Five Years Ago Today

Friday, July 31, 2015

I interrupt this regularly scheduled "Weekly Roundup" post to share and reflect on something far more important today than funny things I found around the internet. Truthfully, I've been too busy packing, shipping, selling furniture, hugging friends goodbye, scheduling a few posts, and preparing ourselves for tomorrow's departure to really do much surfing on the web this week. But I do have time to stop and celebrate our five year anniversary.

Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Photos by Sabrena Deal of S. Carter Studios

Five years ago today (although, then it was a Saturday,) I anxiously put on a dress, fell into sat down in my dad's cherry red '67 Chevelle, and watched as five classic cars ahead of us pulled into the driveway of my childhood home. Six of my closest friends in powder blue dresses proceeded me in climbing out of their cars and walking up the makeshift aisle between rows of white chairs that filled the front lawn of my childhood home, and I eagerly followed them behind the crowd until it was my turn. I don't remember the music that was playing or which faces were watching me as I walked that aisle with my Daddy, but I do remember the look on Dan's face, smiling in his bowtie, the one thing he was determined to have a say in as we'd planned the day. Many of our best guy friends stood to his left, handsome as ever in their matching bowties. I glanced up and noticed that one of the window shades in my brother's room had been pulled down, the front of our house winking at us in all of our pictures forever. My little cousin Amy repeatedly dumped and collected the rest of her flower petals behind me as we said our vows. One giant drop of rain landed squarely on my bare shoulder. Please, God, just a few more minutes before that, will you? We said "I do," kissing and smiling and turning to take in the happy faces of all of our guests, all of them practically family. My grandmother, parents, and new in-laws beamed from the front rows. I forgot my bouquet of blue hydrangeas as we retreated towards the back, my little cousin Sarah panicking momentarily that I had left them in her care.

Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Photos by Sabrena Deal of S. Carter Studios

We drug our formals through knee-high grasses to pose for photos with our wedding party and best friends. After being announced to our guests in the back yard, we danced our first dance as husband and wife while a family friend performed Anberlin's "Inevitable" on his acoustic guitar. The bottom finally fell out, sending our guests running for cover under the tent where our food was protected. We smashed cupcakes in each others' faces, toasted with Champagne, and hid our faces with embarrassment as our friends gave speeches recounting some of our favorite memories. Dan's sister Rochelle decided that the rain wasn't going to ruin the night, and within minutes a dance party in the rain had broken out on the patio in front of our DJ. Some guests left, but many stayed and join in.

Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories | Photos by S.Carter Studios
Photos by Sabrena Deal of S. Carter Studios

When you're never going to wear a dress again, you can be sentimental and throw a fit over the rain, or you can choose not to care if it becomes soaked and dirty and have the time of your life. We danced and sang and had the best time ever in the pouring rain. Wine and beer bottles became slippery and were dropped and smashed on the slate patio, cutting a couple of feet in the process, but that didn't stop my friends from dancing; glass was swept away and the music never stopped. "Don't Stop Believin'" became the night's anthem, singing along through the rain while tuxes and dresses dripped and dyed shoes ran color across the slate. We finally announced our exit and piled into our getaway car, exhausted and anxious for the two three(?! < because, rain) hour drive back to our townhouse so we wouldn't miss our 7am flight the next morning. Our friends and family continued dancing late into the night; with only one neighboring home in sight (whose family was in attendance,) there was no one around for miles to complain about the noise. The next day my family returned soaking wet tuxes to the rental place, one shoe—to this day—still unaccounted for.

Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories
Photos by Margaux

So much has changed in the eight years that Dan and I have been together, especially these past five years. I absolutely know him and love him more than I did the day we got married, even more so than I did just one year ago. Love continues to grow and grow, and we continue to grow together. I am so very grateful for my best friend and that we can experience all of life and life's changes together.

Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories
Em Busy Living's Wedding Memories

Tomorrow we leave California. I think it's quite fitting that we're starting our 6th year out just as we're also starting this new chapter in our lives. The first five years were amazing. Here's hoping the next five, and on, are just as wonderful! I have no doubt they will be.

California Sounds Like...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I've spent quite a bit of time recently going through my old Spotify playlists and iTunes catalog trying to create a definitive playlist of all of the songs that I'll forever relate to our time here in California. (Sometimes I had a really hard time choosing just one song off of some of these albums!) Music has always been really important to me and I've always collected my favorite songs and albums as part of my memories. (Yep, I still like to have a physical copy!) I love hearing a song that immediately takes me back to a particular time of my life, like the way the cover of "Last Train Home" by the Lost Prophets sends me back to being seventeen, flying down back roads in the back of my friend's Honda Civic with six other people crammed in on top of each other. I could get caught up just right there and go on and on with those memories, but I'll refrain. This is about what my time in California sounded like!

I have a wide range of musical interests, with everything from metal to alt rock to trance music. A lot of hipster-heavy indie music has made its way in recently, and half of this playlist is made up of a lot of that. Spotify's "related artists" tab has really helped me discover a ton of new artists over the past two years, a feature I was especially thankful for during long days on the computer at my desk job.

So put on your headphones and get ready for an audial journey through my past two years here. Of course I couldn't share these songs without context, so I've added a bit of a background story for each of the songs below. FYI, this is going to be a long post, sorry 'bout it.

My Last Trip to the Beach + A Summer Essentials Bag Giveaway!

Monday, July 27, 2015

When Claire left last Sunday night, I thought we'd seen the last of our California visitors. I was wrong! By the middle of the week I knew that our friend Amie would be in town for a conference and that she'd booked a flight arriving a few days before so she could enjoy a bit of the Southern California sunshine. We offered her a (very sparsely furnished) place to stay for the weekend and she arrived Friday evening.

With a million options on what to do on Saturday, we finally chose to head town to Laguna Beach for a few relaxing hours on the sand. We picked up a picnic lunch of burgers and fries from Husky Boy Burgers and hiked down the cliffside to my new favorite hidden beach.

It was pretty crowded compared to the last times I'd visited so we picked a spot to set up our towel and umbrella just along the bottom of the cliff. Luckily I set our basket full our phones, wallets, keys, and tee shirts above us on a rocky ledge, because we'd only just finished enjoying our lunch when the rising tide brought a wave right up to where we were sitting and soaked us and our towel. I grabbed and raised my camera up just in time! Soaked and covered in sand, we retreated to a more populated part of the beach to try again.

Within half an hour our second towel had been soaked as well, followed by me falling on my face in front of an entire beach of people as I attempted to simultaneously lift our belongings out of harm's way and sort of run backwards. I wish I could see a video of myself trying to do this and have a bit of a laugh, but I did whatever it took to save all of my beach essentials from their watery demise! The phones, wallets, and cameras were all safely dry, and my bikini top was luckily not lost in my bumpy landing in the sand! Win win! haha

Weekly Roundup

Friday, July 24, 2015

Woah! How is it Friday!? I'm not even joking...I thought today was Thursday.

Time is obviously flying by. I'm worried that earlier next week I'll start trying to put on the brakes; everything is sinking in, big time! We leave in—#freakoutmoment—eight days!

I feel so accomplished this week. The car has been checked out and has new brakes, the U-Haul trailer has been reserved, and the hitch is being installed on our car Tuesday morning. Yep, we're hauling a trailer behind our car. We might be crazy...I know neither of us is thrilled with the idea, but it's the best option for us with so little "stuff" to take east with us.

Having Claire here last weekend was a blast. I'm so glad I got to spend that time with her as well as spend one last weekend playing tourist in our own town like that.

  • Inspired by the day I spent showing Claire around LA, I decided to write a post on how I usually play tour guide with my friends and visitors who visit and only have a few days here to explore. Believe it or not, sometimes I give the "grand tour" of LA in just one day. I don't believe this is a sufficient amount of time to commit to the city of course, but sometimes you don't have any other choice. But is possible!

  • Life After Death: A Survivor's Story by Brad Fite I met Aimee Fite nearly a decade ago during my first two years of college. We had several classes together and I sometimes attended a Bible study she used to have at a house she shared with friends. I haven't seen her in a really long time (even though she only lives about an hour away!) but we are of course friends on Facebook. Through our online connection, I've watched as she's gotten married, moved to California with her husband, and had their son. I've also witnessed, in a way, the struggles they have both dealt with in their lives and marriage as Brad suffered through extreme surgeries and PTSD after pretty much being blown apart by an IED in Afghanistan. When I saw that Brad was publishing his story as a book, I knew I needed to read it. I'm only a little way in right now, but it is so wild to hear his heartbreaking story in his own words.

  • Human Planet This eight-episode BBC special is available now on Netflix and was really fascinating to watch. Dan and I would turn this on in the evenings this week while we ate dinner in the floor, which I might advise against because the primitive people they follow around in this show do a lot of hunting. It was really interesting though, with each episode dedicated to a different extreme environment: deserts, the arctic, jungles, and even tree dwellers.
  • The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 has a new official trailer!!!
  • The Revenant (trailer) Leonardo DiCaprio is in it, so I'm sold already. Apparently it's a pretty silent film for him though, which is a first. Maybe this will be his Oscar moment?
  • Big Significant Things (trailer) Two things: 1) Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones, The Theory of Everything, Manhattan,) is the star of this indie (SXSW selected) film and I love Harry Lloyd, and 2) there's a shot of him standing in front of the Roanoke Star with the city of Roanoke, Virginia (one of my hometowns) spread out behind him, so obviously I need to watch this movie!

On the Internets

Los Angeles in One Day

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Los Angeles in One Day: Hitting All the Hot Spots in a Quick Trip |

There is so much to see and do in Los Angeles that it almost sounds ridiculous to even think of only spending one day there. Sometimes though, that's just how it has to happen. When Claire started planning to visit for only three days, I knew that one of those days needed to be spent in LA. When my parents came into town with a friend and my aunt for a few days last year, I knew that we could knock a few touristy things off the list by going up and spending one day exploring LA. There is plenty to see and do in Orange County for sure, but when people fly in from across the country and are suddenly only 45 miles from Hollywood for the first time in their life, why not spend one of these vacation days visiting one of our country's most famous and exciting cities?

After playing tour guide with friends and family several times in our two years here, I feel like I have a decent grasp on how to see many of the LA hot spots in a limited amount of time. Being that I don't live in LA, I know that there's a ton I still haven't seen and explored myself. I know that I'm not totally "in" on all of the wonderful little secret spots that the locals love and that my time in LA has only scratched the surface of what's available to see and do there. That being said, I've figured out how to make the most of one day in the city that allows a first time visitor to check many things off of their "LA Bucket Lists" and hopefully they'll visit again another time to see more of the city in depth.

Travel Time
Because I live in Orange County (Tustin/Irvine) I always begin and end my visits to LA with between one and three hours of travel time. Sorry about it, but driving in Southern California can be a nightmare sometimes. If you're visiting OC and planning to visit LA for a day, just be prepared to block out several hours for travel time. When I travel up on a weekday, I leave after 9am (most people have completed their commute to work by then) and plan to hang out in the city until after 7pm (most of the rush hour craziness has settled to a manageable level by then.) My drive to LA usually takes around an hour to 90 minutes. My drive home fluctuates between 90 minutes and three hours, depending on if there are any accidents, LAX traffic, etc. (2 hours is the norm.) Weekend travel is unpredictable but usually about the same, though travel time up can be shortened by leaving earlier in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays while everyone else is still sleeping (7 or 8am.) I drive to LA on the 5 North and home on the 405 South, working my way across the city from East to West throughout the day.

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Downtown & Olvera Street |

Downtown LA & Olvera Street (the Original Spanish LA)
The first stop from East to West on our tour of LA is always downtown and/or Olvera Street. I highly suggest Olvera Street for an early lunch of the best Mexican food in town mixed with a little lot of history. If you're not really hungry yet, explore the streets of downtown LA. Wander around The Last Bookstore (453 S Spring St), grab a coffee and picture-perfect macaroon from Bottega Louie (700 S Grand Ave), and soak up the beauty and fragrance of the LA Flower Market (754 Wall St.)

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Hollywood |

After a little time downtown, I'll hop on the 101 North and continue my tour west. Next stop, Hollywood. Here you'll get your first glance at the infamous Hollywood sign and have a chance to see the most touristy part of LA. Most people who have visited me want to see the stars on the Walk of Fame or put their hands in Marilyn Monroe's handprints in front of the Chinese Theatre. To see these things, head down Hollywood Boulevard and park at the Hollywood & Highland center (6801 Hollywood Blvd.) Parking in the garage below (accessible by turning north on Highland Avenue) is the cheapest around and gives you direct access to great views of the sign, stairs to the Walk of Fame, and is directly beside the Chinese Theatre. There are also many shops and restaurants inside and around H&H. The Chinese Theatre (where many red carpet premiers take place) offers several 20-minute tours daily, are full of historical info about the theatre, and would be easy to fit in during a quick day in LA.

Escape the chaos of this part of town by heading south on Highland Ave towards the famous Sunset Boulevard. Turn right on Sunset to head west. Stop for pancakes or French toast and the delicious Griddle Cafe (7916 Sunset Blvd) or cross the street for burgers and fries at The Counter (7919 Sunset Blvd.)

Head south on Fairfax Avenue until you reach Santa Monica Boulevard. Turn right (west) and head on towards the coast. You'll pass through the exciting neighborhood of West Hollywood, which is also worth a stop and wander for a little bit. I've never stopped to eat in this neighborhood, but there are bound to be plenty of amazing places to stumble in.

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Beverly Hills |

Beverly Hills
Driving west on Santa Monica Boulevard will bring you out of West Hollywood and directly into Beverly Hills. Take a right turn, any right turn, and zig-zag your way up and down the residential streets to admire the homes. The homes closest to SM Blvd are the "smallest" and least private homes. I imagine that these belong to wealthier families and higher ups in the entertainment business. The farther you drive up into the hills, the larger and more private the homes become. Sorry to be the one to tell you, but most of your favorite celebs' homes are surrounded by giant walls and hedges. I would want the privacy, too. My only bragging rights are that Dan and I once found the gate to the Playboy Mansion... it's about as exciting as it sounds. There are many websites online that will give you addresses so you too can see the hedges or gates belonging to your favorite celebrities! Just, try not to get lost. GPS is your friend. Good luck getting out of there.

After finding your way back to Santa Monica Blvd, maybe take a quick drive down the famed Rodeo Drive. You may spot a celeb shopping at Celine or Chanel, so park and take a walk if you're into that. Taking a right on Wilshire Blvd will bring you back to SM Blvd. Turn left and keep on heading west towards that golden coast.

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Santa Monica |

Santa Monica
Santa Monica is a wonderful part of LA to visit and is definitely worth a few hours. From the Third Street Promenade and farmer's market to the Pier, there is just so much to check out here. Here is an entire post dedicated to Santa Monica, including the best place to park. (Save yourself the click: GPS to 1444 4th Street.)

Pro tip: try to get to Santa Monica before 4pm on a weekday or you'll spend quite a bit of time in traffic. The stretch between Hollywood and Santa Monica can become almost gridlock between 3:30 and 6:30, so the sooner you get out of there the better.

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Malibu & Venice Beach |

Venice or Malibu?
By the time I've explored Santa Monica with friends or family, we're usually exhausted and ready to hit the road back to Orange County. I definitely suggest grabbing dinner here and waiting out rush hour before doing so. If you still have plenty of energy after 7pm, maybe rent a bike and pedal down the boardwalk down to Venice Beach. You could also opt to hop back in your car and drive up the PCH to Malibu and find a nice beach where you can picnic with a take-out burger or milkshake and watch the sun set. Maybe even make reservations at Geoffrey's.

Los Angeles in One Day: Visiting Museums & Studio Tours |

The Big Attractions
There are so many things to do in LA that can take up several hours of your day if you choose to explore those options. From museums to theme parks to studio tours to being part of a live studio audience for one of your favorite shows...if one of these activities is number one on your list of LA priorities, you need to arrange your entire day around that activity. Going to a taping can be really fun, but can take up to six hours. Museums and theme parks can take an entire day, easy. If you only have one day in LA, you can choose to partake in one of these exclusive activities, or split your day into little pieces and see a little bit of everything.

If you're determined to get in a little bit of the Hollywood experience in your one day visit, I highly suggest the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. This tour will only take around three hours of your day and is easy to fit in. Buy and reserve your tickets and tour time in advance for $62. No, this isn't a sponsored plug, but I've done this tour twice already (different each time!) and personally feel it's the best "Hollywood experience" tourist attraction in LA.

So there you have it. You've knocked out a ton of sightseeing in just a few hours while experiencing a little downtown, a little Hollywood, and a little of the LA beach life. I hope this might come across as helpful for anyone who attempts a quick visit. If you have a little more time to spend in LA, check out some of my other Los Angeles posts for ideas on other places to explore, from the Griffith Observatory to the Getty Villa on the coast.

Claire + SoCal in Three Days

Monday, July 20, 2015

My friend Claire arrived really late on Thursday night, rushing into town for a long weekend visit to California before we move away in two weeks. Her long day of travel was complete only after we lost couldn't find each other in LAX (with a dead cell phone, no less) followed by a long 2am trip back to our home in Orange County. Undeterred by our exhaustion, we set out on Friday morning to make the most of her short time here. We designated Friday as our day to explore Los Angeles, followed by two days in Orange County.

We hit several highlights in LA on Friday, and I think Claire felt like she was able to see most of the things and places she'd heard about in the city. We had lunch on Olvera Street, saw the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre Forecourt, and Hollywood sign from the Hollywood and Highland Center, drove circles through and got "lost" in Beverly Hills, and wandered the Third Street Promenade and pier in Santa Monica. We finally gave in to how tired we were and headed back home, topping off our night with dinner at Pieology Pizza with Daniel.

During dinner Dan told us that his Saturday climbing plans were going to be postponed "because of the storm we're expecting," to which I asked, "what storm?" Something I've learned living in Southern California... one rarely needs to check the weather. We joked about how little it rains here and that we'd continue on with our beach plans for the weekend, because the chances were slim, right? Dan and I have been here for two years already and while it has rained and even poured a few times, we have never once seen lightning or heard thunder while living here. We laughed about this and joked that of course it would storm and thunder the one weekend Claire visited, even after all this time.

Saturday morning we headed out to Laguna Beach. We visited Aliso Beach before I took her north to visit the hidden little beach where Jeff had taken us paddleboarding the weekend before. We were taking photos along the cliffs when the lifeguard came to tell us they were closing all of the beaches due to the incoming storm. It was then that I saw my first flash of lightning over the ocean, followed by the rumbling sound of thunder. Of course. Welcome to sunny California, Claire! Ha! We retreated back to Tustin and decided that indoor activities, like Japanese BBQ at Gyu-Kaku, pedicures, and wine in my living room floor, were preferable for the remainder of the day.

Sunday was surprisingly sunny out, so the three of us headed to Huntington Beach for a while before beginning the trek back to LAX. Wandering around and people watching on Main Street in Huntington is enough of an activity, but we spent a good amount of time watching the surfers from the pier. They were already setting up the stands, shops, and skate bowl on the beach for this year's US Open of Surfing, which begins next weekend (which makes me think of how crazy it is that I'll have been here for three US Opens by then!) Nothing beats the laid back vibe of HB, so I'm really glad we were able to spend some sunny time there before the bottom dropped out again, soaking all of OC and LA and delaying Claire's flights home several times over.

It was so weird seeing some of these things and places with Claire and thinking that it might be years before I see them again. We know for sure that she was our last guest in California, and that's a really strange feeling. I'm so glad I got to play tourist here one last time!

Weekly Roundup

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's been a wonderful week and last weekend was one of the most wonderful weekends! Do you ever just have one of those weekends where you feel like everything is just perfect? That was last weekend for me. It's been a really long time since Dan and I just went out and spent our time having fun. No groceries or chores, no "what should we do?" followed by an afternoon on the couch. Saturday we went to Pirate's Cove with some friends (Austin & Jeff) and Dan climbed with them while I enjoyed taking photos and exploring the beach and tidepools. We followed that wonderful morning with pizza at Johnny's Real NY Pizza, one of my favorite places to eat around here.

Sunday morning we got up early again and ventured down to Laguna Beach to meet Jeff and go paddleboarding for the first time ever. When we first arrived here in California I quickly declared that I had to go paddleboarding, but just never made it a priority. Now I'm regretting that I didn't do it sooner because I've been wanting to go back and do it again ever since. I think if I'd discovered this when we first moved here I would have even bought my own board. Though I gave it a fair shot, I could never actually stand up on it. I spent most of my time on my knees after attempting to stand once, which resulted in me falling off and swallowing nearly all of the Pacific Ocean. Gross. We followed our exhausting but wonderful morning on the sea with burgers from Husky Boy Burgers. I'm telling you, just one fantastic thing after another.

I've also never felt so accomplished than after this week. Not only did we truly enjoy ourselves without responsibilities hanging over our heads over the weekend, but we've managed to purge and pack so much more this past week without it being stressful in the least. Even our clothes, minus what we'll live in for the next few weeks repeatedly, have been packed away until we land in our future apartment in New York.

Oh yeah, speaking of... I finally announced that we're moving to New York City, if you somehow missed that on Monday! Thank you to everyone who has commented or emailed me with so much shared excitement, encouragement, and kind words. Let me know if you live in or close to NYC, because I would love nothing more than to have a coffee date with you this fall!

Also, my friend Claire is here!! I'm just so excited that she is here. We're going to spend today and the rest of the weekend exploring everything you can in LA and OC in three days. This should be a blast and totally exhausting, ha!


  • Ascension Dan and I watched this SyFy miniseries on Netflix over this past weekend and were sad that it wasn't an actual full season. While the intro episode was a bit dull to get through, I'm so glad we stuck with it, because like I said, we couldn't get enough. Netflix breaks this three-episode series into 6 "chapters" (read: Netflix episodes.) Here's the blurb: In 1963, the U.S. government launched a covert space mission sending hundreds of men, women and children on a century-long voyage aboard the starship Ascension to populate a new world. Nearly 50 years into the journey, as they approach the point of no return, a mysterious murder of a young woman causes the ship’s population to question the true nature of their mission. But y'all, there's a twist! Just watch it.
  • The Walking Dead, Season 4 I know, we're really behind... but now we're as caught up as Netflix will let us be! It's a shame that AMC does such a terrible job of releasing their shows to Netflix vs when their new seasons come on TV. Why do they wait until S6 is on TV before giving Netflix S5? Wouldn't it make sense for them to let us get caught up so we can catch it live and give them the ratings/ad views? My parents are currently just as confused while they wait for the next season of Hell on Wheels. It seriously makes no sense!

On the Internets

Bouldering in Pirate's Cove

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |

This past Saturday was near perfect. After a stressful week full of selling and packing, I was happy that Dan and a couple of guys from work, Austin and Jeff, had planned a morning of climbing on the beach. It was the perfect way to start our weekend and get us out of the clutter of our apartment!

Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California | EmBusyLiving.comBouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |

Dan and his friend Austin started doing indoor rock climbing and bouldering sometime early in 2014 and it has been his favorite activity since. I joined the gym along with them and used to climb every other Saturday or so, although that tapered off over time. My favorite is climbing via top-rope, where someone belays you as you climb in a harness, but Dan has gained the most strength and stamina from bouldering. In bouldering you "send" a route (completely ascend) using your hands, feet, and strength alone. This is something my absence of upper body strength has permitted me from doing successfully, but Dan and Austin hang, climb, and jump all over those bouldering walls as though they must only weigh 10 pounds. It takes a lot of practice and is a lot harder and more technical than it looks.

Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |

Pirate's Cove Beach is a popular bouldering spot in Orange County, located just north of the main beach in Corona del Mar (between Laguna and Newport.) These beaches don't technically face the ocean, but instead align the eastern side of the mouth of Newport Bay, opposite the Balboa Peninsula. We scrambled down the rocks to a steep staircase and the three guys laced up their climbing shoes. No, I didn't join them in their activity... I was just there for the fresh ocean breeze and to enjoy my morning in the sand, snapping photos from my beach towel. It wasn't too crowded until closer to 11am.

Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |
Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |
Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |
Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |
Bouldering in Pirate's Cove, Corona del Mar, California |

Here's how to find this not so hidden little beach:
GPS to 2804 Ocean Blvd, Corona del Mar, CA. (This is not an actual building address, just a midpoint in the street there where you can start looking for a place to park.) Walk towards the ocean and go left along with Ocean Blvd. At the intersection of Heliotrope Ave you will see stairs leading down to Corona del Mar beach with a large outcropping of rocks to the right. Head down towards the beach and then find your way to the top of this rock formation. There are stairs leading down the other side and onto Pirate's Cove beach. Bathrooms are available back over on the CdM Beach side.

Here is a great video by Brad Alexander on Vimeo of some climbers bouldering around the Pirate's Cove cliffs, and here is some technical info from WikiBoulder.

So...Where To Next?

Monday, July 13, 2015

So...Where to Next? | Em Busy Living

This one might be a bit long, so refill your coffee or wine and make yourself comfortable.

The other day a friend of ours asked on Facebook where we were moving. My response? That I hadn't "announced" it yet, which was a really stupid response. What I should have done was private message her and tell her our plans, because why not? Why did it need to be an "announcement"? Do I really need to live my life waiting for the right time to "announce" things like that on Facebook? I think Dan texted her and let her know what was going on, but me? I didn't really understand that behavior of mine and feel pretty stupid or how all that went down. Sorry, Sarah. I'm awkward.

But I've figured it out... I think I have been living with so much anxiety and fear over telling people where we're moving because I'm just so, so afraid it all just won't work out or something. Which is kind of ridiculous. When I told Dan this, and admitted my embarrassment over my response to Sarah he told me it didn't matter, but he also said that my fears were rooted in some sound logic. Things might not work out exactly like we hope, and things might be embarrassing if we tell people all of this exciting news and then things end up being a bit messy, but oh well. That's life. So I share this little "announcement" today with a little hesitance and shaking hands. I just want it all to go exactly according to plan and want it so bad.

Several months ago Dan had the idea that maybe he could continue working for his current company, if only they would let him transfer to their east coast office. We wanted to get out of California and be closer to family, and while we're sure we'll end up in Richmond one day (yay #RVA!), we're just not sure that we're ready to be that settled down yet. After deliberating for months and running it by his bosses, we decided we were ready to take the jump and put Richmond on hold. By the end of May, his idea had been approved at work and it was official: We're moving to New York City!

So...Where to Next? | Em In NYC | Em Busy Living

I cannot even begin to explain all of the crazy emotions I have over this reality. If you know me in real life or from my old blog, you already know what kind of love affair I have with NYC. (And who doesn't?) For those of you who don't know me from over a year ago... I always just knew I was going to grow up and live in New York City. It was a "given", even though I didn't actually visit there until I was 19 in 2007. I visited again with a roommate in the summer of 2008, and by Christmas I had signed up for one of the summer semester sessions at Parsons the New School of Design. I was determined to get a taste of that city living.

My parents dropped me up at a Megabus stop in Washington DC in May of 2009 and I lugged my giant suitcases full of clothing, toiletries, bedding, towels, and everything else I'd need in my dorm for six weeks into the waiting bus. It was happening. Our bus got into an accident and 90% of the people on it got off in Jersey and walked to a shuttle; my bag was too heavy for me to manage the walk, so I sat on the bus staring down the Manhattan skyline for nearly two hours. It was quite an ordeal. By that evening I had met my roommate, Kavil, and nine other girls that I clung to for the entirety of my time there. I met people from every corner of the earth. I met my now best friend, Diana, and we stuck together like glue. We explored the city together, many of us seeing these new things for the first time. We would meet after class for window shopping, dinner, and just wandering around different neighborhoods. My photography class was exciting; my assignment was generally just to explore the city and photograph it, which is all I really wanted to do anyway! I'd spend my evenings with my girls exploring and photographing, then spend the days in the darkroom developing my new memories. We went to Coney Island, Yankee games, had picnics in Central Park, and danced through the streets at 4am. We went to museums and Broadway shows. There was one week where I came down with the flu, had to be quarantined, and begged my mom to buy me a ticket home, (I was just absolutely miserable,) but I'm glad I toughed it out and stayed. My time with those girls could never be replaced.

So...Where to Next? | Em In NYC | Em Busy Living

Afterwards I returned to my life in Virginia. I finished college, got married (with Di as one of my bridesmaids!), and got my first real job in Roanoke. My friendships with those girls remained, and I ventured back to New York several times over the years. I would take a Friday off work and leave directly after work on a Thursday to drive to my friend Amie's in DC. I'd hop an early Friday morning train or bus from there and be in the city by afternoon, only to turn around on Sunday morning and head back. I'd stay in hostels sometimes when I took friends along, but would usually end up crashing with two of my Parsons girls who ended up living there, Margaux and Bhaavya. I'd spend much of the time on my own while my friends were in class, just wandering the streets, photographing everything and learning as much as I could about the city.

So...Where to Next? | Em In NYC | Em Busy Living

One night I was wandering the streets with Margaux, Sugar-Free Red Bulls in hand (and in my purse, and her purse, ha!) We stopped near Rockefeller Center, popped the cans open, and sat on a ledge to talk. I'll never forget that talk, because I told her that I had to find a way to get back to New York. I would. I had to. My short stint at Parsons hadn't gotten the city out of my system, and I wanted nothing more than to be back. I told her that if I wasn't there by the end of the year I'd feel like a failure. Well, I failed, because I could not figure out a way, no matter the will. It just wasn't in the cards at the time, and that's ok.

So...Where to Next? | Em In NYC | Em Busy Living

My last visit was in the spring of 2012 with my mom, one of her friends, and her friend's daughter. Our friends were especially excited to go with us because I knew the city like the back of my hand and they could just follow me to all of the hot spots without worrying over directions and subway routes. I often joke that my natural sense of direction, and ability to look at and learn a map within minutes, is my greatest talent. Playing tour guide is one of my greatest pleasures. In the years since I went to Parsons I've had several friends and acquaintances contact me online asking for advice about visiting New York. I was always more than happy to send them mile-long responses, detailing everything I could to help them navigate and know what to see. Eventually I grew tired of typing, copying and pasting, and coming up with all of this information over and over, so I started a little blog where I could put all of this information. If people asked for advice I would just send them the link, a short explanation, and offer to answer any additional questions they had. (I won't share it now because it's a terrible mess, and just, no.) When people would return and profusely thank me for the advice I had shared, my heart would swell a hundred times larger. I've found my calling! Unfortunately, I sat that calling aside as we moved clear across the country, and dished out less and less NYC advice until the point where I haven't really helped anyone in months.

I thought I had pushed away the idea of living in New York, until Dan got serious about transferring to that other office. It will get us to the east coast, he said, but I didn't want to push him into such a big change unless I knew for sure that he wanted it too. I left it up to him for a long while, offering that moving to Richmond would be a wonderful alternative; we have friends there, it's close to home, you can find a job there easy. There were some times, especially homesick times, where I wanted Richmond and he wanted New York, which was shocking. We both went back and forth, until eventually our hopes for the future started forming more seriously and began to align, bringing us to this final decision.

My fears that this won't work out seem to lie solely on the fact that I do not have a job lined up for our arrival there. The price of living in New York is astronomical, but honestly it's not that different that what we're living on here in Orange County. Our rent could be exactly the same, we'll just be living in 1/4 the space, something we've pretty much come to terms with by this point. (I actually find it quite exciting! A studio! Minimalism! Extreme organizing! Ikea!) But regardless of whether I find a job or not before we start our trek there (please Lord let me find something) Dan has that job. He has that income, he has that position, and he has to eventually be there to go into their midtown office. We may have a harder time finding an apartment without me having it all figured out, but it's happening. It's happeninnnnng! Fears be damned!

So...Where to Next? | Em In NYC | Em Busy Living

So that brings me to my next point... this blog. When we started discussing New York I immediately began dreaming of playing tour guide again. I decided I can do that...through my blog! If any of you used to follow me before, like, April, which is doubtful (hello, all two or three of you!), you'll know that my blog wasn't always like it is now. When we decided on NY as a serious possibility, I started stepping my blog game up. I started teaching myself to post consistently. I made myself go out and explore more, or rather, I made myself take blog-worthy photos while I explored. I decided that now's the chance to practice, to learn, to grow a following, and meet some new friends. What a wonderful tool a blog can be for making new friends in a new city! Just in these past few months I've already made so many great new friends through this space, and I've just eaten up every ounce of it. I didn't really make a huge number of real life friends here in California, so I wish I had done this sooner; there are so many of you new blog friends who are right here in SoCal with me.

I hope I can share our upcoming adventures with you here, from my fears and anxieties to all of the fun things I'm exploring and discovering in New York. If you live in New York City, send me an email! I'd love to know I'll be able to meet some people there who just get me. I only have about four friends left living there in the city, so I'm down for some coffee dates!

As for our plans... well, we don't have everything quite figured out yet. We're leaving OC on August 1st and starting our cross-country trip to Virginia after one last night in San Diego with family. We'll arrive and spend about three weeks (!!!) with our families and friends there, ending with my sister-in-law's wedding on the 29th. I guess we'll be heading north to NY sometime around the first week of September, and we'll just see how it all goes from there!

Thank you all for joining me on this journey. The blogging community is just so uplifting and encouraging, especially when embarking on exciting new adventures like this! Love, Em

Weekly Roundup

Friday, July 10, 2015

I made a huge mistake this week. Or maybe it wasn't a mistake really, but I did get ahead of myself with this whole moving thing. In a slight panic over the fact that we only have three+ weeks left, I started posting all of our furniture and other belongings on Craigslist Tuesday night with the thought that it might take a couple of weeks for everything to sell. I imagined the panic we would face as we stared down our amazing couch on our last day here, freaking out because it hadn't sold and we hadn't a clue what to do with it. My panic was completely imaginary and absurdly unnecessary. I am currently sitting in my living room floor, because the couch is gone, with my laptop on my lap, because the coffee table is gone, and so is our entertainment center, bed frame, desk, dressers, closet storage, and pretty much anything else that helps keep your life manageable or your ass off the floor. Surprise! Things sell really quickly around here.

We have three weeks left. I feel like we're camping in our own apartment.

This does take me back to how it was when we first moved here. We slept on an air mattress for weeks and bought our furniture slowly over the next six months. We did a lot of sitting in the empty living room floor, much like I'm doing now. It's kind of bittersweet.

So our place is a mess. Clothes are on the floor, things from our desk are on the floor, our mattress is on the floor. If you follow me on Snapchat (embusyliving) you've seen the chaos as I've raced to empty out and move things around for these strangers to come and take away all of our stuff. As a result I've started purging and organizing already, throwing out old paperwork and packing things into manageable boxes for the move.

Did I mention we have like 22 days left?

On Wednesday my friend Claire (the one who wrote the book) decided she needed a vacation. I told her to "come on!" and within four hours she'd bought a plane ticket. She'll be here for a few days next weekend and I can't wait! It will be nice to go out and about (tourist style) one last time before we turn in the keys.

While I've been in packing mode this week, I did manage to take a few nice breaks:

  • I finally got around to posting about my May & June Lovely Letters exchanges this past week. Click through to learn more about Lovely Letters and keep an eye out for the next exchange sign up, coming in August. I'll post a reminder when it happens.

  • Lost We've started re-watching Lost on Netflix because why not? Lost was one of our favorite shows and our entire group of friends were all so into it that we even had a huge Lost-themed party for the show's finale, complete with a Dharma cake and costumes. We also may or may not be planning to name our first son after one of the characters, not sorry. PS, Lost started my Senior year of high school and how was that almost 11 years ago?
  • Goosebumps (trailer) If you loved the books as a kid, you'll be really excited to see the trailer for this movie, featuring Jack Black as R. L. Stein

On the Internets

Lovely Letters - May & June

Monday, July 6, 2015

At the very beginning of May I ran across another blogger's post about Lovely Letters. I investigated further, then signed up at the last minute to join in on May's exchange. I am so glad I did! A lot of the joy of blogging comes from the connections we make with others and the community that can form from those connections. Participating in this monthly snail mail exchange made it easier to get to know my two partners on a more personal level.

Lovely Letters is co-hosted each month by Esther of Local Adventurer and Jordan of Beer Time With Wagner, both of whom I was partnered with for the past two months! I loved getting to know these ladies better though emails. 

Jordan was my LL partner for the month of May. She is currently living and interning in Sofia, Bulgaria! In just a few weeks she'll be back in the US for a short while, followed by a move to Scotland for business school. I can't wait to see more photos from her time in Bulgaria, including the many weekend trips she's taking all over that part of the world!

Here's what she sent:
  • Handmade cards
  • Bulgarian rose oil
  • Pens
  • Bulgaria magnet
  • Belgian dark chocolate (Not pictured... I already ate it all! ha!)

Esther was my partner for June. She actually only lives about 90 minutes away from me, in lovely San Diego. She and her husband Jacob share their blog where they share their travel stories, but they also create YouTube videos of their adventures, which are so fun to watch! Whether she's visiting family in Indonesia or hiking in her own back yard, Esther always has incredible photos to share and great advice for fellow travelers!

Here's what she sent:
  • Hedgehog cleaning mitt
  • Bag hook
  • Little pocket notebook
  • Magnet Frame
  • Lovely letter & postcard from Bali

I was actually able to meet Esther and her husband Jacob this past weekend while I was in San Diego celebrating the 4th with family! Dan and I met them and headed to Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista with them, followed by ice cream at Hammond's in North Park. How fun to meet blog friends in real life!

I've been sort of terrible at being on time with most things lately, my packages to these girls included. As much as I've loved doing Lovely Letters these past couple of months, I'm going to take a break until we get moved and settled before I participate again. I have a lot of packing, moving, traveling, and apartment hunting to do before I can think of much more! I'm really excited to do it again, and can't wait to see who I am paired with next time!

If you'd like to sign up for the upcoming combined July/August Lovely Letters exchange, you have until tonight at midnight to do so! Click here to read more about how it works and to sign up.

Weekly Roundup

Friday, July 3, 2015

I've spent most of my week cleaning and packing. The apartment finally looks like people live here again! Boxes, both packed and empty, have been sorted in Chelsea's old closet and I've turned the rest of her room into a Craigslist showroom of sorts. Although we toyed with the idea of heading out a little earlier than expected, we've decided to stay through the whole month of July.

 Dan's 30th birthday was on Tuesday (the 30th) and he took the day off work. We had waffles and watched movies lazily all morning. I surprised him with a trip to Flightdeck, a flight simulator facility in Anaheim, followed by dinner at Prime Cut Cafe. We had a really nice day celebrating. We're spending Independence Day weekend in San Diego with family and celebrating some more!

 Nicole of Snowflakes in California was the winner of my book giveaway! I hope she really enjoys reading When Faults Collide! If you were interested in reading it as well there are four options: paperback from Barnes & Noble, paperback from Amazon, Kindle purchase through Amazon, or free download as a part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.*

 Speaking of books, I posted my June Monthly Reads on Monday.

 On Wednesday I shared a few of my favorite souvenirs from our time here in California. I've loved going through some of these things while I've been packing them away!


Listening To
  • This Is All Now feat. Jason Lancaster, "24 Hour Nights." I love Jason in pretty much every musical project he's been a part of. If you've ever listened to Mayday Parade, Go Radio, or even his solo work, you know how amazing his voice is. I don't know anything about the band "This Is All Now," but he definitely brings them the same magic that all of his past work possesses. Maybe this could be a permanent thing? Love, love, love!

  • Inside Out Dan and I went to see this last Friday evening and both really enjoyed it. It's just as charming as everyone is saying!
  • Snowden (Trailer) featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, & Nicholas Cage, directed by Oliver Stone

On the Internets
*This post contains affiliate links that may result in a small commission for me if you make a purchase by clicking through. Your purchases will not be affected by this in any way. Thanks for your understanding =)

California Souvenirs

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Like most people, I like to bring a little bit of a trip home with me, but I think most would agree that the majority of "souvenirs" you see in little shops when you visit new places can be terribly tacky. After purging our lives of so much "stuff" when we first made our trip out here, I learned two things: 1) I don't want more "stuff" and junk in our lives, and 2) since we knew this was temporary, we always had the thought of moving again in the back of our minds, and who needs more stuff to move next time? With these two thoughts, I've now learned what kinds of things I want to bring home with me from our travels, and the list is very small.

1) Postcards: You can never go wrong with buying a few postcards when you visit a new city. I always mail out a few to friends and family back home, but I also like to collect a few for myself. I especially love the vintage style ones. Eventually these will all go into a photo album, along with postcards sent from friends abroad. I just try to keep them under 5"x7" so I won't have any issues fitting them into those in the future.

2) Prints: I dream of the days where walls of my future home are covered in artful prints of the places I've visited. I believe this is something I picked up from my parents; there are prints from all of their travels in frames all along the walls of the stairway in their home and all along the upstairs hall. I grew up looking at those prints and trying to imagine what those destinations were like and what my parents had seen there. I truly blame them for my wanderlust. I began my collection with a beautiful 2'x3' illustrated poster I bought in Saas Fee, Switzerland and knew that I would continue to seek out beautiful prints during future travels. The one pictured here is from Gastown in Vancouver, BC. Prints can pose the biggest challenge when packing to travel home, but I think on any big trips in the future I may take a small poster tube in my suitcase just for this purpose.

3) Mugs: I don't know when my obsession with mugs began (probably while working at the Barnes & Noble Cafe in college,) but I subconsciously started collecting them a few years ago. Not that I have like five hundred mugs lined up or anything, but I do have a sizable collection of them. I figure if you're going to bring back something from a trip that takes up space, it may as well be something you'll actually use. I love thinking back on old trips while sipping my coffee in the morning. Shortly after arriving in California I discovered the Starbucks 'You Are Here' Series of mugs and decided to pick one up in every place we visited. The photo above shows all of the mugs I've picked up in the past two years: Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Vancouver, and Canada. And yes, I shamefully bought the Seattle one in the Seattle airport, but we never managed to take an actual trip to Seattle while we lived here...whoops. Still love it. (This collecting may need to come to an end soon, because eventually they will take up too much space, and I don't want them to get junky.)

4) Useful Momentos: This is a rare addition to the types of things I usually buy as a souvenir. This may be the type of thing that takes up too much room in a suitcase, but might be worth it. One favorite thing I picked up living here in California (and the only "souvenir" I could think of other than those listed above) is this hand-woven Mexican blanket, which I picked up on Olvera Street in LA. It's Dan's favorite to curl up under on the couch. It will always remind us of the hispanic influence we love so much in this part of the country.