Holiday Gift Giving Survival Guide

The anxiety begins to build right around Thanksgiving. I begin thinking about my least favorite part of the Holidays. The gift giving! My personal philosophy about this custom is that it’s bullshit. The 3 Kings brought the little baby Jesus gifts of Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense because he was born of a divine immaculate conception in a manger! None of us were born through divine immaculate conception in a manger…… so why the heck are we giving and getting each other gifts?

Unfortunately, in this instance Capitalism wins and I lose. Luckily, I’m the best kind of loser there is. I don’t get sore or sour, I just buck up and deal. I had a few goals this year. I wanted to be one of those annoying people whose ahead of the game and done with all my shopping early. I wanted to avoid going into any chain stores, and I wanted to support local and small businesses. I devised a 3 step process to make this all happen.

STEP #1 – MAKE A LIST

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Photograph by Gratisography

I created my list by jotting down the names of all the people I thought I was going to have to buy gifts for in a Note in my phone. As the weeks went by any time I had an idea of what I could get each person, I’d update the list. Making a Christmas shopping list is something I watched my mom do every year when I was a child. She carried that list through the mall and Toys R Us until every single name had been crossed off.

STEP #2 – SHOP ONLINE (Supporting local or small businesses when possible)

I can’t stress what an outstanding resource Etsy was for me. I ordered a couple beautiful maps from the Kuulys shop for friends who are travelers so they can scratch off all the places they’ve been (like with a lottery ticket.)  All the children on the list got personalized gifts like growth charts with child’s name from Jolie Prints, Eco-friendly crayons spelling out child’s name from Home Grown Crayon Shop or a book with the child’s name worked into the storybook from  My Magic Name Book.

For our family white elephant exchange we ordered this DNA Testing Kit and for my office white elephant gift exchange I ordered a funny Chia Pet from Amazon, but my backup plan was either this llama cookie decorating kit  from Cost Plus World Market or this Ugly Christmas sweater cookie decorating kit from Trader Joe’s. Although these items aren’t from a local or small business I was ok with that.

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For any last minute gifts I’ve got a store called Local Fare on speed dial now. It’s on my way home from work so I can pop in anytime. Plus, the shop owner is so helpful she has a post up on her Instagram encouraging you to contact her if you’re in a bind. She’ll text you a few ideas and have it ready for you when you arrive. There are so many great items in her shop, her Instagram shows off a bit more of her awesome stuff than her website does. Just across the way from this shop is another great spot called Bearfruit Jewelry. Here are a few things I spotted there that I’m sure I’ll be buying for myself or as presents for others the next time I visit.

STEP #3 – WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GIFT LIQUOR!

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Photograph by Gratisography

If despite all your best efforts you can’t think of the “perfect” gift for someone… go for the liquor. No adult doesn’t like receiving alcohol. If you know an adult that doesn’t like getting libations for Christmas… get rid of this person! You don’t need shitty people like that in your life! Here are my recommendations.

  • Bacon Bourbon or Bacon Bloody Mary Mix (OL’ Major Brand available at BevMo)
  • Beer or a gift certificate from a local brewery. (Ex: Barley Forge in Costa Mesa, CA)
  • Southern Comfort Gingerbread Spice
  • Game of Thrones Wines (Almost everyone I know watches GOT)

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Now that I’m 90% done with all my Holiday Shopping (I’ll polish off the rest this weekend) I’ve been wrapping 2-3 gifts a day to not be overwhelmed by that task either. At this rate, I should be all done with everything by Sunday… December 10th! Do you hate me yet?

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My Grandmother’s Mug & Victoria B.C.

Last month, my husband and I embarked on one of the most pointless trips of our lives. We had travel points to burn so we booked a 3 day trip to Victoria, B.C.. Due to our limited number of days available coupled with our preference to always avoiding flying out of LAX and opting to fly out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County or the tiny little Long Beach airport instead we often choose where to go based on where we can get to from those two airports.

After an outstanding trip to the San Juan Islands with my girlfriends a couple months ago, that I dedicated a blog post to, I became a bit obsessed with the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been frequenting Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, but after the San Juan Island trip I can’t seem to get enough of the “Upper Left”. I want to explore it all so I suggested Victoria, B.C. because of my grandmother’s mug!

My maternal grandmother  had a profound impact on my life (I wrote about her in a past blog as well) and she had a mug she always used that’s been etched in my memory. It was a mug from Butchart Gardens with a painting of colorful trees, leaves and flowers. As a child, I was tickled by the dichotomy between how the word Butchart was spelled and pronounced. She was born and raised in Lebanon where she was taught Arabic, Armenian, French and English in school. She didn’t complete school but knew enough in these languages to teach me funny French and Arabic words and I enjoyed her fancy pronunciation skills. I wondered why she was so attached to that mug and I would ask her about it all the time and she would tell me about this fabulous place that seemed so far away an unreachable. Maybe it was the Hawthorne Effect that caused me to glorify this place in  my mind’s eye but anytime I heard anyone talking about Victoria I would silently recall that my grandmother’s mug was from there.

Booking a flight into Vancouver wasn’t working out time wise due to the single daily flight and flying into Victoria was too expensive so we decided to fly into Seattle and drive across the border because we wouldn’t land in time to make the Seattle to Victoria ferry. We booked a rental car with our free points. The drive up to Canada was absolutely beautiful. The trees had changed colors and Fall was in full effect. The border crossing into Canada at the Blaine – Peace Arch Border Crossing was a breeze. We arrived at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, parked the car in extended parking and had about a 30-40 minute wait until the next ferry’s departure. It was my husband’s first time on this type of ferry.

After taking a taxi from the terminal into downtown we checked into our hotel which we  had also booked useing our free points. We had selected the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort.We had requested a room with a King size bed, but my husband had a gnarly cold, so he asked the receptionist if we could possible switch to a room with two queen beds. She gladly made the change and also told us she would move us into a room with a view. As we walked towards the elevator I told my husband that she probably thought we had an argument or that he wasn’t that into me HA HA! The view from our room was breathtaking. I enjoyed both the sunrises and the sunsets overlooking the Parliament building that lights up like a wedding cake at night.

(Images via Panoramio and Marriott)

 

After settling in we didn’t want to venture too far because it was getting late and we were exhausted so we had dinner at LURE.  The hostess informed us that there was a DJ in the bar area and we asked if we could be seated in a quieter part of the restaurant. Based on our choice to vacation in Victoria and sit in quiet areas one would assume we’re in our 80’s but let me just mention that I’m in my late 30’s. Our request worked to our advantage because we ended up with a table right in front of the window so we got to enjoy the beautiful views of Victoria. Our meal here consisted of small plates which was the perfect light meal after a full day of travel.

The next morning we had breakfast just over the bridge from our hotel at Fuego where they were serve Marley Coffee which I had been meaning to try. Right after breakfast, the first item on our “to do” list that I wanted to scratch off immediately was getting a fall themed coffee beverage from Tim Horton’s. I don’t understand the hype about Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Dunkin Donuts really. I would trade all of them for  Tim Horton’s  coffee. Every holiday season I indulge in one pumpkin spice latte and one peppermint mocha and I allow myself one other festive specialty latte. I got to check off my pumpkin latte at Tim Hortons in Victoria. Next, we embarked on trying to get ourselves to Butchart Gardens via public transportation. We hadn’t done a good job of researching this at all so it took much longer for us to figure it out than it should have, but after a while although not in the most efficient way we did find the correct route.  I was so eager to get there, that even though the bus driver had told me he pulls right into the parking lot of the Gardens the minute we saw the sign for Butchart Gardens I pulled the stop request string and we got off. Basically what this did was earn us a quick annd much needed bathroom stop and a 3 kilometer walk to our destination. After our 20 minute walk we arrived! It seems my husband and I have inadvertently made a tradition of visiting botanical gardens in the off season. This was our second time at a botanical garden and both times it wasn’t good timing. Our first visit was a couple years ago, during the month of December to Descanso Gardens. December is an awful time to visit because all we saw were stark trees and nothing was in bloom. It was an expensive stroll HA HA! I think we’re showing improvement because this time we found ourselves at Butchart Gardens in October. Since I love Autumn and we don’t get the full experience in Southern California I didn’t mind that only a handful of Dahlias were in bloom. I think it was my first time seeing Dahlias so that in and of itself was something to write home about! Not to mention the beautiful red, orange, and yellow maple leaves that I couldn’t get enough of. I reckon we may be improving and the next time we visit a botanical garden it may actually be spring!

 

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Upon completing our walk through of the gardens we grabbed warm beverages from the cafe. This time I opted for a London Fog. It was only fair since I first learned about this delicious drink in Canada! After grabbing our drinks, we wandered over to the gift shop. I didn’t intend to buy anything, I just wanted to see if I could find it… and I did! My grandmother’s mug! I guess it’s a classic, because my grandmother had that mug over 25 years ago!

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That evening, my husband found an Italian restaurant he wanted us to try. Usually, I would have veto-ed this suggestion because who goes to Canada to have Italian food, but we had walked so much that day I wanted to indulge in some carbohydrates and he was fighting a cold and being a trooper so I knew I would have agreed to whatever he wanted to have for dinner that night. We walked from our hotel, over the bridge and spotted the place he’d chosen. It was right there so we were both thankful that we wouldn’t be doing too much more walking! Il Terrazo knocked our socks off! Although the restaurant was packed & we didn’t have a reservation we only waited about 10-15 minutes until we were seated. Their drink menu is extensive and the dinner menu has so many great options we found it challenging to make our selections. The complimentary bread and olive tapenade we were served were so good I could have made a meal of them! We started with the roasted garlic bulb and cambozola cheese. What a pairing! We also had the caprese. The balsamic on this caprese was outstanding. My husband ordered the Cannelloni that was filled with pulled pork and mozzarella cheese. It had a smoked bacon cream, and a balsamic granny smith apple compote. I had a bite and wished I had ordered it! I had ordered the bisteca con fungi. It was cooked to perfection as was the pasta of the bed of carbonara my steak was served on. Did I mention that the service was exceptional? Our waiter was so warm I felt like I was a guest in his home. My only regret was being too full to enjoy some dessert. This was the perfect way to end our evening.

I wish we had an extra day in Victoria so we could have taken a tour of the Parliament Building, visited the Royal British Columbia Museum, and had tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel or Abkhazi Garden, but alas we had to get ourselves back to Seattle. I had planned for us to visit the Starbucks Roastery and have a short visit with my cousin, but luck was not on our side this day. We missed our ferry by all of FOUR minutes and had to wait an hour until the next one. The Swartz Bay ferry terminal is not a fun place to wait for an hour. Luckily we were traveling light so we walked over to the cafe in the parking lot and grabbed small snacks to hold us over until we could have a proper breakfast on the ferry. Well, my husband had a proper breakfast on the ferry. I was pouting about our lost time so I had poutine. It was a pouting appropriate poutine! HA HA!

Crossing the border back into the United States was a completely different experience than what it had been like crossing into Canada. Crossing into Canada took us all but 5-10 minutes with the actual chat with the customs agent taking under a minute. He asked us where we were going and how we knew each other (my passport still has my maiden last name). He welcomed us into Canada and wished us a good weekend. The American customs agents weren’t nearly as friendly or welcoming. I was asked to turn off the car and remove my sunglasses neither or which had to be done on the way into Canada. While one agent walked around the car, tapped on the back bumper with a bato and inspected the trunk and back seat, another played 20 questions with us stopping short of asking us our blood type. Crossing back into the U.S. took about 25-30 minutes.

Between the missed ferry and unnecessarily long border crossing I didn’t want to risk missing our flight home so we didn’t go into Seattle as planned. I was already upset that due to getting lost on our way to Butchart Gardens we hadn’t had enough time to do an afternoon tea somewhere AND now having to skip the Starbucks Roastery had added on to my disappointment. I was left feeling like we didn’t accomplish enough on this trip. What changed my perspective was hearing my husband say he found the trip pleasant and loved it. He has a way of getting me to refocus. Instead of harping on the things we didn’t get to do I began thinking of all the things we did get to do. Considering what had sparked the idea for this trip was a picture on a mug and we got to visit that place and we found the mug’s twin the trip should be considered a success. The added bonus was our stop into Tim Horton’s, our outstanding dinner at Il Terrazo and the fact that my husband who had been fighting a cold had enjoyed our adventure and he couldn’t stop talking about how nice people are in Canada.  I can’t wait to see where we’ll be off to next… I’m leaning towards Portlandia!

 

 

NOvember is Mevember

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Although both Shonda Rhimes and Bethenny Frankel have written books about saying “YES”, I’ve decided that sometimes it’s better to say “NO” and what better month to practice the art of saying “NO” than NO-vember?

The Holiday season is upon us! Every year, around this time, there’s no hiding from the invitations to the gatherings and parties. I reminds of this scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when the letters from Hogwarts keep coming and coming!

Looking at my October calendar all the commitments I had lined up began stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I had voluntarily said “yes” to most of these things and was genuinely excited about going to the Corona Del Mar Sandcastle contest, seeing Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Bowl, Volunteering with my girlfriend at a local charity, lunching with my cousin who I hadn’t seen in a while, attending a baby shower and christening, visiting a new pumpkin patch with some of my favorite little people, and a traveling to Victoria, B.C.

What I found unfortunate was that I was so busy that I had forgotten to factor in any “ME” time. To avoid making the same mistake this month I preregistered for all my yoga and cardio classes.  A former yoga instructor had pointed out that doing this did 3 important things. It increased the likelihood of me actually making it to class because I had committed myself financially. It prioritized my health and well being by scheduling it in and finally, it gave me a legitimate excuse to use when turning down other invitations by allowing me to say that I couldn’t make it due to an appointment I made weeks ago. It’s actually brilliant. Full disclosure: It’s gotten my lazy ass to class a few times but I haven’t gotten to use the “I have an appointment” thing yet.

Pre-planning for this month and setting my intention of saying “NO” has already had such a magical impact! It’s only the 5th of the month and  I’ve already said “NO” to three events, caught up with all the blogs I read, picked out the books I’ll be reading this month, (one is already on my nightstand and I already submitted the hold request for my December bookclub selection from my local public library) I also downloaded a few podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to so they’re ready for me to tune into any time I’m in my car. I’ve also already have my nephew’s birthday gift and card ready to go! I love this feeling of having my shit together!

I invite you to join me in making this month NOvember and being selective and saying “NO” to whatever doesn’t serve your purpose! Make this month MEvember and fill it with the things you value and the people that grow you and recharge your batteries!

In Search of Orcas… and Dave

After almost three years of talking about taking a trip to the San Juan Islands to see Orcas we finally made this trip happen! This wasn’t an easy trip to plan by any means, but I highly recommend it!

We began by booking our flights into Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Next, we had to figure out how to get ourselves from the airport to San Juan Island which was the island we had decided to stay on. We knew we didn’t want to rent a car because making a reservation to get your car on the ferry seemed tedious. We researched different ways we could get from Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal which is a couple hours away from Seattle. After exhausting all other options we decided to just take a Lyft or Uber and walk on to the ferry. The cost of the ride from the airport to the ferry terminal wasn’t too bad split 3 ways.

Although Anacortes is an adorable little town, the actual ferry terminal is a few miles away in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we arrived just in time to catch the ferry. The ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island was about an hour and the scenery was beautiful!

Once we had arrived on the island we decided to start things off with a drink, so we climbed up to the rooftop bar of the Friday Harbor Crab House and toasted to us!

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One of the first things we decided to do was hop on the Jolly Trolley for a tour around the island to get our bearings. It was such a great way to sit back and hear all about the history of the island and the lifestyle of the people who live there. Being driven around the island in an open trolley allowed us to see so much! We got to see the High School, the International School, the different Inns and businesses, the San Juan Vineyards, the Alpaca Farm, The Lavender Farm, Roche Harbor, The Lakedale Resort, The American Camp, The English Camp, the airports, the Cattle Point Light House and my Favorite Lime Kiln State Park (aka Whale Watch Park).

The trolley’s comprehensive route really allowed us to get a feel for the size of the island and its topography. I was surprised to see the hills, valleys, lakes, cliffs, and beaches. When we got to the other side of the island near Lime Kiln State Park we found ourselves under a rain forest like canopy. Temperature wise, it was cooler on this side of the island. We hopped off the trolley at this stop where our phones welcomed us to Canada. In this part of the island, you’re closer to Canada than you are to the United States. We followed some walking paths and trails over to Whale Watch Park from where we could see Victoria B.C. and the stunning Olympic mountain range and the Cattle Point Light House. Looking out towards the horizon all I could think about was how beautiful it was. It was sunny and clear and the peace and quiet were delicious.  It was a huge bummer that while we were at Whale Watch park, we didn’t see any whales.

After reconnecting with nature a bit we hopped back on the trolley and headed back into town. We had rented a perfect little studio apartment that could comfortably sleep 5. It had everything we needed and the location was perfect. We were about 50 feet from a bakery, a cheese shop, 2 restaurants, a farmers market and a craft fair. We were only 2 blocks away from the grocery store, shops, restaurants, trolley and shuttle stops and the ferry terminal. The apartment had a deck with two distinct patio areas. One for our studio unit and one for the 1 bedroom unit next door. We got to meet the two women who were staying in the other unit and they were a real hoot!

Our second day on the island we went whale watching! It was my first time going out on a boat to go whale watching and this was the main reason we planned this trip… but we didn’t see any whales. It’s actually quite hilarious since the whale watching boats down in Orange County where I live have been posting non stop photos on Instagram all summer of all the amazing whales they’ve been spotting and I traveled all the way to Washington State to see none! We did see an adorable seal and got to witness seals feasting on a “bait ball” which is basically a school of fish. To fill our need for all things whale, we went to the whale museum where we at least got to see whale bones.

Our last day on the island we decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been yet to picnic. We had really been enjoying the cheese from the shop across from our apartment so we went to King market, purchased some supplies, packed ourselves up and took the shuttle out to the British camp. There we discovered a vista point where we got a 180 degree view of the snow capped mountains, the water and the hillsides. After our trail walk we located a table and settled down for a picnic under the trees.

Coming from a concrete jungle where life moves at a very fast pace, I appreciated the pace of “island life”. I kept longing to live in a place like San Juan Island where you have no choice but to live a simpler life at a slower pace. Everything is not accessible to you at any given time  here. There is no Costco or Target. I don’t think Amazon offers same or next day delivery and if you want to leave the island, you have to plan around the ferry’s departure schedule unless you have your own boat or airplane.

Another island-ism we came across was the fickleness of business hours. For example, the business hours of the adorable coffee shop called The Salty Fox where we got our daily coffee and tea, were only from 7am-2pm so if we wanted a latte at 6am or a chai tea at 3pm, we were out of luck! We also learned that there was nowhere on the island to rent a DVD and the only place that sells DVDs closes at 9pm. Let me also mention that when we did go to purchase a DVD the next day there were only about 2 dozen options to pick from. We also discovered one night, that the restaurant across from our apartment called Cynthia’s where we had a lovely breakfast on the back patio was closing early one evening because they hadn’t gotten a single customer for dinner and although they had posted business hours, the bakery beneath our apartment never opened even though we saw a baker inside.

There isn’t much to do on the island after 9pm. Things begin winding down around 10pm and it’s pretty quiet by 11pm as we witnessed the night we decided to walk over to the new brewery that also happened to be just one block away from our apartment. I did notice however that when we were dilly dallying over a piece of pie at the Cheesecake Café & Bakery despite their business hours ending at 9pm and it being 9pm, they weren’t trying to get us to leave, but when we noticed the time we did shake a leg to let them get out of there.

On the final day of our trip we decided to catch the first ferry out. This meant rising before the sun. It was dark, quiet and very still. I’m so glad we did this because we got to watch the sunrise as we said good bye to the San Juan Islands and journeyed back to Anacortes.

Once we got to Anacortes, we grabbed coffees from a cute place called Calico’s Cupboard then rented a car and set off for Seattle where we casually stalked Dave Matthews. I had pretty credible intel on where we could find him. We started by driving by what my intel told us was his house several times. There was a van out front with hoses leading into the home and the door was wide open. Assuming he was in town and may have gone out for coffee to allow the crews to do whatever they were doing, we went by the two coffee shops my source reported he frequents. We even parked near the supermarket she shops in but didn’t go in. We didn’t find him. Luckily it was around 10am by this time and we didn’t see it fit to drive by his daughter’s school. Had it been closer to 8am I worry that we may have crossed the line by jumping into bushes in a schoolyard to catch a glimpse of him during drop off. After a quick stop by the Public market, we were back on the road to the airport to head home.

Hygge Fail

Earlier this year, I heard about the Danish concept of hygge. It immediately resonated with me and I began to wonder why everyone isn’t on the hygge train. Just look at this list of what hygge encourages us to infuse more of into our lives.

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Hygge is all about coziness and creating relaxing indoor and outdoor experiences void of our electronic devices. It’s about long walks to connect with nature, dim soothing lighting, candles, warm beverages, fires, books, loved ones, oversized sweaters, soft blankets, fuzzy socks and cuddles with our furry pets.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional in my marriage. I want to be a better wife so I’ve been looking for new and different ways to bond with my spouse.  I figured I would try and bring elements of hygge into our home. However, doing this isn’t the challenging part. The real test would be getting my productive husband on-board. He likes to keep busy while he’s at home. I like to lounge around when I’m home. This creates a divide i our home. He’s usually off fixing, cleaning or improving something or cooking us a delicious meal while I’m laying in bed reading, sprawled on the couch watching tv or … honestly? I don’t know what the heck else I do… oh! I know… writing a blog entry!

About a week ago, I proposed that we switch of the TV and our phones at 8pm and spend an hour outside in our patio with some twinkly lights, candles and either some herbal tea or wine. I figured maybe we could read books, talk to each other, just enjoy the silence or if he’s up for it, maybe we can play some backgammon. When I proposed this idea to him over a text message mid-day while we were both at work he responded with “OK”. I almost couldn’t believe it!

Let me tell you how our first attempt at hygge went. It was more like 8:45 when we turned off the TV and put aside our phones to go spend some time in our patio. I made us both some tea. He opted for chamomile and I for peppermint. He didn’t want the twinkly lights on, so I lit a couple candles instead. After a couple minutes of observing how silent it was our dog decided to join us in the patio which made all the neighbor’s dogs sense his presence and they all started barking non-stop. I began reading my book and within 5 minutes my husband had fallen asleep and in another 5, so had I. HYGGE FAIL!

After dozing off in the patio, I woke up and decided we should go to bed. By 9:30 p.m. we were in bed, lights off, floating back to sleep. I guess the lesson I learned was that when we put away our phones, turned off the tv and the lights our bodies got the signal that it was ok to shut off and go to sleep. We were both obviously tired and in need of extra sleep and due to our conscious effort to try something different we both got an extra 1.5-2 hours of sleep that night which to us is valuable.

I’ve found this 7 Day Challenge, but I’m taking it as a 7 week challenge. Last week I tackled item #1. I’m female so tackling item #2 this week won’t be a problem at all. I’m actually going to order said candles that I have saved in my amazon cart after I complete this blog entry. Week 3 which will be the first week of August I’ll have to create something. We’ll see what I come up with…..

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There is so much information available on the internet about hygge I love reading all about it. What’s your favorite element or aspect of this concept?

 

Oh hi Ojai!

 

Living in Southern California I sometimes forget that there are so many places within a 4-8 hour travel radius that I can explore locally.

I been hearing about “Ojai” since I can recall, but for some reason I figured it was faar away and I associated it with Calistoga, probably because it also has a very famous spa/resort. In December an organizations I belong to announced that our annual Southern California conference was going to be held at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. I was confused and wondered if we were having a joint annual conference with our northern California chapters. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the map and realized Ojai was closer than Santa Barbara!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but I did mentally note that Ojai would be visited in 2017! When I put my mind to something, I make it happen. A couple weeks ago my cousin and I drove the 1.5 hours from  her house to Ojai. The drive was nothing, yet we were transported to a place that felt other wordly with a small town country feel, beautiful trees, mountains and peace & quiet.  We had an agenda packed with rest and relaxation and that’s exactly what we did.

The Ojai Valley Inn  is a beautiful place set in a….wait for it…. valley….. and surrounded by sprawling lush green golf courses. When you’re there you can’t help but feel relaxed. It’s like summer camp for rich families. I say that because it’s super kid friendly, it’s pet friendly (you can follow their adorable ambassador on Instagram), there are all kinds of activities like yoga, painting, stretching and biking. You can visit Libbey’s marketplace around the corner from the Linus bike stand and create a custom picnic basket and you’ll get a blanket and map showing you all the great picnic spots around the grounds. Speaking of Libbey’s you MUST try their coffee. It was so good I brought a bag of their ground beans home and I’m drinking a delicious mug of their coffee now. You can also opt to bike into town for provisions, lunch or shopping. We really wanted to do this and had planned on it, but happened to be there during the two hottest days of the year. With 100+ temperatures we opted for more pool time.

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Speaking of pools. We visited 3 different pools and there is a 4th we skipped because it was the kids pool, but I wanted to visit it when I read that they show movies at that pool in the evenings. The pools are salt water, the atmosphere is pretty quiet so you can talk, nap, read and the staff doesn’t judge you when you order a Miami vice and side of bacon.

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Our room looked like your average inviting hotel room, but the bathroom was heaven. I could have spent an entire day in that bathroom had I remembered to pack some bubble bath.  This picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It was far more spacious, had a stand up shower with beautiful tile work and the lighting had options for bright or dim settings. The beds were also super comfortable. We read our books, took long naps, went to bed early and never once turned the television on.

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We spent half a day at the infamous Spa. Having been to a handful of other spas in L.A. & Orange County,  I was expecting a bit more for the prices they charge at this spa. The women’s locker room was cramped & super basic. There wasn’t a quiet room where you can take a nap or read. I was really looking forward to that. The spa cafe was a real bust and the area where you wait to be called for your service was small, overcrowded and co-ed.  When people are in ill fitting robes and all greasy from massages and facials you really don’t want to be seen. My reflexology massage was great, but my hydro-facial left a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t visit this spa again.

We only had two meals at the resort. We weren’t impressed with the overpriced food so we went into town. That may sound like an inconvenience, but it’s only a 2 minute drive and you can also walk or bike there. Our best meals were at Suzanne’s Cuisine and Azu.

While you’re in town make sure to walk around. There are so many interesting shops and areas to explore. I recommend grabbing some ice cream or frozen yogurt or maybe a coffee and pastry to accompany some people watching. What I found bizarre was in between the golfers, pregnant women, senior citizens, and kids there were a couple bachelorette party groups! This I have not been able to figure out because Ojai is a quiet sleepy town. There’s no where to go out & dance, but they got dressed up anyway. There’s really nothing to do in Ojai after 10 p.m. unless I missed something. I mean there’s live music at the resort on the lawn at night if you want to sing along to “Sweet Caroline” and you can make $40 smores while other people’s kids run a muck all around you, but what bride-to-be wants that?

I’m really glad we took advantage of Ojai’s proximity and crossed this off my bucketlist. Up next for summer 2018… CALISTOGA!

Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of planning a trip to the Ojai Valley Inn:

  1. Pack bubble bath to take advantage of the bathtub
  2. Pack shampoo and conditioner their products were tiny and not the greatest
  3. Ask for a room with a fireplace or balcony
  4. Ask for a room that’s NOT on the ground floor (kids running upstairs wasn’t cool)
  5. Don’t hesitate to have your meals offsite
  6. Don’t go in July when it’s over 100 degrees
  7. Consider a mid-week trip (rates may be better & it might be less crowded)
  8. Don’t plan your day around the “pink moment” we weren’t impressed
  9. Buy more than one bag of Libbey’s coffee beans to bring home
  10. You can self park close to your room (highly recommended Saturday nights to speed up checkout & departure on Sunday)

If you have tips or recommendations for a trip to Calistoga, I’m all ears! If you’ve been to Ojai let me know what your impressions were.

 

 

On This Day…Fun Facts

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I keep hearing that the 4th of July is a celebration commemorating the United States of America proclaiming its independence from Great Britain through the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

 Here are a few ironic fun facts about this:

  • The first Independence Day celebration wasn’t held until 20 years later in 1796.
  • While proclaiming independence from Great Britain, the authors of the Declaration of Independence were writing things like, and I paraphrase here, that all men are created equal with unalienable rights among which are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness despite the fact that women didn’t get suffrage nationwide until 1920 and one of the authors Robert Livingston was a representative of New York and slavery wasn’t abolished in NY until 1827.
  • The American Revolution was still being fought until 1783

Other noteworthy events for the United States that have taken place on July 4th include:

  • 1803 The Louisiana Purchase is announced
  • 1831 “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)” is 1st sung in Boston
  • 1836 Wisconsin Territory forms
  • 1846 Texas votes for annexation to United States
  • 1863 Boise, Idaho founded (now capital of Idaho)
  • 1863 General Lee’s army withdrew from Gettysburg
  • 1863 Vicksburg, Mississippi surrenders to Union forces
  • 1881 Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute
  • 1884 Statue of Liberty presented to US in Paris
  • 1959 America’s new 49-star flag honoring Alaska statehood unfurled
  • 1960 America’s new 50-star flag honoring Hawaiian statehood unfurled

Other events that took place on July 4th that don’t call for sparkler celebrations:

  • 1779 Occupation of Greneda by French troops
  • 1810 Occupation of Amsterdam by French troops
  • 1866 Firecracker thrown in woods starts fire destroying half of Portland, Maine
  • 1898 French liner “La Bourgogne” collides with bark Cromartyshire & 560 die
  • 1925 Dreyfus Hotel in Boston collapses, 44 die
  • 1940 British destroy French battle fleet at Oran, Algeria, 1267 die
  • 1969 Ohio Fireworks kill 18 and destroy over 100 boats on Lake Erie
  • 1970 100 injured in race rioting in Asbury Park NJ
  • 1988 US Navy shoots down Iranian civilian jetliner over Gulf, kills 290
  • 1989 14 year old Drew Barrymore attempts suicide (thankfully she didn’t succeed)
  • 1990 400 NKOTB fans treated for heat exhaustion (wonder if they’re trying to go to any NKOTB cruises as adults now)
  • 2003 Kobe Bryant is arrested for sexual assault (scumbag)
  • 2013 12 people are killed and 60 are injured in a wave of shootings across Chicago (this has become so common now in our country, don’t we have like 1-2 of these a month now?)

Just some food for thought to keep in mind today as you enjoy sparklers, illegal fireworks that freak out my dog, beer, cancer causing hot dogs and sugar laden ice creams contributing to this country’s obesity problem (I just watched the documentary Sugar Coated.)

I was listening to Country music while composing this message. David Nail’s “Whatever She’s Got” to be exact because I’m patriotic. #America

Totally Tardy to the Podcast Party

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I was totally tardy to the Podcast Party. I’ve been hearing people talking about Podcasts for over a decade but I didn’t understand the allure. Was it like talk radio? Was it like books on tape? I didn’t get it.

Two years ago all any of my friends were talking about was the podcast Serial. I was told I HAD to check it out so I did. Serial became the first podcast series I downloaded and listened to and I was hooked! I remember laying on my couch with a cozy blanket with the fireplace on and a warm cup of tea in my hands listening to the podcast and being lost in the story of Adnan.

I became intrigued by Podcasts and began to wonder what else I was missing. The next podcast I began to subscribe to was KCRW’s Orange County Line in which they interview OC Weekly’s editor Gustavo Arellano about different topics of interest to Orange County. This podcast is only about 4 minutes long so it wasn’t satiating my need for information on all things Orange County so I also subscribed to OC Weekly‘s own podcast OC Speakly and soon after that The City Square too.

Keeping with the Orange County theme, the next blog I discovered was Reality Life with Kate Casey. I learned about this one after bumping into an Instagram post in which Kate Casey was spoofing a celebrity photo. It turned out she does a series of these photos and while these are funny they aren’t the best thing about her Instagram account. The best part in my opinion, and what got me to click “follow” is the series of posts about her daughter in which she uses the hashtag #gives30percent.  These are my favorite and make my heart smile because I love quirky kids who march to the beat of their own drum. When I told a friend of mine about these hilarious posts she informed me that she was familiar with Kate because Kate has a blog called LoveandKnuckles in which she recaps reality TV shows and she also told me about Kate’s podcast in which she talks to her friends about reality TV shows and even interviews reality TV stars.

Yesterday, a friend and I drove down to San Diego to visit another friend who told us to listen to episode one of S Town on our drive back to Orange County. We tried, but instead of captivating me like Serial did, I was left wondering WTF? I don’t think I’ll be listening to the rest of this series unless one of you convinces me otherwise.

The number of podcasts I subscribe to has increased to six. The next podcast I will be checking out is Potterless which I just read about on Desperately Seeking Lifestyle.

What podcasts do you listen to? Got any recommendations for me?

 

When Barcelona Beckons…

We arrived in Barcelona by train. Our hotel was in the Poble Nou region of town which to me seemed to be a little off the beaten path, but I’m so glad we booked there because the view from our penthouse view of the city with it’s backdrop mountains and the Sagrada Familia jutting out in the center of all the buildings was outstanding. The room across from ours, my father’s room had ocean views so we had the best of both worlds.  Stepping out the front door of this hotel we could walk straight down one walk street past shops and restaurants to the beach.

Barca Map

My father currently lives in a landlocked country and having lived in coastal locations for the majority of his life I always love seeing his reactions to being near the sea. I loved the beach scene in Barcelona, especially in the Barcelonetta area. People were out and about, walking, biking, laying out and enjoying life. It reminded me of the years I spent living a block from the beach in Hermosa Beach. The MareMagnum area sort of reminded me of the Redondo Beach Pier but what much nicer. What Barcelona had that we don’t out in California was the historical buildings the Las Ramblas spilling over with tourists and the gigantic yachts docked in the marina.

My biggest regret while we were in Barcelona was saving our visit to the Mercat de la Boqueria for the day after Easter and not realizing that it would be closed. I was quite bummed about missing out on that. We also royally messed up by not going inside the Sagrada Familia, not going inside the Gaudi buildings we walked past, not visiting Park Guell or any museums. Our time in Barcelona was so short that we concentrated on seeing as much as we could and soaking up as much as we could without spending too much time on any one thing.

 

On our Iberia flight back home I watched another Spanish Language film. This one was called “Tengo Ganas De Ti” about a guy coming back to Barcelona after having been away in London. He meets a girl and falls in love with her, but then runs into his former love he went to London to get away from.  I really loved this movie and came to learn that it was a sequel to another film called “3 Metros Sobre El Cielo” which was about the same guy and his first love. I haven’t watched the prequel yet but it’s on my list.

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