About Falon Ballard

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A Tour of Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

Hello friends! As you have probably gathered by now, we spent a few days in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, and it was our first non-Disneyland vacation with Squirt in tow. Matt and I are frequent visitors to the Bay area and we have spent a lot of time in SF, which means it is actually rare for us to hang out at the popular tourist destinations. But due to the awesome location of our hotel and the fact that Squirt is a big fan of seeing all kinds of new things, we spent a fair amount of our trip hanging out at Fisherman’s Wharf. I would say the wharf is one of the most, if not the most, popular attractions for tourists in San Francisco, and there are lots of reasons why. If you are planning on visiting SF, especially with little ones, it is a great place to check out.




Most of the action at Fisherman’s Wharf takes place at Pier 39 (though there are lots of other shops and restaurants along the way, including the Boudin Bakery, which has the best bread ever…and can also be found at California Adventure). Pier 39 is what most people think of when they think of Fisherman’s Wharf and it is where we spent the majority of our time.

fishermans wharf

The famous San Francisco sea lions live at Pier 39, though this was the time of year when most of them have migrated off to mate. According to the signs posted, the sea lions are usually gone from June until August, but if you can catch them when they are at home, it is a pretty cool sight. Normally all of these platforms are covered with sea lions.

fishermans wharf

Pier 39, and really all along Fisherman’s Wharf, offers a great view of both Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy when we were there (which is standard) so I didn’t get a great shot of the bridge, but this is the view of Alcatraz from the end of the pier.

fishermans wharf

This beautiful carousel sits in the middle of Pier 39. Squirt had actually never been on a carousel before (I’m not a fan, stupid motion sickness) so he and Matt took a ride on a sea lion and had a blast. Tip: Each token for the carousel costs $5, or you can get three tokens for $10. We only needed two, but I got three anyway and kept one for a souvenir.

fishermans wharf

We spent a lot of time exploring the Aquarium of the Bay, which is located at the front of Pier 39 and we had so much fun it will be getting its own post. Squirt loved it so much we are going to take him to our local aquarium soon.

fishermans wharf

There are a couple of good restaurants located at Pier 39 and lots of fun little shops to wander around in. I would recommend eating off the pier at some of the smaller stands Fisherman’s Wharf has to offer. We love Fisherman’s Grotto, which has a few walk up stands where you can purchase some amazingly delicious and super fresh seafood for much cheaper than at a lot of the full service restaurants.

fishermans wharf

We had so much fun at Fisherman’s Wharf that we spent the morning there, walked back to our hotel for nap time, and then spent the afternoon at the wharf as well. Despite it being such a crowded tourist spot, we had a lot of fun and Squirt really love walking around and exploring. We will definitely visit Fisherman’s Wharf again and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to San Francisco, especially those with kiddies!

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My Top 5 Summer Wines for Under $8

Summer is the perfect time of year for getting together with friends and drinking a refreshing glass of wine…Let’s be real, I feel like any time of year is a great time for getting together with friends and drinking a glass of wine, but there’s something extra special about summer wines. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most of my friends (and until recently, me) are on summer vacation so silly things like work don’t get in the way of the drinking. Maybe it’s because I am a white wine girl at heart and the coolness and crispness of white wine is perfect for summer heat. Whatever the cause, I am all about the wine during the summer. And no matter what time of year, I am all about finding good wine that doesn’t break the bank. So I have compiled a list of my favorite summer white wines, all of which can be purchased for under $8. It doesn’t get much better than that! All of these wines were bought at Trader Joe’s, with the exception of the chardonnay, which came from Cost Plus. I hope I don’t make you too thirsty…




First is the Villa Sonia Pinot Grigio. I drank a lot of Pinot Grigio back in the day when I first started drinking wine because it is so easy to drink. I like this one for summer because it is sweet and crisp, definitely refreshing. I paired it with Brie, which was lovely, and I’m sure it would be a nice complement to any kind of cheese/charcuterie situation.

summer wines

The Vin de Borfeaux Sauvignon Blanc surprised me a little the first time I had it because I’m usually not a huge fan of Sauv Blanc. I like that this one is sweet, but not overly so, and it has just a hint of bubbles. It’s very smooth and would pair really well with chicken or fish.

summer wines

Not going to lie, I was originally drawn to this rose because of the awesome bottle, which I will totally be doing some crafting with at some point. But I was excited to find I actually really liked the wine inside the bottle. Bonus! This rose is smooth and fruity, light, but not too sweet. Definitely what I would call a summer wine.

summer wines

The Amour de Paris Peach champagne is so stinking good y’all (I’ve officially been watching too much Southern Charm). This peach bubbly perfection is screaming for brunch. It’s a little too easy to drink, if you know what I mean. It’s fruity, sweet, bubbly and delicious. We used this bad boy to make mimosas on my birthday and they were amazeballs.

summer wines

Chardonnay is my favorite kind of wine so I am a harsher critic for this varietal than for the others. Foodies Chardonnay is a really good wine for the price. It is on the sweeter side of chardonnay, and while I typically prefer a more buttery and oaky chard, this one is good for summer. Definitely not my favorite ever brand of chardonnay, but a decent bottle nonetheless.

summer wines

What’s your favorite kind of wine to drink during the summer? Any really good wine deals you know about? Let me know, Mamma’s gotta drink!

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Hotel Review: Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf

Hello lovelies! As you may have noticed if you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, get on that yo, link is in the sidebar!), we spent a couple of days in one of our favorite cities, San Francisco, a couple weeks ago. It was the first time we have traveled with Squirt as a family anywhere other than Disneyland, and it was definitely his longest car ride to date. In general, he did very well and we had an awesome time. I’m going to be sharing some of the highlights of our trip with you over the coming weeks, and I figured I would start with a review of our hotel, the Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf.




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My Birthday Wish List

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Time to celebrate everyone’s favorite holiday: my birthday. Okay, I’m not really that obnoxious. I know no one gives a shit about my birthday but me and maybe Matt (and that’s really only because he has to) but I love my birthday and if I want to celebrate it for a whole month, I will. I do what I want! I put together a little wish list so that anyone who wants to buy me a present (I’m looking at you, Husband) knows exactly what to buy me! And I totally will not be offended if you just buy this stuff for yourself, because it’s awesome and I don’t blame you. Should you want to send one of these to me, just email me for my address ;o)

I am obsessed with this collection of Harry Potter books. They are so beautiful and I love the colors. This set would make a really cool addition to my bookcase and I will get them at some point because they are so awesome.

I am, as you know, obsessed with pineapples right now. I know that the rest of the world is too, which is cool because it means they are everywhere. I am all about the pineapple accessories and I love this necklace!

Kate Spade is my spirit animal and I love everything in her collection. I am super into all of her office supplies because I love all office supplies, and pretty office supplies are the best. Also, I like need them for work and stuff.

Tickets to the 2017 D23 Expo. I had a blast at my first D23 Expo in 2015 and I definitely want to go back next year. I will obviously be attending no matter what because it’s going to be amazeballs.

d23

A new tattoo. It has been a few years since my last ink (since before Squirt was born) and I am jonesing big time. I think I will be waiting until after our last scheduled trip of the summer since new tatts need to avoid sunlight and pool/ocean water, but I definitely want one. Soon. It will either be a Harry Potter or Disney one, haven’t decided yet.

hp tattoo

I could go on and on and on about things that I want/need in my life, but I don’t want to be too big of an asshole so we’ll leave it at five. What do you want right now? Any other July birthdays out there? Happy birthday month!

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Restaurant Review: Poppy and Rose

A couple of months ago I coordinated a wedding at one of my favorite venues, Smog Shoppe. One of the things I love about Smog Shoppe is that they let you bring in any caterer you want to work with, which means every time I work there, I get to try something new. At this past wedding, a local food truck, Peaches, catered and the food was so freakin delicious I could hardly stand it. The catering manager let me know that they also have a storefront downtown near the flower market and that I should check it out if I were ever in the area. Well, I happened to recently be in the area, and decided to swing by and see it for myself. Poppy and Rose is literally right next door to the flower market, which makes it convenient if you are already shopping for flowers, but a pain in the ass if you are not (parking in the area sucks…shocker). But I have to say, I want Matt to try their pulled pork so badly that we will probably make a special trip there one day just for that. It’s that good.

In addition to serving ridiculously good food, Poppy and Rose is also adorable. I mean, how can you not love the striped awning?¬†Poppy and Rose is known for their pulled pork and their fried chicken (the wedding served both sandwiches; I had the chicken at the wedding and it was bomb). Since I had already tasted the fried chicken, I ordered the grilled cheese. It was yummy, but I wish I would have gotten the fried chicken sandwich instead since that is not something I’m going to order anywhere else (and I’m twelve so I eat grilled cheese all the time).

My friend Lisa opted for breakfast and got the ground beef patty with eggs and brick hash (the potato kind, not the marijuana kind). All of their breakfast items looked really yummy so my next trip might be a morning one.

My friend Kristen was the smartest of us all and got the pulled pork breakfast. She was nice enough to let us all sample the pork and it was amazeballs. Seriously, it like melted in my mouth. Matt loves pulled pork, so he is definitely going to have to come to Poppy and Rose to try some of this magic.

We all really enjoyed our meals at Poppy and Rose, and I was totally digging the vibe and ambiance. Farm fresh and rustic chic, with a bit of hipster edge thrown in for good measure.

Here’s a quick look at the Poppy and Rose menu…

If you are ever in the downtown area and are looking for a delicious bite to eat, I would totally check out Poppy and Rose! So cute inside and out, plus amazing food options. I’m basically going to be making excuses to go down to the flower market, just so I can eat here!

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Recipe: The Perfect Summer Michelada

Summer is officially in full swing and I have been loving this mild, but still sunny and warm weather we have been having here in So Cal. I don’t know about you, but for me, there is nothing better in the summer than a tasty cocktail (who I am I kidding, I feel this way about all seasons). One of my summer favorites is the michelada. The michelada is a traditional Mexican drink, and there are tons of variations as to how to craft one. Lots of recipes call for a bit of tomato juice, but I have never liked vegetables getting in the way of my alcohol, so the hubs and I (mostly him) came up with this perfect recipe. It is super tasty and very refreshing!




For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients (it seems like a lot, but most of them are probably already in your cupboards): tequila, beer, lime juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire or soy sauce, margarita salt, chili powder, lime, and jalapenos (optional).

michelada

The first step is to make the salt for the rim of your glass. Mix the margarita salt and some chili powder in a bowl that is flat enough for you to be able to dip the rim of your glass in it.

michelada

From there, mixing the drink is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. First, salt the rim of your cup, then add 1 oz of lime juice.
  2. Add one shot of tequila (you can always do more/less depending on how boozy you want it).
  3. Add 2-4 dashes of the Worcestershire or soy sauce.
  4. Add a dash of Tabasco to taste (I only like one, but Matt puts in a few).
  5. Mix those ingredients together, then add your beer.
  6. Add ice and garnish with a lime and/or jalapenos.

michelada

To me, the michelada is a perfect summer cocktail. It is a definite step up from a beer, and it has just a hint of spice and citrus to make it super summery. Have you made micheladas before? What goes into your recipe?

Cheers!


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Tips for LA’s Shakespeare in the Park

As a (former) theater teacher and long time Shakespeare lover, I always look forward to the Independent Shakespeare Company’s summer Shakespeare in the Park series. Last year the ISC produced one of my all-time favorite versions of Romeo and Juliet, which is saying a lot because it one of my favorites, and the one I have worked on the most. But they did such a brilliant job, I loved everything about it. So I was super pumped for this year to see what they had in store for us. But I was less than thrilled when I saw the two shows on the docket were two of my least favorite: Richard III and The Tempest. No real offense to The Tempest, it’s just not my fave, and I spent four months of our spring semester working with a group of junior high kids on a scene from The Tempest that needed to be both funny and age appropriate (which is like not a real thing since the real comedy comes from the characters who are wasted the entire show). But I digress (shocker). Anyway. Being so recently scarred by The Tempest, I decided to go see Richard III, and I dragged Matt along with me.




Some basics about ISC and some tips for having an awesome experience:

  1. The shows are staged at the Old LA Zoo in Griffith Park, which is one of the coolest outdoor locations for a show ever. When you get to the park, follow the signs that lead you to the site.
  2. Be aware that you have to walk through the dirt to get to the performance. Real shoes are recommended.
  3. It gets chilly when the sun goes down, so bring a sweatshirt.
  4. Also bring a picnic. Also bring wine (though this is not technically allowed, everyone does it).
  5. If you are going to bring chairs, bring low ones. Don’t be that guy with the huge chairs blocking everyone else’s view.
  6. Get there early. These productions are becoming more popular every year so it is getting harder and harder to get good seats. Plus, there are several nights in the series where there are pre-show performances and activities.
  7. Bring some cash. The show itself is free, but definitely bring some cash for donations and/or concessions. They do take cards, but cash is a little easier to work with.
  8. With any Shakespeare play, make sure you read a summary before you go. Even when I am going to see a play I know well, I still read a summary to refresh my memory and make sure I can understand what is actually happening during the production.

shakespeare in the park

Some quick background on Richard III: Richard III is a history play, which means it is based on real people and actual events from British history. Richard is the youngest of three brothers, his eldest brother Edward being the King of England. Richard decides to subtly usurp the throne (at least it is subtle in the beginning) by first killing his middle brother George. Then he blames Edward for killing George, which combined with Edward’s already frail health, kills him (Edward). Richard then becomes the regent for Edward’s young son and pretty much becomes the king for all intents and purposes. That’s not enough though. He begins to pick off the young king’s supporters one by one, including his mother’s brothers and plenty of dukes and lords. Finally, Richard has both of his brother’s sons locked in the Tower of London and kills them both. Richard then takes the crown and sets his sights on marrying his niece Elizabeth, having already disposed of his first wife. Elizabeth’s mother (also Elizabeth) instead conspires with Richmond, who gathers his forces and battles Richard for the crown (this is where the famous “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” line comes from). Richmond is victorious, becomes Henry VII and marries the young Elizabeth. That’s it in a nutshell.

shakespeare in the park

For my part, I really enjoy the story of Richard III because I love British history. I have read pretty much all of Phillipa Gregory’s novels (author of The Other Boleyn Girl) and she has done a whole series about the War of the Roses (of which Richard III is the culmination). So I like the story, which is probably more than most people can say. Three years ago I saw a production of Richard III on Broadway, starring Tony Award winner Mark Rylance and a company of actors from England, most of whom had worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company before. And I hated it. I fell asleep. I have never fallen asleep during a show before (I was pregnant, but I think I would have anyway). My main problem with the production was the choice to make Richard a comedian. Yes, there are lines in the play that can be delivered in a way that makes Richard seem funny, but he’s not funny. His entire life is devoted to getting the crown by any means necessary. I mean, he kills two young boys, his own nephews, and shows no remorse for his actions. This is not a nice guy, and certainly not someone who should be the comedic relief in a show.

shakespeare in the park

I was hoping for something super evil with the ISC’s production of Richard III, but I felt they took the same direction as the Broadway production (which I would think would be a compliment). So it must be me! I want to see an evil Richard, I want to hate his guts, not be indifferent to him. I get the direction–as Matt told me, this is not a play designed to appeal only to people like me, who know and understand Shakespeare. It is a production designed for the masses, and hence needs to have some popular appeal. Because of that, I do understand the choice. It’s just not my favorite choice. I will say that the women in the show were spectacular. And this play and this production are a great representation of a sometimes debated theory: Shakespeare wrote some kick ass parts for women. They were the highlight for me, especially Margaret (whose family is killed by Edward on his way to the throne) and Anne (Richard’s wife who he ends up having killed, oh and he also killed her first husband).

Bottom line: I will continue to see and support ISC shows because I truly believe in their mission of bringing free Shakespeare to the public of LA. Even though Richard III was not my favorite production, I will continue to look forward to their future productions. I would 100% recommend seeing any ISC production if you are in the LA area and at all a Shakespeare fan.


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