What to Do During a Long Weekend in New Orleans

What to Do During a Long Weekend in New Orleans

At the beginning of February I met up with two of my best friends in New Orleans, LA to celebrate 17 years of friendship. While the trip didn’t fall on our anniversary (you better believe we have one!), we wanted to make it a celebration of our relationship and strove to create an awesome long weekend of fun, friends, and so much food! Spoiler alert: we were successful! The three of us are scattered in different cities around the United States now (Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Philadelphia, PA) and we picked New Orleans since it was kinda-sorta in the middle.

Continue reading “What to Do During a Long Weekend in New Orleans”
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Happy Galentine’s Day!

Happy Galentine’s Day!

Ah, can you smell that? Mmmm… that’s the scent of chocolate my friends. Tomorrow is 50% off chocolate day, so get ready for some shopping! Today however is Valentine’s Day, or as I prefer to celebrate it, Galentine’s Day!

Since I was about 10 years old I’ve almost always celebrated Valentine’s Day with a group of girls. For me Valentine’s is always about the people you love, not just a single significant other. Luckily, Parks and Rec helped popularize the Galentine’s Day movement! Woohoo! Ladies, gather around, I’ve got chocolate.

This past weekend I threw a Galentine’s Day Party. You may have seen my plate of leftover cookies on instagram! Mmmm. I made a bunch of sugar cookie hearts and whipped up some royal icing which I dyed red, two shades of pink, and a pretty teal blue. I kept plenty of white as well. I like to pop the icing in squeeze bottles like these for easy and less messy frosting. It makes it easier for kids to go at it as well!

Since I’m a pro at over-baking, I had so many cookies left after the party that I ended up spending about 2 hours streaming Netflix and decorating the excess cookies. It was a relaxing way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!

Valentine's Cookies | Land of Laurel

The party was fun and I managed to snap a few pics before everyone arrived. I made a bunch of cupcakes and some biscuits too. A big part of any Galentine’s Day party has got to be the food! I made tons of food – I always do – there was enough for thirty and I had a party of ten! Everyone got to take home leftover though and I even froze some for myself.

Galentine's Day Party | Land of Laurel

I mashed up some re-heated frozen raspberries and added them and their juice to my cream cheese frosting for an simple and natural pink color and a little extra favor. It was so delicious and incredibly easy to get that vibrant pink color! I have half a bag left in my fridge now, so I just might need to bake a cake!

Valentin's Day Cupcakes | Land of Laurel

The raspberry cream cheese frosting could have been a little thicker, but oh well, nobody cared, it was delicious! A bag of Valentine’s M&Ms adds a little party atmosphere. As much as I love fancy chocolate, I have to admit, there is something about M&Ms at a party that is just so right! I cut my biscuit dough into heart shapes as well, because I like to roll with a theme. I whipped some chives, salt, and pepper with some cream cheese for a savory biscuit topping, but I also put out raspberry jam and lemon curd for those with a sweet tooth.

Galentine's Day Party | Land of Laurel

Over all, it was a lovely party and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll just be home drinking hot buttered rum because I over-made the mix for that as well. No harm, no foul there though! There’s nothing I enjoy more than a hot, alcoholic beverage. Mmmm mmmm good!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What about Galentine’s Day? I can’t get enough of spreading the love to all my lady friends! The move to Portland has been so wonderful because of all the women I’ve met here. I really couldn’t feel more lucky!

(Golden) Delicious Apple Pie

(Golden) Delicious Apple Pie

Apple pie is one of the most classic American dishes. It’s the perfect dessert when you want something a little bit lighter that flourless chocolate cake; which for me, is admittedly rare since I’m a crazy chocolate fiend, but even I switch things up now and again! What I love about apple pie is how super easy it is to throw together. All the ingredients are typically ones you have stocked at home and the recipe is pretty fail proof. It’s easier than pumpkin pie to make and just as delicious!

Killer Apple Pie | Land of Laurel

To me, apple pie means fall and Thanksgiving, it means winter and foggy windows, it means filling the house with the smell of cinnamon and cloves, but most of all it means a gathering of friends or family. I like my apple pies tart and spicy, just like my friends, so it’s pretty much the perfect dessert for a girls night. Ha! Plus, apple pie is the perfect house freshener: put an apple pie in the oven 20 minutes before your guests come over and your whole house will smell like heaven! It’s a multipurpose dessert y’all! Check out the recipe below for a super easy and delicious evening.

Killer Apple Pie | Land of Laurel

Ingredients

1 – pie crust

7 – medium, organic, green apples, granny smith is the classic

1 – medium, organic, multi-colored apple, fugi or gala work well

1/2 cup – organic, brown sugar

1  – lemon, zest and juice

1/4 teaspoon – salt

1 teaspoon – cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon – cloves

1/4 teaspoon – nutmeg

4 tablespoons – organic butter

1 – organic egg

Recipe

Split your ball of pie crust dough in two and roll out half, keeping the other half cool in the refrigerator for later as it will form the top crust. Use your rolling pin to help convey the rolled bottom pie crust dough from your counter to you pie pan, then use your fingers shape the dough inside. Leaving half an inch over the edge of the pan, cut off the excess dough. Pop the bottom crust into the oven to pre-bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Turn the oven to 425° to pre-heat for the pie.

While the bottom crust pre-bakes, begin peeling, coring, and thinly slicing your apples. You want your apples to be roughly peeled, so don’t worry about getting every last bit off. I use this awesome kitchen aide attachment I have and love, and then slice the peeled, cored, and spiral sliced apple in half.  The kitchen aide attachment or counter-mounted version are fantastic because they do all the peeling, slicing, and coring at once, but this isn’t difficult to accomplish with a simple knife alone.

Place the apple slices into a large bowl, add all other ingredients except the butter andegg, and use your hands to toss everything together. Once apples are evenly coated, place in cooled, pre-baked pie shell in a spiral pattern, coating the bottom before placing additional layers. Use small or broken slices to fill any odd spaces. Once you’ve piled your mound of apples into the bottom shell, you will have some excess liquid in your bowl, pour about half over the apples in the pie shell and compost the rest. Cut butter into 8 evenly sized pieces and sprinkle over mounded apples.

Roll out the other half of your pie dough and use it to cover your mounded apples. Pinch the edges into the pre-baked bottom crust and remove any excess. Cut openings in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Coat the top pie crust completely with a whipped egg yolk to give it a deep finished sheen. To make decorative leaves, cut leaf shapes out of excess down, using the knife to carve leaf veins into the tops. Coat leaves with lightly whipped egg white mixed with food coloring and place on pie shell.

Bake at 425° degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350° and bake for another 40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving, refrigerate after slicing. Pie keeps well and can be baked and left on counter up to 36 hours in advance, before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for best results!

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Lemon Veggie Wild Rice

Lemon Veggie Wild Rice

Well, it’s officially autumn here in Portland! The leaves are falling, the skies are grey, and it’s been raining a good amount. Autumn makes me want warm food, a hot fire, and a good book. Since I keep my pantry well stocked with yummy grains and non-perishables, I often buy a bunch of veggies to sauté together which I throw on top of rice or lentils or whatever else Fred Meyer’s organic bulk section is stocking. I decided to mix it up a little bit the other day and stumbled into this yummy new dish I’ll be cooking up for years to come. I brought it to my first-cousin-once-removed-in-law’s uncle’s 76th birthday (sometimes it’s easier to simplify familial relationships). I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious this simple dish is! Give yourself some time in the kitchen to get everything going, but then pop it into the oven and socialize until it’s time to eat. Covered after removing from the oven, this will stay plenty hot for 30-40 minutes, so it really is great for taking to a friend’s house or to make ahead for your own gathering!

Lemon Veggie Wild Rice | Land of Laurel

Lemon Veggie Wild Rice

Serves 6-8 as main dish and 12-14 people as a side.

Ingredients

1.5 cups organic, tri-color wild rice

2 cups organic vegetable broth

1.75 cups water

1/2 stick butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil

5 small, organic carrots

4 stalks organic celery

1 small onion (I used a yellow onion, but a red onion would taste amazing in this!)

1 medium, organic leek

6-8 leaves sliced, fresh sage

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/3 cup chopped, fresh parsley

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

1 organic lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

feta cheese to sprinkle

Lemon Veggie Wild Rice | Land of Laurel

Recipe

 

Start by putting the rice, broth and water in a medium sized pot over high heat, bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 20-30 mins until water is absorbed. Melt butter (or heat oil) over medium heat in 4 quart dutch oven (or other large oven safe vessel). Chop carrots and celery and add to pot with butter, sauté for 5-1o minutes, stirring frequently. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Chop leek, and onions and add to carrot celery pot, sauté together ten minutes, stirring frequently. Test rice, it should be soft with a slight crunch. Once rice is cooked, turn off heat on both pots and add rice to sautéd veggies. Add cranberries, salt, pepper, sliced almonds, and the grated rind and juice of one lemon. Stir together, cover with lid, and place in oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove lid, and let rest for ten minutes, then serve sprinkled with feta cheese.

 

Let me know if you try making this! It’s perfect for a fall night, but the easily found ingredients make it a dish that can be served year round.

 

Extra Storage in the Kitchen

Extra Storage in the Kitchen

When we first moved in, our kitchen was a hot mess. The small, awkwardly placed cabinets were difficult to organize. Living with a roommate means doubles of many of the “basic” kitchen items – in our case, baking supplies – which takes up more room than it should. We each had half of a cabinet for all of our food, the rest of the space was filled with pots, pans, tupperware, and all of the other kitchen things you tend to accumulate. This wasn’t working with my grocery shopping/food storage habits. See, I like to keep a lot of things (legumes, nuts, grains, flour, etc) on hand in my pantry at all times, so the only things I really need to grocery shop for are items that get stored in the fridge (almond milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits, cheeses). This allows to me to stock up on non-perishables infrequently and makes my trips to the grocery store a bit quicker since I only hit up two areas, rather than the entire store.

Remember what my kitchen was looking like when we first moved in?

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A hot mess. That’s what this place was, except minus the hot part.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Our storage system evolved a bit after we settled in a bit more, but these pictures remain exemplary of our kitchen’s progress in the first couple of months we lived here. It was not working! I needed a solution, and after seeing something similar in an airbnb my mother and Aunt Stephanie stayed at while visiting, I got an idea stuck in my head. I started hunting for a china cabinet on craigslist soon after. A china cabinet? Isn’t that a little dated? Just wait. See that weird wall that caps the closer side of the galley kitchen? It’s not in line with the long hall way wall, but rather 2-3 feet back closer to the kitchen. It’s almost perpendicular to the center line of the refrigerator. It makes no sense! It serves no purpose! It annoys me! That is where the china cabinet will go. It will extend the kitchen storage and make the wall more functional in the mean time.

I hunted and hunted. That wall is only 43″ wide so the cabinet had to be skinny. I still wanted something tall though, so I could gain as much storage as possible. Finally, I found it! The perfect cabinet. It was exactly the right width for the wall! I drove with my friend Kayla to Hayden Island in North Portland and we stuffed the china cabinet into the van I borrowed from my parents, paid the man his $90 bucks, and headed back to my house. A little dusting and a wipe down with Honest Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner, and she was ready to be filled on up!

The cabinet even came with a little light that makes the pantry goods look super cute and cozy in their new home. The glass shelf inside lets the light shine down on to both levels. I filled the open middle area with cookbooks belonging to both my roommate and I. The cabinets below hold mason jars, my Staub dutch oven, and my waffle iron, while the drawers contain some random bits and things like frosting squeeze bottles and rolling pins. Boom! Insta storage! The cute cabinet almost makes me forget the annoying the flooring transition I talked more about here. Fake wood meets fake tile in such a dumb way, don’t even get me started! Just concentrate on the glorious cabinet!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

You see I also got some new stools. And one of my Parlor palms died. I’ve left it there in such a stylish manor. I bought a new snake plant replaced this guy with the new one in the meantime! The stools I bought when my office moved from east to west Portland. I picked them up for $20 each and I have five. I’ve been using 4 here at the “counter” but the ledge is only about 8 inches deep so people mostly sit sideways and I think I’ll need to remove one more for ease of access.

The china cabinet so perfectly fits this spot and it really ties the kitchen into the living room beyond. It feels so great to walk over here in the evenings and grab my jar of cous cous or lentils. Each morning I make my bowl of oatmeal and set the bowl in front of the cookbooks while I get out the chia seeds from the upper cabinet to sprinkle them on top. It’s quite a handy spot!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

Inside my jars hold a whole manor of non-perishable goods! I really have more storage for this than I really need, but I really love the affect of all the jars within. On the left side I have muesli, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, cous cous, black rice, and sliced almonds on the top shelf and rye flour, lentils, dried mango (for the all of two days I have it before devouring every last piece!), polenta, whole wheat flour and my tin of steel cut oatmeal.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

On the right side I’ve got black beans, black eyed peas, tri-color wild rice, finely milled whole wheat flour and pine nuts on top, while the bottom shelf holds tri-color popcorn kernels, chia seeds, rolled oats, and usually chocolate chips, but I believe I finished them off before taking this picture!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

Our kitchen is small so it’s not a big deal to walk to the china cabinet; it’s no further from the sink than the fridge! Having everything out in the open in the china cabinet makes things so easy, too. There is nothing like a full pantry to make me smile. I just love the way different foods look in jars! It’s simple and colorful, classic and clean. It makes me feel like a pioneer with jars full of canned goods lining her cellar. In reality I have jars full of foods that were not available then and none of them are canned and I can walk into the grocery store to buy them pretty much any time of the year. But that makes it feel less special, so I still like to day dream about pioneer cellars.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

I love these jars. I’ve been picking them up at IKEA for a few years now. The small ones are $2.99 and the larger ones are $3.99. I hope they never discontinue them, though it’s hard to imagine needing any more that I already have. I did buy a few more when I bought the cabinet, since I wanted to fill up both shelves. They’re well worth it. The jars I fill with organic foods mostly from the bulk section. I loved Berkeley Bowl for this when I was living in the Bay Area. I’ve yet to find a go-to grocery store here in Portland, but these were all filled with bulk goods from Fred Meyers here which has a surprisingly good organic bulk section!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

The cabinet is standing functional for now, though I would love to paint it at some point soon. I’m thinking of painting it a lovely black similar to how Dana at HouseTweaking.com re-did her armoire in her studio. The hardware I might keep or just replace with knobs. I’m not sure yet and I don’t have plans to paint this until a number of other things are checked off my to-do list! For now, I’m just to busy staring at all the non-perishable pantry goods with goo-good eyes.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

How do you store your food? Does it affect how you shop? Are you the matching jars/containers type or the everything in the box it came from type?

 

Mango Mint Salad

Mango Mint Salad

I’m sharing another recipe from the dishes I served at my birthday party today! Remember the spread? The colorful crostini? Here is something equally simple that you can totally make ahead of time! Boom! Easy! My favorite.

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I’ve always just loved mangos. My mom always gave them to us during the summer when I was little. She’d cut them up into little “porcupines” as we called it and we’d use our teeth to scrape off chunks of the delicious fruit, the juices running down our chins until we were sticky messes. Don’t worry, this recipe isn’t anywhere near that messy.

 

My favorite way to cut mangos — for this recipe and just for eating in general– is to slice the mango on either side of the pit. You should end up with 3 pieces, each about one-third the size of the mango, the pit piece being the smallest. Take each side and slice a grid into the flesh of the fruit with your knife. Then use your fingers to push on the peel side of the piece of fruit until it’s “inside-out” and looks like a series of rectangular projections on a hillside (or a porcupine!). Then use your knife to slice off the projection fruit flesh.

 

This Mango Mint Salad is easy, peasy. It requires only three ingredients and can be whipped up in a few minutes. It’s a great use for slightly over-ripened mangos and can be stored in the fridge for a few days, then brought to room temperature, before serving. It’s great for a side dish at lunch or breakfast. It’s a great dish to bring to a barbecue on a hot summer day. With organic mangos at Berkeley Bowl selling at 10 for $5.00 in the summers, I’m guaranteed to make this dish another half dozen times this season alone!

 

Mango Mint Salad | Land of Laurel

 

MANGO MINT SALAD

Serves as a side dish for 4-8 people

Ingredients:

4 – Organic Mangos

3 – Organic Limes

15-20 – Medium-Sized Organic Mint Leaves (freshly plucked from the stem)

 

Instructions:

Cut the mangos into bite sized pieces no larger than three-quarters of an inch. Place into medium sized bowl. Juice the limes and add the liquid to the mangos. Slice the mint leaves into small pieces and stir into the mangos. Let rest for at least thirty minutes, stirring occasionally, before serving. The rest period allow the mango to absorb more of the lime juice.

 

Wasn’t that quick and easy? I promise it’s so delicious, you have to try! I made it the day of my party and then again this weekend to bring to a crab feed. It’s incredibly yummy. I even paired it with avocado toast for breakfast a couple days after my party.

 

Mango Mint Salad and Avocado Toast | Land of Laurel

 

Does anyone else have a fruit that just screams summer to them? That’s what mangos do for me! They’re so inspiring, I know as soon as they come to under $1/each in the grocery store, it’s time for sand, sunscreen, and some lazy, hazy days of summer!

Colorful Spring Crostini

You remember my birthday party spread? Delicious spring ingredients and lots of finger foods!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I am mildly obsessed with crostini. You’ve seen my fall fave, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash Crostini, and I’m here today to share some delightful spring combinations! This isn’t an exact recipe, but rather a guideline on a great, easy, and colorful way to make a huge variety of crostini.

 

Colorful Spring Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

For my party, I started with a few basic crostini ingredients: baguettes and spreads. I knew I was going have quite a few people over, so I thinly sliced two baguettes and toasted the little pieces in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. I wanted them to be golden, but not browned at all and just perfectly crunchy. While they were toasting, I made my spreads. Since I was doing many different flavor variations on the toppings, my spreads were basic. I used about 12 ounces of ricotta per baguette, mixing it with a bit of cream so it would spread more smoothly. I then took half of the ricotta-cream mixture and microplaned in the rind of one lemon as well as the juice. You could easily add some chopped fresh herbs at this stage too. After that it was all the toppings! The night before I’d roasted my veggies for about 10-15 minutes with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, leaving the vegetable-y taste: cherry tomatoes, thin slivers of zucchini and carrot, red bell pepper. I whipped up a little caramelized onion: letting it sizzle gently on the stove for just under and hour before adding a bit of water and some balsamic vinegar. I also boiled some asparagus for about 5 minutes until it was just cooked, but still had a bit of a crunch. Other toppings I used included toasted almond slivers, walnuts, and pinenuts, avocado, and cucumber. After that, it was just a little more flavor with herbs: fresh mint, basil, and dill thinly sliced and sprinkled on top. On some crostini I gently drizzled a little honey to bring out a bit of sweet flavor.

 

Crostini Close-Up | Land of Laurel

 

Simple right? And oh so delicious. It was a lot of toppings, but the prep was simple and I did most of the cooking the night before. The day of, I took all the veggies out of the refrigerator and brought them to room temperature before putting all the crostini together. It was quick and painless and abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous!

 

Colorful Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations:

 

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Basil, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Avocado, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Bell Pepper

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Carrot, Mint

Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Toasted Almonds

Ricotta Spread, Walnuts, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Basil, Toasted Almonds,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Roasted Carrot, Dill,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Walnuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Almond, Basil

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Walnut, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Basil, Pine Nuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pine Nuts, Roasted Zucchini, Dill

 

The best part is an hour and a half of prep with just a little bit of a whole lot of ingredients gets you a wonderful plethora of creative and colorful crostini! At my party I was able to prep some other dishes that involved more knowledge of the recipe, while putting three great helpers on crostini duty. I gave them my list of suggestions, but they enjoyed coming up with their own creative combinations, leading to a delightful, varying snack.

 

What’s your favorite party food? Do you like to prep a bunch of food before hand or cook everything the day of?

Celebrating 24

This past Saturday I turned thirty-five twenty-four and despite my wish to be about ten years older, it was a wonderful birthday weekend!

 

Friday evening I threw a big birthday party at my house. I absolutely love having parties. They don’t need to be formal or a lot of work to be fun! I did most of my party prep on Thursday evening after work so Friday I had plenty time to do the last few things before my guests arrived. Lucky me, I had some wonderful helpers on Friday who helped get everything ready to go in the last few minutes so I had time to shower!

 

I’ll be sharing a few recipes the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview. We prepped quite a spread. My personal food mantra is there is never too much. I’ve inherited a love of food and feeding people from my father’s side of the family. I simply am not comfortable when I have visitors unless there is a drink in their hand and a snack in their mouth. I have aunts who simply will not rest when you come over, unless you’ve eaten a post-dinner snack and have a bowl of ice cream with homemade fudge sauce in your hand. It’s one of the most endearing qualities of my extended family. These are definitely traits that have been passed on from my parent’s generation to my cousins and I. My food table was quickly full!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

So at the party I wanted to do a few simple things. I prepped a quick version of my delicious, thick, vegan Butternut Squash Soup on Thursday evening. On Friday I quickly heated up a veggie broth, added everything I’d roasted the day before, and pureed it all together. Then my three helpers (my darling sister Bronwyn, and two of my best friends, Hannah & Nicole) put together a small army of crostini, the toppings of which I’d also prepped on Thursday. Now I love a good crostini, they’re delicious! I’ve already shared my favorite fall appetizer, a Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta crostini and these spring versions were just as easy! They came out just gorgeous and oh so colorful! I promise they also tasted as good as they looked. Other foods I served? A delicious (but small) Mango-Mint Salad, a cheese plate, and a Spring Veggie Couscous salad. Yum!  To top off the entire evening of eating, my sister made an absolutely gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake. It was beautiful! Chocolate raspberry is my dream cake so I was in dessert heaven.

 

For my actual birthday on Saturday, I went out to brunch with my parents and sister at a place in North Berkeley called Cafe Leila. The food was alright. I think the pastries are the way to go at that place, but I ordered pancakes. They were a bit undercooked. Oops! Their selection of teas and lattes is pretty amazing though. We all shared one of their cronuts as well. That was flakey and delicious! My parents gifted me an amazing sewing machine that does an amazing number of awesome stitches so look forward to some sewing tutorials in the future! First step? Hemming some curtains for my bedroom!

 

After brunch my parents left and my friend Hannah arrived. My sister, Hannah, and I then all headed down the California coast towards Santa Cruz! We got a super late start, leaving shortly after 1:00pm. We took 92 over the San Mateo Bridge and over into Half Moon Bay. Before we got to the cute town, we stopped at some of the nurseries to see the amazing array of plants. The greenhouses were humid and simple signs reading “Orchids for Sale” did nothing to disclose the amazing sites within. Orchids as far as you could see in every direction. In every color! It was beautiful!

 

Orchids to Die For | Land of Laurel

 

In another greenhouse, there were amazing carnivorous plants (many of which I wanted to buy considering our summer fly problem!) and nestled among them tiny fairy houses. It was so cute! And these carnivorous plants were so interesting and unusual.

 

Carnivorous Plants & Fairy Houses | Land of Laurel

 

Lastly there were the succulents and cacti! Plants to die for! I wanted to take all of them home and slowly kill them (my go-to method for succulent care). They were so beautiful though!

 

Cacti & Succulent Nursery | Land of Laurel

 

After I’d died and gone to heaven at the nurseries we continued the little ways down Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay where we stopped briefly for sandwich snacks at a small deli and creeped on adorable chicks at the cute hay and feed store on Main Street. Some day I will get to go in and buy those baby chicks rather than just looking! Seriously, there is nothing cuter, y’all!

 

Baby Chicks | Land of Laurel

 

After our pit stop, we hopped onto Highway One and continued down the beautiful coast, stopping occasionally to take in the ocean views. At one point we found what seemed to be a wind surfing convention. Literally dozens of windsurfers were winding their way around in the water by this one beach. It was beautiful and so colorful! All the colors of the sails seemed so joyful against the backdrop of the blue ocean and sky.

 

Windsurfers | Land of Laurel

 

By the time we got into Santa Cruz it was already pretty late. We stopped first at Penny Ice Creamery for Bitter Carmel cones topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it! It’s the most amazing combination! The only Penny Ice Creamery to have this combo, seemingly, is the one on 41st Street, so be sure to plan accordingly! We walked with our cones down to Pleasure Point where we found a nice bench to finish devouring them. We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance which made it even more lovely. We walked down East Cliff for a little while, watching the surfers and beach-goers.

 

Santa Cruz East Cliff | Land of Laurel

 

After our short walk, we headed to Pacific Ave for some window shopping before finishing the evening with dinner at I Love Sushi (we got four of the five Vegetarian Special Rolls and split them) and a bowl of soul at Verve Coffee. All too soon it was time to hit the road, but it had been a truly lovely birthday!

 

What do you like to do for your birthdays? Celebrate with a big party? A few friends? Just spend time with your family?