Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain presented their chefs with the opportunity to showcase their technical skills and creativity through the Masters of the Craft, a Marriott-based volunteer competition.

Executive Pastry Chef Daniel Mangione and newly-appointed Executive Chef Emily Dillport invited me to participate as one of three judges for the event! As you can imagine, I was excited to see the culinary team in action. I had the privilege to judge alongside Janos Wilder, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails restaurateur and James Beard Award recipient, and Ken Harvey, Executive Chef of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

The Competition
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Seven chefs competed for their chance to advance to the regional level. Each brought forward their passion and specialties to craft and plate a dish in 30 minutes. Additionally, competitors were required to integrate the secret ingredient of buffalo tenderloin into their creations. The Chefs were judged and scored in the following sections: presentation, creativity, taste and showmanship.

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
After the timer started, the chefs setup their cooking stations and received five minutes to pick out their ingredients from the pantry! In five-minute waves, the chefs had 30 minutes to prepare and present the buffalo tenderloin in three tastings and a full-size portion.

Meet the Chefs
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft

Chef Jason Peller
Senior Chef de Partie of Banquets
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Jason was the first chef to present his dish and knew immediately what he wanted to make when he found out buffalo tenderloin was the secret ingredient.

Chef Devin Pinto
Executive Sous Chef
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Devin created a buffalo tartare served with a caper-whipped cream.

Chef Alejandro Mancillas
Senior Chef de Partie of Ignite
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Alejandro crafted a green mole to pair with his seared buffalo tenderloin.

Chef Diego Lopez
Lead Cook, Caytons
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Diego incorporated his Peruvian heritage into his plate. He also utilized jalapeƱos as an alternative for chili paste.

Chef Quinn Bullard
Chef de Partie of Turquesa
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Quinn used coconut milk and chili to create a chili-coconut sauce as the main flavors because he favors sweet and savory combinations. Additionally, his buffalo tenderloin was served with a hash.

Chef Paul Byungho Chung
Chef de Partie of Garde Manger
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Paul's buffalo tenderloin creation focused on his specialty: Asian cuisine. Fish sauce and soy sauce were of few of the flavors he used.

Chef Christian Dyson
Chef de Partie of Caytons
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Chef Christian improvised upon hearing the mystery ingredient. After cutting the meat into medallions, he lightly seared the meat.

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
Before the plating began, I walked around the cooking stations to observe their thought process. Passion was present in all seven judges! I could ask one chef a question in the middle of his cooking and he would respond back with an eloquent answer.

The Final Results
Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain: The Masters of the Craft
As a judging panel, we selected Chef Christian Dyson as the winner for the 2019 Masters of the Craft competition! The talent of the Dove Mountain team was apparent, I recognized and loved how each chef created something unique and in his own style. All plates were beautiful and well-balanced in flavor, but what impressed me most was their passion!

I appreciated the opportunity to judge such an engaging event with one of my favorite places in Tucson. Good luck to Chef Christian Dyson as he competes against Marriott chefs at regionals!


Thursday, May 30, 2019

First Time on the Road to Hana

Road to Hana

When you hear Maui, one of the first things that comes to mind is the picturesque Hana Highway featuring 620 turns and 59 bridges through the tropical rainforest. I can hardly believe Alex and I almost didn't do the drive– the Road to Hana far exceeded our expectations!

Alex and I both get car sick rather easily and for that reason we prefer to fly rather than drive. We were strongly considering the idea of just doing a helicopter tour (75 min total, with a 30 min stop) to Hana but I told him this adventure could be worthwhile on the road. I wanted to get out of the car and see the waterfalls, feel the green trees, and walk on the beaches and volcanic rocks.

With life, I enjoy the journey it brings but with traveling I have a much different mindset. When I travel, I tend to focus more on getting from Point A to Point B to ensure I can enjoy as much of my time in a given location as possible.

However, driving the Road to Hana is an entirely different experience. The Hana Highway is the most beautiful highway you will ever see as you drive through the dense, lush rainforest, and along the edges of the cliffs created long ago from Haleakaka. You experience and relive the historical stories of Maui as you embark on the Hana Highway. I recommend driving rather than flying even for those of you who might get a little carsick like me.

We decided last minute at 10:30am to do the Road to Hana on a Sunday, which landed on Mother's Day. Our late start didn't impact our experience because the road wasn't crowded due to the holiday and people who were most likely spending their time at brunch. The only thing we had going against us were the daylight hours. Our entire round trip was 6-7 hours from Ka'anapali to Hana, with only three stops: Ke'anae, a waterfall pull out and Waianapanapa State Park.

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Below are tips and things we plan to do differently for next time.

  • Pack Dramamine or any motion sickness medicine. 
  • Pack towels and a change of clothes in case you want to go swimming at the beach or in the waterfalls. 
  • Don't be discouraged to do the Road to Hana if it's forecasted to rain– spoiler alert: It's a rain forest and experiences rain every day. 
    • Driving in the rain was pretty cool, actually! It was such a heavy rainfall and driving through the rainforest gave me the feeling of Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs. 
  • Bring water and snacks. 
  • Bring cash for the food trucks and smoothie stands. 
  • Write down the top locations you would like to see and what mile markers they are at, you will not have phone service. 
  • Get the Shaka App or Road to Hana Maui Gypsy Guide App. 

What We Would Do Differently: 
  • Allow much more time to experience everything, but split into two days. 
  • Drive earlier on the way over, think 6 or 7am! 
  • Stay overnight in Hana to allow more time to experience this peaceful haven. 
  • Go skydiving in Hana! 
  • Hopefully try the banana bread! Almost every banana bread stand was closed due to Mother's Day.
While we would like to do the helicopter tour at least once, we know driving the Road to Hana is worth experiencing every time.


Monday, May 20, 2019

How I Cope With Mental Health

How I Cope With Mental Health

Last October I opened up about my mental health struggles. During that time I did not have an answer or an optimistic solution. I've always been the type of person who could quickly overcome any obstacle or dilemma, but I had reached a breaking point.

The severity of my depression and anxiety began around March 2018. I quickly dismissed the feelings because I had never been diagnosed with depression. I typically saw the "brighter side of things." But around March 2018, I started to feel helpless, as though I could not escape the darkness that was rapidly engulfing me.

I started to feel helpless, as 
though I could not escape the 
darkness that was rapidly engulfing me. 

The irony is a few months before I wrote about how more people need to be optimistic... and who would have thought that by the end of the year I lacked that trait entirely. I never realized how quickly depression and mental health could escalate until I experienced it myself.

It was a journey to regain my confidence and be happy with myself. When I started walking down the path towards finding my happiness, I soon realized I wouldn't get immediate results. After three months of diligently working on myself, I finally started to rediscover my own self worth.

After three months of diligently 
working on myself, I finally started 
to rediscover my own self worth.

I strongly advise seeing a doctor to get professional help if you struggle with your mental health. It is something no one should go through alone or feel they need to live with. Below are the five ways that enabled me to cope with my mental health and the clinical depression I was officially diagnosed with in January.

1. Pray
The first step I found necessary in resolving my clinical depression was to pray. I felt lost. I had no idea what to do or where to go after I quit my job. I prayed to God asking him to help guide me out of this depression and anxiety I was experiencing every single day. I wanted to reconnect with things that made me happy. The more I prayed, the more I found my thoughts focused on resolving my depression.

2. Get a Support Squad
I have a handful of women I confide in for both my successes and losses. It helps to share our goals, detours, visions and thoughts in our group chats (or in person whenever possible). We encourage each other to do our best and recognize when we need to rest. My husband, Alex, is my anchor and knows me the best. I should have listened to him when he recognized I was becoming increasingly unhappy with my life. Our loved ones are there to help us when we can't see our own error.

3. Purge Anything and Everything
This was the hardest part for me. To help recenter and find myself, I decided to purge almost everything that I was involved in from my life. I quit a job I had only been at for nine months, a job I was constantly working because I believed in the company and loved the ability to giveback to my own community on a daily basis. I had spent the last few years investing so much time into nonprofit organizations and boards, and I didn't want to leave what I had worked so hard to obtain. I felt like a failure. But if I hadn't made the difficult decision to purge everything, then I wouldn't have been able to focus on myself.
4. Do What You Love
Once I purged, I found myself testing out different things. I started small and began by organizing my apartment or going grocery shopping. It wasn't the most exciting tasks but it brought me happiness because I finally had time for those sorts of things where Alex wasn't the only one doing them. I made more time for my friends and family. I increased my commitment to Happily Pink and placed that as the highest priority. It ultimately came down to me asking the question, "Is this going to contribute to my happiness in the long-run?" Last year I rarely had time for myself or to do what I love, and I'm elated everything has turned around.

5. Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
Self-love coincides with eating healthy and working out. Do I always eat healthy? Absolutely not! If you follow me on Instagram then you'll notice the desserts. Life to me is about eating healthy most of the time and then indulging in between. Last year I did not get to regularly work out and my sleep schedule was constantly off. This resulted in other health issues that contributed to me realized I need to change.

It is a huge relief to know I am much different than the woman I was a year ago. Remember change is possible but takes time. The longer something has built up, the longer it could take to recover. I consider myself fortunate that most of the darkness is now out of my life.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How to Empower Women

How to Empower Women

Women can accomplish incredible things when they support each other. We live in a world where you have the freedom to spread hate or love. Why wouldn’t you choose to encourage others rather than shut them down? Here are three ways you can empower women:

1. Celebrate Her Success!
How to Empower Women

Support a woman's goals, dreams, ambitions, anything! I'm always excited for the things my friends and families are accomplishing, but I'm also excited for strangers and influential women who are reaching new heights in their career and life. Whether it's a bright, up and coming woman or an established and well-recognized woman who is achieving something great, I find inspiration from her.

If she's a complete stranger, it can be something as simple as telling her you like her shoes, or how well-behaved her kids are. If you know her, acknowledge her success whether she received a new promotion, scored a pair of designer shoes for an awesome price, remodeled her bedroom, cooked something delicious, recently graduated from school, or anything else!

Bottom line:
If someone is happy, be happy for them.

2. Uplift, Don't Put Down.
How to Empower Women
I've been on the receiving end of both circumstances and I have to say that I much prefer to be uplifted than put down ha ha! I know I'm not the only one either! What do you gain from putting someone down? How did you succeed by making fun of someone passively or directly? You just negatively contributed to her depression, anxiety or anything else she may be dealing with. People have so much going on in their lives that they don't need these low-levels of pettiness.

If she's feeling discouraged, provide some ideas on how you can inspire her to get back onto her feet. Offer words of wisdom and advice, or just listen if all she needs is empathy. Remind her to not give up during the hardships she is facing.

 3. Create a Community and Build Ideas.
 How to Empower Women

Visibly seek out ways you can improve your community by connecting women with the right people. If you encounter someone who you feel would benefit from whatever services (social media, therapy, baking, home decor, skin care, etc.) it is she provides then share her business! I love being able to connect women with each other. Build ideas upon each other. I enjoy regularly meeting with students and help strategize their future plans. I want them to experience success and avoid facing the same failures I have encountered. I enjoy doing the same with my Instagram fam who will ask me questions about fitness, blogging, travel, food and fashion.

My closest friends and I are always strategizing ways to help each other be our best selves! If something didn't work out, we brainstorm the possible next steps to move forward. No matter what, we always believe in each other and make sure we achieve the dreams we set out to accomplish!

Just because Women's History Month ended in March doesn't mean we need to stop empowering women. Continuously seek out to enrich the lives of others and be a better person because there is nothing you have to lose from being kind.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Juniper Green Wedding

Juniper Green Wedding

A week ago my youngest sister, Leah, said "I do" to her high school sweetheart of nine years! It was a beautiful, rustic wedding on a ranch. Leah's colors were yellow and green.

For the bridesmaid dresses, she allowed everyone to pick out their own style of dress as long as it was the Juniper style color from David's Bridal. I decided on a timeless, faux-wrap dress made of chiffon. The dress is one I look forward to wearing again. Some of my favorites details included the deep back and front slit.

The Dress
I was impressed by the quality, and the dress is on sale for $119! I did have the dress altered, but that's the story of my life with most things because I am 5'0". I took in the straps, adjusted the slit and cut the helm. The slit I needed to adjust because it was meant to rise above the knee, however it hit me at mid-shin. Overall, I still am happy with the purchase and cannot wait to wear it again for a gala or special event!

Juniper Green Wedding

The Accessories
Kendra Scott jewelry is typically my go-to. To create a spring look, I wore my pearl-stranded Misha earrings. Unfortunately it's not sold online anymore, but I did link other options. I would recommend styling this green with ivory mother-of-pearl if using the dress in the spring or summer, and then something with more sparkles for the fall and winter. I included a few examples in the LTK slider above. For bracelets, I wore my favorite Ott bracelet in gold. My sister was so sweet and gifted us each a rose quartz Elaina! I started off with my gold DVF stiletto pumps but switched to my brown Michael Kors chunky heels after the photos.

Juniper Green Wedding

My sisters and I had so much fun on this special celebration. Of my six siblings there have already been three weddings, and each one had their own style and flair!


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What I Learned from my First Year of Marriage

What I Learned from my First Year of Marriage
This year, Alex and I celebrated 12 years together and our first wedding anniversary! Marriage is a holy institution where a husband and wife are bonded through the word of God, and I was able to experience firsthand what this meant after I got married. 

There are two main things I learned and it only made me realize how lucky of a wife I am to be able to call Alex my husband!

1. Stop being stubborn and share the weight.
I discovered the importance of relying on Alex to share a burden with me so we can solve it as a unit. While Alex was the one person I could always depend on prior to marriage, there was something that shifted over the year after we exchanged our vows. I've always been pretty independent and haven't really been one to ask for help. I like to find the solution because this has worked for most things in my life.

Well, last year was a turbulent year for me, for reasons outside our relationship. Once I finally let Alex bear the weight and stress of the problems with me, the mental strain plaguing me was alleviated. Throughout all of last year, he kept saying "let me help you" and I continuously responded back with, "no, I will figure it out."

Towards October, my mental health toppled and could have been avoided had I stopped being stubborn. God intended for husband and wife to work as a team and lean on each other for support.

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what 
God has joined together, let no one separate.”

-Matthew 19:6

2. We get to because we want to, not because we have to.
During college and most of my 20s, I was especially selfish. I will go into more detail about this in a separate post, but essentially I reached maturity in our relationship in my late 20s. Once I knew I was ready for marriage, I started finding myself making smaller decisions here and there with Alex. I was beyond ecstatic for us to make major decisions together and discuss what would be best for us instead of me

It stopped being "I have to do this" to "I want to do this." We could strategize anything in our life; ranging from careers to hobbies to decorating our home. It's setting aside time together every week and realizing the number one priority in our lives is each other.

What I Learned from my First Year of Marriage
Wedding Photographer: Tara Leinen
As the years go by, I am sure I will continue to discover more lessons. But in the meantime, I'm aiming for us to attend church at least once a week and start praying together.


The Ritz-Carlton Earns Forbes Five-Star Rating for Fifth Consecutive Year

The Ritz-Carlton Earns Forbes Five-Star Rating for Fifth Consecutive Year

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain received recognition as a Five-Star luxury resort for the fifth consecutive year from Forbes Travel Guide. Under this recognition from Forbes Travel Guide, the property continues to be the only full-destination resort in the southwestern United States, and remains as one of the eight most luxurious hotel and spa properties in the world!

"I am deeply grateful to our resort’s stellar team of ladies and gentlemen, who continue to bring a new and increasingly memorable luxury travel experience to the desert Southwest,” said Liam Doyle, Area General Manager, Western Region, for Marriott Luxury Brands.

As you may recall from the beginning of the year, Alex and I our celebrated our first wedding anniversary and 12 years together with this Ritz-Carlton in Tucson. From the exquisite culinary experience to the scenic desert oasis, we witnessed on first-hand what validates this accolade. 

“With our property renovation unveiled just a few months ago, The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain continues to seek ever new ways to delight and inspire our guests – who remain at the heart of everything we do,” said Doyle.

During select dates of March thru May, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is introducing a Spring Getaway rate at $299 per night. Alex and I plan to take advantage of these rates and experience the three swimming pools! I look forward to the visit as we always find such serenity in this Sonoran desert luxury destination.