friday foto: enjoying the view.

I just love this photo. I love that I can hear the laughter coming from whatever conversation Eddie, my dad and Mari are having, just by looking at Eddie's smile.
This photo was taken on Father's Day, which was just about one of the most beautiful days of the summer. We spent the day enjoying the beach, and in the afternoon, made our favorite walk to the tiny aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier. Mari just loves the fishies, and every visit always seems to feel like her first.

By the way, the Roundhouse Aquarium is a great, free space of oceanic exploration for the toddlets, if you're in the area. They do take donations, so having cash on-hand is always nice.

For more Friday Fotos, start here.


brunching @ simmzy's.

We finally made it for brunch at Simmzy's. I have no idea what took us so long, but we made a whole morning out of it on Father's Day, following an early morning on the soccer field, for dad, and a few million times down the slide, for Mari.

It's a good, small menu that offers a little bit of everything, for every taste. As almost impossible as it was to pass up the chili verde burrito, the three of us shared the pub scramble and the jam 'n' eggs panino.
I'm still drooling over the panino, by the way. There's something wonderful about sandwiching together jam, eggs, bacon and cheese. All good.

Best part of the meal is watching Mari make friends with the friendly Simmzy's staff. She's got a few of them wrapped around her tiny little fingers, which is about right, given that she's been there at least once a week, every day of her life since she was about two weeks old. It's our little happy place.

For more on our favorite Manhattan Beach spot, read about owner Mike Simms here.


friday foto: the guys.

Mari is a big fan of her guys. She mostly loves her Teddy - affectionately referred to as her "main man" - and her favorite Jelly. But, on some very special mornings, all the guys get to hop in and this is what her crib looks like.
I spy at least three Hello Kittys. Which is probably about 1/3 of her Kitty collection. It's her mom that has the addiction. I'm hoping to pass it on. Clearly.

Happy weekend, all!

For more Friday Fotos, see last week's post


coffee cake, revisited.

With each time I make this recipe, I find that I love it more and more. This time, however, I made coffee cake muffins and while there is something amazing about a thick, deep cake, I love the grab-and-go of muffins, a quality that also makes them sweetly shareable.
I have been jones'ing for this cake for a while now, and with a get together with my gal pals and their kids over the weekend, I had a great excuse to make a batch. This really is an easy recipe, but taking the cake to muffins was a bit of an experiment, so I'll share with you a few notes if you're interested in trying it. 
As per normal, follow The Barefoot Contessa's fabulous recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake. If you want to start by making a cake, take a look at my original post

For cupcakes:
+ the recipe will yield about 18-24 muffins, depending on how hefty you fill the muffin cups.
+ to attempt to keep them the same size and therefore provide a more even bake, I used a small ice cream scoop and dumped two scoops of cake batter on the bottom, then layered in the crumble, then one more scoop of batter, topped with a sprinkle of crumble. I did it like an assembly line so I could keep my head straight. 
+ the batter is really sticky, and I find that the less you smooth out the batter, the better results you get with the marble effect. 
+ baking time will certainly vary; I baked for 25 minutes and didn't make a point to check them before the clock ran out. But, if I had, I might have taken them out a few minutes earlier. I'd recommend checking after 20 minutes.
+ the icing is nearly as good as the crumble, and it's so worth it. Let the muffins cool completely before drizzling, and if your icing is too thick, a few dribbles of water will help you get it to the perfect consistency.

And this is what it looks like after your assistant - I mean toddler daughter - helps style the shot (she was in charge of the napkins, and took it very seriously) and then sneaks a bite when I'm not looking. This was bite two of three.
She cracks me up. And she also loved the muffins. 


friday foto: just a walk in the park.

Just about a month away from her second birthday, Mari is still surprising us everyday. When we visited our dear friends over Memorial Day weekend, she tackled the slide, uphill, all on our own before it even registered with the rest of us.
This was after she watched her friends Alee and Max do it dozens of times, sometimes with Ruby the dog and sometimes with baby dolls. Let me say that this is no baby slide, by the way. This is an apparatus, that's big and tall and super fun, and Mari's still talking about two weeks later.

And I know it may not seem major to lots of you, but it's surreal to be able to sit back and realize that she can do all these things on her own. I don't need to hover like I used to.

She's got this.

For more Friday Fotos, click here.



The month of May was much harder on me than April, and I think that's generally how the first trimester stacks up for most women. It's mild at first, and then once the nausea and exhaustion kick in, it really knocks everything out of you.

Everyone's journey is so different. So many of my sweet friends have suffered so severely from morning sickness, and because pregnancy truly is a miracle, I just hate complaining about it. But, the truth is, it has beaten me down this time and it's got me thinking that two might just be our magical number. Maybe that will change.

I'm happy to report that the days are getting easier. I can feel it. Two-hour long naps on Sundays also help - for both Mari and me - and I'm getting back to cooking, and it feels good. Just like this space always does when I need it most.

Looking back at the month, while it felt hard, long and at times unbearable, I'm reminded that life's little pleasures are treasures. That and I'm also really happy that June is here.
1. mari's first try at the teeter-totter, 2. such comfort food, before I decided chicken wasn't pregnancy appealing: peas, carrots and chicken risotto (this is my home base recipe that I've simplified over the years), 3. sick child, sick mama = chocolate chip cookies to the rescue, 4. we kicked off Eddie's birthday weekend/Memorial Day weekend with a date night in Newport Beach (ever thankful for grandparents!), 5. birthday weekend brunch at Le Pain, 6. birthday flowers to brighten the house, 7. a very important birthday-related discussion at Mari's favorite meeting spot, 8. finally: the birth day celebration where we celebrate almost all special occasions, 9. a surprise treat from a really decadent bakery.

You can follow our little adventures @alisonsalcedo.


gooey goodness.

Well, a whole week went by before I got around to writing about these amazing brownies that are not really new to my blog, but they really do deserve their own post. Even with some mild nausea that with each day feels like it's trailing off into the first trimester sunset (hooray!), I do feel like baking because this kid is craving sweets. And, I will do whatever it takes to satisfy the craving. Including eating two cheeseburgers in one day.
Eddie: I hope you didn't read that.

I haven't made these in over a year, but they're even better than I remember. We enjoyed them over Memorial Day weekend, celebrating a dual birthday, for Eddie and a dear friend of ours. Her kids entertained Mari for hours while we caught up on all good grown-up things. We served the brownies with fresh, organic strawberries, which is a nice tart pairing for the gooey richness of the chocolate and caramel.
The full recipe is over at Annie's Eats, which I follow nearly exactly. Per Eddie's request, we omit the nuts and use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. I though they would be too sweet, but they're kind of perfect, according to our taste buds.
Here are some quick serving and packaging notes:
+ The hardest thing about this recipe is removing the brownies from the foil and cutting them. Darn that sticky caramel! The foil step is a must, and I'd recommend leaving a good amount of excess foil fold-over on the pan to help serve as levers to pull the whole thing out.
+ If you are enjoying same day: absolutely let cool (see Annie's tip about the freezer) and then cut and serve (or package). If not, I'd recommend leaving in the pan until you are ready to cut and serve.
+ Once cut, the longer they sit, the more the caramel oozes, so I'd recommend wrapping and gifting as soon as possible after you cut them in squares. You could also refrigerate them (wrapped) to keep them from getting too melty. See this post on my favorite way to package these brownies.