Cross Country

On the first night at our B&B in Yosemite, I grabbed a book off the bookshelf called, The Prophet. It’s a book of life wisdom about a man, or a prophet, who has lived abroad for years and is about to make his journey back home. It felt wholly appropriate to be reading it in that time and place, as I was about to do the same.

Salton Sea

As you know, I drove a lot during the California sister’s trip (ahem, no thanks to my partner-in-travel), and after that I decided to just keep on driving. After Elayne left, I joined my housemates for our last round of Highland Park food truck nights and sold my bed at exactly 8pm. The next day, it was time to drive my fully packed car to Phoenix.

The drive itself would take about 5.5 hours, but I’d been thinking of stopping at an art installation in the desert called Salvation Mountain. I was undecided about going, because it would add almost two hours and take me on a more remote path. However, a friend of mine had done it before on her solo road trip and she agreed that it would be worthwhile. I changed my course and headed southeast of the interstate.

Bombay Beach

The first scenic viewpoints I passed were of the Salton Sea (pictured above), which is this kind-of-creepy and very isolated body of water that seems very out of place in the desert. I stopped in the nearby town of Bombay Beach—population 295 and apparently the lowest community in the United States. “Community” might be a bit of a stretch because the town seemed to be made up of abandoned trailers spray-painted with anarchist messaging and signs saying “Hipsters go home”. It definitely had a spooky scary movie energy, but the kind you can’t help but keep watching.

Bombay Beach

I wound a little further past that town and mapped my way to Salvation Mountain. Its bright colors were easy to spot from the rest of the flat, sandy scenery. The air was steaming hot, but I was too impressed by this artist's and community’s dedication to mind.

Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain

After about half an hour of sweating in Dr. Seuss-land, I got back on path and continued the journey. Pretty soon, i found myself in the midst of some surprise sand dunes that extreme Star Wars fans probably know more about than me. Nonetheless, I was very excited to park the car again and stop at an overlook.

Imperial Dunes

Later, I had to stop at a border checkpoint and nervously explain my intentions. It went fine, and the terrain kept changing and keeping things interesting. I was well on my way to Phoenix… (to be continued).

Salvation Mountain

Sisters in California: The rest!

I’m sorry to tell you, but most of the glorious highlights of our trip stopped after Yosemite. It was a boring drive back on the 5, however we adjusted the plan and went west to Santa Monica so we could at least enjoy a bit of beach time and our last donuts (some of my all-time favorites). After that, it was hard to keep my mind off the cross-country move that would be taking place TWO DAYS LATER. I forced Elayne to come with me to get my oil changed, which she did not really enjoy, but we did try a yummy coffee shop in Atwater Village. But then we walked over a mile in sweaty summer LA sunshine, so win some, lose some, ya know?

We tried to go bowling, and unfortunately there was a two hour wait, so we could only eat tacos. (Note to self: reserve your spot for the bowling before getting the tacos.) Then that was that. I brought Elayne to the airport and packed my car up to leave the very next day.

What a trip, though! I’m glad we could pack so many awesome activities (and donuts) into our week together. Until next time… maybe in another five years?

Sentinel Dome trail

Sisters in California: Day 4

After our few days of fun in LA, it was time to head up the coast for further adventures. Maybe I should have organized the itinerary a little better so that we didn’t do the bulk of our driving on a Friday, but of course, hindsight’s 20-20.

We left early in the morning so that we would have time to make a few stops. First, we checked out Solvang, a sweet little Danish that seems straight out of a storybook.

Solvang

And you know we had to find more donuts! Nothing to see here…

SloDoCo

After a long drive and a bit of traffic delay, we made it to Napa and our tasting reservation slot at Domaine Carneros. Elayne had organized this portion of the trip, but I’m always happy to sit by and sip sparkling wines on any Friday afternoon.

Domaine Carneros

This vineyard ended up being our favorite in Napa.

Domaine Carneros

After the tasting, we checked into our fancy hotel—a little too fancy for the amount of time we were able to spend in it, but still a nice escape from LA. We drove into the nearby town of Yountville for pizza and, obviously, more wine. When in Rome…

Sisters in California: Day 3

It’s nice to have a visitor in LA, so that you can do all sorts of touristy activities that you might not necessarily do on a normal day. Like take a Warner Bros. studio tour:

Warner Bros studio tour

And hang out around Batmobiles:

Warner bros studio tour

I think this was the day we made waffles for breakfast at home using my mini waffle maker. And went to yoga. And were there donuts, too? There probably were.

Bird scooter LA

At night, we met a few friends for dinner at Grand Central Market, a good option for visitors since it’s casual and everyone can get something different. We opted for mango beers and Thai food. Elayne rode a Bird scooter for the first time. Then it was time to get home and rest up for our big weekend adventure…

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Sisters in California: Day 2

Wednesday had to be one of the best California days I’ve had yet! We woke up early to eat breakfast at my number one neighborhood haunt, Kitchen Mouse. Then we hiked up to a secret swing in Elysian Park.

Elysian Park swing

I think we must have had donuts, too, since that seemed to be the theme of our trip.

After that, it was time to get ready for the wine safari. You heard that right. In Malibu, you can visit a farm/winery where they will drive you around in a safari bus to visit a giraffe, zebras, alpacas, etc.

Malibu Wine Safari

Of course we paid extra for a meet and greet with Stanley the Giraffe. It was the highlight of our trip.

Stanley the Giraffe

Look at that tongue! I think the animals are more of the draw than the wine at this particular wine safari, but the grounds are lovely to walk and ride around. And the sun came out exactly at the start of our tour.

Malibu Wine Safari zebras
Malibu Wine Safari

When the tour was over, we likely needed something to absorb the booze, so we decided to revisit one of the stops from our first California sister’s road trip five years ago, Neptune’s Net. It was just as good as we remembered, though we probably didn’t need to eat this entire plate of fried seafood right before dinner, but we’re on vacation, right?

Neptunes Net Malibu CA

We stopped at Point Dume on the way back to take in some gorgeous views of the coast. Then it was back into the city for dinner. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, but I realized I’d added mainly vegan restaurants to the itinerary. My sister and I aren’t vegan, but the options here are just that delicious!

Point Dume

Oh yeah, of course while we were in WeHo, we had to stop and see some more “famous walls of LA”. Here’s the one whose fame shocks me the most. But, when touristing, you gotta do what you gotta do!

LA Pink wall
Malibu Wine Safari

Sisters in California: Day 1

My sister, Elayne, landed at 10am last Tuesday, so, most appropriately, I met her at the airport with donuts and immediately brought her to take pictures in front of all the fancy, brightly-colored walls in Los Angeles. Just kidding, but not really

Venice Flake

We ate breakfast at my favorite Venice breakfast place, and I thought we would spend the day at the beach because I forgot it was still June and how LA gets very sad, cloudy, and rainy at this time of year. It was too cold and not exactly sunny vacation weather, but no matter; we strolled around to the Venice canals instead.

Venice Canals

Yup. Did you know that Venice has peaceful little canals just like Italy? They don’t have any gondolas to hire, but apparently you can bring your own paddle boat or stand-up paddle board and use it at your leisure.

Venice Canals

We walked the boardwalk after that and saw a pretty OK but also pretty drawn out street performance. It was still too chilly to enjoy the beach, so we had a snack and took a pretty nice and necessary yoga class to work off the donuts and said snack before dinner.

Dinner was at THE BEST RESTAURANT, The Butcher’s Daughter. Have you been there yet? They have one on the east coast and the west coast, so New York or California, no excuses. You have to go!

love wall Venice

Although it was a little chilly to our liking—especially since Elayne has been working in a hectic veterinary internship all year and hasn’t seen the sun or light of day in a while—we made the most of things and had ourselves a nice west side day. Nevertheless, we were still crossing our fingers for some sunshine later in the trip.

The Calm Before the Storm

Well, actually, it’s almost always a wild storm for me, because I have trouble sitting still for days at a time. But, here’s what’s happening: my sister comes to California for our likely-traditional every-five-year road trip; I somehow manage to sell all my furniture and pack all my belongings into my car by the time she leaves; I leave the very next day to drive across the country to my mom’s house in New Jersey, where I’ll stay for the rest of the summer. No sweat.

So, before that happens, I wanted to enjoy my last remaining solo days in LA (for now) by doing whatever seems worthy of my last days. I went for a glorious nature hike at Chantry Flats. Can you believe that such a place exists so close to this gigantic of a city?!

Chantry Flats goats
Chantry Flats

I drove down to Carlsbad to visit with friends, sing karoke, and spend a cloudy morning at the beach testing my new surfing skills. (And noticed they don’t quite hold up to California waves).

Tamarack Beach surfing

I took the Transcendental Meditation course in Los Feliz and had a few days there to explore a new-to-me neighborhood. And eat ice cream every day of that week. I’ll have to keep you posted on how TM differs from the mantra meditations I’ve been practicing daily for almost two years now, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

Los Feliz Los Angeles

The following week, I drove down to Newport Beach to fulfill all my teenage OC TV-show dreams. It’s been nice when the sun finally pokes through the clouds around 2 in the afternoon to combat our month of June Gloom.

Newport Beach

I hosted a see-ya-later bonfire in my backyard [tears]. I wonder if my grandma knew when she gifted me this vintage picnic basket that it would someday become the home of the perfect Pinterest-esque s’mores bar.

Smores bar


Last, but of course not least, friends and I scuttled over into the valley to eat the fluffiest pancakes in the world. These were worth the trek!

Cicis pancakes Tarzana

Later we spent the day climbing over rock beaches near Malibu and shopping at kooky vintage shops in Topanga.

Las Tunas beach

I’m sure going to miss this place!

Skiing in Squaw Valley

I didn’t think I could enjoy a ski area as much as I’ve enjoyed Mammoth, but, think again, because my dad and I found another outstanding competitor a few weeks ago. Spring skiing in Squaw Valley has made it’s way to the top of the list of best trips ever. I mean, Spring skiing almost anywhere is my favorite kind of skiing—60 degrees, blue skies, and soft ice-free snow—but an early May weekend at Squaw really made me feel spoiled.

Squaw Valley gondola

Ok, this is coming from a mainly Northeastern skiier up until last year, but I was amazed to find that there was still SO MUCH snow! Most of the mountain was open and stayed open until 1pm, when it would get a little too slushy to carry on, but the highest part would remain open until 4pm, i.e. the entire day… in May!

Squaw Valley skiing

The Saturday that we were there was the day before Cinco de Mayo, i.e. Cuatro de Mayo, so there were a lot of other fun happenings going on (like the annual pond skim) and tacos to eat. We were hesitantly ok with calling it quits around 1 o’clock, but it would have been easy to keep going. However, we had to move on to partaking in one of the other benefits of Squaw Valley—its proximity to Lake Tahoe!

Lake Tahoe

Wow, wow, wow! Check out these aprés ski vistas! I’m beginning to think I could consider living in other parts of California besides the southern third.

Lake Tahoe

Birthdays

I turned 31 this month. I know, can you believe it?! Life is always rushing past at full speed, and I’m doing what I can to make the most of all these moments. Since a birthday is really a reason to go BIG if there every was one, I decided to do a very SoCal particular thing and try to ski and visit the beach in the same day. Of course it’s possible, the mountains and the beaches are a little under 3 hours apart, but in reality with LA traffic, you can never be too sure. I had to test it out for myself.

On April 9th, I rose before the sun, tucked my skis into the trunk of my car, and drove up into the mountains. Well, actually drove an hour on the highway and then a steep and windy hour and a half to Big Bear. One of the most important reasons for attempting this feat was that Big Bear Mountain offers a free lift ticket on your birthday. I had a birthday that blissfully coincided with a day off work, so I HAD. TO. GO.

I made it onto the mountain by about 9:30am, minus a brief stop for second breakfast since I’d donated blood for the first time the day before and was feeling a little woozy. There was not a tremendous amount of snow left this late in the season, but there was certainly enough to ski on. I’ve definitely seen less snow on other ski trips in my life.

Big Bear spring skiing
Big Bear Spring skiing

This was my first time going skiing by myself, but iPhone & headphones were there for me, and it was a truly excellent morning. At around 11:30, the snow was getting pretty slushy, so I decided it was an appropriate time to make for the beach.

I stopped for lunch (an egg salad bagel, naturally) from what used to be my favorite bagel place but is now my second favorite bagel place since this one opened a few weeks ago. It’s really kind of unfortunate because the new one is way closer to my house and my bagel intake plus my waistline have probably both quadrupled or more. Anyhow, egg salad in tow I carried on my way.

One of my friends is a high school teacher who had a half-day field trip, so she kindly agreed to meet in Venice to make the day extra special. We grabbed a beer and scurried to the sand as fast as we could. It was still kind of breezy for LA spring, but that didn’t stop us from dunking in the water. I always try to get in the ocean as much as I can whenever I’m near the beach, even if it’s chilly, just so I don’t take it for granted.

Venice beach
Venice boardwalk

My view had changed from snow to sand in a matter of hours. Unreal! Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that I seriously live here. I wouldn’t say the ski & sea voyage is completely reasonable for a regular day, unless you feel like LA driving for 6 hours, but for a special occasion with plenty of free time it was perfectly doable.

Ben & Jerry’s must have known it was my birthday, because on the walk back to our cars to try to beat the wild rush hour traffic, they were giving out free ice cream cones for no reason at all!

Ben & Jerrys Venice Beach

What a sweet ending to a perfect day! It was followed by a night of loungey cocktails with lovely friends and then a very satisfying sleep.

Winter Wonderland

If you’re at a standstill wondering if you should go on a ski trip or be practical, stay home, work, and not go on the ski trip, I’m here to tell you that you should most definitely go on the ski trip. Even if you just got back from Mexico City and are leaving three days later for another continent, just go on the ski trip.

I was invited to go skiing with a group of friends last month, and I immediately wanted to go, because Mammoth, of course, and what a dream it was to be there last year. As the trip got closer, I started having doubts because 1.) all this travel means I haven’t really been working (ie. earning money) that much, and 2.) I was feeling wildly disorganized by the lack of time between trips. I couldn’t make up my mind about going, but I guessed that it had been made up for me since we’d already purchased lift tickets and booked the Airbnb.

June Mountain

Then, sort of miraculously, a * normal * person from Craigslist decided to sublet my room for the month. She came on the last day of February—she was the only one I showed the room to and mine was the only room she looked at, but we were both ready and it seemed like a good fit (and still does). Around the same time, I got an offer for a new freelance writing job to bring in a little side income while I flutter around teaching yoga for two hours a day. Two loads off my shoulders. Whew!

(I’m sure many of you who read this wonder how I can afford to do the things I do, and the answer is somewhere between my grandma giving us an early inheritance along with my being a bit reckless and very resourceful when opportunities for adventure present themselves.)

So all that could’ve fallen into place did, and the ski trip was happening. We drove the 5 hour trek up to the snowy mountains (not a problem for Suzie’s Suburu Impreza) , checked into the very 80’s ski condo, and sipped some cocktails, because, well, of course. There were four of us in the first car, waiting until later in the night when the rest of the group would arrive. Once the second car made it to the condo area, they got stuck at the bottom of the hill, and we had a bit of an exciting time putting chains on their tires (ie. me holding my phone flashlight while the guys did the work).

The first day of skiing was hampered by the biggest blizzard I’ve seen in a while, so many of the lifts were closed. We drank Irish coffees in the lodge and almost called it quits, but as we were about to pack it in, we found an open chair with great conditions and did laps there for the rest of the afternoon.

Mammoth Mountain

On Sunday, we decided to avoid the crowds and possible windy conditions and opted to check out June Mountain, which is still as much of a gem as the first time I saw it. What a perfect day!

Anyway, the moral of this story is to stop all of your non-skiing nonsense, expect everything to fall into place, and go on the ski trip.

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What To Do with Parents in LA

Hi! I’ve just freshly landed in Australia, but before we get to that, I better tell you about the time in February (too long ago now) when my mom and stepdad came to visit me in LA. It was kind of “cold” for visitors (ie. it was 60 degrees and I had to wear my ski jacket), but they were en route to Cabo, so I didn’t feel too bad. I almost went to Mexico with them, but the hotel they were staying at only had couple’s suites and that would have been a bit too much togetherness for us all. Instead, we had a few days in LA.

We were able to do a lot of the sightseeing stuff that I’d not gotten to yet. I showed them the worst of traffic—only once! They tried In-N-Out (overrated) and a few of LA’s other most fine and trendy eateries, like Sqirl, Republique, Manuela, and Donut Friend (not overrated).

I’m very into building itineraries, so I packed way too many activities into each day. We sprinted around Huntington Gardens, stopped by the Getty Villa, and ate in the Arts District all in one day, which are all in opposite directions if you didn’t know (hence the traffic).

Huntington Botanical Gardens
Getty Villa

I brought my mom to work (aka yoga and Zumba class in Monterey Park) and was wildly impressed that the Zumba teacher made up a special dance with costumes for Chinese New Year. To be a conscientious teacher like that!

24 Hour Fitness Zumba

We saw the Rose Bowl Stadium, which is kind of just there and you can’t go inside, so maybe strike that one off your list if it’s not football season and you aren’t staying in Pasadena.

Rose Bowl Stadium

We had a very Hollywood day when we took a celebrity van tour—so much fun and you must, must do this when you host visitors or are a visitor to the area, if not for the celebrity homes then for the views and for seeing parts of LA that you wouldn’t normally feel like driving to. Then we went to the Pantages Theatre to see Hello, Dolly! where everyone promptly fell asleep because I didn’t calculate our energy levels when planning the ultimate Los Angeles experience. Oh well.

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Overall, it was an amazing few days and I’m so happy they could make the time to stop here before their beach vacation. I love showing people around as well as finding new fun places for myself, so come visit whenever you can!

Scooters & Sea Lions

If your parents, like my dad, ever get tired of visiting you in the city where you live (and to be fair I cannot blame them for LA is a tiring place), a fun thing to do is to meet them in other places and have an adventure for the both of you. My dad attended a weeklong conference in San Diego for work at the end of last month, and, lucky for me, he decided to tack on a few extra days so that we could explore.

Last year, we spent my 30th birthday trip together at Mammoth Mountain, but this time we took a sunnier route… or we mostly intended to, but it’s actually been pretty dreary and cold down here in SoCal for the past month— it even snowed?!

No matter! We didn’t let the rain or grey skies ruin our plans to go out in the Gaslamp District. I put the cap on sober January when we found a trailer park themed bar, and I lost my favorite ring when I got too enthused about arcade basketball.

Trailer Park After Dark

By day, we rented Bird scooters for dad’s first time and took a pretty long ride (for scooter riders) up the coast to La Jolla. We got up close and personal with sea lions. They’re near enough that you can just about reach out and touch them, if you’re in the business of disturbing nature’s peace, so obviously it was the highlight of the trip, if not my entire life.

Sea lions in La Jolla
La Jolla

After we had scootered back down, we took our chances at spotting some whale migrations at the Cabrillo National Monument. Unfortunately, whales were not in the cards for us this trip, but we still saw some pretty nice views of the city.

Cabrillo National Monument

Whale sightings or not, it was an excellent opportunity to spend a weekend out of town and an easy way to get some dad time in. I’m glad we can always find new ways make the most of our time together! I hope you’re finding some joy in these late winter days, too.

Playing with Pals

Whew, y’all. The late January and early February times have brought an abundance of visitors to the SoCal area, and I can’t help but feel thrilled about it. My best friend, Annie, from college had the chance to come out for a few days, and it was the most perfect timing because her sister is living almost down the street from me and we already hang out all the time! I wish we could permanently add Annie to the neighborhood, but we’ll take a weekend if that’s what we can get.

Last Bookstore record player

It was one of the first opportunities I had to explore LA for visitors and find the fun things to do. We painted pots, strolled the best bookstore, rode swan boats, and celebrated the bulldogs racing in a derby. There was a lot more celebrating than there was actual racing, but what else are sporting events about?

Santa Anita Bulldog Derby
Glaze Fire pottery

One morning, we walked through the Downtown Los Angeles Flower Market, and if you are buying plants, especially succulents, anywhere else, you should really rethink your habits. We showed up towards the end of the morning when a lot of the stalls were already shutting down, but even still, I’ve rarely seen so many beautiful blooms in one place.

Los Angeles Flower Market

The most fun and unbelievable part of all was that Annie is about 5 months pregnant, so we got to see her in her maternity state, and by the next time we’re together again, there will be a little one to welcome into the world! It’s so exciting and surreal to delight in a ten-plus year friendship and to watch a loved one enter a new stage of life. Blessings all around!

Echo Park Lake swan boats

Sunday Special, Vol. 13

Last week, my mom took me to a special wellness retreat in Tuscon, AZ to celebrate my belated 30th birthday. It felt strange to be basking in luxury while giant parts of LA were on fire, but pleasant to reconnect and practice self care. I’m home now, and the smokey air is smelling like campfire, but it’s nothing here in my neighborhood compared to people in Malibu losing their homes and seeing their whole lives go up in flames. This week is heavy hearted, but it’s another chance to witness the power of people and communities coming together.

Canyon Ranch

Health

This had to have been my healthiest vacation ever. Most guests stay at Canyon Ranch to relax, refocus on health, or reconnect with their spirit. Every hour of the day was loaded with fitness classes, lifestyle lectures, spa services, creative classes, and nature activities. Since it was my first time there, my mom and I kept very busy and wanted to try as many different things as possible. We went for morning walks among saguaro cacti. We took yoga classes (of course), Zumba, water aerobics, kettle bells, acrylic painting, and I received a tarot card reading. I’ll have more to details to share later this week, but this getaway really took the idea of healthy living up a few notches. (+)

Family

Getting to spend a week with my mom was nice. I wonder if people whose parents are still together get the same chance to connect with each parent one-on-one. It’s a special thing, and I’m grateful to have had this time. (+)

Friends

When you’re a yoga teacher, it’s hard getting started out with new classes. Sometimes no one shows up or one person comes and you’ve got to give an awkward private session. If you move to a new city, it’s like restarting the entire experience all over in a new place. I am so thankful that I found friends here who have been willing to come to my classes. Friends, please always let me know if you’re starting a new venture and need an extra show of support! (+)

Mission/Work

It was nice to take a few days off from teaching classes to visit Tuscon. I ended up going to quite a few yoga classes anyway, even when I said I’d branch out and try new styles of exercise. But I did end up learning a lot and coming back with fresh ideas to incorporate into my classes. (+)

Finances

Since it was my birthday celebration, I was treated to so much this week! You know I welcomed it with open arms, and that has to be a plus. (+)

Adventure

Canyon Ranch was a totally new experience for me. It was kind of like an all-inclusive vacation mixed with summer camp and a spa and a health club. I wished that we had a tiny bit more time in Tuscon to see life outside the ranch, but I spotted enough saguaros and javelina that I can’t complain. (+)

Hobby

I painted some mountains! And finally finished the bag I’d been crocheting for about a month now. (+)

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Spirituality

It was reassuring to learn that Canyon Ranch doesn’t just focus on restoring fitness and physical beauty. They have really developed a holistic approach that lets visitors focus on what concerns them. I liked that we were able to try some new classes and learn about unfamiliar topics while still getting to enjoy our old favorites. There was plenty of meditation and quiet stillness to go around. (+)

Emotion

What a rollercoaster! I was thrilled to be experiencing a whole new type of vacation and getting away from it all. But news of the shooting and fires in SoCal had me worried about my friends and our city. My mind was definitely in two different places at certain points of the trip. (+/-)

Saguaro cactus

Desert Daze

I’m back from visiting the desert with a bunch of Austin amigos and happy to say we all survived tent camping during THE ONLY time it has rained or stormed in this area since I moved here. That was seven months ago! Of course it would happen on a night we were set to see a favorite band (Tame Impala) and sleep beneath pieces of fabric under the stars. My tent is more of a Central Texas or Southern California, warm, dry weather style, and wasn’t really designed for all-weather conditions, so I was impressed that it held up during a whole night of rain with only one tiny leak.

We made it back to the campsite/car area and sought shelter in the bathroom structure after the Friday night shows were canceled. Luckily, this all happened early in the festival so by Saturday we were feeling much drier and ready to head back out for 2 more days and nights of music and enjoying a festival on the shores of a gosh darn glorious lake. If you haven’t tried it, you probably should.

Desert Daze

Fair Festivities

It’s the middle of September and we’re starting to wake up in the dark. If we were living by the clock of nature, shouldn’t we wait just a little bit until the sun shines through the window and warms us up? I guess we started this whole time thing for farmers and, I know only a little bit about farming, but couldn’t the farmers sleep in a bit, too? I’d be ok with it.

But the last days of summer bring one of my favorite childhood memories: going to the fair! The Dutchess County Fair, our local event back home in New York, is hard to beat. Even the Texas State Fair for the entire state of TEXAS paled in comparison. That’s saying something.

But we’re in California now, and the LA County Fair came through for me. It’s held in a massive Fairplex with two chairlifts to carry non-walking people from end to end. There were your typical treats including rides, games, farm animals, and fried everything. On top of that, there were palm trees, A ZOO, and the aesthetic hanging bistro lights that millennials like me love. I missed pierogi and 4H milkshakes, but they had chicken in a waffle on a stick, so let’s say I did not starve.

There’s still time to check it out if you’re in the area. Otherwise feel free to live vicariously through this picture of me and my chicken waffle below:

Waffle on a stick

Finding My Voice

When was the last time you did something you were really, genuinely afraid to do?

Joshua Tree

That was me last weekend—not for anything actually scary, but in the face of going on stage to sing karaoke… solo! I’ve been to karaoke a lot of times, but I usually watch from the audience, or join a group of at least three friends and stand in the back, far away from the microphone. Then afterwards I dream of choosing my own song and rocking out without caring what anyone thinks of my performance. “Oh well,” I think, “maybe next time.”

Apart from the past few years where I’ve pushed myself hard to step out of my comfort zone, growing up I was actually very shy. I was a hardworking and focused student, but it always made me extremely nervous to ask a question in class, and I think I would rather have died than present in front of a group.

This summer, I went to a friend’s family party and one of our middle school teachers was there. She remembered me— “You were such a good student, but painfully shy!” I’ve been working so hard to be outgoing that I had almost forgotten about those days. Her words reminded me. One year, I even wanted to run for student government but decided against it because I would have had to give a speech.

Somewhere along the way, I found my teaching voice. I still get nervous in front of a class (or recording videos of myself!), but I love the rush of connection so much and find the information so important that I keep stumbling through it. Singing karaoke on my own was another story. I’m always envious of the people with beautiful voices, and even more of those who can get up on stage and put their whole hearts into it when they don’t sound great. Like most humans, I usually want everyone to think that everything I do is excellent. A totally realistic goal, haha! Unfortunately, my singing voice is not one anyone would describe as “excellent” by a long shot.

Last Friday night, my two girlfriends and I sat watching and cheering on the other performers at the Joshua Tree Saloon. I had chosen and practiced a song for days, but I could sense the familiar heart racing, cold sweat feeling that usually keeps me in my seat. I procrastinated, waiting until we ordered drinks (of course!) and looked over the food menu. The crowd was small and friendly, and the performances were sparse since it was early in the evening. Would tonight be my night? I remembered back to a discussion with one of the brave women on our Thailand yoga retreat. She loved singing and did it as much as she could. She’d told us, “We don’t sing because it sounds good, we sing because we have a voice.” I swallowed pride and fear and walked up to put my name in. And when it was time to sing, I sang!

It wasn’t very excellent, and I kind of tried to hide behind the microphone, so stage presence is something to work on for next time, but I sang, by myself and for myself. And as a bonus, my friends and I were so supportive of the other singers that later in the night, we got called back onstage to perform background vocals for another performer. A little hype goes a long way!

Sure, there are truly terrifying things in life—disease, losing a loved one, going skydiving for the first time—but most of the time, what we worry most about are the little things. Should we speak up in a meeting? Can we state our boundaries or ask for what we want? Is it the right time to tell someone we love them? It’s easy to back away from taking risks because, for most of us, life as it is can feel pretty comfortable.

This year, this decade even, for me has been all about breaking through that comfort zone to find out what’s on the other side. Try the skill you’ve been wanting to try. Say the words you’ve been wanting to say. Sing the song you’ve been wanting to sing. Eventually, you might find yourself living the life you want to live.

Bulldogs & Beach Daze

Last weekend, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at a new favorite beach of mine, Point Dume. There were rocky cliffs, turquoise waters, sea lions, and the types of things you might think of when you think of Malibu. Actually, I didn’t see the sea lions or think there were sea lions in Malibu, but I heard and believe they were just around the bend.

Point Dume Malibu, CA

The only small bit of trouble was that we brought one of these girls without knowing about the steep stairs and rocky descent down to the water:

via  Instagram

Fortunately, Cricket loves the beach, so she trooped on out to the ocean and the whole group of us had a very nice day.

I’m still dreaming of a dog of my own, and I hope you’re still heading outside to seek out sights near you!

3 Tips for Solo Camping (as a Lady)

As you know, I’ve now been on a solo camping trip to here, and I’ve returned to share some wisdom of the wilderness. These are not very gender-specific rules, and they might even be helpful for everyone, but I did take being a lady into account when sleeping in the woods alone. And I bet I am not the best person to give this advice since I’ve only done it one time, but I’m obviously very excited about it and have been talking it up a lot, so here’s what I’ve learned:

June Lake Campground
  1. Plan ahead

    It was important to me to pick out my campground ahead of time. Even though my site didn’t end up having the best view, I was glad to be close enough to other campers to feel safe without being overcrowded. Solitude can be sweet, but for my own security, I preferred not to be too isolated. I planned to arrive with plenty of daylight to establish camp and scope out the area before dark. Years ago, I also practiced setting up my tent ahead of time just to get the hang of it.



  2. Do some activities (but not too many)

    I knew I wanted to squeeze some planned activities in—like June Lake Beach and the June Lake Brewing Company—but I also left plenty of time for lounging and breathing. I thought I might get bored in the dark and hit my sleeping bag at 8pm, but my fire kept me interested well into the night, and then I looked up and saw all the stars!

    Also, you should know how to build a fire on your own. It’s pretty easy in a dry climate. The internet has tips. Luckily, I once went on a camping trip in Austin with a mountain man and two bada** ladies who knew what they were doing, so I acted all “Oh yeah, I know about fires, too,” and observed their tricks while pretending to gather sticks and be helpful.



  3. Lie

    Unfortunately, in the life of a lady (or general person) on her own in the world, sometimes bending the truth is required. I made some friends at the brewery who offered an invitation to come out in Mammoth Village with them later that night. They seemed fun and friendly, but I fibbed and told them I had other plans and hadn’t decided where I’d be staying that night. I might have missed out on some good times, but I had a separate date planned with Nature. I think if someone is going to turn into a real friend, they would understand why you couldn’t be completely honest.



Red Rock Canyon

That might be all I learned this trip, besides not to eat too many Hot Cheetos on the drive up. If you can get past the initial scariness, camping on your own can be a wildly empowering experience and a great way to enjoy spending time with yourself.

June Lake

Hi sweet friends!

Last week, I made a spontaneous pilgrimage to NorCal to visit June Lake, one of the places where I skied with my dad this spring. It's crazy how time slips by--I can't believe I've been out here for almost six months already! After seeing June Mountain in the winter, I knew I needed to check out the area in the warmth of summertime. 

June Mountain

Even with the five hour drive up there, the day was full and peaceful. I found a musical road in Lancaster, CA on the way, then spent the afternoon hiking around the campground and lounging at the beach. August had made the grounds hot and dry, but the waters of the lake were perfectly cool and refreshing. And I don't think any trip to June would be complete without a stop at the local brewery

June Lake

I drove around the June Lake Loop whilst eating too many hot Cheetos and scoping out some other more scenic campgrounds. I was pretty happy with the one I chose, but could've used more access to the water (like at nearby Silver Lake in the photo below). Anyway, mine was safe, bear-free, and with bathrooms so I really can't complain.

June Lake Loop

The next day including a brief visit through Yosemite, and I think that deserves a post of its own. I hope you're still out seeking summer adventures wherever in the world you are!