Summer Vacation 2017: Santa Barbara, California

I can’t believe summer is nearly over already. Where did the time go?!?! I guess I will stare at these pics from our summer vacation to help prolong summer as long as possible (I am really excited about fall too but for now, let’s enjoy the sun!).

If you have ever been then you already know how gorgeous it is; it is nick named the American Riviera. It is a popular weekend getaway spot for the rich and famous and even home to some of the rich and famous (ahem, Oprah). The sights and bites make it easy to see why.

Our vacation was actually a wedding, reunion, and vacation all in one. The hubby is from SB so when we got the invitation to attend the wedding of one of his childhood besties we decided to extend the stay and enjoy some time with family and friends. Hope you enjoy the recap and if you plan a trip to SB in the future feel free to reach out for suggestions.

First a quick recap of the wedding which was a beach wedding with the reception at a popular events space in Carpinteria, CA. I didn’t take pictures at the ceremony (sorry) but here are some of the highlights from the reception.

I loved the color scheme they chose. What you don’t see are the adorable chandeliers that they had hanging throughout the venue. So adorable!

I only took pictures of the salad course for some reason. I was probably too excited to get on the dance floor (true story). I do recall enjoying this panzanella salad!

Whenever we come back to SB the hubs usually requests a visit to the zoo. It is probably the prettiest zoo you will ever go to. You can take a nice leisure stroll through the hillside while checking out the animals and the California plant life.

After the zoo we went to have a brew and bite in the new Funk Zone. It is like the one stop shop for California wines and micro brews. I found a brewery that had a dog as a mascot, Lama Dog, obvious choice.

The tacos are from a small restaurant in the tap room called Nook. They had tri-tip tacos as a special and since we were in the home of tri-tip we couldn’t pass these up. Tri-tip is a huge fave but hard to find on the east coast, if you go out west make sure to get some!

One night we enjoyed the most amazing meal made by our dear friend AJ who works at a very popular sushi spot in Downtown SB called Arigato. He reserved us a seat at the sushi bar and passed amazing dish after amazing dish. I am sad he doesn’t live closer so that we can enjoy his creations every day. Also, he’s a Jiu Jitsu instructor so if you are in need of a great meal and jiu jitsu lesson he’s your guy. Tell him I sent you.

I absolutely loved this Toro Tuna Belly (below)! Can this be in my life always?

I ate a lot of other great food during our vacation, mostly tacos and seafood. Somehow tacos and/or seafood made it in to at least one meal during our trip. Here are some of the faves.

Jeannine’s is a popular bakery and breakfast spot. We went here one of my first visits to SB so it is kind of a tradition now. I had a Chorizo frittata full of veggies.

Bouillabaisse is all of my favorite things in one dish. Give me all the shellfish and calamari. Thank you!

McConnell’s ice cream is a local fave, they even served it at the wedding!

When we weren’t eating we were relaxing and enjoying the break.

My in-laws have a pretty nice layout with a pool! I probably spent every afternoon poolside and as a result came home with a pretty substantial tan haha. Ah, paradise!

Can this be my house please?

I am gonna end the recap with a picture of me and Arthur, the ring bearer, from the wedding. Dogs were pretty much a constant while on vacation and I made sure to hug them all!

Tropical Fruit Salsa

My Friends!

It is like the summeriest of summers out there. For the most part we are getting gorgeous weekends which is AH-MAZE-ING. The week days have been rather rainy; I think I heard them say on the news that it has been one of the wettest July’s in history…blah! As long as my weekends can be spent outside soaking up the sun and working on my tan I am a happy chica. If you throw in a pool I’ll be extra happy!

I am writing this blog post as I watch the marathon of the Hunger Games because I can’t tear myself away. I could literally watch these over and over. Clearly, I am still a 13 yr. old girl on the inside (er, outside?). I recently took a personality test for work and it told me that I have the same personality type as Peeta. As I thought about it, I realized that this is probably fairly accurate and explains why I had no interest in the Katniss and Gale love story. It must be that whole bleeding heart, caring about anyone and everyone thing that we have in common. I will take it! Side note: how do you feel about personality tests? I happen to think they are pretty accurate but I don’t know if others agree. It can be a tough pill to swallow when you read a summary of all your shining attributes and perhaps, some of your less awesome attributes. I guess, you are who are. I know I am who I am.

Anyway, if you have been a long time follower of HPB then you might have seen this recipe before. Back in the day when we lived in DC. I wanted to bring it back and boost the photo quality since it is a great recipe and the pictures I had before did not do it justice (don’t bother looking, I already trashed it). I look back at a lot of my older posts and think about giving them an upgrade. As a blogger I do wonder about the value of taking time to go through the posts every now and then to see which ones could benefit from an update. I feel like it is my job to give you newer content and new recipes but it might not be worth it to take a look at some of my older content. To my fellow bloggers, what say you?  Do you update your content and if so, how frequently do you do this? Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

As another note on this recipe I will say that you certainly don’t need to make your own chips but why wouldn’t you? I have learned that it is always more fun to make your own chips or tortillas. The other benefit of course is adding your own toppings like I do here (cinnamon & sugar). I learned how to make this recipe with the homemade chips but I wont fault those who’d like to save the time and purchase their own chips. If it helps, it is actually very easy and fun to do!

I like to bring this dish to summer brunches or picnics because it is a bit different from the other dishes you will see on the picnic table. It is also a sure way to impress your friends and family when you display it in a pineapple. It could be considered a dessert or appetizer depending on your mood. It has always been a crowd pleaser and I don’t think anyone will complain no matter when you decide to put it on the table. I hope you enjoy it!

Tropical Fruit Salsa

Category: Appetizer

Yield: 12

Tropical Fruit Salsa


  • 1 Pineapple Diced
  • 1 Mango Peeled and Diced
  • 1 Navel Orange (Supremed and Diced)
  • 1 Red Onion Diced
  • 1 Jalapeno Minced
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro Minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Honey
  • Juice of One Lime
  • 1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
    Tortilla Chips
  • 10 Flour Tortillas Cut into Triangles
  • 2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 Tsp. Sugar
  • Oil for Frying


  • Combine all fruit in a bowl with the honey, lime juice and salt.
  • Add to the fruit the peppers and cilantro, toss together gently and refrigerate for at least an hour. While the salsa is chilling make your tortilla chips.
  • Instructions for Tortilla Chips
  • Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
  • Fry the tortillas in oil, turning them once.
  • Once they have turned a golden brown you can remove them from the oil and place on a plate with a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle the chips with the cinnamon and sugar mixture before they cool.
  • Serve the chips with your tropical salsa topped off with cilantro.
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    Lavender Shortbread and Mulberry Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

    Happy day after the 4th of July!

    For those of you who live in the U.S.A. I hope you had a great holiday. I am a huge fan of birthdays and the 4th of July is like a birthday that everyone celebrates (well, every American that is). My 4th was filled with food, family, friends and of course, Independence Day the movie. I am actually cheating a little because I am watching the sequel instead of the original. I don’t hate it. I love alien movies so, this movie could have the worst acting and I would still sit down and watch it. The other night I refused to turn off Men in Black II even though we own it and I have seen it a million times. I am just a sucker for those aliens I guess.

    Anyway, this post is not about aliens or the 4th of July except that this would have been a great recipe to make for the fourth but I am horrible at planning ahead, sorry! I bring you this recipe because one, it is delicious, and two, it represents something that means a lot to me.

    I live in Pittsburgh, uh duh, and I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where I have access to fresh food and in fact, I have several choices for grocery stores and markets well within a reasonable distance of where I live. That is not the case for many people in my city or around the world. There are some amazing organizations out there that are making it their mission to solve hunger issues and access to fresh food that are far too prevalent in our society. One of those organizations is called 412 Food Rescue. The amazing folks at 412 deal primarily with the issue of food waste; by collecting perfectly edible food that would normally go to waste and delivering to communities in need; they are addressing two major issues at once. They are total rockstars!

    The reason I have gotten involved with 412 is because of their Hidden Harvest program. Through HH we rescue or glean fruit from trees around the city and the edible fruit goes to neighborhoods in need, the inedible fruit gets turned into value-added products that help further the mission of 412 (learn more here). Last year, we organized a team through work and harvested apples and crab apples from around the city. It was such a blast that the minute we wrapped up and weighed our apples we knew we had to do it again. So we signed on to do a whole season of harvesting this year and our inaugural outing was harvesting mulberries.

    I grew up eating mulberries from the trees in my neighborhood, didn’t you? I already knew how delicious they are and to think that they are just growing everywhere meant there would be no shortage of berries ripe for the picking (ha!). After a few hours and a few dedicated volunteers we picked over 50 pounds of mulberries. Sweet!  The best part of picking the fruit is meeting people on the street who were curious about what we were doing picking fruit in the middle of the day wearing matching shirts and looking nothing like your typical fruit harvesters (if there is such a thing). Every person that stopped by learned something about 412, their mission, and a very hands on way that they could get involved. I love how easy it is to get people excited just by showing them how excited you are. This is definitely the best way I have every helped promote the mission of an organization by doing something that I also happen to think is extremely fun. 412 had arranged for our mulberries to go to a local ice cream maker called Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream where they were turned in to a lemon ice cream with a mulberry swirl. I love Millie’s and love how close they are to me so I can visit as frequently as I like. As an added bonus, a portion of the proceeds from the ice cream sale went back to 412.

    So, I am not going to lie, I was basically the most excited that the mulberries I picked with my own two hands were going to be made in to an ice cream by one of my favorite ice cream spots. Um, dream come true!

    Holding some mulberries I picked during Hidden Harvest

    When I got my hands on “my ice cream” I knew I had to do something special with it. I devised these ice cream sandwiches as a result. I love lavender and had a suspicion it would go well with our lemon mulberry ice cream. I was right!

    At first I was a bit nervous about making a shortbread cookie since I had always gotten the feeling that they were somewhat difficult as cookies go. I am not really sure where I got that idea from but these turned out to be super easy and I am kind of kicking myself for not making these sooner. I should do my best to not assume that everything related to baking is hard. My friends and family need to encourage me to bake more so I can get over my unfounded anxiety.

    These sandwiches turned out great and were a special way to enjoy the fruit of our labor…see what I did there?! If you want to make these with your own ice cream I would suggest some sort of blueberry or lemon ice cream, or both?

    Lavender Shortbread and Mulberry Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

    Category: Dessert

    Yield: 6 Sandwiches

    Lavender Shortbread and Mulberry Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches


    • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
    • 1/2 Cup Cornstarch
    • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
    • 1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter at room temp
    • 1/2 Cup Superfine Sugar
    • 2 Tbsp. Dried Lavender finely chopped
    • 1 Pint Mulberry Ice Cream or Other


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a medium bowl sift together flour, cornstarch, and salt.
  • Mix butter and sugar using a mixing bowl on medium speed for 4 minutes or until mixture is creamy and smooth.
  • Add in lavender and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add flour in batches, mixing after each addition.
  • Once all flour has been added, mix dough on low until the dough begins to form large clumps and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  • Spoon dough out on to a cutting board covered in flour and shape in to a disc.
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Once chilled, lightly dust flour on a cutting board and gently roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.
  • Using a biscuit cutter or other round cutter, cut out discs from the dough and gently place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake cookies for 20-25 minutes or until they start to brown on the edges.
  • Remove cookies and cool on pan for 5 minutes before handling.
  • To assemble sandwiches:
  • Take two cookies and turn upside down.
  • Place one scoopful of ice cream on one cookie.
  • Gently top place the other cookie on top and apply light pressure to even out the ice cream.
  • Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap or foil and freeze until ready to eat.
  • Notes

    Cookie recipe adapted from Cookies, Brownies & Bars cookbook by Elinor Klivans.

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    Babe Cave Reveal

    All that obsessive HGTV watching and Pinterest pinning has finally paid off! Check out my Babe Cave.

    The hubs and I bought our lovely house back in the fall of 2015. I call it my little yellow brick house. Yup, that’s right, because it is a yellow brick house… Anyhow, we bought the house for a number of reasons, as one does, but a big part of the appeal was that it had plenty of room to grow and we knew we could hang out a while before it started feeling cramped. The family who lived in the house before us had two kids and they let their kids pick the paint colors for their respective rooms. This meant that we inherited a neon green bedroom and a blue bedroom. Honestly, the blue room was totally tolerable but that neon green was the first to go! I turned the green room in to our guest room and chose a spa kind of vibe for the paint color. It’s pretty cozy and so far no complaints from guests but we did have one friend who was sad that we painted over the neon green.

    The blue room sat around a while with no real plans. We just kind of threw things in it and I quickly claimed the walk in closet for my dresses and such. It will make a great nursery one day but since we haven’t crossed that bridge yet, I realized what we needed was a work/chill space just for me (haha!). Listen, guys go on and on about man caves so this isn’t that crazy right?  Also, since I like to keep myself busy doing blog posts, planning dinner parties, supporting female entrepreneurs, oh and working a 9-5 job, clearly I NEED my own space even if it is just to take a breather in between all that!

    So check it out. I listed some of the more unique finds and where you can get your own (or similar).

    Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and there are no affiliates link except where indicated. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Stores are listed only to provide reference. I am not receiving any compensation from any of the retailers listed below. 

    P.S. I would like to thank Pinterest for making this possible haha.

    Desk – Ikea; Lamp – HomeGoods; Side Table – At Home; Chair – HomeGoods; Craft Cart – Michael’s

    I wanted the room to be feminine and clean and for some reason immediately fell in love with the idea of rose gold, white, and grey. I painted the lovely blue walls with a paint called Butter Icing by Olympic Paints. There was a part of me that wanted to paint the walls white but I realized that wasn’t really my style also I am fairly certain I would cringe at every smudge or speck of dirt on the wall. This color is soft and neutral enough but still has a cozy pink tone which I think makes the room warm and adorable. It works perfectly with some of the other colors in the house and the spa vibe that I took in the guest room.

    Note: I am the worst at picking paint colors. I probably try at least a dozen before just walking in to the store and picking a color right on the spot and calling it a day. I am a make a decision and commit kind of girl.

    Fur Chair – At Home; Pillow – At Home; Curtains – At Home; Frame (spray painted rose gold) – At Home; Bunny – WhiteFauxTaxidermy (Etsy)

    Can we talk about this corner for a second? OMG I love everything about it! I saw this chair in the store and just knew I had to have it. I searched the entire store trying to find the right pillow to go with it and this sparkly gem jumped out at me right when I was about to give up. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better combo. The bunny is also a favorite find. I spent about an hour on WhiteFauxTaxidermy’s page on Etsy debating which animal would make the perfect addition to my room. I landed on the Lola bunny because she’s the cutest, duh! There is a chance I’ll buy everyone in my life one of these because don’t we all need fake animal heads on our walls?

    White Frames – Ikea; Prints – Etsy; Map of Pittsburgh – Modern Map Art

    I kind of knew going in what I was going to put on the walls (aside from Lola). A friend gifted me a set of love letter napkins for Christmas and I knew I could never eat with them because they are too sweet. I decided framing them would be the best thing to do. I was an English major in college so these really speak to the romantic literary nerd in me. Aren’t they the best!

    The map of Pittsburgh streets is also a new fave. I received this print from the folks at Modern Map Art and I actually fell in love with some of their other prints of cities that are near and dear to my heart, like Chicago! It’s modern and simple and a perfect addition the space. Note: The link listed for Modern Map Art is an affiliate link and I will receive a small percentage of any sales.

    Frame – Ikea; Print – Etsy; Leaf Platter – HomeGoods; Clutch – Moop

    I wanted to throw in a side table just to fill out the room a bit and avoid having clutter on my desk. It might be wishful thinking since my hectic life usually results in a little bit of clutter. The leaf platter was another find that seemed to be a moment of destiny. I was approaching the check out at HomeGoods and there it was, sitting in the impulse buy section and I was like, oh you were meant for me! The clutch was a gift but it’s rose gold so of course it had to go in the room. Moop is a store making bags and other fun finds in Pittsburgh and I totally love them. Check out their online store here.

    Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs

    Oh, hi there!

    I hope everyone had a nice weekend. We experienced some lovely weather in Pittsburgh which is always an instant mood lifter. Everything is in bloom and we are starting to see green. I think we can say that spring has finally arrived (does cartwheels and cheers loudly). My number one priority is to spend as much time outside soaking up those Vitamin D filled sun rays.

    What books are you reading? I have been trying to read more but I am the worst at finding new books to read. I don’t typically subscribe to whatever the latest suggestion is on the Oprah book club list. In my mind, I am convinced that there is no way I’ll like whatever she likes. I don’t even know why I think that since I have read books from the list and enjoyed them. Maybe I need to stop being so stubborn…someday. So, anyhow, I just finished reading Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. When I first started reading it I liked it a lot but then the more I read the less interested I was. The story was ok, a little hard to relate to the characters and the dialogue was a bit unrealistic in my opinion. There is a lot of high level adult kind of talking between the main character and her 7-year-old son. I am not sure what 7-year-old talks that way but maybe that’s the power of fiction. well, I think I just wanted it to be a little bit more exciting and it wasn’t.

    I just started reading The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. So far it is interesting but I am only a chapter or two in. I’ll report back once I finish to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, send me your recommendations! I need funny or exciting stories. I also watched Big Little Lies on HBO which is based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, I have a feeling I would like her other books or something similar. So yeah, leave me your suggestions in the comments. I really want to know what you have been reading lately.

    Switching topics, which I like to do a lot and even say it out loud when I am doing it during a real conversation. I think people love talking to me, haha. But seriously, you know how some people talk about dreaming about something and then being struck with some genius idea? I am finding that this is happening a lot more as I have gotten older. I wake up with lots of ideas of things I dreamt about or things that pop in to my head just as I am waking up. There is probably some scientific reason for that right? I bet someone can tell me why I have all these moments of brilliance early in the morning. On the flip side of things, if something is stressing me out or I have to deal with a difficult situation I wake up playing out the whole thing in my head thinking that this is how I’ll handle it but then when I get to point where I need to handle it, I forget everything that I had rehearsed in my head. Strange.

    You were probably wondering where this was going? Well, turns out I had one of those moments of genius that lead to the creation of this dish. I woke up one day and was like, “I am going to make a baked rigatoni pasta with meatballs and it will be delicious”. I bet this is what happens to all those famous chefs. Moments of genius. I am guessing that what really happened is I saw something on a menu or Pinterest and it inspired me and then my subconscious reminded me about it in some weird half dream/half awake state. The good news is I knew exactly how I wanted it to be and so I just had to execute it.

    I wanted to bake this in a cast iron skillet (another aspect my subconscious determined for me). I used to be very timid about using my cast iron skillet because then I would have to clean it and of course I could probably do that wrong and the whole thing would rust and then no more cast iron skillet for me. Turns out you can avoid all that if you just read up on how to clean a cast iron skillet…easy right? I know! So, hop to it on the cast iron cooking cause it’s fun and stuff.

    Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs

    Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs


    • 2 14.05 oz Cans of tomato Sauce
    • 3 Garlic Cloves Crushed
    • 1 Tsp. Sugar
    • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
    • 1 Tsp. Fresh Oregano minced
    • 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil (separated)
    • I pkg. Ground Chicken
    • 1 Tsp. Paprika
    • 2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
    • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 Tsp. Basil
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 1 Pkg. Rigatoni Noodles
    • 1 Cup Shredded Parmesan or other Italian Cheese
    • Fresh Mozzarella Sliced


  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Start by making your sauce:
  • Combine tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and a tbsp. of olive oil in a pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Allow sauce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste and continue simmering until ready for use.
  • While the sauce is cooking, place the ground chicken in a bowl with the paprika, garlic powder, bread crumbs, egg, basil, and salt and pepper.
  • Combine all ingredients together.
  • Using your hands roll the chicken into small meatballs (tip: wetting your hands will help with rolling the chicken).
  • Prepare your rigatoni by brining a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Add your noodles and cook according to the instructions on the box.
  • Drain and set aside until for use.
  • As your noodles cook, heat your cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  • Add a 2 tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat.
  • Cook your meatballs in the skillet, turning to brown on all sides.
  • Once meatballs are cooked through place on a plate and set aside until ready for assembling.
  • Clean out your skillet and ladle a little of the sauce on the bottom.
  • Spoon a few noodles on top of the sauce followed by a few meatballs, a handful of shredded cheese and another layer of sauce.
  • Repeat layering (like you are making a lasagna) until you reach the end of the sauce.
  • Place slices of fresh mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until mozzarella is melted and starts to brown.
  • If the mozzarella is not as brown and bubbly as you'd like place it under the broiler for a few seconds.
  • Finish with a dash of basil and extra cheese, enjoy!
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