A Very Cali-Christmas

When you expect the weather to be warmer than the northeast…but it’s not…you still have a good time because come on, it’s CALIFORNIA!  This last week has been filled with running outside along the palm trees, some working from home (because traffic sucks and isn’t worth wasting valuable work time), and lots and lots of family time.  I’ve missed my buddies at NP_NYC but have since made a few out here in Los Angeles, which makes things a little more enjoyable.

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^^ With a few hours of sleep after my flight home, I made it out to Baldwin Hills for one of the traveling Friday workouts.  Though it sounds crazy to drive 40 minutes (sans traffic) for a workout, I somehow feel more accomplished having made one or two more friends.

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^^ It’s also pretty funny that they call me “New York” and some of my friends back east like to call me “Cali”.  Oh, and no, we aren’t choking one another, it’s the Star Wars grip…ok it still looks strange.

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^^ Thanks NP_LAX for a sweet Christmas Eve Eve workout (candy cane consumption optional but highly encouraged) 😉

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^^ Working out at a coffee shop in Santa Monica meant dealing with 60 minutes of traffic and ultimately treating myself to a good acai bowl and iced coffee.  So hipster, I know 😉

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As mentioned, family time has been plentiful with a trip down to Laguna to see Dad’s side of the family (hooligans below) and a trip up north to see Mom’s side.

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^^ Giving TFred (aka Dad aka the photographer) a hard time and making funny faces. This may have been best of the bunch.  Christmas Eve was filled with songs (most of which were sung off pitch), chit-chat and and so much good food.

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^^ Found these gems around the house.  Aren’t we adorable?  What happened? 😉

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^^ Doesn’t that just scream old-school beach? The VW van, palm trees (and other trees) a plenty and sand and surf just around the corner.

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IMG_4228 ^^ Couldn’t help myself.  If there wasn’t a picture, it didn’t happen, right?  Of course my timing with the full moon wasn’t exactly planned right and I managed to make it around town and to the water just in time for high tide.

For once in my life I haven’t made any concrete plans for the week ahead.  But, between workouts and family lunches, golf and a couple movies, I’m sure I won’t be too bored.  Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!

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A Few of My Favorite Travel Things

Think back and recall one of the best vacations that you have ever had.  Have one in mind?  Wonderful.  Did you happen to consider the type of accommodations that you stayed in during that trip?  Maybe it was a hotel or maybe it was a hostel.  In today’s world with endless opportunities of places to stay, it could have very well been an AirBNB.

Luckily for me, I’ve been to all of the above.  Do note that this isn’t an “entitled” statement, I’m just saying that my family has been able to save up and expose my sister and I to a wide range of vacation spots.  True, most of the places that were “grungy” and a little suspicious were when I was in charge of selecting the booking.  But, that aside, we’ve see everything from the Motel 6/Hostel where you aren’t sure if they ever change the comforter or clean the carpet, to some much much nicer digs where you are greeted with a complimentary drink and warm towel.

I do have to say, the latter are much more enjoyable.  There are even a few locations my mom and I still dream about them at night.  One such location – the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui – helps us fall right to sleep.  Ahhhh, when we find ourselves stressed or trying to find sleep, so long fluffy sheep, we start to imagine we are walking around those high arched ceilings, listening to the sound of the waves on the beach, and subtle Polynesian music throughout the lobby.

Fairmont Hotels recently reached out to inquire about my travel essentials and what I might like to see at hotels when I stay.  Sure, every hotel should be equipped with a nice soaps and lotions, fluffy towels, and charging outlets.  But it’s certain amenities that make you just wish you could extend your trip a little longer.  Who needs work anyways?  Oh yeah, so you can actually pay for said trip…good point.

So, from my world traveling ways (or coast to coast jaunts), here are my thoughts:

Go-To & Must-Have Travel Essentials

  • Phone charger – This goes hand in hand with my iPhone, which I could have listed as a must-have item, but I practically treat it as a third hand or another part of my body.  I never go anywhere without it.  So, call me Linus and it’s my security blanket.  Notes, photos, videos, Instagram – I use it all.  And then my battery dies as soon as you can say viola.

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  • Snacks (usually in the form of energy bars) because hanger is overrated and I should not unleash the “not really enthused with you because I’m hungry” Kaitlin.
  • A book (either the physical thing or electronic via my Kindle Fire) – My mom taught me at a young age, always have a book on your person because you never know how long those doctor appointments (or you know flights, bus rides, etc) may last.
  • Hand sanitizer –  Trust me.  I live in New York City.

Accommodation Amenities

So, it’s oh so true that everyone travels differently and the way that certain hotels and accommodations greet their guests varies from spot to spot.  Since I’m a California girl born and raised (#westcoastbestcoast…sorry my New York friends), I wanted to take a look at the west coast hospitality.

Looking at some of the fabulous Fairmont locations here in our great state, I thought it would be neat to think about what a few could offer guests upon arrival or during their stay.  Most of these locations would be well suited for a little bike ride along the water front or towns nearby, so offering beach cruisers would be a swell idea.  Also, as a general request for all hotels, not all of us enjoy the firm pillows, so providing a couple options (cushy + firm) would be ever so kind and appreciated.  But now it’s time to get creative.

  • Newport Beach – Yes, traveling to the nearby Balboa is a must, so obviously being greeted with a frozen chocolate banana would be ideal but that’s not entirely plausible.  Something about bananas being an acquired taste (cough cough Meghan).  So, instead, let’s include a nautical candle or succulent plant.
  • San Diego – A beach towel and bucket of goodies (sunblock, magazines, and maybe a shovel or two…who said only kids get to have fun building sand castles?)

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  • San Francisco (2 >> Claremont & SF itself) – A nice loaf of Boudin sourdough and a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate to soak in that San Francisco flavor. (or Bi-Rite ice cream! noms…)
  • San Jose – Ah, the land of Silicon Valley.  So I doubt anyone would have a personal computer waiting for you, but arriving to some notepads from Google, roses as seen on Santa Clara’s gorgeous campus or San Jose Rose Garden, or maybe garlic goodies from Gilroy gives you a sense of what potential this area holds. (*fun fact, I had a senior year graduation party here. yep, good story.)

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  • Santa Monica – One of the “coolest” places of LA, filled with shopping, workout spots (hello Santa Monica Stairs) and so many hipster coffee shops.  Access to daily acai bowls or simply some beach goodies and shades will help you fit right in.
  • Seattle – Possibly a bag of Seattle’s coffee and some homemade scones to accompany the brew.  Pike Place sure does have a lovely selection.
  • Sonoma – A bottle of locally made wine, perfect for a hors-d’oeuvre platter in the afternoon or maybe to bring home for another time.  Either way, this could give you some ideas of where (or which wineries) you might want to explore while there.  If wine isn’t your thing, how about some really good juice?

What are your thoughts on hotels?  Anything you would like to see upon your arrival or in a Fairmont location?

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*Please note that all opinions are that of my own and I was not compensated for this post. This was shared out of my true love for Fairmont Hotels.

There’s No Place Like Home

Home.  What in the world does that even mean?  Where you grew up? Where you live now? Does it have to be a full-on brick and mortar house with a yard?  Are you a roaming nomad?  For those of you who have graduated from high school and entered into the college or adult world, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.  We all reach a point (usually that big 1-8 birthday where you are legally considered an adult) where it’s time to live our own life.  You probably have left the nest and created a world of your own – you call the shots on when to go out, when to go to bed, what to eat, and how often you change your sheets.  Ok, that last one might be a little gross but it’s all about learning to live on your own.

When I went to college, I left a little piece of me back in Southern California.  I thought it was a given that I would move back to LA.  It’s where I grew up, where my family is, etc.  It was home.  I didn’t really give Santa Clara a chance and instead spent too much time worrying about classes and if I was involved enough or ready for the outside world.  I would just dip my toes in the Silicon Valley, never letting myself admit that I could adapt to Northern California ways.  I spent too much time looking back rather than in the moment.  But then something happened.  When I went home for the holidays, it no longer felt normal.  People had moved away, stores had changed and I didn’t know where I was supposed to fit into all of that. For some reason I thought that nothing would change, no one would grow older, and it would all stay the same.

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When senior year started, I decided I needed to change things up.  I wanted another shot at what my dad called “reinventing myself” or really just letting my true personality shine – no holding back and no worries if some people couldn’t relate. I decided to move to New York and there is where things fell into place.  I stopped worrying what people thought about me, I started focusing on the things I like to do – like exploring and working out – and started to make some really good friends.  I let people get to know the real me and stopped presenting a version of who I thought I should be.  It started to feel like home.  Every time I left to visit my family or explore another part of the east coast, I would get excited to see the NYC skyline or the tall skyscrapers from a distance.

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Living in New York has been one of the best decisions I have made.  I love the fast paced life style, the diversity of people, and the wide range of opportunities available.

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^^ It took me almost a year to find out about November Project but I am 100% certain it has contributed to my happiness here.

11221751_948895365133721_90525601569340533_o ^^ Then there are these people.  My np_nyc tribe.  I’m sorry but the np_lax just didn’t feel like home.  I’m sure I would fit right in after a few weeks of workouts and hardcore dedication – that’s after all how I started to make NYC feel like home – but I just missed my friends and the other familiar faces

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^^ So maybe my life is built up by working out and November Project.  That’s not too much a problem though since we are the work hard & play hard types of people.  I think life can be about finding people with common interests and making the most out of those relationships.  If it means you see them once or twice a week or maybe daily, then so be it.  But we shouldn’t force ourselves into situations that constantly make us unhappy or uncomfortable.  Even though I’m only 24, I feel as though I’ve experienced enough of that.  I’m done with feeling insecure and the odd man out.

Then I flew back to Southern California for the 4th of July.  I saw family, I went to the mountains, I went to the beach, and I saw friends who had just moved out to the west side of Los Angeles.

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Sure there was traffic, but there were views like this ^^.  We went running on trails and then had breakfast in a popular coffee spot (Urth Cafe – Spanish latte or Spanish granita – get it and you will not be sorry) by the beach.   Life was somehow easier in a way but more difficult in other ways.  My brain started to become muddled with what to do.

IMG_1025^^  Yes, this happens but then so does this:

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^^ For goodness sake I’m only 24 but I feel like the weight of the future is resting heavily on my shoulders right now.  There are people going to med school and getting engaged and even married with kids!  I know this feeling of confusion is going to be a long one – that’s why there are articles out there like Though Catalog’s “The Hardest Things People Had To Learn in Their 20’s“.  Yes, I admit, a lot of this is #firstworldproblems so I apologize if this seems trivial.  Let’s just say being back in California for an extended period of time was odd and I felt like I was in limbo.  No doubt I would like to move back there some day, but when?  The answer is I don’t know right now.  Maybe it’s a year or maybe it’s longer.

IMG_1022^^ Maybe the real decision should be based upon the wide variety of acai bowls offered?  I may have selected Santa Clara as my college of choice because they offered a “make-your-own-parfait” on the weekends. True story.

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I know that I like being close to my family – being able to golf or go for a hike or go out to dinner.  I know that I like having my own schedule and having a constant list of places to explore here in Manhattan.  I wish that Los Angeles didn’t rely so much on driving and the west side was closer together (wishful thinking).  I wish that New York was cleaner and that it was easier to escape the island and explore the coast (problem – I need a car/place to stay that’s relatively cheap…recent graduate problems).

I write for fun and to connect with people.  I read blogs to feel a commonality and have made some excellent friends through it.  I read blogs like Ali’s to feel validated in showing my quirky personality and that things work out, and I read posts like Sarah’s to know that we are all thriving and struggling at the same time.  We have become friends outside of the blogging world and are usually two peas in a pod.  (or insert dancing emoji) 😉

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^^ View from my run over the Manhattan bridge (accidentally on the biking-designated side) to NP in Brooklyn last Friday.

I’m fully aware that I don’t have to have my 5-10-15 year plan figured out right now.  I know that things change and the next year(s) will be life lessons in themselves.  I could learn to love the city and east coast even more or another winter could do me in.  Who knows?  For now, I’m happy in this crazy place I call home, at least for now.  I know my mom has heard this discussion too many times to count, so sorry mom.  Now that it has been written and published for the world wide web, I will let it drop and just go out there and carpe diem.  Let’s live it up for the moment, sound good?

Does anyone else feel the pull between comfort (often w/ family) and adventure (and growth)?  Does there have to be such a divide?  

It’s Time for Dodger Baseball

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A trip to Los Angeles is never complete without a Dodger Game.  Sure you have the Lakers and Clippers and even USC Trojans, but let’s be real – the Dodgers are where it’s at.  Having been born in raised in the Los Angeles area, I’ve been lucky to visit the Ravine since I was just a baby.

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^^ No joke, here I am just over a month old!  (benefit of visiting home means access to perfect throw-back pictures) 😉

So, factoring in about 25 years worth of games, that means that we have had the privilege of seeing the Ravine change over the years.  From faulty food choices to the addition and removal of gaudy advertisements, from the omni-presence of the 76-ball in the outfield to the flashy 21st century ads from advertisers that pay bigger and better prices.  There was the time that Frank McCourt took over and then there was the time that he made such poor decisions that when we saw him at the stadium, my mom gave him a piece of her mind.  But we also met Tommy Lasorda and hopefully will one day run into the great Vin Scully.  He truly is a piece of history and a piece of the Dodgers. 

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Though New York does play host to a couple decent teams, I will never stray from my National League roots (Heyyyyy Brooklyn Dodgers!).  There was almost a time where I purchased a hat at Met’s Stadium (because souvenirs are plain ‘ol fun) but refrained to stay true to my boys in blue (the REAL blue).

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Not only has the stadium evolved over the years, but the food options have improved tremendously too! 

IMG_7567  This was a nifty addition to the park – a decent looking bar overlooking the field (located behind right field)

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Tommy Lasorda’s presents a little bit of Italian flare and flavor with options like classic NY pizza (one would have to sample in order to verify the “classic” element) chicken parm sandwich, or Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions.

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 If you are looking for some hot dog options, this is definitely your paradise.  It’s one stop short of Pink’s, without the extra drive or wait!

IMG_7573^^ I was tempted by the bacon wrapped hot dog, especially since they used to serve them after every MLS Galaxy Game, but went for a  turkey burger on wheat bun option instead.  (we packed in our own peanuts + veggie bags to help supplement the stadium eats)

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^^ SWING BATTER SWING

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^^ Anyone remember the Olympic dancing sensation Kate Hansen?  Kate actually grew up in my community and I played soccer with her (and we were in 7th grade choir together…), so it’s neat to see what she is up to these days.

IMG_7587 IMG_7588Because we are suckers for tradition, we had to purchase a cup of soft serve frozen yogurt – something that we have done for years and years.  I even recall the original pink booth that we used to buy it from – about three changes ago – and would secretly have them top the ice cream with rainbow sprinkles without my dad knowing 🙂 (I do have to watch myself because I’m already starting to pull the “back in my day” card)

IMG_7590 IMG_7591 ^^ And it’s a DODGER WIN!  With a great come back for the boys in blue, I’ll add my own cheesy touch and say that my attendance was a good luck charm at that night’s game 🙂

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The best part about the Dodgers winning is that they end the game with Randy Newman’s “I LOVE LA” song.  It’s all just too darn true.

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We even stayed to the very end of the game and watched the Friday night fireworks! I say actually because the typical Los Angeles fan will arrive late and leave early to an event – all to avoid that lovely traffic.  But, all in all this had to have been the very best game that I have been to with my family.  Good food, good baseball, a win, and post-game spectacular 🙂

“The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It’s intoxicating.” – Vin Scully

Summer in Santa Barabara

Ok, I admit I am just a tad bit spoiled with family living in both Laguna Beach and Santa Barbara.  I mean, those are two of the most beautiful beach locations in California (obviously biased).  For the week or so I spent at home in California, I knew I wanted to hit up at least one and so off to Santa Barbara it was.

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^^ off in the distance you can see IV (Isla Vista) where UCSB is located. I don’t know how anyone would get studying done with that view 😉

My grandparents have lived in this area for the last 15 or so years and we have visited everything from State Street to the mission, from to La Super Rica to Paradise Cafe, from the zoo to pretty much everything in between.  My sister and I used to go to some of the local kids camps, some at the zoo and others at a local elementary school, but the best memories are from crafting and cooking and wandering the local streets.  We didn’t have any craft projects or recipes on tap for this trip, but we dominated the shopping and exploring bit.

IMG_1078I made her take this picture prior to our shopping escapades (she may have been slightly embarrassed by the people staring – #noregrets).  It is quite possible she 1) is the most fashionable TOMS wearer and 2) has 2x the amount of TOMS my sister and I do combined.  Like I said, refer back to #1 and you will understand.  She is my shoe role model.

She also let me in on a secret that Nordstroms is starting to have their yearly sales prior to the season, so in this case, early access to the fall line!  We saw oodles of people leaving with their hands full of Nordstrom bags and knew we were in for some shopping luck.

IMG_1087Sure enough, we waltzed into the shoe section and each came out smiling ear to ear.  I think Nance (grandma) wins the prize for the best looking dog-walking clothes.  She picked up some wild looking Nikes and a fabulous purple vest for the occasion.  I came out with some TOMS wedges, gold Tory Burch flats, and Ecco boots for fall (all with Nance’s generous and fashion seal of approval).  The best feeling has to be when you have been looking for a certain pair of shoes for AGES and then you just happen to find them on sale.  Yes, that would be winning at its finest.

IMG_7538 ^^ didn’t stop in here for lunch but loved the orange crate label advertisement

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IMG_1079 Instead, we made our way to the Public Market, which is very similar to Copenhagen’s Glass Market or a cleaner and earthier version of Philly’s Reading Terminal.  We took our time touring the options and ultimately settled on splitting a grilled panini with brie, fig jam, and salami.

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^^ Real food first.  Then we must progress to the better part of the meal – dessert.

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^^ Grandma Nancy went for her favorite – lemon curd – while I selected the “John Martin” with coconut and chocolate chips. No clue why it was called that but I’m sure some dude named John had excellent taste.

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^^ One can never get enough of the mission style design and endless pattern of tile work

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Because one dessert is never enough.  Sugar detox starts this week 😉

IMG_1097If you haven’t discovered the Santa Barbara based ice cream company McConnell’s, then you are surely missing out on something.  I actually picked up a pint prior to arriving at the grandparent’s house and they already had one in the freezer.  Great minds think alike 🙂

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^^ Miss Lily who is our family dog’s sister and happens to be blind.  She is in the most caring hands ever and it’s so cute to see her because she always recognizes who I am (since I was the one to pick her out of the litter) and even speaks her own little language.

IMG_1095On my second and (sadly) last day, I took a walk down to the beach to clear my mind.  There are lots of things floating around – or rather bouncing like a pinball machine – in my head regarding the past, present, and future.  From family to friends, work to social life, most importantly, what or where do I consider home.  For now, just trust the process because somehow, everything will fall into place.

Happy Labor Day from the Pacific Northwest!

I hope everyone is enjoying their day (off or not) and celebrating some of the last wonderful memories of summer.

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More to come on my west coast adventures but for now, take a break from technology and go outside and play!

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
– Annie Dillard