Valentine’s Day Date Tips for Couples & Families

Valentine’s Day is coming up! Stumped on what to do? I’ve got some great ideas on how to spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart.

Since I’m a writer for San Diego Family Magazine, I had the opportunity today to share some Valentine’s Day date tips for couples and families with Renee Nelson at ABC 10News during a FacebookLive. We talked about specific places to go in San Diego; things to do on a budget and to splurge; ways to keep love sizzling, and more.

Get more Valentine’s Day ideas in the February issue of San Diego Family Magazine, which is available for free at Albertsons, Ralphs, Party City and local libraries, as well as online.

Here are some behind the scenes photos from the shoot.

With Renee Nelson, 10News reporter
L-R Michelle Hancock, Marketing Director for San Diego Family Magazine; San Diego Family Magazine writer Kristen Castillo, and 10News reporter Renee Nelson.
February issue of San Diego Family Magazine
February issue of San Diego Family Magazine
With 10News reporter Renee Nelson

Cheers to Thanksgiving!

Setting the table for Thanksgiving is always so much fun. On the table this holiday: these two sparkling wines from Alsatian winery, Dopff & Irion.

They’re made from different grapes, like Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois, in a traditional champagne method. These well-balanced sparkling wines have fine and lasting bubbles.


The Brut Blanc de Blancs NV, is ideal for dinner and even dessert. It’s light and bubbly with green apple or lemon aromas. The Brut Rosé NV, suited for cocktails, has a red berry fruit taste.

Thanks to Dopff & Irion for sending me these wines to try! I’m looking forward to sharing them with my guests this holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

#MotivationMonday, Halloween edition

Check out my this #MondayMotivation message featured on my son’s #pumpkin. He wrote: “Be…fun, silly, wacky, creative, YOU!!”IMG_0935

We were decorating pumpkins last weekend – doing the usual thing of making eyes, mouth, nose, etc.


Then my son got inspired to write a personal note. I love his sentiment and it’s perfect for Halloween, when everyone wants to dress up to be “someone else.” So go ahead, this Halloween and every day, Be Yourself! 

That Island Feeling! Mix.Mingle.Schmooze Hawaiian-Style

There’s something so appealing about Hawaii. The tropical smells and sound of the ocean are so inviting.

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I recently got a feel for the Hawaiian Islands when I attended a Hawaiian-themed party for San Diego Style Weddings – the wedding magazine for which I’m the editor.


The magazine’s “Mix.Mingle.Schmooze” event, which was held at Bali Hai Restaurant, featured all sorts of Aloha vibes, from the food to the music to the décor.

The flowers were so colorful and tropical. Each woman received a flower to wear behind her ear. Single women wear the flower behind their right ear, while married women (or those in a relationship) wear it behind the left ear. Haydee de la Cruz of Haydee’s Creative Flowers designed these blooms!

The photobus photo booth from Pacific Coast PhotoBus was fun. I loved the props, including a captain’s hat and fuzzy boa.

The menu included yummy pot stickers, coconut shrimp, jerk chicken lollypops and coconut rice.

Dessert was delicious too! We sampled Gelato Paradiso gelato and the Cravory cookies.

The Ohana cupcakes tasted as great as they looked! I love those personalized “SDSW” cake toppers.

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In addition to local wines, we sipped cocktails like Snake Oil Cocktail Company’s “Snake Oil Coco-Loco,” which featured coconut milk, applewood infusion, fresh ginger, pressed lemon and club soda.

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The “Passion of the Tiki” drink (seen here) was made with smashed passion fruit and pomegranate, almond, orange flower water, pressed citrus, island spice reduction and Angostura bitters.

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The “it” drink? Fresh coconut milk, served in a coconut, which was branded with the San Diego Style Weddings’ logo!


Here are a few photos of me with the San Diego Style Weddings’ team, including publisher Dena Nolen-Malasek.


With SDSW publisher, Dena Nolan-Malasek.
L-R Abby Barenholtz, social media; myself; Dena Nolen-Malasek, publisher; Suzi Battle, Account executive; Kateri Hansen, sales; Adam C. Walter, production.
Team pics
With Abby Barenholtz who handles social media for SDSW.


I recently attended the “Mix.Mingle.Schmooze” magazine release party for San Diego Style Weddings – the wedding magazine for which I’m the editor.

The latest issue of San Diego Style Weddings.

The party, held at Mission Brewery, featured great food, beer and wine, and of course wedding inspiration.


Another awesome party hosted by San Diego Style Weddings’ publisher Dena Nolen-Malasek.

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Posing with SDSW’s publisher, Dena-Nolen Malasek. Photo credit: Paul Barnett Photography.

Some of the highlights included:

  • The amazing paper flower backdrop created by Esmeralda Luxury Paper Flowers. What a colorful backdrop for photos!
  • I’m a sucker for photo booths and Captured Photos Booths didn’t disappoint!


  • Yummy milk and cookies from the Cravory. I especially liked the chocolate truffle and lemon bar cookies.
  • Comfy and stylish seating from Lounge Appeal
  • The “Idaho Nachos” (create your own potato ship nachos) from caterer Feast on This were great – a perfect late night snack at any wedding or event.
  • Cool caricature drawings from Caricatures by Dave.
Caricatures by Dave

With my husband – does the caricature match us?   Photo credit: Eisenhower Photography

  • Tasty mini donuts and deep fried Oreos from Sensational Treats.
  • Pretty floral arrangements from local florists like Studio Flourish and Haydee’s Creative Flowers.


Fun fact: Mission Brewery is located inside a former Wonder Bread factory in downtown San Diego. The building has lots of open space, exposed brick and great city views.


Check out the latest issue of San Diego Style Weddings online and in local stores.


Photos are my own, unless noted.

2016 Food Trend Report

Love sriracha, artisan pickles and ancient grains? You’re in luck! These are some of the top 20 food trends for 2016.


From healthy kids’ meals to local produce to ethnic condiments, menu trends for 2016 are intriguing. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) recently released its annual list of what’s hot at restaurants.

“Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA. “No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry.”

The NRA surveyed almost 1,600 chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The chefs reported their picks for the top foods, beverages and culinary themes trends for the New Year.

My Healthy Dining article explains what’s hot and what’s not this year in cuisine.

Celebrating San Diego Restaurant Week

Lettuce CenterpieceTom Ham's Lighthouse

Restaurant Week is always exciting. It’s a great chance to try new restaurants, sample new foods and get outside the usual food routines we all have. While there’s nothing wrong with visiting a favorite dinner spot or a having a certain place to grab dessert, it’s interesting to check out new restaurants and nibble a few new dishes.


I recently attended San Diego Restaurant Week’s launch party, previewing the week-long event celebrating local food and drink in San Diego.

The party, held at Go Green Agriculture in Encinitas, featured 20 restaurants and 19 beverage providers, including:


Blind Burro

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine

Cafe Coyote

Casa de Bandini

Cowboy Star

Croce’s Park West

D Bar San Diego

Double Standard

Park Hyatt Aviara

Parq Restaurant

Peohe’s Coronado

Sbicca Del Mar

S & M Sausage & Meat

Solare Ristorante

Stake Chophouse & Bar

Terra American Bistro

The Patio Restaurant Group

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse


Waypoint Public


2 Plank Vineyards

619 Vodka

Bernardo Winery

BK Cellars

Bolt Brewing Co.

Briar Rose Winery

Fallbrook Winery

Helm’s Brewing Co.

Hillcrest Brewing Co.

Kill Devil Spirits Co.

Koi Zen Cellars

Old Harbor Distilling

Palumbo Family Vineyards

Stehleon Vineyards

The California Spirits Co.

The California Fruit Wine Co.

URBN Brewing Co.

Vinavanti Urban Winery

Witch Creek Winery

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My husband joined me to sample lots of tasty foods and drinks. Some of our faves? The sausage from Sausage & Meat; the pork dish garnished with watermelon from Parq Restaurant; and the s’mores dessert from Park Hyatt Aviara.

Despite the hot weather, the launch was great! From chilled gazpacho to sips of wine, it was easy to cool down and savor the flavors.

San Diego Restaurant Week runs through September 27. Reservations are recommended.



Lunch is served with a two-course prix-fixe menu for $10, $15 or $20 per person. Dinner is a three-course, prix-fixe menu for $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person.


Bon appétit to a variety of local restaurants and delicious dishes!