01.31.16Belgium

These past couple months have been a whirlwind of airports, hotel rooms, and jet lag; we’ve been living like nomads, not spending more than five nights in the same bed for over a month.  But after clocking countless hours of flight time and thousands of miles, we are beginning to settle into our new home in Melbourne, Australia.  For the first time in weeks, I have a second to breathe and appreciate these amazing adventures.The first stop on our European tour was Belgium, the land of delicious waffles, chocolate, and lots and lots of beer!  I had been there once before, about nine years earlier with my family and was pleased to see this beautiful country had not changed much.  We had planned to stay all five of our nights in Brussels, the capital and largest city in the country, but after hearing of a thwarted terrorist attack on the main square during the New Year’s Eve firework show, we decided to play it safe and take the train to the quaint town of Bruges where we rang in the New Year surrounded by beautiful canals, tiny cobblestone streets and a hefty dose of drunk Belgians. IMG_6897Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhen I first visited Bruges with my family, we did what most people do when they come, wandered the canals and admired the beautiful buildings and picturesque setting.  While doing so, we came across one of many low bay windows hanging over a canal.  The window was open and resting his head on a pillow with his nose out the window was a beautiful yellow Labrador.  I stood and watched him for several minutes; this was clearly something he did everyday as he had not only a comfy spot but the perfect view of the passing tourists across the canal.  I remember snapping a photo to remember the adorable scene and we moved on.

Several years later, Andy and I were watching the movie In Bruges (a really fun and beautiful film if you haven’t yet seen it) and as you might guess, it takes place almost entirely in Bruges.  In one of the scenes, they cut to various picturesque frames to convey the beauty and quaintness of the town and for a few seconds, there on the screen, was the same golden Lab laying in his window, watching the people pass by.  I remember yelping in surprise and excitement, I had seen that exact dog and even snapped a photo of him doing this exact same thing!

Fastforward several years again to this most recent trip and Andy and I are making our way through the twisting canals.  I’m telling him the story of the golden Lab for the millionth time and we agree that even if I was able to locate the exact same canal and window again, it was highly unlikely that the dog would still be alive and sitting at his perch (it was, you see, about nine years since my first visit and while it was impossible to know his exact age at the time, it was clear that he was not a young pup).  As we made our way down yet another canal, we came across a window that struck me as familiar.  I slowed down to give it a second look; the windows were closed (as they should be, it was the middle of winter and chilly 30 degrees outside), the shades partially drawn and there was no dog as far as I could tell.  Andy insisted we move on, but I stayed and looked a little closer.  Within the window was what appeared to be a beige pillow or throw.  Perhaps this was the old boy, laying in his window with his back to us.  I pointed this out to Andy, “See he just needs to turn around!”  We waited for several minutes hoping the blanket would magically transform itself into a dog.  Just then, a large head slowly rose and looked over its shoulder at us before laying back down and falling asleep facing the window.  I snapped this photo of the old boy in his favorite spot, perhaps the last time I’ll get to see him.
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I was hoping to include the original picture I had taken in order to provide a side by side comparison, but I fear it is stored on an external disk back in our SF apartment.  I did a little research and learned that the pup’s name is Fidel and he does in fact sit in this exact spot everyday.  If you Google him I’m sure you’ll find plenty of photos just like mine, taken throughout the years.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 presetBack in Brussels, we stayed at the wonderful Hotel Made in Louise where we enjoyed a spacious room, kind staff and delicious breakfast each morning.  We spent our days wandering the city, stopping frequently for drinks and snacks, Andy sampling many of the local brews and I enjoying far too many Nutella covered waffles.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe city was still decked out in its holiday best with garland and lights.  The main square boasted a gigantic Christmas tree and nativity scene while the local shops and cafes had snowmen and Santa Claus’ painted on their windows and banners that read “Joyeux Noël!” over their doorways.IMG_6900Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhile we enjoyed our time in Belgium, I think we were both anxious and excited to move on to Copenhagen, the next stop on our trip!

12.08.1530 Before 30

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetI am now officially over two months into the last year I’ll spend in my twenties, and while I am a self proclaimed list-maker, coming up with thirty things I wanted to accomplish before the big birthday proved harder than I imagined.  With less than ten months left to complete this list, I feel a sense of anxiety I had not intended (or perhaps that’s just the feeling of impending doom that comes with turning 30?).  Some things are small while some are larger accomplishments, some seem trivial while others are intended to have a lifelong impact.  But no matter the scale, I consider each one of these thirty things to be something worth doing (or at least attempting) before I reach this next milestone in my life.

  1. Learn how to turn a cartwheel.
  2. Eat at a Michelin Star restaurant.
  3. Visit 6 of the 7 continents (I’ve already been to 5).
  4. Transition all my products (household, beauty, etc.) to cruelty free.
  5. Learn to crochet.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
  6. Start eating healthier and being more active.
  7. Phase out disposable, trendy clothing and begin investing in a quality capsule wardrobe.
  8. Host a proper dinner party.
  9. Take a couple’s dance class (ballroom, swing, etc.).
  10. Create a consistent beauty regiment consisting of #4.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
  11. Develop a ‘signature cocktail.’
  12. Research and learn more about my heritage and family tree.
  13. Find a way to (consistently) contribute to preventing animal cruelty (ie. volunteering, donating, fostering, etc.)
  14. Become better at managing my money (read: managing my spending).
  15. Confront my fear of meeting new people and master the art of small talk.IMG_6425
  16. Learn calligraphy.
  17. Bake the perfect croissant.
  18. Embrace my flaws and imperfections.
  19. Go to a strip club.
  20. See the Grand Canyon.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
  21. Visit 30 countries before I’m 30 (I’m at 25 right now).
  22. Drink more water.
  23. Go to a professional basketball, football or hockey game.
  24. Spend a night in a treehouse.
  25. Learn how to throw clay on a pottery wheel.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
  26. Complete a New York Times crossword.
  27. Eat a beignet.
  28. Play Scrabble (honestly, can you believe I’ve never played this game?  Some English major I am!).
  29. Make my own pasta.
  30. Be happy and content with who I am and what I have (and have accomplished) at this point in my life.

09.29.15Welcome to Our Houzz Tour

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A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be asked by a contributor for Houzz.com to have our apartment featured as one of the website’s “Houzz Tours.”  The series documents real homes and real people with different styles and different aesthetics and we felt so flattered to share ours with the Houzz community and hopefully provide some ideas and inspiration for others.  You can view the whole article here, plus stay tuned for our home to be featured in another piece on first time homeowners coming soon to the Houzz website.

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All photos by Le Michelle Nguyen for Houzz.com

09.17.15My Autumn To-Do List

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I know I sound like every other plaid wearing, pumpkin spice drinking girl out there but fall is by far my favorite season of the year.  To me it marks the beginning of the end, the lull before the crazy holiday storm, the chill before the hypothetical freeze, the last chance you have to do everything you wanted this year before Thanksgiving hits then you blink and it’s New Years.  Fall means cozy sweaters, my birthday, pumpkin carving, warm days and chilly nights.  So in honor of autumn, here is a short list of what I plan to do during my favorite months:

1.  Celebrate my 29th birthday at the Coppolla Winery Pool, then a relaxing weekend with friends in Sonoma County.

2.  Apple Picking!  Never done it and always wanted to.

3.  Head home to Orange County for Kirk and Wendy’s wedding on Halloween and to celebrate my Grandad’s 88th birthday.

IMG_58644.  A long weekend in Ojai at the Ojai Rancho Inn for one of Andy’s college friend’s weddings.

5.  Still debating between the pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay and the one in Petaluma that has a corn maze . . .

6.  Find the perfect pair of leopard flats to replace the ones I left in Croatia.  (I’m liking these from Madewell as well as these from J. Crew)

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7.  Come up with a delectable Thanksgiving menu full of old favorites and new experiments (my personal favorite, the mashed potatoes!).

8.  Not a fan of pumpkin spice, I’m all about apple cider and chai lattes for fall.

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9.  Get my first gym membership (ever!) at the new Barre studio that’s opening up a block away!

10.  Celebrate my first Black Friday out of retail by going no where near downtown!  As well as preparing myself for holiday shopping, sans employee discount.

What are you up to this fall?

 

08.13.15#TBT: The Last Disposable Camera

21Remember back before iPhones and digital cameras?  Back before you had the ability to take a hundred pictures of whatever you wanted at a moments notice and then look back over your pictures instantly?  Back when taking a picture was something you did to remember a special moment, document a big accomplishment, encapsulate a feeling, experience, even a person?  My childhood was not filled with thousands and thousands of meaningless snapshots and pointless videos stored on a cell phone or computer but rather physical, printed photographs, deliberate and purposeful, that lived in stacked shoeboxes in my mother’s closet.  In high school we didn’t have Facebook and Instagram, we had disposable cameras (mainly because our parents were smart enough not to send us to school with the real thing!) that we toted along everywhere and always got double prints made to hand out to our friends.

A few weeks ago I found one of these relics, a full disposable camera that I had bought and used close to five years ago, then stored away and completely forgotten about.  At the time I had taken the pictures, disposables had already been long surpassed by camera phones and I remember whipping it out at random social functions and seeing the looks of first shock then nostalgia as I forced people to smile for my whacky cartoon looking camera.  After discovering the camera in a box of other sentimental treasures, I took it to Walgreens to get developed, fully prepared for the man behind the counter to either laugh in my face or have absolutely no idea what I held in my hand.  While he did neither, he did explain to me that because almost no one gets film developed anymore, they no longer have an on-sight facility and instead of the one-hour photo days of my youth, he would have to ship it to a third party and I could expect to receive my photos back in approximately two to four weeks.  This both shocked and humored me; how ironic that in a time when we have instant access to pictures on our phones, a process that used to take less than an hour has been demoted to a month long endeavor.

So now, without further ado, here are some of my favorites from that last disposable camera.  I ask you to be kind and remember that these pictures have not been retouched, no filters added and five years ago, I really thought short bangs and fake glasses were super hip.

18Valentines trip to Alcatraz.  What, you don’t find abandoned prisons romantic?
198So excited to go to the famous pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay.  Not as excited to sit in hours of traffic trying to get back to the city on that tiny two lane highway.
94Mom posing on the Marina Green, followed by dinner at the Stinking Rose.
715Countless drinks at the neighborhood bars and warm summer days navigating the concerts in Golden Gate Park.
1As a child, I always wanted to bury a time capsule somewhere in my backyard as a way of somehow communicating with my future self.  While I was always too eager to wait more than a week or so before digging up the old lunchbox I had filled with Lisa Frank stickers, troll dolls and a stick of that rainbow zebra chewing gum, I do feel like in a way, the disposable camera achieved this same desired affect.  I don’t know if you can buy these in the store anymore (although you can buy just about anything on Amazon these days) or whether if you waited another five years, it will even be possible to develop them.  Either way, I highly recommend getting your hands on one of these endangered species before they are extinct and gone forever.

08.03.15Peach & Blueberry Galette

IMG_5650I made this peach and blueberry galette (amongst other desserts) for a friend’s birthday last weekend and was so happy with how it turned out, I decided to share!
IMG_5649Lately I’ve felt like galettes are everywhere!  There was a blueberry pecan beauty on the cover of July’s Bon Appetit magazine and last month when we were home in Southern California, I was pleasantly greeted with the above scene in front of my mother’s house: a strawberry and blueberry galette cooling outside on her picnic table, doesn’t get much better than that!  Being that they are apparently the new “it” dessert, I wanted to try one out myself with peaches and blueberries.IMG_5652For the crust, I used my mother’s famous recipe which is tricky but worth it:

2 Cups Flour
2/3 Cups + 2 Tbl Shortening (Crisco)
1 Tsp Salt
4-5 Tbl Ice Water

Mix the flour and salt, then cut in butter with knives or pastry cutter.  Once mixture is the size of small peas, sprinkle in ice water.  Gather dough into ball and flatten, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.  Roll out using flour on work surface and rolling pin.

IMG_5651For the filling:

2 Yellow Peaches
1/2 cup Blueberries
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup White Sugar
2 Tbl Flour
1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Cloves

Blanch and peel the peaches, then slice.  Mix everything together, then arrange in the middle of the rolled out dough, leaving a two inch border.  Fold border over onto the filling to create the crust.  The fun thing about galettes is the messier the better, more rustic that way!

Swipe an egg wash on the crust then pop in the oven at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes to an hour or until golden brown.

IMG_5648Make sure to serve warm with vanilla ice cream!IMG_5653

07.22.15St. Lucia

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe boy and I just returned from a week in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Lucia, where we fell in love with the beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and friendly people.  Being that this was my third tropical vacation of the summer (and I would also argue the third Caribbean trip, but technically we never made it to the East coast of Costa Rica), my only goal was to do as very little as possible, focusing most of my energy on acquiring a tan that could last me through the remainder of the San Francisco summer. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe trip itself was very last minute, we had only purchased our flights and hotel a week or so before taking off and I had barely finished unpacking my suitcase from Belize before I found myself loading it back up with virtually the exact same pieces.

We booked the trip because Andy took a new job and I had suggested maybe going somewhere relaxing during the time he had off in between.  Seeing as we had already taken a couple vacations this summer, I set my sights low and sheepishly suggested a few days in Hawaii, a place both of us have been many, many times before.  To my surprise and delight, he responded with, “Wouldn’t you rather go somewhere we’ve never been?”

A man after my own heart for sure!
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWe stayed at the Calabash Cove Resort & Spa and upgraded our room to a beautiful beachfront cottage with a private infinity pool.  The resort was the perfect place to relax and do nothing for an entire week, and being that summer is typically their off-season, we shared the entire hotel with only a handful of other people.
IMG_5522IMG_5508The most iconic and recognizable feature of the tiny island is its pair of spire-like mountains called the Pitons, the larger being the Gros Piton and smaller being the Petite Piton (while the island is now its own independent country, it switched hands between the French and British fourteen times over the years, so remnants of these cultures and languages are still very prevalent).
IMG_5519IMG_5517There is also an active volcano on the island that produces hot, sulphuric springs.  The locals believe if you bathe in the springs, the sulphuric mud will not only cure a wide range of ailments, but will also add ten years onto your life!IMG_5509IMG_5510Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWe kayaked and paddle boarded, got massages and ate like kings, drank rum punch and even visited the locals’ Friday night street party called the “Jump Up.”  But mostly we lay on the quiet beach in front of our cottage and watched the clouds disappear over the horizon.
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_5530Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOf the many islands there are to visit in the Caribbean, St. Lucia is a must.  There is a simplicity to its beauty that is undeniable, an organic purity that is definitely worth experiencing.IMG_5523

07.11.15A Few of my Favorite Things

In case you are interested, here are five of the things that I am currently obsessed with (and links so you can buy them yourselves and become equally obsessed) . . .IMG_5174Market basket–  I spent quite a while searching for the perfect market bag and finally stumbled upon it while browsing Dot & Bo for furniture.  The Palm and Leather Market Bag is the perfect piece for toting to and from the farmer’s market, storing blankets or throw pillows around the house, or its most recent role (and my favorite!), as a sand-proof beach carryall!

IMG_5175French Bulldog Tape Dispenser–  I have a love/hate relationship with Target.  I know I’m not the only person that heads in with a list of three very specific things and leaves with an entire shopping cart of items you never knew you always wanted.  Case in point, this gold French Bulldog tape dispenser, which I added to my cart as casually as I would a carton of milk.  That’s how they get you.

As we were checking out, I spied a man entering the store with a (live) Frenchie of his own, and took it upon myself to lead him straight to the stationary aisle.  Maybe it was my ten plus years of retail, or maybe it was my semi-obsessive love of French Bulldogs, either way, it was enough to convince this fellow Frenchie-lover that he too could not live without a shiny gold replica of his furry friend, that also happened to dispense tape from its rear end.

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Striped Sleep Set–  My nightly pajama uniform consists of little more than one of Andy’s tattered college tennis tees and some threadbare cotton shorts that I probably should have thrown out years ago.  That being said, I actually have a drawer virtually overflowing with my attempts to step up my sleeping attire game, and this little striped number from J Crew Factory is the most recent addition to my collection.  I love the classic pinstripe print and the cut is so flattering, I’ve started contemplating ways I can incorporate them into more than just my sleep-time wardrobe.IMG_5173Hairpin Desk–  After looking near and far for the perfect desk for my new office and being more than disappointed with the selection (or lack there of), I decided that if I couldn’t buy my dream desk, I would make it instead.  I bought these beautiful hairpin table legs at none other than HairpinLegsForLess.com and paid a little bit extra for the gold powdered finish.  I knew I wanted a very simple, sleek top to go with the mid-century look of the legs, and while at first I was a bit turned off by the thought of attaching a cheap Ikea top to my beautiful legs, I really think that the Linnmon table top ended up being the perfect compliment.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetRed Slip-Ons–  One of the many things that I don’t miss at all about my many years in retail is the constant need to convince myself that I was perfectly comfortable running around in the sky-high torture devices I referred to as my shoes.  I have literally been living in these red slip-on flats for the past six months now and my little feetsies couldn’t be happier.  In fact, my first pair got so worn out that I had to order another; so nice I bought them twice!  The best part is I can continue to buy them as often as I’d like because not only are they on Amazon Prime and can therefore be at my door day after tomorrow, but they are less than $15 a pair!

 

06.20.15Belize

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAbout a year and a half ago, the boy and I had a small sliver of time in which to take a short trip.  Working with only five days we new it had to be somewhere fairly close and easy, yet still exotic and beautiful and preferably somewhere neither of us had ever been.  After doing very minimal research, we decided on the small country of Belize, just south of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula.  We spent the whole time on the tiny Ambergris Caye (pronounced ‘key’) in the town of San Pedro where we stayed at the beautiful Phoenix Resort and spent our days snorkeling, jet skiing and drinking far too many bamboo shots!IMG_5036Fast forward to just a few months ago when my mother, having been presented with the same conundrum of squeezing a full fledged vacation into one short week, came to the same Belizean decision.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to Belize, and so set off to visit this tropical paradise for a second time, accompanied by my mother and two younger sisters.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAfter a combination of mixing up the dates and missed flights, I ended up arriving in the small town of Placencia three days before my mom and sisters.  Being on the good side of a very unfortunate situation, I took advantage of this very much alone time by getting a massage, taking myself out to dinner, falling asleep on the beach (and getting very sunburnt in the process), ordering room service and drinking Caipirinhas at the pool bar while watching the NBA finals and making up the entirety of the Warriors’ Belizean fan club.IMG_4822Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWe stayed at the Belize Ocean Club, a beautiful resort just south of Placencia in the village of Maya Beach.  The staff was exceedingly friendly and accommodating and really made me feel comfortable during the three days I spent by myself.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_4835When the rest of the girls did arrive, we spent our remaining days exploring the ancient Mayan ruins, cave tubing in pitch black caverns and souvenir shopping for delicate hammocks, handmade blankets and even tiny embroidered baby clothes because hey, you just never know!IMG_5029IMG_5026Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOne of my favorite things about this wonderful country is all of the color.  From the amazing coral and fish to the beautiful flowers and rainforests to the colorful people and their rainbow buildings with bright textiles and pottery, fresh fruit and jewelry.  Everywhere I turned, I was struck by the vibrancy of hues and crazy combinations of colors as diverse as the people themselves.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_5011Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI don’t know if I’ll ever be lucky enough to visit Belize for a third time, but I am sure that if I ever make it back to this beautiful country I will not be disappointed.  Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

06.01.15My Summer To-Do List

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI am definitely a list maker.
The “Notes” app on my iPhone is filled with impromptu shopping lists, to-do lists, etc. and I am constantly jotting things down in notebooks and on pieces of scratch paper (I’m that girl standing in the middle of the grocery store with a tattered piece of paper and pen in hand, making sure I’m not forgetting anything!).  There is something so satisfying about crossing each task off that sometimes I will list things that I’ve already accomplished just to be able to draw a line through them.  When I saw that one of my favorite blogs, Cupcakes and Cashmere, had posted her summer to-do list today, I thought it may be a fun idea to share my own.

1.  Finish setting up Andy’s man cave and my office.

2.  Plant herb garden and citrus tree in nook outside office window.

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3.  Back to Belize for girls trip with my mom and sisters.

4.  Fourth of July trip to Orange County to see old friends and family.

5.  Escape the city fog for some Vitamin D and spend a weekend in Bodega Bay (and of course visit the sites where “The Birds” was filmed!).

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6.  Finally use the ice cream maker I got for Christmas and test out my favorite homemade flavors!

7.  Find the best ice cream sandwich in San Francisco (then make my own using #6).

8.  Bake a rhubarb pie.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset9.  Find the perfect pair of white skinny distressed jeans (preferably in time to wear before Labor Day!).

10.  Make a “30 Before 30” list to complete during the last year of my twenties.

What are your plans this summer?