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Let’s Discuss: The Vacationers

2014 July 31

As July comes to a close, we are wrapping up our discussion of this month’s book club selection, The Vacationers by Emma Straub. So, how did you do? Were you able to finish reading the book in its entirety? I introduced the book by calling it the perfect beach read and we held our own Freutcake Book Club meeting on the beach, but perhaps you indulged in a different way – under the covers, while waiting at the doctor’s office, or in between class or work breaks. In any case, what did you think? Personally, I found the book to be a lovely escape from reality. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching the drama that unfolded on their vacation. And even though I have visited beautiful Mallorca, it was years ago and all I did was lie on the beach and get burned to a crisp. The Mediterranean sun is a bit more powerful than the LA sun! Upon completion of the book, I am dying to return to the island and perhaps run into a famous Spanish tennis player of my own!

July Book Club Discussion The Vacationers Lets Discuss: The Vacationers

Below are some questions to spark a conversation about the novel. I encourage you to leave your brilliant comments and replies and we will interact with one another to share our opinions, thoughts, and lessons learned from The Vacationers. Also, feel free to present your own prompts to the group, and don’t forget to tell us how your book club gathering unfolded. The Spanish tapas Leah prepared for our meeting are still on my mind weeks later! One word: chorizo.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub Book Club Discussion Lets Discuss: The Vacationers

photos by Joanne Pio


Please leave your comments and replies in the comments section below!

1. Who was your favorite character? What was it about him or her that appealed to you?

2. Infidelity arises a number of times in the novel. How did you feel about the various ways the different couples handled this heavy subject?

3. As Sophie prepares to leave for college in the fall, she is eager to make new friends and a new life for herself. Has there ever been a period in your life where you wanted to reinvent yourself?

4. For some readers, Carmen is one of the most likable characters, but in the book the Posts aren’t huge fans of hers. Why do you think that is? Are they being fair?

5. How does the close relationship between Franny and Charles alienate some of the other characters?

6. Are your family vacations often filled with drama and stress? Or are you lucky enough to have a history of peace, bonding, and pure fun on your getaways? And who sometimes feels the need to take a vacation after your return home from your vacation?! Oh, the irony…

Stay tuned for our next book club selection that will be announced in the next week or two. This allows you time to finish up The Vacationers if you haven’t already done so! 

Key Lime Pie Ice Pops

2014 July 30

Oh me, oh my, there are few desserts I love more than key lime pie! It’s about time I turned one of my favorite slices of creamy pie goodness into a frozen treat, don’t you think? If you caught last week’s frozen recipe for Mexican Chocolate Paletas, then you know that I have been working on developing a whole bunch of tasty frozen treats for Almond Breeze using their almond milk. I know, it’s a really tough job I have over here! Ice Pop party anyone? 

Key Lime Pie Ice Pops Key Lime Pie Ice Pops

As I was dreaming up my favorite frozen treat recipes, I knew without a doubt that Key Lime Pie would be perfection frozen into ice pop form. Tart limes mixed with creamy almond milk and yogurt, sweetened with powdered sugar and dipped in graham crackers for a “crust.” It really doesn’t get better than that. And because these pops are made with almond milk, they are dairy free and way more guilt-free than a traditional slice of key lime pie. Key limes not in season where you live? No problemo! Just sub out regular limes, they work like a charm and still give that delicious flavor. Happy freezing!

Key Lime Pie Ice Pops 1 Key Lime Pie Ice Pops

photos by Leah Bergman


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. For more of the recipes I created for Almond Breeze, visit their Facebook Page. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to continue creating new content for Freutcake!


Key Lime Pie Ice Pops Recipe Key Lime Pie Ice Pops
Key Lime Pie Ice Pops
Key Lime Pie Ice Pops Recipe Key Lime Pie Ice Pops
Yields 12
Creamy dairy-free Key Lime Pie Ice Pops made with almond milk.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 1 1/2 cups Almond Breeze Vanilla Almond Milk
  2. 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  3. zest of 2 limes
  4. 1 cup almond or dairy yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  5. 1 cup powdered sugar
  6. graham cracker crumbs- for dipping
  1. In a bowl, whisk together almond milk, lime juice, lime zest, yogurt and powdered sugar.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
  3. Quickly run molds under warm water just to loosen.
  4. Immediately dip in graham cracker crumbs and either serve or freeze on a cookie sheet to serve later.
  1. * Using non-dairy yogurt would make this recipe completely dairy free.
  2. * If you are using key limes, increase the zest to 4 limes worth.

Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

2014 July 29

Certain experiences from last week’s vacation in Tulum, Mexico will stick in my memory for years to come. Snorkeling in a deep dark Cenote, the masa white sand beaches (that’s what we called them), and dinner at Hartwood. I’m planning to write a travel guide with all of my favorite Tulum travel tips and bits, but first dinner at Hartwood. It simply wouldn’t do this meal justice to lump it in with the rest of our trip, and quite frankly, it was the best food we ate all week.

Hartwood 1 Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

Located on the jungle side of Tulum’s beach road, Hartwood is an open-air restaurant open only for dinner. No reservations. To say that there is a bit of a cult-following feel to this place is an understatement. The hype seems to spread like wildfire between travelers, bloggers and over social media. I had to experience it for myself.

Hartwood Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

I was warned that the wait is usually long and to arrive early, as in 30 minutes before the doors, or gates, open. It was true, the line had already formed, although not quite as long as expected, and we happily took our spot along with two other couples from Brooklyn and Nashville who had arrived even earlier than we had.

Hartwood 2 Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

The strong smell of burning wood and natural mosquito repellent filled the small space giving a hazy fog to the small wooden tables and lush jungle trees. At times you can hardly make out crates of fresh tropical fruits or the chefs grilling our dinner through the smoke. One thing I’m sure of, that smoking wood is necessary as the Tulum jungle is thick with mosquitos all ready to make a meal out of Hartwood diners. Thank goodness the cocktails are strong and the food, delicious.

Hartwood 3 Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

Everything on the menu is locally sourced, caught, grown and raised, cooked fresh each night on a large wood fire grill and wood burning stove. I ordered a passion fruit rum cocktail garnished with a fresh stick of sugar cane, that was to die for.

Hartwood Menu Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

We started with an order of Jicama Salad topped with crunchy pepitas and dragon fruit dressing and an order of Marlin Ceviche. For dinner, I had the Red Snapper (Filete de Huachinango) on a bed of greens and caramelized pineapple. Jason ordered steak with a Caribbean version of scalloped potatoes. Is there anything better than the flavor of charred steak prepared over a wood fire? I mean really.

Hartwood Food Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

Hartwood Snapper Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

For dessert, Elote and Queso ice creams. One scoop of corn ice cream as sweet and starchy as you might expect from fresh summer corn and one scoop of cheese ice cream made with mild Mexican Queso Fresco. Both topped with a drizzle of local honey. We scraped up every last melted drop and secretly wished for seconds. (Here’s a similar recipe for corn ice cream to try)

Hartwood Ice Cream Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

I would have loved to linger after dinner, possibly have another cocktail or make our way to the rustic little bar, but with the oppressing humidity of jungle heat and the heavily perfumed smoke, a cold shower and bed sounded much more appealing.

Hartwood 5 Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

As I sat savoring every bite of snapper, bitter greens, and sweet pineapple, I thought, “This is a meal I will dream about.”

Hartwood 6 Hartwood Tulum, Mexico

photos by Leah Bergman



Carretera Tulum Boca Paila
7.6KM Tulum Quintana Roo
CP 77780 Mexico

Open for dinner only, 6 – 10 pm. Closed Mondays & Tuesdays.

TRAVEL TIPS: Arrive early to avoid a long wait as the restaurant is small. Cash only, bring Pesos. Come prepared with your own mosquito repellent. The smoke definitely helps but I left with multiple bites.

Tropical Firework Cocktail

2014 July 25

The 4th of July holiday is always a high point of my summer. Maybe it’s memories of growing up with a family that had no qualms about handing off sparklers and small firecrackers to all the kids after a day of barbecuing. Gathering in the woods behind my grandparents house, we’d chase each other, write our names in the dark until the sparklers burnt our fingers, and light off bottle rocket after bottle rocket until we’d run through the pack. Fireworks, and staying up extra late to play with them, were the highlight of the holiday.

tropical firecracker cocktails2 Tropical Firework Cocktail

Even though the 4th has passed, simply being at the halfway point of summer fills me with a desire to hold on to the color and spark of those fireworks. So when I saw these bright orange and yellow marigolds, I felt instantly inspired to make this summer cocktail.

tropical firecracker flowerpetals1 Tropical Firework Cocktail

In addition to providing a pop of color, marigold petals have a sharp, citrusy flavor that’s a nice accent to richer tropical flavors like pineapple and passionfruit. Combined, these elements make for a very fruity cocktail. But it’s tangy, sweet and SO refreshing. The bright colors evoke summer sunshine, and the marigold petals eventually turn the cocktail to a golden saffron color (marigold being, after all, the poor man’s saffron). It’s a great way to kick off your sunny summer afternoon and work your way toward dusk and the promise of fireworks to come.

tropical firecracker overhead Tropical Firework Cocktail

photos by Elana Lepkowski


tropical firecracker cocktails3 crop Tropical Firework Cocktail
Tropical Firecracker Cocktails
tropical firecracker cocktails3 crop Tropical Firework Cocktail
A tropical pineapple & passionfruit gin cocktail
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For the Cocktail
  1. 1-½ ounces London Dry Gin (try SW4!)
  2. 1 ounce Pineapple Syrup (see recipe below)
  3. ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  4. ¼ ounce Passion Fruit Syrup (Monin makes a great bottled version)
  5. small handful of marigold petals (about 1 tablespoon)
  6. whole marigolds for garnish
Pineapple Syrup
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 cup cubed pineapple chunks
  1. Make the Pineapple Syrup. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to just under a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for about an hour. Strain into an airtight container. Will keep refrigerated up to a month.
  2. Combine everything in a shaker ⅔ filled with ice. Shake well to combine for 20 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with marigolds.

Announcing Freutcamp Fall 2014

2014 July 24

Class is back in session! If you missed our Summer Freutcamp at Darling Magazine’s headquarters, I sure hope you will join us in the Fall. Two days of networking, social media, business of blogging, inspirational speakers, and of course lots of good food and fun awaits you. Fall Freutcamp will be held here in Los Angeles, October 18th & 19th. Tickets are on sale so go grab yourself a seat!

Freutcamp Fall 2014 Announcement Announcing Freutcamp Fall 2014

photo by Joanne Pio / Florals by Seed Floral

WHAT IS FREUTCAMP: Freutcamp is a branding, social media & business bootcamp for bloggers. The goal of Freutcamp is to give bloggers, small business owners, and creative individuals of all levels the tools needed to run a better, more successful, and creative blog. Class will cover the basics of branding, tips for better social media usage, information on monetizing your blog, how to approach working with sponsors, finding a unique voice in the blogging world, and tons of creative inspiration. As a graphic designer and brand social media manager I am excited to share my knowledge and experience with you! Take a look at our Summer Class re-cap here.

LOCATION: Los Angeles, California.

TICKETS: 20 seats are available total so get yours quick! Because I believe that discount codes make everything better, enter the code: EARLYBIRD to save $100 on the price until August 1st. Regular priced tickets will be $399. Tickets are available at

Please follow Freutcamp on social media: FACEBOOK / TWITTER / INSTAGRAM / WEBSITE


Mexican Chocolate Paletas

2014 July 23

Hola from Mexico! Ok, so I may have written this post before setting off for fabulous Tulum, but what better time to share my recipe for Mexican Chocolate Paletas then while south of the border? Recently I developed a whole bunch of tasty frozen and blended recipes for Almond Breeze using their almond milk and this recipe was one of my favorites!

Mexican Chocolate Paletas 1 Mexican Chocolate Paletas

Paletas are traditionally flat in shape and made using fresh fruit. I took a few liberties with this version freezing them in little round cups and making mine chocolate. I don’t think anyone’s complaining. The mix of dark chocolate, spicy chili, cinnamon, and raw sugar is always a winner hot or cold and when frozen into Paleta form, it’s a real summer treat!

Mexican Chocolate Paletas Mexican Chocolate Paletas

photos by Leah Bergman


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. For more of the recipes I created for Almond Breeze, visit their Facebook Page. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to continue creating new content for Freutcake!

Mexican Chocolate Paletas Mexican Chocolate Paletas
Mexican Chocolate Paletas
Mexican Chocolate Paletas Mexican Chocolate Paletas
Serves 10
Chocolate ice pops made slightly spicy with a pinch of chili and cinnamon!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
  1. 3 cups Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond Milk
  2. 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1/8 tsp cayenne
  5. Turbinado sugar for garnish, optional
  1. In a small pot combine all ingredients, heat and whisk until combined.
  2. Cool and pour into ice pop molds or small cups. Insert wooden sticks and freeze.
  3. Garnish with turbinado sugar if desired.

No-Cook Summer “Nachos”

2014 July 22

While Leah’s sipping margaritas on the beach in Tulum, I say we have our own little south-of-the-border staycation, no carry-on needed! Any objections?

Summer Nachos No Cook Summer Nachos

Here’s the plan: This weekend, find a friend with beach or pool access and invite yourself for the day. Tell her your bringing snacks and booze, she won’t mind. (Hi mom, I’m coming over!) Pack your tote with the essentials. I’m talking fave swimsuit, tequila, magazines, your cutest cover-up, sunscreen (of course), and the ingredients for your nibbles below. You could show up with chips and guacamole from the grocery store but where’s the fun in that? This is your well-deserved staycation—treat yourself!!

Summer Nacho Ingredients No Cook Summer Nachos

I’ve never been to Mexico but it’s high on my list. In my imagination, savory snacks show up poolside loaded with fresh veggies and lots of salty-spicy flavor. If that’s not the case, shhh! Let me dream…

Summer Nachos 1 No Cook Summer Nachos

To recreate that experience at home, I came up with these no-cook, bite-size “nachos” topped with creamy avocado, a quick corn salad, crumbly cheese and red jalapeno. Each chip is perfectly dressed and ready for munching. One whole tray only takes about 15 minutes to assemble (so speedy) but bonus points if you can get a cute guy to make ‘em for you instead! Feel free to tweak this recipe to you taste (nix the garlic, add cilantro, take out the mayo) but whatever you do, make sure you toast your down-day with one of Leah’s famous cocktail—I think this tropical one would do the trick!

Summer Nachos 2 No Cook Summer Nachos

photos by Erin Phraner


Summer Nachos 1 No Cook Summer Nachos
No-Cook Summer "Nachos"
Summer Nachos 1 No Cook Summer Nachos
Serves 2
Fresh summer nachos with corn salsa and cotija cheese are perfect pool or beach-side.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1 large ear corn
  2. 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  3. 1 to 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  4. 1/4 c. crumbled cotija or low-fat feta cheese, plus more for topping (optional)
  5. Kosher salt
  6. 1 avocado, halved and seeded
  7. 1 small clove garlic
  8. 1 red jalapeno chile pepper or similar, very thinly sliced (optional)
  9. Tortilla chips, for serving
  1. Cut the kernels off the cob using a chefs knife; transfer to a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice, the mayonnaise, cotija and a pinch of salt and stir to combine.
  2. Scoop the avocado into another small bowl using a spoon. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, garlic, and pinch of salt and mash until combined.
  3. Divide the avocado mixture, corn mixture, and jalapeno slices among tortilla chips—about 1 teeny scoop each! Top with more cotija, if desired.

Shopping for Swim

2014 July 21

It may be the Mexican vacation planning or all of the recent summer days spent at the beach, but lately my mind has been on shopping for swim! This just so happens to be the perfect time of year to score some pretty amazing deals on current season suits and cover ups. Here are just a few (on SALE) pool or beach ready pieces I’ve been admiring! And speaking of swimwear, grab your sunglasses, did you know that the beaches in Tulum are mostly nude? Yowza! Maybe it’s the American in me but I don’t think I could ever go nude at the beach…you?

Suimsuit Sale Shopping for Swim1/Textured Straw Hat 2/ Multistripe Bikini Top 3/ Bottoms 4/ Colorblock Tunic 5/ Rosebud Onepiece 6/ Metallic Min-Wedge Sandal

*Oh, and today J.Crew Swim is an additional 40% off with code: SALEFUN…I mean come on.

Peach Gin Fizz

2014 July 18

Hey guys! Jacquelyn here from Lark & Linen holding down the fort while Leah is off in sunny Mexico! I can’t tell you how excited I am – both to be here, and that Leah is actually taking a vacation! I’ve never known anyone who works as hard as she does, and I can tell you it’s much deserved.

peach gin fizz 4 Peach Gin Fizz

While she’s sunning herself on the beach, cocktail in hand, I thought it’d only be fair that we pretend to do the same. This concoction is, no joke, my all time favourite summer beverage. It’s super light and refreshing, with just the right amount of sweetness. And with peach season in full swing, it’s basically a no brainer. But drinker be warned: these bad boys go down easy, so self control is of the essence! Cheers!

peach gin fizz 7 Peach Gin Fizz


peach gin fizz 5 Peach Gin Fizz

photos by Jacquelyn Clark


peach gin fizz 3 crop Peach Gin Fizz
Peach Gin Fizz
peach gin fizz 3 crop Peach Gin Fizz
Serves 1
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For the Simple Syrup
  1. 2 white peaches, sliced
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 cup sugar
For the Cocktail
  1. 3 Tbsp. peach simple syrup
  2. 1 oz. gin
  3. A pinch of superfine sugar
  4. Club soda
  5. Peach slices & blueberries for garnish
  1. Place peaches, water and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes until peaches are macerated. Reduce to low and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half (12 minutes or so).
  2. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve. (Note: reserve the peaches if you'd like. They're like candy at this point. I may or may not have put them on vanilla ice cream when they were still warm. Good life decision.)
To Assemble
  1. Pour simple syrup into the bottom of a glass.
  2. Add gin and superfine sugar and mix.
  3. Top with club soda and garnish with a floating peach slice and a few blueberries.

Vacation Tulum

2014 July 17
by Leah Bergman

White sand beaches, Caribbean waters, an entire week of pure relaxation and fun…tomorrow morning Jason and I jet off to Tulum, Mexico for a full blown vacation royale! As many of you know, our “vacations” usually consist of work meetings, trade shows (for Jason), and nights spent working in hotels rooms. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to disconnect! Thankfully this trip should remedy that real quick. I plan to drink in my fill of the tropical sun, breath deeply those gorgeous trade winds, and eat all of the Mexican food and frozen drinks I can handle. I refuse to turn my phone on in the spa, (I’ve been known to check emails in the locker room), and I promise myself to take at least three naps. Yes, I honestly haven’t been this excited to get away since our honeymoon…and between us, I might be even more excited.

TULUM MEXICO Vacation Tulumphoto by Oliver Davis, via Fickr

Starting tomorrow, I have some great friends stopping by the blog to guest post and hold down the fort while I’m away. For starters my friend Jacquelyn of Lark & Linen will be here Friday mixing cocktails and next week Erin Phraner of Food & Femininity will be braking away from her 5-Ingredient recipes to share an at-home staycation plan that requires tequila and an outrageously delicious recipe. 

As for Tulum, I will of course be sharing bits or our trip via Instagram and I promise to take a million pictures to post when I return. Now I’m off to convert my dollars to Pesos and brush up on my conversational Spanish, “Una Margarita por favor.”

Have you traveled to Tulum? I would love your recommendations!

pixel Vacation Tulum