Bloody Mary Basics

live seasoned crab bloody mary-1It’s summer vacation! At least for the Schu family, it is. We’re all gathered here on Saxis Island, Virginia for a few good beach weeks. Besides a good book on the screen porch, we start our morning with a big bloody mary. A couple years back we featured a rosemary vodka & herb bloody mary, but if that sounds like too much work (though it’s not!) we have a few bloody mary basics to elevate your morning booze game.

The best bloody marys are flavorful, cold, and topped with an amazing garnish. Over the years, I’ve mostly stopped making bloody mary mix from scratch. Instead, I spend my time jazzing up the pre-made mix, my favorite is Zing Zang, and prepping garnishes to really elevate the flavors. Start by stashing your bloody mary mix in the fridge overnight. When morning comes, brew a pot of coffee and then get to work.

Mix up the following spices then rim each glass by running a lemon or lime along the edge before dipping it into the spice mixture.

  • 1 tablespoon of celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Add 6-8oz of bloody mary mix and a shot (or two) of vodka to each glass. Then add a dash or a shake of the following, leaving out whatever doesn’t suit you. Give each glass a good stir and add a few ice cubes.

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Clam juice
  • Pickle juice
  • Hot sauce (I use whatever is on hand, but Tapito is a great choice)
  • Horseradish
  • Ground pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Old Bay
  • Celery salt

Now it’s garnish time and really, here’s your opportunity to play it low-key, pile it on, or experiment with something over the top. Here are a few garnish suggestions, but don’t feel pressured to do it all, coming up with your own unique combo is the way to go.

  • Celery stick
  • Pickle
  • Bacon
  • Pickled okra, green beans or some other veggie
  • Olives
  • Mozzarella balls
  • Fried soft shell crab

Whaddaya say? Bloody marys with brunch this weekend? Stir one up for us too, we’ll be hanging out on the porch!

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Postcards from the Olympic Peninsula

Happy Friday! What a month! I took it pretty easy last weekend at the lake and the weeks before I spent in Seattle and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

On Tuesday, I spent my birthday camping in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey, before heading down to Saxis Island, Virginia. I’m here spending time with Momma Schu and grumbling about the slow internet and hundred degree weather. Life’s not too bad, but as my bones readjust to the extreme heat, I’m sifting through photos of cooler times out west.

Here are a few post cards from the first half of my trip. The snowy peaks, evergreens and lone deer were captured on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The tiny crab and seaweed covered rocks were shot near Sekiu. The sun setting into the ocean was taken from our campsite in Ozette and the warm sun over the water was taken on my first night in Seattle at Alki Beach. I feel like I was able to see so much in such a short trip and still I’m itching to go back immediately. I’m another year older, but nowhere close to staying in one spot for long. Come Monday morning I’m headed to Texas 🤠 Happy weekend!

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Postcards from CA

A few weeks ago we went to CA for our annual 4th of July vacation. Today I’m sharing a few postcards from the trip.

Sprinkled among our days around the lake were a few beautiful hikes, many opportunities to walk on snow, and (as always) views that took our breath away.

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Vacation Family Photo Tips (from an amateur)

If you’re interested in photography, you can find many of our archived posts here. And particularly relevant for today’s post are Sarah’s tips for taking better kid candids.

Hello! We’re back from our vacation and still recovering from all that fun. Today I wanted to pop in and share a few photos and tips from a quick and successful family photo session attempt. Since Sarah is the trained photographer in the family and I only take photos for my own enjoyment, I’m calling myself an amateur. Although, I think a lot of Sarah’s skills have rubbed off on me, so (hopefully) this advice has some merit.

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The Situation

Most of the family was together for the 4th of July and we wanted to take a few group photos. We talked about taking pics in the days leading up to the 4th, but never did it. Then the holiday came and we were adamant that we had to take some before the day was over. We just had to work around naps, trips to the beach, bike rides, and other shenanigans.

P1240316I knew that whenever we finally had a the chance to take photos, we had to keep it simple, relatively fast/efficient, and not make too many kids people cry or stomp off. It happens.

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Travel Debacles & Advice

Today I wanted to share some of the behind-the-scenes adventures that happened on our Mexico vacation. If this post scares you off of the idea of international travel, you can go back to this post and just stare at the beautiful photo of the ocean.

These are not the glamorous travel stories, rather, they are the stuff of nightmares, BUT I’m writing this post because everything turned out OK! I thought that sending these stories out into the universe could be helpful for a couple of reasons : 1. if something similar has happened to you, now you know you aren’t alone, and 2. if it hasn’t yet, maybe you’ll find some tips in this post that will help you on future travels.

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Debacle #1 : The Passport

This may be common sense, but when leaving the country, you need a passport. If you forget it, they won’t let you on the plane.

One of our travel buddies forgot their passport, and there was no way to get it before their flight was going to leave. It can be a costly mistake, but not the end of the world. In our case, they went to the airport when they were supposed to and were able to reschedule their flight for the next day!

The only loss was one day of a vacation and a rebooking fee, but otherwise, the whole debacle was an easy fix.

If this happens to you (i.e. that you’re going to miss your flight because of forgotten documents), the best solution is to call your airline or speak to a representative at the counter as soon as possible. If you’re lucky, they will be able to put you on the next flight, no harm, no foul.

Debacle #2 : The Rental Car

This situation is the one that gave us all a moment of panic except for Calder’s dad, and I’m going to chalk that up to his 80 years of life experience.

the scene : Calder’s sister, her family, and his dad were driving from the airport to San Patricio in the dark.

road conditions : As I mentioned yesterday, for the most part, the road was really nice and in great condition. There was one long section under MAJOR construction – as in they were dynamiting the bedrock, flattening and widening the roadway. The only other problem was that there were some random potholes and there were speed bumps when going through small towns.

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the rental car : When making travel arrangements, we reserved full-size cars from a major company, but you don’t pay for a car reservation until you actually return it. What does this mean? When you’re landing in a tourist destination, the rental car companies are lined up and ready to take your business. Your reservation ensures that you’ll have a car that you want waiting for you, but you’re welcome to go with another company in the airport.

In this case, Europcar whisked them away offering what sounded like a deal. The problem was, rather than getting a full-size car, they ended up with a cheaply built, smaller car.

the incident : They hit a major pothole – so big that their two front tires went flat! Not only that, but the car behind them also hit the hole and got one flat. This happened at 10pm. Ugg.

possible solutions : When they first called us, we were working through a few possible solutions :

  • We could take the spares from the other rental cars at the hotel (we had two there already), and hopefully replace both flats letting them drive on to the hotel.
  • We could send a rescue party and drive them to the hotel while getting a tow-truck to pick up the rental.
  • They could try to get to a 24 hr gas station and hopefully an attendant there could help them.
  • Rental companies have 24 hour hotlines. Europcar didn’t answer. Then called back 3 hours later… I’m linking to them because I want to call them out on their misdeeds. Petty, I know.

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wait, there’s more : This turned into a bigger problem for a few reasons :

  • They couldn’t get the lug nuts off the wheels.
  • They were two+ hours away from us.
  • They were traveling with a baby!
  • They had to keep driving for a few miles on the two flats to reach a gas station, and by then their rims were toast.
  • We tried calling tow-trucks and no one picked up.

*Throughout all of this, Calder’s dad wasn’t worried. His comment on the situation : “it’s happened before”. He was confident that this was now the rental car company’s problem and that they would know how to handle it. Once he said that (and everyone was safe and sound at the hotel), it was immediately calming and such a great bit of wisdom to remember for the future.*

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final outcome : Calder picked them up. They left the rental car parked at the gas station, but before they left, they took photos of the car from all essential angles showing the flat tires and destroyed rims as well as the license plate for identification. The next morning, they spent about an hour on the phone with the rental company explaining the problem, providing all of the details, and making arrangements with someone from the company to come to our hotel to pick up the keys.

In the end, they were charged $72 for the whole debacle. We’re not sure what this charge was for, but no one’s going to call and question it.

Our Advice :

  • Make sure you have comprehensive insurance when renting a car (something with $0 deductible). Know that if you’re renting in the US with a credit card, your card often has car insurance perks, BUT these may not apply if renting in another country (this was the case with Mexico).
  • Even if you don’t need a larger car, it may be worthwhile to rent one because it’s likely to be of higher quality.
  • If you’re stuck somewhere, but with cell service, send someone your location using a map app on your phone – then they can get directions to the exact point where you are.
  • TAKE PICTURES – this is so essential if you have to discuss property with someone from a distance. While it may sound like overkill, it’s useful to take pictures both before and after using any rental property, whether it’s an Airbnb rental or a car rental. That way you’ll have some sort of proof showing what the state of the property was in when you got there, when you left, and in this case, when something goes wrong.

Debacle #3 : The Bat

This is just a joke, but there was a bat in our room on the last night!

If this happens to you and it’s behaving oddly, stay away and get help. If there’s nothing odd, just find a large towel, carefully pick it up, and take it outside.

We loved the bat incident because it turned Alex on to bats in a major way! They’ve become our “unit” for the month of October, and I can’t wait to start talking about some of the fun stuff we’ve been doing at home.

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~

What crazy stories hidden behind the scenes of yesterday’s post, huh? And remember – If it’s happening to you, it’s likely happened before. Don’t worry. 

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Postcards from Mexico

A couple of weeks ago, we traveled to Mexico for a long weekend to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. We spent the weekend in San Patricio, and admittedly, we did absolutely no research before leaving! … no, wait, we *tried* to do some research the night before we left, but found very little information.

It wasn’t until we returned that I realized that the problem was because I was searching for “San Patricio travel guide”, but the area is also known as Melaque. If only I would have searched Melaque, I would have found a few more results, but still the info is a bit slim. So, with this , I thought I would give some details about our vacation in the hopes that it helps others traveling to the area.

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Why Mexico? We had a few restrictions when picking a location, and Mexico was the one spot that fit the bill!

  • travel time and ease of travel : We wanted to do something special for this big birthday, but because of work schedules, time was limited and it was essential to go somewhere that didn’t require too much travel for anyone in our party (we were meeting up with Calder’s dad, his sister & her family, and his brother). Fortunately, everyone was able to book a direct flights from their respective cities to Puerto Vallarta, and from there it was about a 3.5 hour drive to San Patricio.
  • time zone change : since we were traveling with kids, not having a big time-change meant that everyone would (hopefully) sleep easier on this quick trip. In my opinion, if you’re taking off more time for a trip, then spending a day or two adjusting to time zones isn’t a big deal, but if you only have four days, then it can really put a kink in the vacation.
  • somewhere Calder’s dad would like : It was his birthday after all :-). His top choices were Hawaii, France, and Mexico, and immediately we realized that we didn’t have enough time to make the longer Hawaii and France trips.
  • expense : It’s always nice when traveling with a lot of people to pick a location where money wasn’t an issue for anyone. Then everyone can just focus on the fun! If that’s a concern for you, then traveling to this area of Mexico is a great option!

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Rainy Season?

We settled on San Patricio because Calder’s dad had been there about 10 years ago and enjoyed it. It’s a really small town right on the beach. The area is a vacation destination for Mexicans and is very popular with older Canadians and Americans who like to spend their winters somewhere warm. As a result, the area has a well defined off season which also corresponds to the area’s rainy season, which is June – October.

Traveling during the “rainy season” may deter some travelers, but it’s never bothered me. In addition to this trip, I’ve also traveled to India and Costa Rica during their rainy seasons, and in every case, I didn’t regret it and did not feel inconvenienced. On this trip, the only rain we experienced was while driving from the airport to the beach, then there was not a drop while we were in San Patricio! On my other trips, there was often one rain storm during the day, but it never lasted long and was often a good moment to be inside napping, researching our next outing, or reading.

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Accommodations

We stayed at Hotel Vista Hermosa. It was a great hotel right on the beach with a swimming pool {a key requirement for this family!}. We reserved three two-bedroom suites, and they each came with their own kitchen. Once we arrived, we realized that we definitely could have reserved smaller rooms. The suites each had 5 beds (two in one bedroom and three in another)! They were definitely designed for larger families in mind. The kitchens were detached from the main suite – they were right across the “hall” (open-air walkway) from each other. The kitchen area contained a full kitchen and all of the utensils and dishes you would need for cooking meals at home. It’s so nice having that option when traveling with kids!

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We made our reservations by calling the hotel directly. It’s helpful if you know some Spanish, because their English is a bit rusty (but so is our Spanish!). After making reservations, they sent us confirmation emails and we used email for more communication. We paid $55/night/suite. The hotel has gated off-street parking, which we used the first two nights, but our sense of the area is that it seemed really safe and our rental car didn’t stick out, so we then parked on the street for the last two nights.

We were all really happy with the place where we stayed, but if you’re going to the area, know that there are other hotels and it looks like there are a lot of personal condo and apartment rentals available through Airbnb and HomeAway.

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Food and Drinks

Having the kitchen in our suite, we bought breakfast supplies on the first morning and ate breakfast in our room every day, but ate out for lunches and dinners.

I packed some back-up foods in case we were in a situation where there was nothing appropriate for the boys to eat. In our bag was turkey jerky (a new favorite of Alex’s), Cliff bars, applesauce and fruit smoothie packs. Fortunately finding food for the boys was never an issue, but those portable snacks are still handy for the car and plane rides.

We drank only bottled water – we like to buy it in big 5-liter jugs and just refill smaller bottles for walking around. Unfortunately, I held back and didn’t drink any of the agua frescas or horchatas because I was worried about water and ice contamination. The boys would order fresh coconut water at dinner every night and loved the novelty of drinking it straight from the coconuts!

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There are a couple of little grocers in the center of town where we picked up eggs (you tell them how many you want and pay by weight!), tortillas, avocados, grapefruits, milk, and cereal. For coffee, we mixed instant NESCAFEs in our room (somehow instant coffee tastes good when you’re on vacation on the beach!).

While there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, it was clear that a few were closed for the off season. For example, I walked past this cafe and it was still closed, but it looks like it’d be a great place for a morning cuppa. You can see restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, but again, we didn’t read any of those until we got back, and I would say it was a good thing. Some of the places that are more highly reviewed seemed like they cater to tourists looking for American food. When we went out, we wanted either local seafood dishes (we saw the fisherman in the bay every morning!) or Mexican food. The town is small enough that it’s easy to walk around and find a place to eat.

For lunches we would walk into town and eat at one of the smaller places. There’s a little alley in the center of town that is only for foot traffic and has dozens of small eateries. They are mostly one-room places where the store-front is a small bar with seats (below Calder and Alex are eating on the kitchen side of one of these bars).  We liked the one below so much that we went back a second time.

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For dinner, we would walk along the beach and eat at one of the larger restaurants there. Many of them served a variety of seafood, but some are those that cater to tourists looking for burgers and Caesar salads, so it’s worth reading the menus before you commit (we decided to walk out of one after being seated – oops). The awesome thing about eating on the beach is that the boys could play in the sand while we sat at the tables and talked!

The only problem we experienced with eating out was the restaurant hours. The places in town that served lunch then closed by dinner time. And many of the ones that served dinner had kitchens that closed at 7pm! We’re assuming these are seasonal hours (at least for the larger restaurants serving dinner), but it’s something to be aware of.

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To-Do

We were going on this short trip to relax with family and enjoy the beach and pool, and that’s exactly what we did! There are many shops that sell beach toys, floats, life vests, etc. Rather than pack these bulky items, we just bought a selection of toys while we were there (it was a lot of fun for Alex to be in charge of what we selected!). All items were relatively cheap, so we were happy to leave the beach toys on the beach and the floats at the hotel pool for someone else when our vacation was over. We did end up bringing the life vest home because it fit Alex so well and it seems like we can always use an extra when we have friends visiting.

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mexico29If you’re looking for more to do, I can’t really help, but it does seem like there are some nice day-trip options in the area. The Colima volcano is not too far away!

Etc.

  • Driving : I’m sure many people would be put off by the long car ride from the airport to San Patricio. I know that we weren’t sure what to expect. BUT I’m here to tell you that it’s a piece of cake (almost – more on the pit-falls and pot-holes tomorrow!). You are on one road the whole way (rt. 200), and that road leaves directly from the airport in Puerto Vallarta so it’s impossible to get lost AND for most the way, the road is really nice quality. It starts with some twists and turns in the mountains, but then opens up to a wide, straight road.
  • Language : Perhaps this is a seasonal thing, but it seemed that a basic understanding of Spanish would be helpful. None of us are proficient (I learned my Spanish on Sesame Street, only sort of kidding), but traveling with the group helped because when someone didn’t know a word, another person did.
  • Beach : The waves on our section of the beach were particularly rough and not kid-friendly, but they were a lot of fun for bigger kids and adults. Since we had the pool nearby, this wasn’t a problem. The boys would go back and forth between the sand and the pool (showering off in between, obvs). I’ve read that the waves are more mild farther along the beach, but we didn’t check it out. The middle of the day was so hot on the beach, and we noticed that not many people would be out, but it was more crowded in the mornings and evenings, so after a day or so, that’s the beach schedule we adopted too.

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I know it’s not very specific, but that’s our 411 on San Patricio, Mexico. In summary, it was a beautiful little town on the western coast that wasn’t overcrowded with tourists in September and was a relatively affordable weekend vacation. I hope you’ll visit!

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Travel to Bali Indonesia

Back in 2012 I traveled to nine countries in Asia. I’m starting to share all my adventures under the travel section. Want a cheap and beautiful destination? Head to Laos. Still trying to save up to travel? Here are a few tips! Also, several images from Bali are for sale digitally here.

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Happy Monday! Last week, I shared a Seasoned View of Bali because exactly four years ago that’s where my little feet landed. What a magical week! Before going to Bali, I balked at the idea. I had thought of Bali as one huge resort. That’s just the vibe I got from the few times I heard about it. Well, I was hella wrong. Yes, there’s a couple overcrowded and commercialized areas on the southern tip of Bali, but other than that the island is my definition of paradise.  I only had a week to explore Bali, so I headed straight for the heart of it, Ubud, and what I experienced captivated me. I haven’t stopped thinking about Bali since.  I can’t wait to go back and explore the entire island (especially the northern parts) by motorbike. One day, one day, these are what my daydreams are made of…

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