle

& Leslie who doesn’t have a blog yet :)

If I missed anyone, I’m sorry! I didn’t have your card in my pile.

Saturday night there was a pre-dinner hangout, dinner, then a closing party with a band. I was definitely overdressed, but I’d rather be over than under! When the schedule says dancing shoes & live band…this girl puts on a dress & heels!

Me with Kate & Emily, Kerry is taking the picture :)

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The day after the conference was over, I took Matt & the girls up to the resort to show them around.

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The girls channeled their inner Baby and practiced the lift with Papa/Patrick Swayze ;)

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Thank you for a perfectly wonderful time, Paula & Susan. See you next year :) xoxo

Travel to Virginia

Thursday morning, we left home at 3:15 AM to drive down to LAX for our 8:30 AM flight. I didn’t sleep at all…I get wound up packing and then stress about sleeping through my alarm. 

So I just made sure we had everything we needed. Girls’ backpacks were packed full of snacks and activities & the suitcase was filled with layers and layers of clothes.

It was pouring rain in LA and we got parked, on the shuttle, and to the airport fine. Ada was happy as a clam as we stood (forever) at the check-in line.

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Lola was happy watching the planes come and go, snacking on a PopTart. 

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We got on the flight, with Matt & Lola sitting in front of Ada & I. The in-flight entertainment was SO worth it! Ada loved it and I got to take some cat naps.

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We landed in Dulles and it was freezing cold! We got the carseats in and scored a free upgrade! Ada said, “I’m just really tired right now.” and put her head to the side and fell asleep!

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I did a little research before our trip and saw that there was a Cafe Rio close to the airport, so we went there. It was incredible, as always!! 

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The next morning, I got up and ready to head up to Mixed Conference at Mountain Lake Resort! The girls were SO tired and still on CA time, so I just kissed their sweet faces goodbye and took pictures of them ;) 

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The drive up to the resort was so peaceful (no kids!) and the fog at the top of the mountain was beautiful. 

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Mixed was such an amazing time! I can’t wait to share with you. We travel home tomorrow and I’ll try to get a recap up as soon as possible. 

How was your weekend? Do anything fun?