Weekly Roundup

Friday, May 29, 2015

This is what California has looked like for the past few weeks. "June Gloom," they call it.

This week has flown by! I usually have this post ready to go bright and early on Friday mornings, but I've just had too much going on to write it out until now!

Memorial day was a slow one for us. Dan and I drove down to Dana Point in the southern half of Orange County to walk around a little bit and grab some lunch. I was surprised by the lack of traffic and tourists there considering the holiday.

I've been working on designing the interior of my friend Claire's book like crazy and really loving it. I love publication design, typesetting, reading, writing, editing, grammar... basically, I could do this every day for the rest of my life. Future business opportunity? The freelance job I thought I'd landed last week has turned out to be a dud. I've worked for that company all of six hours this week and the supervisor has been the worst about communication. I haven't heard from him in over 48 hours, despite my emails. Kind of ridiculous. Thankfully, I'm so into line editing and laying out Claire's book that I'm not totally bummed out at his lack of response.

I took a moment yesterday to update my "About" page. I'm rather pleased with it!


  • The Light Between Oceans I just started reading this one a couple of nights ago, but so far I'm really enjoying it. It's really well written!


  • Tomorrowland We went to see this movie last night and I just loved it! I'm such a huge Disney fan and I loved seeing all of the references to Walt Disney's creations in this film. You clearly can't miss "It's A Small World," but I also loved that I caught on to the Space Mountain reference (the blue lights in the subway tunnel reminded me of this!) and being in "the monitor" surely reminded me of being inside of the Epcot ball!

  • Upcoming Movie Trailers I'm really looking forward to seeing Testament of Youth, Paper Towns, Jurassic World, American Ultra, Fantastic Four, and Aloha.

On the Internets

Monthly Reads

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Besides exploring my surroundings and endlessly talking about our time here and upcoming move, I'd also like to use this space to share another part of my life that is very important to me: reading. I seem to always have a book (or two, or three) in progress and enjoy very few things in life as much as I do reading. On my old blog I used to write long, exploratory reviews of the books I'd just finished reading, whether I enjoyed the book or not. I currently share during my "Weekly Roundups" what I'm reading at the time, maybe offering a simple "really enjoying this read!" along the way, without much insight to what the book is about or why I'm enjoying (or not enjoying) it. From now on I plan on posting just once a month to share what I've been reading, what the book is about, and whether or not I'd recommend it. I keep a very up-to-date Goodreads account as well; it's my favorite way to keep a running list of what I've read and what I want to read next. I'm also open to recommendations from other readers!

That being said, here's what I read this May:

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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
You may recognize Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of the famed Eat, Pray, Love, but this novel is not a personal retrospective. This fictional story takes you back to the year 1800 and the birth of our main character, Alma, before going back even further to the 1760's to explain her father's backstory. I was so caught up in Henry Whittaker's adventurous youth that I'd completely forgotten that this wasn't a book about him! His story sets an important foundation though, because Alma's life story is a direct result of the life he is able to provide his family based on his former exploration. She is raised to be an intelligent and thoughtful woman obsessed with botany and seeking to find her own purpose in life. This leads her to publishing in scientific journals at a time when women were not thought to be intelligent enough to do so and she continues to prove the world wrong with each self-educating step she takes. Alma's life story is fascinating, heartbreaking, and empowering, leading you from Pennsylvania to Tahiti to Amsterdam and everywhere in between in her search of self, love, and the answers to life's questions. The entire book takes you through almost 150 years of the Whittaker's lives and is such an endearing and intimate story that I couldn't put it down. This was also by far one of the most well-written books I've read in years. If I could pick one beautiful and entertaining book that I believe everyone should read this year, this is it.

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Factory Man by Beth Macy
How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
I was drawn to this book for many reasons. 1) Factory Man is the true story of a family and company that was local to me when I lived in Virginia, 2) Beth Macy was a reporter for our local paper there, The Roanoke Times, and 3) I personally know some people who have had their livelihoods stripped from them by the closing of some of these local factories as a result of off-shoring to China.

I'll be honest, this was a long and laborious read. (464 pages) The first half of the book goes back to the very beginnings of this family and how they successfully started the Basset Furniture company. It's a very detailed account of the foundations of this company and can sometimes read like the "begats" of the Bible when it comes to explaining the family tree. That being said, the journalistic approach and personal accounts from living family members and people from the local community are interesting and successfully depict the importance of the industry to the lives of those small towns. Growing up in a small, rural town much like Basset, I immediately identified with the feelings of pride and community that are illustrated in this book. I also grew up driving by many of these old, closed down factories and hearing my mom reminisce about when "so-and-so worked there" or "when X place was still up and running, before all of the work went to China where it's cheaper to make." Fortunately, this book finally centers down on one family member who was determined not to see all of these factories close after trade deals with China had most companies moving offshore for cheap labor. Thankfully, the "buy local" and "buy US made" movements have been picking up in the last decade and the Vaughan-Basset furniture company is still thriving today in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Even though this wasn't an entertaining book, like most reads I seek, this book may be one of the most important books that people living in our modern society can read today. If only the people living in large metropolitan areas are the only ones successful, the divide between city and suburban wealth and rural poverty will only continue to widen. What happens in these tiny towns, where the only way to make a living is to work in a struggling factory or on a farm? Someone has to remember these places and these people. Coming from one of these small towns myself, it's scary to think. With talks from the Obama administration about trade deals with more South-Asian countries, I'm now incredibly anxious and wishing someone would plop one of these books down on the President's desk in the Oval Office. Anyone making serious decisions that affect our local and nationwide economy should read this book.

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The Martian by Andy Weir
This was an exciting story that started out slowly before creeping towards its anxiety-inducing climax. The main character of this book, Mark Watney, is suddenly left behind on Mars after a storm hits their base and the rest of his team has to quickly evacuate. In their defense, they thought the guy was dead. In fact, so does everyone back on Earth. Surprise! This story is written as though you're reading Mark's log entries as he smartly tries to figure out how to survive long enough for the next batch of supplies and next mission to arrive several years later. I won't describe the storyline any more just to keep from writing spoilers of any kind!

This was definitely an entertaining read, but it was a bit difficult to get into in the beginning. There were a lot of things Mark explains in sometimes boring detail in the first couple of chapters, like "I moved twenty six rocks about three meters to the east and then took four buckets of Martian sand over to the right-hand corner of this section of my yard. Then I drove my Mars rover jeep thing like six meters to the left so I could put this rope over there..." and you get my point. No, these are not quotes from the book, I'm just writing terrible examples. After the first few chapters this sort of thing trails off quite a bit, but it's all very important to the story. This book is well done and full of what I'm sure are very factual scientific details, even if it isn't written incredibly eloquently. I've read reviews that describe this book as being like reading a really smart guy's blog, and I think they're very right. That's not to say it isn't worth reading though! It's very exciting, and the story definitely builds as you go. Plus, Ridley Scott has directed the movie starring Matt Damon which comes out this November. Read it before the movie comes out! I believe it will be a hit.

Two Years in California

Monday, May 25, 2015

I'm an incredibly nostalgic person. Even while getting started on packing a few non-essentials this weekend I became distracted by the things I've collected here, spending two hours yesterday just going through cards, notes, and photos. Beginning to pack and prepare for our move in August may have been quite fitting for this long weekend, as tomorrow officially marks the day that we first arrived here two years ago.

In retrospect, I've enjoyed going back through old posts and wanted to share a few from the very beginnings of this adventure.

We jumped at the opportunity to move here and made the move with only six weeks' notice. We sold most of our things, stored the rest at our parents' homes, and left Virginia with only what would fit in our car. I wrote this post the night before we left and reading it brings back the feelings I had at that moment. I was excited and anxious; I had no idea what was coming next. I had no job lined up, we had nowhere to live, and we didn't know how we would fare. It was the biggest chance I'd ever taken, and I'm really glad we did.

Our trip across the country was an adventure in itself. We drove through half of Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before finally arriving in our new home state of California. My favorite parts of the trip were counting armadillos, exploring Route 66 in and around Amarillo, Texas, and our little side trip through Sedona on our way south through Arizona. My least favorite part was sitting still on the highway in Arizona and coming down sick with a fever and sore throat in the middle of it; I had a cough that lingered for almost two weeks!

We were lucky to have friends who offered us a place to stay while we searched for an apartment and Dan got started with his new job. I spent a lot of time apartment hunting and then getting us moved into the one we picked. We barely had anything when we first moved in. I used an empty Ikea box as a table of sorts once after bringing home Chinese food and not having anywhere else to sit down but the floor. To say there was culture shock sounds silly, but things were so different than home. We'd never been so out of our element, but it was exciting and good. Everything was new, and everything was calling out to be explored.

Our first trip to LA together

We have just a little over two months left. I'm not sure how much more exploring we'll fit into that time, but we've surely managed to see and do a lot in our time here. I'm sure this isn't my last super nostalgic post (who am I kidding, I know for a fact it isn't,) but for now I'm enjoying looking back on how we started our lives here. It has been a wonderful couple of years.

Click here to view all of my #VAtoCA posts.
Click here for last year's "One Year Ago" post.

Weekly Roundup

Friday, May 22, 2015

Work seen in Venice Beach / by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

It's been a productive week around here! I've been working on various different design projects and having a blast with all of them. It's much more fun to help other individuals with projects than to work for a big corporation; there's just so much more freedom and I love the short bursts of changing projects. But the corporate jobs bring in steady income... so lucky thing I just scored a part-time job with one! Starting next Tuesday I'll be working around 20 hours a week, remotely (yes!), for a network of surgery centers. Not exciting work necessarily, but steady work and a steady check! This is the perfect setup for me; I didn't feel right aiming for full-time positions with a move coming up, and by working part-time I can still commit plenty of time to my other current projects and blog.

Speaking of our move... only 73 more days left in California! It still isn't registering.

I'm in my first week of three doing the 21 Day Fix. The food part isn't so bad so far, but the workouts and my sore muscles might kill me, ha!

I posted two local guides earlier this week. Check them out if you're interested in ever visiting Santa Monica or San Diego! These were really fun for me because I derive a lot of satisfaction from helping people plan travel. Dream job: travel planner!

One last random thing, I found my old Tumblr this past week and decided to revive it. It's full of ridiculous photos and gifs, mostly from TV shows and movies, and it cracks me up.


  • Mad Mad Fury Road Whether you're psyched to go see this or couldn't care less, definitely go see it! We saw this movie on Monday night and I kind of want to go see it again! The action starts immediately and goes non-stop. Max himself is more of a spectator while Charlize Theron's character take the reigns, but it's done so well! (Not everyone is thrilled about this though.) Fans are major crushing on Nicholas Hoult's character Nux. I'm understandably obsessed with the existence of 'Coma the Doof Warrior,' aka guitar guy. (New favorite term from that article: "WTF-ery.")

  • Chef's Table If you enjoy beautifully shot documentaries and cooking shows, this series of six features is for you. They're quiet and beautiful with each episode exploring the lives and careers of some of the best chefs in the world. We've been watching them throughout the last week or so and have really enjoyed them. (Created by and available on Netflix.) Thanks to Leslie Graham's blog for the suggestion!

On the Internets

  • In Flight This op-ed by Mark Vanhoenacker is a beautifully written excerpt from his upcoming book "Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot." After reading this article, I'm definitely adding this book to my "to buy" list!
  • Shia LeBeouf dropped acid as a form of research for an upcoming role, then hilariously decided to Tweet the experience.
  • In the late 1970's a group of Russian geologists came across a family so removed from the world that they didn't even know that WWII had happened. They'd been living deep in the Siberian forest for 40 years. This one is insanely interesting.
  • I'm was sad to hear about the deaths of Dean Potter and Graham Hunt. While I dabble in climbing myself, Dan is the real climber in our family. It scares me to think of someone tragically dying while doing what they love.
  • What I've Learned About Female Desire from Decades of Reading This list really had me laughing!
  • These Brits clearly don't know how delicious biscuits and gravy is! Apparently it looks like "a clam vomiting, a delicacy in the South I imagine." You imagined correctly!

Everyone have a glorious Memorial Day weekend!

A San Diego Visitor's Guide

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Visit downtown San Diego, The San Diego Zoo, La Jolla, and more!

We had every intention of visiting San Diego very frequently when we moved here. It was our trip to San Diego in 2013 that kickstarted this whole "move to California" thing, after all! Unfortunately, life happens and we haven't made the trip to visit Dan's grandmother as often as we would have liked to, but we have managed to visit at least once every couple of months and we always have such a wonderful, relaxing time.

When a friend from back home in Virginia messaged me asking for recommendations in San Diego for an upcoming trip, I just knew I had to write a few of them down here as well! There is so much to see and do in San Diego, all while living it up in perfect weather and the most laid back vibe you've ever experienced in a city. (We almost moved there instead of Orange County! Dan's job helped us choose OC.) I've included some links to old posts with the information below; they have more pictures and talk more about our first experiences in each place.

An Abridged Guide to San Diego

Downtown San Diego

Anyone arriving by plane will love to find that the airport is only blocks from the downtown area. Just around the curve of the bay is Seaport Village, a little shopping and dining spot, which lines the waterfront alongside the USS Midway and various piers. This is a very walkable area with great views of the bay. Directly across Harbor Drive from Seaport Village is the beginning of Market Street and the Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp is a revamped and trendy part of downtown boasting various restaurants, galleries, shops, and bars. This part of town is where you'll probably spend most of your nights if you're staying in a hotel downtown.

Restaurant Suggestion: Don Chido 527 5th Avenue

Get Around: Walk! The Gaslamp and the rest of downtown are very walkable. If you need a lift, I suggest an Uber. Various busses and the trolley also roll through frequently.

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // View from Point Loma

Coronado & Point Loma

East across the bay lies Coronado and Point Loma. Coronado is a peninsula boasting the Hotel Del Coronado, famous for being featured in "Some Like It Hot" (Marilyn Monroe), along with beautiful grounds, beaches, and an expensive ($90/person) yet exquisite Sunday Brunch. Visiting the Hotel Del is worth the drive over that scary-high Coronado Bridge. Point Loma is a different peninsula, with the bay on its east side and the Pacific on its west. The naval base and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery account for a large part of Point Loma, but at the southernmost tip is Cabrillo National Monument and the Historic Point Loma Lighthouse. As a national park, it costs $5 per vehicle to enter this area, but the views of downtown from the monument are unbeatable and make for incredible photos.

Related Post: Point Loma

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Visit the San Diego Zoo

Balboa Park & San Diego Zoo

Balboa Park is a sprawling 1,200 acre park that contains most of San Diego's museums, gardens, performing arts centers, and other attractions. A large part of the park was built up to celebrate the 1915 World's Fair, although much of it was built before that time. Passes for multiple museums or multiple days can be bought to save on admission.

Along with everything else it has to offer, Balboa Park is home to the San Diego Zoo, 100 acres featuring 3,700 rare and endangered animals and over 700,000 exotic plants. This is definitely an attraction to add to your "must-see" list; you could spend an entire day there and not see everything. Tickets start at $48 per adult for a 1-day pass, but various add-ons and discounts are available. Make sure you take the Skyfari aerial tram, as it offers a great view plus a nice lift back to the front of the park after a long day of walking.

Get There: GPS and drive to 2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park and parking is free! Or take the bus: There are five pickup points for the Rapid 215 or Route 7 throughout downtown and buses come every 15 minutes.

Related Post: Visiting the San Diego Zoo

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Visit Old Town San Diego

Old Town

Old Town is one of my favorite places to visit in San Diego. This is the birthplace of San Diego and is now made up of renovated buildings containing shops, historical information, and restaurants. There are reenactors in period dress, museums, ghost tours, and frequent events. Make sure you stop by the newly-renovated Cosmopolitan Hotel to feel like you've stepped back in time; the interior is gorgeous! Also, don't miss wandering around through the shops and courtyard near Fiesta de Reyes. There you'll find traditional dances and performances, mariachi bands, and margaritas!

Where to Eat: Fiesta de Reyes 2754 Calhoun Street - Get the verde chicken enchiladas, yum!

Get There: Old Town is easily reached by a short ride on the trolley. There are several stops downtown and it will drop you off on the north-western side of Old Town. Get a $5 day pass; one way rides are $2.50 each and you never know where else you may want to ride it that day!

Related Post: Old Town San Diego

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Beach Cities of San Diego County

Beach Cities

If you've rented a car or don't mind figuring out the train schedules, definitely take a ride north on the 5 freeway (or the beach-hugging 101) or take the Coaster to the little seaside towns of Carlsbad or Oceanside. I think Carlsbad has more of a "downtown" area worth exploring, but Oceanside is nice too and has a pier you can walk. Each places will take about an hour to reach by train, a time that may greatly increase if you're driving; California traffic is notoriously known for a reason.

Get There: I personally think the train would be the best bet here, with stations located conveniently in the center of each downtown and easy walks to the beach. (Use Carlsbad Village stop, not Poinsettia stop.) You can find information about the train schedules and fares here. Just be cautious of the last return trip times. PS - If you visit Old Town and one of the beach cities in the same day, a day pass for the Coaster will let you visit both on the same ticket, saving you the trolley fare mentioned above.

Related Post: Driving the 101

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Visiting the cliffs of La Jolla

La Jolla

La Jolla wins my vote for most beautiful beach city in San Diego County. You will see mentions of this in most visitors guides and everywhere online. Do not visit San Diego and miss out on La Jolla! It's only around 12 miles north of downtown San Diego and worth whatever it takes to get you there. Visiting the cliffs of La Jolla has a lot to offer; restaurants and shopping are prevalent along the La Jolla Cove area, but the scenery here is the best part. See the seals and sea lions from the Children's Pool Observation Walkway, visit Sunny Jim's Sea Cave, or rent kayaks or stand up paddleboards to explore the area from the water. You could easily spend a full day in La Jolla and love every minute.

Get There: Unfortunately a train does not make stops in La Jolla or far enough east to walk to the cliffs. You'll need to take the #30 Bus (schedule here) if you want to use public transit. A taxi or Uber may be a good bet if you don't have a car, but driving would probably be the easiest and quickest. A good place to plug in on the GPS is Scripps Park, La Jolla, which overlooks Children's Beach and the cliffs.

Related Posts: La Jolla and the San Diego Coast Part 1, and Part 2

A Brief San Diego Visitor's Guide // Visit Julian, an old mining town in the mountains of San Diego County


This one is a bit far out there, but if you have a car and have a day to spend driving out into the mountains, do it. Julian is an old mining town, now famous for their apple pies. You can take a tour of an old gold mine, but just wandering around and visiting some of the shops makes for a good afternoon. Have a slice of apple pie!

Restaurant Suggestion: The Rongbranch 2722 Washington Street, Julian 92036

Get There: You'll have to drive, and it's about a 75 minute drive from downtown San Diego. Just punch in "Julian, 92036" on your GPS and that should get you there. You'll take the 8 freeway east and then hop off onto highway 79 north. It's a long and curvy way up, but this part of the county is gorgeous.

Related Post: From the Mountains to the Ocean

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This is all I have for now! I know this is a quick overlook of San Diego, but I feel like I touched on a lot of great places to visit during your time there. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions! I love helping people plan their travel!

Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica

Monday, May 18, 2015

Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier

Dan and I were on a mission this weekend: visit Santa Monica before the high tourism season starts. Mission accomplished! Because Memorial Day is just next weekend, we figured we should hurry and make it happen before visiting would be a nightmare. Last summer's attempt to show our friend Caleb some of Orange County's beaches showed us just how difficult it can be to enjoy much of anything around us during tourist season, and we truly learned from that experience. (We ended up taking him to Malibu instead, which worked out rather well.)

Even though I was just in Santa Monica last Monday, this trip still needed to happen with Dan in tow. He'd never visited before and I just couldn't let him move out of California without spending a day there! We headed up without much of a plan, and luckily the 405 freeway has been pretty nice to us lately so we were there fairly quick (in LA time.)

I always park in the same parking garage when visiting Santa Monica and am always shocked that there are empty spaces in such a perfect location. This lot is located at the corner of 3rd Street and Broadway and even has its own lanes for traffic on the street; no confusion, panic, or circling to get into this one! That might have something to do with the fact that it doesn't even come up as an option when you search for "parking" around here on Google Maps, which is just crazy because I know it exists. I've parked there twice this past week! This could be because it serves as a parking garage for Santa Monica Place, a multi-story outdoor mall attached to this garage, but that doesn't mean it's a private lot. It's also super affordable; free for the first 90 minutes and only $1.50 per hour after that. I've heard rumors that some shops validate parking but haven't had the luck; the shops in the mall are probably the ones for that. (The mall is also the best place to find a clean public restroom!)

The best place to park in Santa Monica, California; right on the corner of the Third Street Promenade and only minutes to the pier!

From this parking structure you are literally stepping out onto the Third Street Promenade. Shops and restaurants line each side of this pedestrian-only plaza and buskers sing and perform all along the center. There's everything from Urban Outfitters to Nordstrom, Chipotle to Johnny Rockets. My favorite shop and restaurant are conveniently as close to the garage as they could get. Kitson is an amazing shop full of fun gifts and clothing to give or keep; many of the things you'll find inside are California or LA themed and make much better souvenirs than anything you'd find in one of those cheap touristy shops elsewhere. Kitson is located on the corner of 3rd Street and Broadway just like the garage, actually sharing its back wall with the parking structure. You literally can't get any closer! My favorite place to eat is a little cafe called the Cafe Crepe, conveniently located just perpendicular from Kitson. They serve tasty crepes, coffees, and sandwiches. Dan and I shared a four-cheese and tomato panini and followed it up with a strawberry and nutella crepe. Yum!

Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier
Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier
Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier

Just two blocks west lies Ocean Avenue. Directly across the street is the Santa Monica Senior Center; this is the home of Santa Monica's Camera Obscura (as seen in this post.) After having no luck getting in on Monday, Dan and I were able to get in this time and experience the camera for ourselves. As a photography student and lover of the history of photography, this was something I was really excited to experience with my own eyes. For anyone unfamiliar with what they are, a brief photography lesson: The camera obscura was the first way that man discovered we could accurately portray a scene by recreating images that were cast into a darkened room through a tiny hole. Artists would trace or etch the scene onto something at the time. Later it was discovered that certain photo-sensitive chemicals could transfer the cast images onto surfaces, such a metal, and the first photographs were born. If you've ever heard of pinhole cameras, this is the same concept. From inside the near pitch-black room we could see scenes from the beach and street cast onto a metal surface in the center of the room and use a wheel to turn the camera and change the scene. I almost felt like I was spying on people who were walking by, unaware that we were watching them from inside.

Afterwards we walked south through the park and onto the infamous Santa Monica Pier. You cannot visit Santa Monica for the first time without visiting the pier! There is so much to see an do on the pier itself: ride the rides at Pacific Park (though, I'll pass,) watch trapeze artists from the Trapeze School of NY, have lunch at one of the many restaurants or fast food places, or my favorite, people watch. Dan was also pretty sure he saw some famous TV actor. When in LA, right?

Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier
Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier
Spending an Afternoon in Santa Monica, California // Parking, the Third Street Promenade, Camera Obscura, and the Santa Monica Pier

Another fun thing I'd like to do one day is rent bikes and ride them from Santa Monica down to the Venice Beach boardwalk. I noticed that there's a Blazing Saddles rental kiosk right at the beginning of the pier; I cannot speak to their service here, but we rented bikes from them to ride along the waterfront in San Francisco and had a great experience. There seem to be a few other rental places along Ocean Avenue to rent from as well, and I'm sure they'd be just as nice.

We had such a nice afternoon in Santa Monica and I'm glad we were able to go before it got too crowded! Sometimes I feel like we're saying "goodbye" to places around us for the last time, at least for a long while, and I'm starting to get a little sentimental about the places I've loved here. I'm not sure if we'll make it back to SM again in the short time we have left. It might just be my favorite place to visit in LA.

Weekly Roundup

Friday, May 15, 2015

The countdown is real! Chelsea bought her plane ticket home and she and Audrey kitty will only be here for 39 more days. And we'll only be here for another 80 days... eeeek! So crazy!

We visited the Getty Villa this past Monday afternoon and then did a little wandering around in Santa Monica.

Alexandria from A Modern Girl's Travels nominated me for a Liebster Award this past weekend and it was fun to tell the world a little bit more about myself when answering her questions.

I'm starting the 21 Day Fix this coming Monday and I'm equally nervous and excited! My friend Aimee of Fite Club Fitness will be my coach and I'm so thankful I have her to keep me on track! I'll be keeping track in a blog post, which I'll post live at the end. I think it will be fun to see my progress and it just may give others that push to try it themselves. I'm the least exercise-prone person on the planet, so if I can do it, anyone can.



  • They Came Together Have you ever watched a movie just because of the cast? I love Amy Poehler and even though this has such bad ratings, I let it play in the background while I worked on my laptop on the couch. It was so stupid, but I found myself laughing out loud several times. It's a parody on romantic comedies and exactly what you would expect a parody from Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd to be like. Plus, tons of comedic actors and actresses! Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Cobie Smulders, Jason Mantzoukas, Michael Ian Black, Christopher Meloni, Ed Helms, Jack McBrayer, Randall Park, Max Greenfield, Kenan Thompson... worth having on in the background while you're working, sure! It was terrible, but in a good way.


  • What Exactly Does New York Smell Like? This comparison of Bond No 9 perfumes to the actual neighborhoods they're named after had me rolling laughing. "... the slow takeover of Marc by Marc by Marc by Marc by Marcwest Jacobs, and yes, Magnolia cupcakes fresh from the oven."
  • TV Line is keeping track of everything that is being renewed and cancelled for next season. Nashville and Modern Family renewed, yes! The Mindy Project, cancelled!? Come on Hulu, pick it up!
  • John Oliver talks about what American mothers really want for Mother's Day and I give a standing ovation.
  • Wes Anderson designed a bar in Milan and all Wes Anderson fans collectively squeal, myself included!
  • Probably the most incredible, breathtaking, and amazing thing I have seen this week... JETPACKS ARE REAL. Watch the video; it's beautiful!
  • Have you subscribed to The Skimm? I've found it to be a perfect little comprehensive, un-biased source of information about what's going on in the world. This once-daily email is sitting in my inbox before I even wake up in the morning and I've made it a habit to start my day by reading The Skimm with my coffee.
  • I watched Sam and Brandon online as they built their tiny home in Texas. They were interviewed by the local news and it's really fun to see!

Roadside Coffee & Santa Monica Views

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One of the best parts about driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and the Pacific Palisades is how easy it is to pull over and enjoy the beach. While most of the beach cities around only have paid lots or garages, maybe on-street metered parking at best, the stretches of highway through this area have ample space alongside the road to pull off and park just about anywhere you'd like... for free. The best way to see the coast through this part of Los Angeles County is by driving south. Luckily, anytime I venture that far north on the PCH I'm required to head back down the way I came, unless I wanted to continue far north enough to jump on the 101 in Oxnard in neighboring Ventura County. This gives the drivers and passengers each a new way to view the coastline, and with so many places to pull over along the beach side of the highway I'm always happy to drive in the right lane, ready to park at a moment's notice.

Chels and I pulled over for a few quiet minutes to enjoy our Starbucks Frappuccinos on this rocky embankment after our visit to the Getty Villa. It was quiet, other than the sounds of passing traffic. Though I was disappointed to see so much graffiti on the rocks.

Views of the Pacific from Pacific Palisades
Views of the Pacific from Pacific Palisades

A little further south, we headed up the hill to downtown Santa Monica to walk around a little bit. We tried to visit the Camera Obscura on Ocean Avenue but arrived just 15 minutes after they closed at 3pm. Across the street is the Georgian Hotel; I have absolutely no reason to spend the night in Santa Monica but I almost want to just so I can stay here! We ventured though the cliff-front park for views of the PCH and infamous pier before heading back to the car to head home.

Camera Obscura, free to visit and located on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, California!
The Georgian Hotel, Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California

You know when you visit a place you've seen in movies, photographs, etc, and then it's completely different from how you imagined when you actually see it in real life? That's the Santa Monica Pier for me. It always looks like this when you see it depicted elsewhere. The reality isn't terrible, it's just a lot less charming. You don't exactly expect a six lane highway, constant construction, and a giant parking lot on the beach, all separating the pier from the rest of downtown. Again, not terrible, but it's not the most gorgeous thing in the world. The pier itself is okay, worth a walk for your travel checklist for sure, but the theme park on the pier is sort of like a dumpy county fair. Beautiful at night, worth the visit, but I may pass on the rides.

Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica is one place where I hope to spend one more great day before we move. Dan has yet to visit this city and it is definitely not one to miss!

Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Gardens of The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living

Ever since we first visited The Getty Center I've been anticipating a visit to the museum's sister property, The Getty Villa. The Villa is located atop the bluffs north of Pacific Palisades, similarly considered the very southern part of Malibu. If The Getty Center location is their hub for fine arts, like paintings, The Getty Villa is their hub for Grecian architecture, sculpture, and other artifacts from early Grecian and Roman cultures.

Located where it is, the Villa is a bit more difficult to get to only because you have to drive through Santa Monica to get to the Pacific Coast Highway before heading north. We left Irvine right around 10am and were parked at the Villa in an unprecedented 65 minutes; I still don't know how we managed such magic! (The drive home, on the other hand, took just under two hours. Timing man, it's everything here!) Like the Getty Center, admission to the museum is completely free but reservations and printed time-entry tickets are required to even enter the property. Parking is paid upon entry and is $15; if you visit both campuses in one day you only pay for parking once and can use the same pass at the other location. This location is opened from 10am-5pm but has some evening programming. A good thing to know is that the Villa is NOT open on Tuesdays, but is open the other six days of the week. We've almost visited on a Tuesday before; I'm so glad we didn't make the drive only to find it closed!

Here is what you'll see at the Getty Villa:

Marble: Everything here is made of marble! The walls! The floors! The columns! I don't think I've ever seen so much marble in my entire life. A volunteer in one exhibit told us that they spent $175 million on their 2006 renovation, and most of that was the cost of marble. Oh, and don't forget the marble statues, busts, and other pieces!

Statues: Busts, busts, and more busts. I've never seen so many heads of so many ancient people. Sculptures of Greek goddesses and deities. Creepy busts and statues with eerie white eyes, yikes. Basically, you've stepped back in time and are now in 20 A.D. Greece or Rome.

Jewelry & Coins: I loved looking at the jewelry on display; it may have been one of my favorite parts. I like to try to imagine the men and women who wore those pieces, and think of how long ago they lived. Rings and other pieces can be so personal. I frequently looked down at my grandmother's ring on my right hand and thought that maybe I was looking at something that another girl my age truly treasured, just almost 2,000 years ago.

Gorgeous Grecian Architecture & Gardens: I could go just to wander the grounds and be fine missing out on the art! There were hundreds of roses, shrubs, and even pomegranate trees! (I'd never seen a pomegranate tree before!) I cannot even put into words how beautiful the museum and the gardens are. You just have to see to understand. I hope these photos will suffice!

Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living

And don't forget to look up and look down! Again, the architecture and the details here are an exhibit of their own. The floors in the halls and different exhibit rooms differ, offering many different styles and designs, made mostly (if not completely) with exquisite marble. The ceilings are painted or decorated with intricate carvings.

Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living
Visiting The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California | Em Busy Living