Family vacay | San Diego to Sebastopol

We’re coming off of 2 weeks of family vacation and I wanted to document some highlights.

My grandparents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on Saturday, June 30th. Mike and I flew down to San Diego to meet them, my mom, little bro, and stepdad. San Diego was the first place my grandparents lived together as a married couple so it had sentimental value. Mike and I also celebrated our one year anniversary there years ago. I will say San Diego was more crowded than I remember.

This time around, we all stayed in the same Airbnb in downtown. Unfortunately the parking at our Airbnb was terrible. We had the 2 cars my family drove there in and risked a ticket every night by parking in the church lot next door. Our Airbnb was also very cozy for 6 people, plus a baby, but we managed.

After we settled in, we drove to Old Town. My grandma used to work at Wells Fargo so I planned a surprise tour of the Wells Fargo museum for her. Our guide was very informative and fun. After, we had lunch at Bora Bora. My mom and I spilt the cheese enchiladas and they didn’t disappoint!

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Exploring Old Town

That night, we went to dinner at Donovan’s Steak House to celebrate my grandparent’s milestone anniversary. Parking in downtown was a nightmare, as to be expected, but everything else was perfect. We basically all ordered steak and I didn’t hear a single complaint. The waitstaff was friendly and attentive, even holding Gio for a bit!

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After dinner Mike and I went to the National Comedy Theater. We had been there years ago and knew we wanted to go back the second this trip was planned. It is the funniest improv show. Like, bent-over-belly-laughing funny.

When traveling, some of my favorite things to check out are local improv/comedy clubs, yoga studios, and walking tours. Which, speaking of… on Sunday we made a spur of the moment decision to do a walking tour of Coronado. Mike and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary on the island ~2 years ago and fell in love (you can read about our stay here and here). The walking tour was $20/each for 90 minutes. We saw a bunch of historical houses and ended at The Del. I thought it was well worth it for everything we learned. Plus, we were the only ones on the tour, which is always a nice surprise.

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Gio’s first walking tour; catching a ride from SISTER
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Canadian cutie outside The Del

We had lunch after at Tavern. I’m surprised this place wasn’t more crowded because it was really good. It’s a big win when your entire group is happy with the menu and their food. The decor here was really cute too. And I’m a sucker for ambiance. My family was ready to head back after but Mike and I stayed to enjoy a drink on the patio together. Then we took the fairy back to San Diego, which I definitely recommend as it is pretty cheap and just fun.

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That night my friend from high school came to visit because her son is a huge Andy Z (my stepdad) fan. It was so cute to see him starstruck by Andy. We all just chilled out with some wine and heavy apps. As with most family vacations, we turned in pretty early; tired from a full day of activity.

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Patio chillin

On Monday we went to the San Diego Zoo and I was like, #OutOfOffice y’all. What’s better than being on vacation on a Monday? I knew the SD zoo was huge so we had to get an early start. First up? Flamingos!

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We had an okay lunch of hummus wraps and pasta salad that, surprisingly, didn’t break the bank. Food at any of these places (theme parks, zoos, etc.) is typically so unhealthy and expensive. I was glad our lunch was decently priced but I really should learn to pack a picnic instead.

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The whole fam.

The real highlight of the zoo was when Mike and I were strolling along and a zookeeper came out saying “please move to the left side of the walkway so we can walk our cheetah.”

Wait, what!?

Sure enough, seconds later, there is a cheetah walking a few feet from us (obviously on a leash). The trainer stopped at a bench right in front of us to feed the cheetah. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen and completely unplanned.

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…not the best picture but the Cheetah is behind her dog buddy, who were introduced when the cheetah came to the zoo and are now BFFs (the dog helps the cheetah stay calm and relaxed).
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Hi there!

Sadly, we were all had to go home on Tuesday. Before heading to the airport, Mike and I went to a cute cafe we discovered, Lofty Coffee. Best house made chai lattes. I typically don’t order chai unless I know it isn’t made from a powder, so I was happy to see a solid option on the menu.

It is a quick flight home from San Diego. Being that we were on vacation, we headed straight to our pool. That night we went to our neighbors for apps, dinner, and gallons of wine. 😉 It was so nice to catch up over good food and a few drinks. Plus, the girls and I decided to start a book club. (tipsy Prime usage FTW) so we’ll be getting together again soon.

Mike’s parents arrived for a visit on Wednesday, 4th of July. For the past 4 years, we’ve spent the 4th with our friends Gary and April (in Calabasas last year and Mexico the year before!) so I was happy that they could make it too. We grilled chicken at our house for tacos and played a few games. It was a fun, low key 4th of July.

Having taken the week off, we decided to take Mike’s parents to the Barlow for an overnight stay Thursday to Friday. They’ve been to California a number of times and have done almost everything touristy in the area. This was a new adventure so it was extra fun. The Barlow is a sweet little area filled with organic food, wine, breweries, cafes, and our favorite distillery.

We started with a wine flight and cheese plate at MacPhail tasting lounge. It was nice to be outside enjoying the warm weather and catching up between pours. It is a particularly exciting time because we’re in the middle of wedding plan, which I always find fun to talk about.

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Next we went over to Pax and spilt a bottle of wine, plus an order of warm olives. Again, such a nice time.

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After we went to a brewery for burgers and a few rounds of games. Sadly, I lost both… Specifically Jenga, when I pulled the block that made the tower tumble. Boo!

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Faaaaiiiilll

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We ended the night with a dip in the hot tub and a discussion of wedding songs. 🙂

Friday started with coffee at Taylor Lane, where they serve organic coffee and creamy almond milk. Win. We took Mike’s parents to Spirit Works Distillery after to show them the barrel room and spilt a tasting flight.

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Wanting to beat rush hour in SF, we left shortly after. On the way home we met my dad for a light bite at The Fish Market in San Mateo. The Fish Market has a few locations throughout California but the best one is in San Mateo, without question. It was a nice day so we sat outside on the patio. I was happy my dad got to spend some time with Mike’s parents since they live far away and our families don’t get to see each other often.

The week was fun and family filled. We packed in a lot of activities in a short amount of time. But, to be honest, the rest of Mike’s parents stay was just as jam-packed as the first few days. They were here for 10 days total and we did something almost every night.

On Saturday, we had our lovely engagement party hosted by my mom and fam. It was great to see our closet friends and family come together and get to know each other before our big day next May.

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On Sunday we enjoyed a cheese, cracker, and beer night to get through some of the leftovers.

On Monday I went back to work but we still went to a Giants game that night. Which they won. Go Giants!

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Tuesday was dinner at home. Mike cooked. The best.

Wednesday we were back at The Fish Market for an official meal there. My dad joining again. 🙂

Thursday we visited the hotel that our room block is at for our wedding. Notably also enjoying a glass of wine on their cute patio and brainstorming after-party ideas.

Friday was their last night here (sad), which called for a fancy dinner at Dry Creek Grill. This was our first time there and we loved it! I can see it becoming a go-to place to dine for us.

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Cheers!

Overall it was such a fun 2 weeks with family. I can’t believe how fast time is going. Our wedding is just over 10 months away and I have a feeling it’s going to go by in a flash…!

Beignets & booze 

New Orleans, Louisiana. You guys.

What a fun city to spend a weekend in; particularly a bachelorette party!

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A few girls from California flew out to meet a few girls from the east coast in New Orleans. We were all there to celebrate one special lady, Lauren, and her “last fling before the ring.”

I flew out with Lauren, her sister, and our other friend – who is also named Ashley – early Friday morning. After a minor detour to Mississippi for gas, due to a thunder storm above the New Orleans airport when we were landing (major oversimplification but whatever!), we arrived in the late afternoon. We had about a hour to hustle and get ready before dinner with the whole group.

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Although we didn’t stay directly in the French Quarters, we were a quick walk from there at the J.W. Marriott. We were at Red Fish Grill in less than 10 and bottles of wine were already waiting there for us from the sweet bachelor himself (thanks, Ian!). In retrospect, I wish I ordered something distinctly Southern, like the redfish or jambalaya, but I opted for the sugar cane glazed chicken instead. Which was good (!) but doesn’t seem too authentic…

New Orleans is like Las Vegas and you can walk around with alcohol. Which was lucky for us because we had leftover wine. We were given some to-go cups and hit the mean streets of NOLA with our wine in tow.

First stop was the Carousel Bar which was, sadly, underwhelming to say the least. Looking at pictures online, it must have been broken (or something?) because I remember it being a dark bar with barely moving seats.

To compensate, we took a whole bunch of bathroom pics. As you do.

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We hit up a few bars after for some shots and light dancing but the evening came to an abrupt halt when someone STOLE a member of our party’s wallet! UGH.

We filed a police report and headed back to the hotel. (Full transparency, we also stopped at a McDonalds on the way back and I may or may not have ate a large fry with BBQ sauce… guess I won’t be going for 2 years of NO FAST FOOD after all. Hah)

The next morning we had brunch at the iconic Brennan’s. If you’re a fan of banana’s foster – and I didn’t know I was until I tried it at Brennan’s – this is the place for you; BECAUSE it was invented there. And, well, it’s delicious.

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Brennan’s was good and it was cool to eat there but the service was sloooow. Despite the 3 hours we spent there (!) I would recommend trying it out. If only because it is such a part of New Orlean’s history. I later watched a documentary about Ella Brennan on Netflix that I also recommend!

Also, side note, the coffee in New Orleans… next level. I loved the chicory in it and snagged a few bags to enjoy with my Grandpa in San Diego at the end of the month and my in-laws when they are in town for the 4th. 🙂

(Mike isn’t a coffee drinker! …is chicory tea a thing?)

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After brunch, my close friend Leslie and I went on a cemetery and garden district walking tour. We went through the company Two Chicks and our guide was great! Plus, it’s a company owned by 2 chicks women, so happy to support.

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Look close to see all of the beads in the tree!

We started in the cemetery where we learned that it is a common misconception that the graves are built above ground because New Orleans is under sea level. Basically the sea level issue is a minor reason for above ground tombs and it has more to do with space than anything else.

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When a family member died, they were placed in the tomb and given a year and a day to decompose. After they hit the year and a day milestone and when the next family member died, the tomb would be opened and the remains of the already decomposed would be placed in a mesh bag and stored in the back of the tomb. This process repeated itself and allowed for a lot more family members to be buried in the same space, as oppose to a whole tomb for every person. Instead they all shared; fully decomposing together.

And for that person wondering – what if a family member died before the year and a day cutoff for the tomb to be re-opened? – families could rent a wall vault in the interterm.

Another interesting thing we learned was that many bodies actually ended up being stolen by medical students so they could examine them. Creepy.

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The tomb that inspired Interview with a Vampire

Next up was a stroll through the gorgeous streets on the garden district. Celeb house sighting included!

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Nicolas Cage’s old house before #IRSissues
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The Manning household
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John Goodman’s full-time residence
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Sandra Bullock’s house!
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The house that Benjamin Button was filmed in
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Another Brennan family restaurant, Commander’s Palace. Go watch that documentary!

After 2 hours of walking in humid weather, it was time for a drink and some apps! Les lives in Nashville and I don’t see her as often as I would like to 😦 so it was nice to catch up a little bit.

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Crawfish and artichoke dip y’all

We hurried back to the hotel after to get ready for dinner at , which was another 3 hours btw (Southern dining!) hahah. I can’t complain though; the laughs were effortless, the food was delicious, and the drinks were flowing.  Also, a huge thank you to the bride-to-be’s parents who generously picked up the tab!

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Me and the star of the show!

After dinner I think we were all walking the line between, crash back at the hotel or RAGE. I’m happy to report we decided to saunter over to Razoos to get down.

…That morning I woke up and was like, no shots. When we walked into Razoos, Leslie and I immediately took 2 shots and bought one for the bachelorette. Because that’s how bach parties go.

Suffice to say, the night was dance (and vodka) filled. It was also Pride Week so everyone was in festive, happy spirits.

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The most sober picture of the night

After another run in with fast food (NOT SORRY, I WOULD HAVE BEEN SO HUNG OVER WITHOUT IT), we were back at the hotel.

On Sunday morning the general consensus was beignets and “byyyyyyeee. New Orleans was a great time but it was time to go home.

We gathered our beads, dumped out the last of the bubbles, popped the unmentionable balloon decorations, and filled up on caffeine and airport burritos to fuel us back to California. Until next time, nola! ✌️

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Beignets, booze, and besties (with no makeup) 🙂 Love ya, Lauren! 

A Washington Wedding

This girl loves a good wedding and this weekend Mike and I attended one that will go down in the books.

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We flew to rainy Washington to celebrate our good friends Morgan and Joe getting hitched. Arriving early (ish) Friday evening and piling on layers to adjust to the low temps, we checked into The Hyatt in Bellevue with just a few minutes to get ready before the welcome party. A French braid and leaving the hotel with wet nails it was!

We met up with other friends who had also flown in from the Bay Area for a quick drink in the hotel lobby and then headed to Wild Ginger to see the soon to be Mr. & Mrs.

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Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant had recently moved locations. We walked right past the new location on our way to the old location, which sucks when it’s cold out and you’re in heels! But we made it there eventually, joking that we all deserved another drink from our added steps.

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With the Bride & Groom!

With the wine flowing and plenty of “hellos” to go around, the night was a great start to a wedding weekend! You might say it was a little too much fun, leaving both me and Mike severely hung over for most of the next morning. Ek. (In retrospect, we realized we just didn’t eat enough the night before, distracted by the good time we were having.)

After finally rolling out of bed around 1pm on Saturday, we walked to Earls for lunch; again bundled up for the cold stroll. It was sprinkling outside and, truth be told, I was happy for a quintessential Washington afternoon. I, of course, ordered the avo toast (any time it’s on the menu, #mine) and Mike got a NOM rice bowl (that I ended up eating half of). After lunch we walked in the rain to get tea at a cute cafe nearby and rid the rest of our hangovers! It was an uneventful afternoon but fun nonetheless.

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Then it was time to get wedding ready! Glam’d up and ready to celebrate Morgan and Joe, the group of us all staying at The Hyatt piled into a Lyft and headed to the venue. By this point, the weather had graduated from a light sprinkle to full blown rain. Washington decided to really show off for all of us out of staters. 😉

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The first person I saw when we entered the venue was the bride! Morgan was gorgeous and chic, standing there in a floor length black dress with a glass of sparkling in her hand. It was great to see her before the wedding and was a refreshing twist on tradition.

After everyone had time to mingle for a bit, Joe parted the crowd to make an aisle for Morgan to walk down. Again, another refreshing, no fuss take on standard wedding practice. Minutes later, Morgan was walking down the aisle – lined with love – in a white, lacy dress that swooped down in the back. She walked to the Imperial March which 1. is 100% Morgan and Joe and 2. (proud of myself for this one) I knew was Star Wars related without anyone telling me.

Morgan and Joe’s vows were personal, not too long, and cavity-causing sweet. The perfect combination! They had their husky by their feet while saying “I do,” and their respective best friends officiating. It was such a special moment to witness. I think everyone there felt honored to be experiencing it with them.

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Next up? Dinner! The menu included a salad and bread to start, vegetarian meatloaf (a paradox), roasted potatoes, an array of vegetables, and pumpkin ravioli. So delicious, and no meat! Love that.

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There was a macaron bar was for dessert and then it was time to dance, snap selfies, and toast to many years of love, laughs, and happiness for Morgan and Joe! My favorite PNW couple.

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Mike and Ben, at it again!

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VEGAS!

Mike turned 33 on Monday and we celebrated the weekend with a group of friends in Las Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas once before about 4 years ago so was due for a trip back; a trip that started luxuriously because we splurged and flew first class. Holy leg room!

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Glorious leg room!!!

We arrived in Vegas around 10:30am and took a Lyft to the Mandalay Bay. Our friends Ben and Sandra had arrived a few days before so we met in their room to drop off our stuff until we could check in. Our other friends Lauren and Ian had also flew in that morning and were already there waiting for us. The gang was together again.

After a few AM tequila shots (#vegas) we headed to the pool. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was! Luckily we had access to a private(ish) pool that didn’t have as many people. We dumped our stuff on a lounge chair, piled on sunscreen, and got in for a dip. Lunch wasn’t that great. We ordered chicken tenders, fries, chips, and guacamole. I tried to get at least one green, healthy food in there with the guac but was still disappointed overall.

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Catching waves 🤙

After some time spent in the wave pool (endless entertainment!), it was time to check in. One of my favorite parts of vacations are hotel rooms. I love them! Mandalay Bay has pretty nice rooms so I was happy to get there and unpack. Then it was a quick shower and NAP TIME! A little sleep was much needed …especially with how late we ended up staying out that night.

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We went off the strip for dinner to a place called Marrakech that Ben has been to a few times. They serve a fixed 6 course fusion of Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines. The night started with washing our hands in warm rose water and ended with Moroccan mint tea and a decadent banana, chocolate, and walnut dessert; shrimp in garlic butter, plenty of bread, hummus, and belly dancing highlighting in-between. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Vegas!

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Mike and the belly dancer!

Stuffed and ready for more drinks, Mike and I spilt from the group and went to Fremont street, in downtown Las Vegas. Our first stop was Commonwealth for a round of cocktails. The bar had a pre-Prohibition feel with its dark ambiance and hidden nooks to sit in.

Something about Vegas made me uneasy at this point in the trip. Call it taking the “sin” in “sin city” too seriously but suddenly I wasn’t having the best time being there. Everything felt cheap and sad to me. I was having a bit of anxiety by the time we stopped at the next bar. We ordered beers and I tried to snap out of it but I was in a funk. I felt bad for being a drag during Mike’s birthday weekend but, luckily, Mike is the sweetest guy I know and took time to chat with me. I felt better after and was excited to meet back up with everyone to continue the night. Mike always makes me feel better.

We stayed at The LINQ for the next few hours; drinking, gambling (or, in my case, watching gambling), taking pictures, and laughing. So.many.good.laughs, especially between myself, Lauren, and Sandra (and a certain purple zebra #insidejoke). And the best part was everyone had won money by the end of the night!

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We left the casino around 3:30am (what!?) and I was like, I NEED FOOD NOW. Sadly, In n’ Out was closed (I was craving their grilled cheese on the secret menu) so we got food at the only place open in our hotel. Mike and I ordered potato skins to go, devoured them in our room, and went to right to bed (after I showered because, even drunk, I need to shower before bed!).

Everyone in our group slept in on Sunday and lazily met for coffee around 11:30am. Mike and I spilt banana bread that was more filling than I thought it would be. We all spilt up again after to do our own things before a fancy dinner that night. Mike and I ended up walking the strip down to The Venetian (a hot, long walk!) for a small lunch and round of $5 margaritas.

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The “Brooklyn Bridge” on our walk down the strip

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After that it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The day flies when you sleep through the first half of it! Lauren made reservations at Bardor Brasserie for Mike’s birthday dinner. They had great cocktails (perfect for the birthday boy!), fresh baked bread to start, and really good food. Mike and I started with an endives, walnut, and blue cheese salad and each ordered a fish dish (rhyme) for our mains.

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Next up was BRITNEY, BITCH! Lauren and I walked to Planet Hollywood to see Britney Spears at The AXIS &omg I loved every second of it. (We all know Brit lip syncs but I don’t care!) Of course Lauren and I knew every word to all of her old songs – I have to admit I didn’t know a few newer ones – and danced on booties off. Our feet were killing us by the end of the show but it was worth it.

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The guys and Sandra meet us after for a few last drinks and rounds of gambling. Unfortunately, everyone lost money this time around. And the tram closed before we thought so we walked back through 3 hotels. We were all in bed much earlier than the night before but still managed to stay out until 2am.

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Late night mirror selfies

Everyone left on Monday – Mike’s actual birthday* – expect for the two of us. We woke up around 9am and headed straight for the wave pool to kick of the day. After a few loops around the lazy river, we were back at the hotel getting ready and packing up. Post check-out, we walked to Mandarin Oriental for afternoon tea. Mike loves tea so I thought it would be a perfect birthday present for him. The tea lounge was relaxing but I thought our table was placed a little awkwardly right behind another table, which completely blocked the view of the strip.

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I ordered the Mandarin Orange Blend, a black tea, and it was really good! I’m typically more of a coffee drinker but this tea was bold enough to satisfy me. The food included freshly baked scones, tea sandwiches, and a pretty plate of desserts. Sadly, we didn’t eat a single dessert because we were too full (and, honestly anything sweet didn’t sound appetizing after so much drinking). We took them all to go but they melted quickly in the Vegas heat so we ended up throwing them away. 😦

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After tea, we walked to the Bellagio to check out the conservatory and botanical gardens, a display that seasonally changes. Next we walked through New York-New York for a slice of greasy pizza for me and a hotdog for Mike (hangover food!). Then it was  time to grab our stuff from our hotel and Lyft to the airport.

We recently both got TSA pre-check so security was a breeze. We also had first class status on the way home again. Extra legroom and free drinks, holler!

See ya next time, Vegas!

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Throwback picture of us at the Bellagio conservatory 4 years ago!

*Same as Beyonce’s, y’all

 

 

Yosemite 2017

There’s still dirt under my fingernails as I type this and I don’t care in the slightest. For the second year in a row, Mike and I joined in on an annual Yosemite trip our friend Ben puts together. (You can read about last year here.) We arrived in the early evening on Friday, greeted with beers from Ben. The great thing about Ben is he always has a beer specifically for you; an IPA for me, a wheat beer for Mike, etc.

After meeting a few new faces, we toured the grounds with our friends Lauren and Ian as it was their first time in Yosemite. It’s safe to say, Lauren and I talked about how freakin’ gorgeous the park is at least once a hour for the rest of the weekend.

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Driving into the park!
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Lauren, Ian, Mike and were I sharing a canvas tent cabin so we headed over to check in and drop off our stuff before dinner. Last year, Mike and I stayed in the Housekeeping camp with everyone but, this year, there were more people on the trip so we stayed about a mile away in Half Dome Village. The room was tiny (as to be expected) with 2 twin beds on one side (facing head to toe) and a double bed on the other. There was a shelf and some hooks but besides that, it was sparse.

It was a fine place to sleep in but campfires or cooking aren’t allowed there (what?) so really only suitable if you’re hiking all day and just need a place to sleep. Nonetheless, it worked out for us because we spent all of our time in Housekeeping with everyone else (where fires and cooking are allowed).

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Our cozy bed in Half Dome Village

Same as last year, each couple is tasked with making one meal during the trip for everyone camping. On Friday night the menu included chicken sausage with a nom orzo, cucumber, and feta salad. The orzo salad alone would make a great, simple weekday dinner. Maybe I will recreate it soon… stay tuned.

After dinner we sang songs around the fire; Miley Cyrus, Journey, and Whitney were all included on the playlist. At 10pm we had to move the party over to the amphitheater, where we didn’t have to worry about being loud.

Then, after a few ghost stories, it was a short walk to where we were staying for a restful night of deep sleep. (I think everyone sleeps better out in nature.)

We were back at Housekeeping early on Saturday in time for a chia pudding breakfast bar. I ate a lot of chia pudding when we visited Australia a few years ago and forgot how much I like it! Paired with fruit, nuts, and coconut shavings, we had a great vegan breakfast that kept me full for hours.

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Chia bar!

Next up was a hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, although I didn’t make it into the water. The waterfall was much more active this year and the midst was doing a fine job at keeping me cool. Unlike last year, when it was scorching hot up there – with a barely there waterfall flowing – and getting in to swim was a lot easier.

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Hiking boulders
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Lower Yosemite Falls up close and personal 🙂

We enjoyed a spread of sammies after our hike and then walked straight to the river for an afternoon of drinking, playing games, and floating. It was nice not being on a schedule or worrying about what time it is. For a type A+ person like myself, disconnecting from the grind of planning is a nice change of pace every now and then.

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heyooo

Saturday night was spent making dinner, drinking wine, and playing more games. It was our turn to cook for everyone. We stayed simple with a salad, pasta, and breadsticks.

Nature, friends, vino, and carbohydrates is a good combination, if you ask me.

We ended the weekend at brunch at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Call me a food snob but a traditional breakfast doesn’t do it for me anymore! Where’s the avo toast or poached eggs on bruschetta?! ..Not at the Majestic. I ordered scrambled eggs with hash browns and ham and it was meh.

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Brunchin’
Lucky for me, before brunch, Lauren ordered me an iced almond milk latte so, at least I had some millennial, boujee-ness going for me. 😉  Nothing says friendship like knowing someone’s coffee order!

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Stunner ❤
Everyone packed up and left after brunch but Mike and I stayed to bike around through the park. First we rode up to Mirror Lake. This place was gorgeous, although the sand rocky and the water freezing. Then we headed to the Swinging Bridge for great views and the start of a bucket list next year:

  1. Jump off Swinging Bridge
  2. Rent a raft to float down the river (we saw a lot of people doing this on our ride)
  3. Claim a spot at Mirror Lake; bring wine + friends; have a picnic

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Mirror Lake

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Toes in water

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The Swinging Bridge and a view of Lower Yosemite Falls
It was getting later and hotter in the afternoon so we left shortly after checking out the bridge. On the way home we stopped for Mexican, about a hour outside of the park. It was a hole in the wall place that we ate at a few years ago with my family after horseback riding in Yosemite. Good patio? Great food? Check and check. I think we’ll be making it a tradition to eat here every year.

We also stopped at an off the road fruit stand closer to home and I got 2 organic zucchini and 2 huge nectarines for $3. Such a good deal. And, by the way, if you haven’t sliced and froze nectarines to eat as a summer snack or dessert, you’re missing out!

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Until next time… ✌️

[Get Away] Clear Lake

It’s Friday! But I’m bringing it back to last weekend when we took a mini get away to Clear Lake. We stayed at our friend’s Lauren’s parents lake house for a weekend of sun, swimming, food, and fun. (rhyme)

This is our second trip up to Clear Lake this summer, with significantly better weather this time (although, I didn’t mind a cozy weekend at the lake a few weeks ago either). Lauren, her boyfriend, Ian, Mike and I left on Friday evening after a quick dinner at BierHaus. The lake is only a ~3 hour drive from Mountain View and we were lucky not to hit any traffic. We arrived at the house around 10:30pm and after quickly catching up with Lauren’s parents, retired to our room for the night. Lauren and her family are gracious hosts and let Mike and I stay in the other master bedroom the house has, complete with en-suite bathroom, a king size bed, and access to the deck with a beautiful view of the lake. I sleep like a royalty every time we go!

On Saturday we had a quick breakfast of bagels, melon, coffee, tea, and booch before taking the boat out on the water. Mike and Ian did a bit of wakeboarding and Lauren water skied. I stayed on the boat and was the Flag Girl; which means anytime someone is in the water and they aren’t being pulled by the boat, the flag has to be in the air to signal to other boats one of our people is in the water, watch out.

Sounds easy enough but there were a few times when I was too absorbed in watching that I forgot to hold up the flag when someone went down. Luckily, Deb (Lauren’s mom) is a pro and would remind me every time.


After a while out on the lake, we headed back to the house. We grabbed an array of tubes and one particularly giant swan and hit the lake again; jumping off the dock and chilling out but avoiding the seaweed (lakeweed?) at.all.costs.

Starving after all of our activity we headed inside for a nom lunch. Deb put out a delicious spread of shrimp, chicken wings, avocado, local tomatoes, bread, and black bean and sausage soup. I wish I’d snapped a picture but hunger took priority.

We let our food digest and then it was back out on the boat. This time, for tubbing! Lauren and I were scared to go with our S.O.s, in fear that they would think it was funny to push us off, so we insisted on going together. The boys went first and it was pretty funny seeing how small the tube looked under these 2 grown men.

Lauren and I were next and, omg, what an adventure! We basically just screamed the entire time, hoping not to drift out of the wake; where there are rollers that either send you flying or catching air and slamming back down on the tube. It sounds aggressive but it was fun! After we each went individually, Lauren’s dad expertly driving the boat each round.

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Wearing goggles to protect my contacts😛


We watched the sunset with glasses of wine and bottles of beer on the deck. Then had a delicious dinner of fish tacos and black beans. Dinner was later and I didn’t stay up much for much longer after, exhausted from all of the time spent in the sun and water.

The next morning we got up early and took the boat to breakfast. I wish I could commute everywhere by boat! There’s something v meditative about being surrounded by water.

Breakfast was delish but the service was soo slow. Like, they didn’t charge us for our drinks it was that slow. Oh, well. We packed up and headed back right when we got back. Making record time on the way home too.

Bali: final days

Read about the rest of our trip here, here, and here.


Thursday started with more smoothie bowls and a surfing lesson! …A surfing lesson for Mike anyway. (I’m a nervous beach-goer and SUP in Australia a few years ago was my limit for ocean activities.) I sat on the beach with the intention to read while Mike was in the water. Instead I chatted the whole time with a mom whose daughter was also taking a lesson. I later learned that her daughter competed in the Rio Olympics as a swimmer for Australia. Pretty cool!


After about 1 1/2 in the water, Mike’s lesson was done and we went back to the house for a second breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. Since we were getting up so early, second breakfasts become a regular on this vacation.

A while later we collectively decided we could go for a massage (keeping with tradition from New Years Day when we were all in Santa Rosa). Spa treatments are cheap in Bali. We paid about $15 for a hour massage. After our relaxing massages, we were back in the pool to play volleyball. 

Sometimes I’m a bit of a joy kill when it comes to playing games… it’s not that I don’t like them but it takes me awhile to get into it.  I think because I much prefer conversation or reading, like the wise old soul that I am 😉 

I was going to tap out of playing because I had my contacts in and didn’t want to deal with taking them out to play. Instead Mike’s brother-in-law threw me a pair of googles to protect my eyes (lol) and started throwing the ball towards me. Of course it was a lot of fun! Almost too much fun as we stayed in the pool for a lot longer than expected.

We had planned to go to dinner at Old Man’s for Mike’s dads last night but we got there too late and it was crowded! (Which was a bummer because everyone had gone when we were in Ubud and really liked it.) Instead we ended up at the place next door which turned out to be great!

We sat up on a high deck, overlooking the beach. There were dimly lite orange and yellow lanterns everywhere, giving it a very whimsical feel. The place wasn’t crowded, which was surprising because the food was so good. I ordered the Australian cheeseburger with a side of corn and it was probably the best meal I had in Bali (aside from The Shady Shack).

The next day, our last full day in Bali, was filled with favorites from the trip. Mike and I woke up early and set out for first breakfast. I had avocado toast and an iced coffee with coconut milk. An ideal breakfast combination, in my opinion.

We had second breakfast back at the villa a while later. Then more pool time. I can’t remember exactly but I think a few Bintangs were consumed at this point too. Coffee chased with beer? Talk about vacation mode.

Lunch was at Taco Casa for more of their strawberry sangria and nachos! After drinking and eating, we all appropriately took a midday nap. Mike’s sister and company flew back to Australia that night but not before a last round at The Lawn. We went back in the afternoon for a drink, some apps, and a dip in their pool (how genius is it to have a pool at the restaurant?). Then we took our last family walk on the beach back to the villa.

Silliness at The Lawn

A few hours later, everyone was packed and ready to go home. With all of the company we had that week – not to mention, the giant house we were staying in that was now quiet – it felt pretty lonely for just Mike and I to be left.

So, we quickly reapplied bug spray and headed back to The Lawn for dinner (The Lawn isn’t paying me for this post, I swear hah). We ordered cocktails but probably should have skipped them because we were both already so tired. It was approaching 9pm, which was around our Bali bedtime. lol

After dinner, we walked back to our empty villa and went straight to bed. We woke up the next morning with the intent to enjoy all of our Bali favorites one last time. After smoothie bowls on the beach, we walked around the main strip before it got unbearably hot. Which wasn’t long after…

We wanted our last meal to be at The Shady Shake but, unfortunately, they were closed. Instead, we got avocado toast to-go and ate it back at our villa by the pool. We still had a ton of Bintangs left and thought, why not? We popped two open and the second they got warm, we opened another bottle. What else are you supposed to do with 2 people and half dozen beers? 😉

We finished the last of our packing, drank the last of the beer, and then it was time to go. Our transport picked us up and a hour later, we were at the airport, ready to embark on the 18 hour journey back home.

Airport adventures…

Our Hello Kitty themed airplane 😂