Whale Watching off the Newport Beach Coast

Summer is just around the corner and my favorite part of summer is being able to be out on the water. Now I’m not a big beach girl. All that sand, getting everywhere, I’m not a fan. But a boat. A boat I can do. My best friend has a boat that we usually bring out onto the lake and go tubing. Or sometimes we will take the ferry over to Catalina and spend the day in the sun. Either way, on a boat, or on an island, I am a happy girl.

Back in March we took advantage of the annual migration of the California Grey Whales and took a whale watching tour out of Newport Beach, CA. Best. Day. Ever. We saw sea lions, and a pod of dolphins and best of all, we followed a group of five grey whales up the coast. It was absolutely amazing.

We were so lucky to pull out of Newport Harbor and right away catch a glimpse of a spout from a whale in the distance. The boat started following along and slowly four more whales popped up in different areas around the boat. It was incredible.

The two and a half hours out on the water were so wonderful that I would recommend it to anyone visiting Orange County. I love that we did our whale watching out of Newport Beach because the Balboa Peninsula is so cute, has such a great pier, and the cutest “fun zone.” Mid-December through mid-April are supposed to be the best time of year to see the whales migrating along the coast but there are opportunities all year to see the am

azing creatures.

 

Weekend in Scottsdale, AZ

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New Year celebration has looked very different for Chris and I over the past few years. We have rang in the New Year at clubs, at big house parties we have thrown and in the past few years, quietly with a few close friends. This year though, we had no idea what we were going to do. Honestly we wanted to keep it quiet, but take advantage of the long weekend that we were both given from work so we headed on a road trip to Scottsdale.

Where to Stay

Courtyard Scottsdale North

We picked a Courtyard Marriott in North Scottsdale mainly because it was a Marriott and it seemed to be in a nice area. It was a perfect pick. The hotel was right on Scottsdale Rd. and just down the street from pretty much everywhere we went. And on New Year’s Eve we were just a $20 Lyft ride from all of the restaurants and bars.

Where to Eat and Drink

Two Brothers Artisan Brewing

Holy New Year’s Eve dinner! We had an amazing four course dinner with beer pairing and let me tell you, I could not finish any of it. I turned down a whole beer and barely was able to finish my dessert because the amount of amazing food was out of control. My dinner was balsamic glazed Brussel sprouts for an appetizer, delicious mushroom bisque, chimichurri sauce over flank steak and the biggest scoop of ice cream ontop a peanut butter cookie and huge brownie. Amazing. Chris completely skipped the soup and we both just picked at our dessert. Each course was paired with a beer. My favorite was the Eible’s Weiss… their Weiss beer. YUM!

Gordon Biersch Brewing Company

We have two Gordon Biersch in the LA area but we haven’t been to one yet so when Chris noticed there was one just up the street from our hotel I knew that was going to be one of our stops. We ate lunch here on New Year’s Day. We both got much needed oversized salad but we started off with bratwursts sliders that were absolutely amazing and the perfect size.

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Postino

After walking through Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons all day Sunday, and running in and out of stores, hiding from the rain, we worked up quite the appetite for a little happy hour and we stumbled upon Postino. A cute little wine bar, with a super small food menu, but we were totally happy with what we chose. Postino has a pretty big bruschetta menu on top of gluten free bread and, well… yum! My favorite was a tossup between the brie and the mozzarella.

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Diego Pops

Nine years ago I went to Tuscan with my best friend and I was introduced to my first prickly pear margarita. I always am keeping my eyes open for the same drink on menus, and I’ve even looked at the grocery store for actual fruit, but nothing. So when I saw a prickly pear margarita on the menu I knew I needed to have it. It was absolutely amazing and a perfect pairing to their cod taco and shrimp tacos. I am a sucker for seafood tacos and Diego Pops did not disappoint. Oh and their salsa was pretty good too.

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What to Do

Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons

Holy cuteness. These two outdoor shopping areas straddle Scottsdale Road have a ton of great shops of all sizes and fantastic restaurants. We spent a lot of New Year’s Day strolling in and out of home goods and furniture stores, and stopping into Postino for wine and bruschetta. I’m not sure which we enjoyed more. The stores or the wine.

Desert Botanical Garden

New Year’s Eve we didn’t have any plans and were kind of going to wing it, but with the weather taking a turn, and being the grandma and grandpa that we are, we thought it would be cool to stop by the Desert Botanical Garden and see their Las Noches de Las Luminarias. It was a really cool showcase of the botanical garden at night, light up by thousands of candles, with a dozen different performances of local artists and musicians. I wasn’t super excited for this, but by the time 9 o’clock came around I was sad we had to leave. It was such a cool experience and a beautiful presentation of art and music. There were Spanish guitar players and flamenco dancers, Native American storytellers, and a violinist that look like he has had been around the world with nothing but his violin case. It was beautiful. Skip the wine tastings… not the best, but defiantly something to check out next holiday season.

Chaparral Park

This was one of our first stops when we woke up in Scottsdale on New Year’s Eve and it has amazing views of Camelback Mountain. This cute area of Scottsdale was full of families, couples, power walkers and their puppies. I was super excited we were able to stop here and snap a few pictures before we set off exploring the city. The views of the Mountain were absolutely stunning.dsc01467

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We’ve always talked about doing spring training in Scottsdale one year, and this trip just made me more excited for when we finally have the time one March to watch baseball and drink beers in the desert. This was a much needed getaway that was just long enough to take us

Weekend in Pismo Beach

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Way back, what feels like 3 centuries ago, in early November, we spent the weekend up in Pismo Beach, California. It’s a small beach town along the central coast. The central coast is super near and dear to both of our hearts, and I don’t really know if I can put into words why. For Chris, the central coast is somewhere his family went every summer as he was growing up. For me, there is this nostalgic feeling I get every time I travel north of Santa Barbara. The little towns are just so quaint and they make me want to just sit at a coffee shop, not think about any worries and read a good book.

This trip was a little like that. When we head up north we definitely make sure to stop at a few of our favorite spots. I figured I’d take the time to tell you guys all about some of my top places to visit when I am in the Pismo Beach area.

Where to Stay

Pismo Beach Lighthouse Suites

When we head up to Pismo we usually go with Chris’s family. So with his parents, us, and his two sisters, that is 6 adults who need a hotel rooms. These suites are perfect for us. They come with two bedrooms, one king sized bed and two queens, and best of all: two bathrooms. Yes ladies and gents, two bathrooms is a highlight for any hotel in my book. Especially with four women getting ready. There is also a pretty good complimentary breakfast with great waffles. What I love about staying here is that it is set up high on a cliff, with amazing views of the Pacific, and you can take your coffee and walk down to the beach and head over to the Pismo Beach Pier. And honestly what better way of waking up in the morning besides a walk with coffee on the beach.

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Where to Eat and Drink

Cracked Crab

Definitely you have to put in your name early if you have somewhere to be, but totally worth the wait if you have the night to spend here! We had a show to catch so we couldn’t relax with a drink and appetizer and had to kind of rush through dinner but it was delicious. Chris had their amazing snow crab dinner and I filled up on the Blacked Scallop Carbanara. Both were amazing!

Solvang Copenhagen Sausage Garden

For the past few years when we go to Solvang we have noticed the Solvang Copenhagen Sausage Garden right along Copenhagen Drive but have never stopped. It looks like a cute little bier garden in Europe. We split a bratwurst and it was the perfect size to tie us over before our dinner. And of coarse, we had to have some beer while we were there.

Dos Carlitos

For dinner we ended up in the cute little town of San Yanez at Dos Carlitos, a little Mexican restaurant. Their margaritas were amazing and I loved their wine selection. Their portions were huge, so everyone had plenty of food to bring home for lunch the next day.

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What to Do

Pismo Beach Pier

This year was the first time I took the walk from our hotel, along the beach to the Pismo Pier. It was a perfect morning. I loved getting a cup of coffee at the end of our buffet breakfast and walking down the beach to the pier where we were able to walk in and out of all of the little stores and check out all of the “PISMO BEACH CA” sweatshirts that tourists pick up.

Avila Beach Barn

This is probably my favorite part of the entire trip. I love any type of farmers market, and when you throw one inside of a barn, yes please! Not to mention this place has some of the best Mexican corn I’ve had. It was so spicy I thought my lips were going to fall off. The Avila Beach Barn has farm animals, amazing baked goods, and a corn maze that took us 20 minutes to get out of. Every time we leave the barn we leave with bags full of fresh fruits and vegetables and we even allow ourselves to get one or two snacks.

Avila Beach Pier

This last trip we didn’t head over to Avila Beach Pier, but it is definitely one of my favorite places to go while visiting the central coast. Remember that pier in the TV show the OC? That is what it totally reminds me of. Such a cute place to stop and take a little swing on their huge swing set.

dsc01290 dsc01265  dsc01189dsc01223 dsc01200 Going to the central coast is one of the things I look forward to the most during the fall, but really there is no time of year that the central coast is bad. I’ve gone in the winter and you just need a few extra layers to bundle up. The summer, is obviously beautiful with the beach towns and perfect weather. And the fall.. well need I say more?

Holiday Travel Ideas

As the holidays are starting to come upon us I am itching for a mini vacation. With my new job, all I think about is travel, travel, travel & is there anything that really is better?? I love being able to get away, experience new walks of life, new cultures, & experiences. Even if it is just a quick weekend trip.

Traveling during the holidays is one of my favorite time of year to get out & see the world. The holidays are celebrated differently all around the world & seeing all the different festivities are such an amazing experience. I put together a little list of my favorite places I have traveled during the holidays over the years, & another list of bucket list locations I want to see one day.

Places I’ve Been:

New York City

New York during the holidays is the most magical experience anyone can ever have. There is something about the city full of Christmas decorations, Rockefeller Center with the massive tree & ice skating rink, it brings chills to me just thinking about it. I haven’t been to the city during the holidays in a few years & that is something that I miss beyond words. The window displays at Saks melt my merchant heart as they are truly the best of the best & something to see.

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London

When we were 19 my cousin & I went to visit a family friend of ours in London where she was studying abroad. We took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday break & headed across the pond. That trip was my first time out of the country, first big trip without any parents, & first time seeing another culture. It was perfect. Strolling the streets of London town, bundled up, & treading in and out of the amazing Harrods store made me feel like I could do this forever. I haven’t been back to London since, but I cannot wait to take a trip again.

San Francisco

My second Christmas in Los Angeles my friends & I took a road trip up to San Francisco the week before Christmas. It was absolutely amazing. There is just something about bundling up, walking around a new city & shopping in Union Square that screamed this is a perfect Christmas trip! We drove over to Sausalito for a day & then I truly felt like I was home. All of the small shops & restaurants reminded me of my beach town in Connecticut & it was absolutely surreal.

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Bucket List Holiday Trips:

German Christmas Markets

I never really thought of exploring the Christmas markets of Europe before my training this year for my new job as a travel agent. But as my trainers explained the ambiance of walking through the markets, with a hot coco in hand, & checking out the Kathe Wohlfahrt clocks & other handmade goodies, they had me sold. I would absolutely be lying if I said I didn’t start looking at options even as early as this year. But once reality set in & I remembered, oh year, I have a wedding to pay for… I decided my Euro Christmas is going to have to be put off a few years.

Aspen

So in the spirit of staying closer to home, I need to spend a holiday season in Aspen. Yes I just said I need. Colorado is one of the few states in the US that I haven’t been able to discover & I can think of no better time to visit then when there is snow on the ground & a hot coco in my hand. Sign me up!!

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Photo credits: Christopher Dyer

My Fall Bucket List

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. I cannot even explain how much I miss fall in New England. It is such a magical time of year where life starts to slow down after the craziness of the summer, & before the busyness of the holiday season sneaks up on you. In the past years, working in retail, October meant the craziness was upon us. Even though malls aren’t crazy yet, preparation for the biggest money making season was here.

For me in retail, my social life kind of took a back seat from October to January, so now that it is my first year out of retail management… I am celebrating. There are so many things on my list of Favorite Fall Activities that I had to narrow it down to just 7. (Well 5 just wasn’t enough.)

Decorate with real pumpkins

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Even if it is just at the grocery store, picking up real pumpkins add the perfect amount of festivity into any home or office. I even have a little gourd on my desk at work.

Take a drive to see the foliage

Depending where you live, this may be a little harder but nothing screams fall more to me than seeing trees full of gold, orange, & red leaves. When I lived in New England all I needed to do was step outside of my door & I had a plethora of colored leaves at my fingertips. Now I try to take a trip to the Central Coast every fall to experience as much foliage as I can in California.

Wear seasonally appropriate clothes, even if it doesn’t match the weather

Everyone has their own style & mine, all year round, is neutrals, denim, light weight outwear pieces with a little pop of burgundy or army green. I live in fall 4 seasons of the year. Do it! Wear boots, wear sweaters, wear capes… wear it all!

Take a train ride

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A few years ago my friends & I took a steam train ride to a pumpkin patch & it was such a good time. Just north of LA is a small town called Fillmore where for $22 for adults you can take a train ride to a little harvest festival at the end of the train line. There are pumpkins for sale, a little haunted house, a place for pictures & a little corn maze. It is still one of my favorite fall memories.

Go apple picking

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Apple picking is a fall staple when you grow up in Connecticut. There are apple orchards all over the state, but I haven’t been apple picking in probably 7 years. This year we went. Lucky for me, Chris enjoyed it just as much as I did… if not more. He was trying to get only the most perfect apples. More on the apple orchard later but Oak Glen is the cutest little town in the San Bernardino Mountains; you should stop by if you’re in Southern California. I had no idea it was so cute and quaint.

Make a pie… any flavor pie

And what do you do after you go apple picking… make a pie obviously. What else are you going to do with the ungodly amount of apples you just picked? This week I am planning on making my first pie from scratch. I am going to try to make the crust from scratch but let’s be honest, I have a store bought crust in the freezer right now.

Go to a haunted house

This is not one of my favorites, but this year Chris talked me into going to Universal’s Halloween Horror Night & it was so much fun. The anxiety beforehand nearly killed me, but once I figured out what keeps the actors away I was all in… PS. Don’t act scared. If you look at them unamused they’ll go away. It’s great.
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