Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gone Campin' Again

It's that time of year again....

Time to go to Oregon for the Mr.'s annual family camping trip! Can you believe it's their 28th annual trip?

It's time for fresh air, family fun, and and no technology for 4 days!

In case you want to picture what I'm up to for the next few days, here are the snapshots from last year's camping trip that I never shared on the ol' blog...


Bocce ball on the beach...

Playing games at the campsite (I'm very serious!)...

Enjoying the warmth of the fire...

The whole fam together...

Notice how there are only two women in the above picture? Just me and my MIL?

Well this year my brother-in-law is bringing his new girlfriend! I'm excited to meet her and have more gals around!

Talk to you all next week!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Home: Home Office Slash Guest Room

Welcome to our beachin' aqua home office/guest room!

When we redid the living room and dining room, and lost some of our aqua ambiance, I knew that I wanted to keep the aqua/turquoise and beach theme going in our condo. So I brought it into the guest room/office.

Here are our "his" and "hers" desks.

Since the Mr. and I both travel around for work, we don't have real desks or offices at work, so our USC diplomas will hang in our home office until we get our corner corporate offices with a view.

But the view from our home office isn't too bad for now!

A close-up of my desk.

A close-up of his desk.

Judah loves to hang out on the top shelf above my desk while I work. I love him.

Here is the futon/guest bed. It's actually really comfortable!

The surf boards above the bed really add to the beachy flavor of the room. That cool, tall bookcase was a gift from our sweet neighbor, it's from West Elm.

And here are my file drawers, sewing machine, DIY cork board, and office closet.

You'll never guess what's inside that closet...

Our wine fridge!

Yup, 40 bottle of pure goodness in there! It didn't look good anywhere else, so for now, the wine is in the closet. I love condo living.

I'm so happy with the changes that we made to this room. To see how it looked before, go here!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hiking in LA

I'm actually ashamed to admit that I've lived in Los Angeles for almost 9 years, and I've never been on hike in LA.

Don't get me wrong -- it's not that I don't do outdoorsy stuff here. I've been on hundreds of walks along the beach. Bike rides. Ski trips. You name it. Just no hikes.

The Mr. and I love to go hiking when we visit his parents in Oregon or mine in San Diego. So we figured it was high time to do a hike in LA.

Then I realized that I have to idea where people hike in LA. To me LA is one giant urban jungle, not exactly conclusive to nature hikes.

So I ordered copy of 101 Hikes in Southern California.

It's filled with great hikes all around LA and Southern California complete with descriptions and maps. And today we did our first one! We hiked Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades.

It was beautiful! It's just minutes from urban Santa Monica, but it feels like you're in the real wilderness. Birds chirping. Trees arched over the trails. A small waterfall. So peaceful.

The view from below...


Oh and did I mention the sweeping vistas from the top?

The view from above!


Looks like I can cross this one off of my Baby Bucket List. I've completed my first hike in LA, and it definitely won't be my last!

Do you hike in your home town? What kind of hikes do you like?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cooking with Blogs - Tequila Chicken & Cake Pops

One great thing about blogging is finding all kinds of new recipes that bloggers have invented or tried.

As you know, I'm not a huge cook, but a couple of recipes have been getting some buzz lately, so this weekend I decided to try them out.

The first was Pioneer Woman's Tequila Lime Chicken. What really convinced me to give this one a shot was Rachel cooking it and raving about it.

Here's the evolution of my cooking of the PW Tequila Lime Chicken (PW has better pics than me!)

The Mr. and I marinated it, grilled it, baked it, and ate it! I also made Pioneer Woman's pico de gallo, which really made the dish extra delicious!

The Tequila Lime Chick was delicious and easy to make, even for a non-experienced cook like me. I highly recommend it!

The second recipe was Bakerella's Cake Pops. I was inspired by Beach Bum & Baby to try it because her pops look amazing!

I had less success with the Cake Pops than the chicken, but in the end they turned out OK.

Here's the evolution of the Cake Pops.

Notice how the whole "chocolate dipping" part is missing from these pictures? That's because that part was a giant disaster. I had a hard time getting chocolate consistency right, I kept losing cake pops in the chocolate during the dipping process, finished cake pops would fall apart, I spilled chocolate everyone. Ugh.

But in the end, I did get some good cake pops! Here they are in a flower pot for a small dinner party that I brought them too.

Was it worth the $27 and 5 hours I spent on this? Ummmm... maybe. I think next time I might just purchase my desserts and save time and money. :)

What recipes are you trying lately?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our Home: Living Room & Dining Room

Our condo mini-renovation is finally complete!

Would you like a tour?

You enter through our front door into the entry way and kitchen.

Yep, that's a metallic print of our one of our "trash the dress" photos.

If you look down you'll see the mosaic tiling that inspired much of the new color scheme.

If you look to your right you see two beautiful original photos of Seal Beach by a local photographer.

And if you look to your left you can see the dining area reflected in the mirror.

Don't you love decorating with mirrors? It really helps to expand a small space.

I really like our entry way buffet. It's a great storage area and it's a good place to neatly collect keys, mail, purses, etc without cluttering up the kitchen. The buffet is from Crate & Barrel and all of the items on it are from Crate & Barrel as well.

You pass through the kitchen. You've already seen the kitchen lately. Twice. So we'll skip by that.

Next up is our dining room.

(Well it's not really a room, it's more of a dining area. Gimme a break, it's a California condo!)

And the living room!

That's right, no more aqua walls. We decided to tone it down a bit and paint the room "Sand Fossil" beige with aqua and orange accents. I have to say, I love it.

The view from the living room back into the kitchen.

See how the rooms are much more tied together now through the use of the beige and burnt orange color scheme? So much more cohesive! I'm definitely living and learning.

Have a seat on the couch with me! Watch some TV and listen to the surround sound.

Next to the TV are two of my favorite posters.

This one is an actual vintage poster.

And this the other is new, but I loved the aqua color. I gotta get my aqua in here somehow!

Set your drink down on our end table and stay a while.

I love that bowl from Crate & Barrel.

Or if you want to look around more, take a peak at our bookshelves in the living room.

I've already got some of my favorite Europe pictures displayed! Notice my aqua accents. You know I love that aqua!

And if you look back at the living room from the balcony area, you'll get a great view of most of the room.

I still love our original art on the wall. So pretty. Oh and I {heart} the new couch pillows from Z Gallerie.

There you have it! I'm so happy with the changes. What I really love is that it feels like a brand new space and it really just took some new paint as well as a few small new decor items.

Oh by the way... you can see all of the "before" pictures of the dining room and living room are here.

Up next? I'll show you what we did to our home office!

I'm crossing "home redo" off our our "Baby Bucket List."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Giveaway!

I love giveaways.

This year I won, Emily's giveaway and Whitney's giveaway! I'm one lucky gal.

Did you know that I have a reviews and giveaways blog? I do! It's here.

And I may be doing a giveaway right now. Ok, I am doing a giveaway! Go check it out!

And since what's a blog post without a picture, here's a recent one of us at my friend's wedding!

Now go enter the giveaway.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review Bonanza

You may remember that I started off 2010 with a 2010 Reading Plan, to encourage me to read more books this year.

I'm happy to report that 6 months into 2010 and and I've read 7 books!

I did book reviews on the first two books of that I read in 2010 here but I wanted to bring your all my reviews of four more.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I read almost this entire book on the plane ride back from Europe. This book chronicles the lives of two best friends over 20-something years.

In my mind this book had three parts... the first third of book was such cheeseballs with cheese sauce on top that I almost couldn't keep reading. The second third of the book was pretty good. And the final third was bawling, ugly-cry sad. Like, seriously, I was crying like a baby on my American Airlines flight.

I know this book a fan favorite in the blogsphere, and I liked it a lot, but I can't say it was one of my favorite books ever.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

I read this because I loved the books Little Earthquakes and Good in Bed by the same author. This book is about a suburban stay-at-home Mom trying to solve her neighbor's murder. It was just OK for me. I thought the main character was really whiny and really unlikable. The murder-mystery plot kept me turning the pages, but the characters were all pretty much stock characters.

My rating: 3 stars of out 5

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

It's a well-documented fact that I'm a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. This book was a compilation of his articles from The New Yorker. Some were fantastic, and some were just OK, which is why I liked but didn't love this book like I did Outliers. The articles on Enron, Birth Control, homelessness, and criminal profiling that are in What The Dog Saw are really outstanding and worth the read.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

I saved the best review for last...

The Middle Place was an absolute gem. The book is a true story of a young Mom who find out she has cancer and the same time her own Dad finds out that he has cancer. "The middle place" is that short time in life when you're both a Mother and Daughter. The characters were so real, funny, and relatable. "Greenie", Kelly's Dad, is so lovable that I just kept wishing that I knew him in real life.

My rating: 5 stars out of 5

Did you read any of these books? What did you think?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Euro Trip Tips: Packing for your Europe Trip

Packing for a trip to Europe can be a challenge, even for the most seasoned traveler.

I'm not saying that I mastered the Europe Trip packing challenge, but perhaps my fellow travelers can learn from what I did right and wrong.

1. Size of luggage.

The Mr. and I brought two small backpacks (the size of a Jansports you used in college) and two pieces of luggage between the two of us. Our two pieces of luggage were a 24" and a 26" Kenneth Cole upright expandable roller. Like these two:

This was the ideal amount of luggage to carry since we knew we'd be getting on and off trains and anything bigger and bulkier just would not have worked. Also having soft luggage was an advantage in squeezing it the train luggage racks.

This also meant that we could carry-on the smaller bag on the plane going to Europe so we would have our essentials in case there was a volcanic ash delay or some other baggage mishap.

This made squeezing in all of our stuff a bit more challenging but we definitely got the size of our luggage right!

2. Shoes

I had heard that site-seeing in Europe is one of the most painful things your feet will ever endure. That was an understatement. 8-10 hours of walking around and standing left my feet aching at the end of each day, even in the most comfy shoes.

I packed 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of running shoes, 2 pairs of sandals, 1 pair of high heals, and 1 pair of ballet flats.

Do you think that's too much? It was.

Here are the shoes that I really needed...

I mainly wore the tennis shoes rather than the running shoes (I did a couple of workouts in Tuscany, but just walking around all day was usually workout enough for me!)

In So Cal I rarely wear tennis shoes. I wear sandals about 90% of the time if I'm not at work. And the other 10% is dressy heals or boots.

The Mr. kept laughing at me wearing tennis shoes and jeans and tennis shoes and skirts because those are looks I NEVER do in So Cal. But I liked these shoes a lot!

These gold shoes were a lifesaver! They're by Aerosoles and they may have gotten the most use. They went from day to night easily and worked well with jeans and dresses.

I also brought my trusty old back Reefs. They are a generally comfortable standby that I wear all the time in so cal. They were small and easy to pack. I wore them out site-seeing a couple of days as well as just casually around the hotels.

The ballet flats gave me a horrible blister on the first night because my feet were so swollen from the airplane. So, I only wore them twice out to dinner in Munich. I wish I had brought more comfy ballet flats.

And I never wore the heals. Even out to fancier dinners. My feet just could not stand the thought of putting on a heal. Should have left them at home!

So shoes were an item that I got right and wrong. If I could do it again I would just pack the tennis shoes, the gold shoes, the black reefs, and a more comfy ballet flat.

3. Clothes

I can't give you the exact breakdown of what kind of clothes I packed, but I pretty much wore every single thing I brought.

I did laundry 1/2 way though the 19 day trip, as planned, which worked really well.

I said before that the weather was really unpredictable. We froze in Munich and then roasted in Rome. We had enough cooler weather clothes, but I ended up buying two dresses at an H&M in Rome. If it had just been a bit cooler in Rome (like we thought it would be) I would have gotten clothes packing 100% right.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Romans 12:9-17

This is my favorite verse in the Bible, Romans 12:9-17...

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Don't you just love that?! That is the kind of Christian that I strive to be.

I've loved this verse for many years, but what makes it even more special to us now is that we asked the Mr.'s Dad to read it at our wedding.

Here he is reading it during our ceremony...

And here we are watching him...

To post your favorite Bible verse head on over to Kelly's Korner!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Euro Trip Tips: Budgeting for your Europe Trip

A trip to Europe is not a cheap undertaking! But if you do a bit of planning you can save money and be prepared for the inevitable costs of your vacation.

Here are a few of my tips for budgeting for and paying for a trip to Europe.

1. Decide when you're going, where you're going, and book travel early.

I don't recommend trying to squeeze in too many countries in your trip, because you'll spend a lot of money (and time) traveling and not enjoying yourself. We settled on two countries in two weeks, which was great.

We quickly realized when pricing our flights that flying to Europe from the USA between Memorial Day and Labor Day would cost between $300-$800 dollars more per ticket than flying during "shoulder season", so we did our entire trip right before Memorial Day.

We booked our flights 5 months in advance and booked our hotels in advance as well - which helped to save money.

I also "bought" some great travel books on (I like Eyewitness Travel and Rick Steves the best) before our trip and read through them early to plan our itinerary.

2. Budget, save, and spend!

We created an ING Savings Account for our trip and dedicated a portion of our savings each month to our Europe Fund. (For more information on how I create and manage multiple savings accounts see here) We put money into that account for 9 months!

Note: If you're interested in how much we saved vs. what we spent because you're trying to plan your own Europe trip you can email me at I don't feel comfortable posting how much we spent for all to see.

A large portion of your budget will go to plane tickets (our tickets from LAX to Munich and back to LAX from Rome cost about $1000 round trip for each of us).

Another large portion of your budget will go to food. Food is more expensive in Europe and you have to factor in the exchange rate. My friend who honeymooned in Italy said that I should estimate about double for food in Europe as I'd estimate for a trip in the US. That worked well.

Exchange rates in Europe hurt! 1 euro is typically equal to $1.30-$1.40 dollars. That means that if a gelato costs 1 euro that really means it cost about $1.30. Be sure to factor that into your budget.

My best advice is to figure the total amount of money you will need, put yourself on a monthly savings plan, and stick to it! Then you can enjoy yourself on your trip without worrying about money!

Note: I can't speak to hotel cost, because we paid for most of our hotels with Starwood points that I earned traveling for work (yes, I'm really lucky), but hotels will definitely set you back a pretty penny as well.

3. Leave room in your budget for "contingency money."

Despite careful planning we had several unplanned expenses.

My power converter caused my flat iron to short out -- which meant that I purchased a flat iron in Munich for 22 euros so I could flat iron my hair for the rest of the trip.

The ballet flats I wore on day one gave me crazy blisters -- I ended up buying about 18 euros worth of band aids and blister pads over several days.

The Mr. left a bunch of clothes in our hotel room in Munich by accident -- so we had to purchase about 30 euros worth of socks, undies, and t-shirts. And getting the clothes back cost us about 35 euros in shipping.

I didn't pack quite enough warm weather clothing -- so I ended up spending 22 euros to buy two dresses in Rome.

All and all we spent about 127 euros (or $165) on unplanned expenses. Yikes!

When you're traveling, especially in a foreign country, unplanned expenses will arise. Just budget for it and take it in stride when it happens.

4. There are lots of ways to save money while you're in Europe.

I'm sure that there are many more, but here are just a few ways to save money while you're actually on your trip:
  • Don't buy food or drinks near the major tourist attractions. Eateries with "We speak English" signs or waiters beckoning you in should be avoided at all costs. If you're in Italy you can use the "gelato index."
  • Find local markets. For several dinners and lunches in Italy we ate delicious fresh meats, cheeses, and fruit from adorable corner markets. Much cheaper than a restaurant.
  • Don't over-tip. Only Americans tip 20 percent in Europe. Often times tips are already included or not expected. Ask other customers what's expected.
  • Avoid Taxis. Taxis are pricey and most cities have really easy-to-use buses and metro rails. Even from the airport to your hotel.
  • Likewise cars are worthless and expensive headaches in big cities. We only had a car for the Tuscany pat of our trip.
  • Comparison shop for souvenirs and buy your souvenirs in cheaper cities you visit (for us that was Tuscany).
  • ATMs give the best exchange rates, they do come with transaction fees. Minimize these by making fewer and larger withdrawals. Use your debit card exclusively for ATM withdrawals and your credit card for purchases. Note: American Express doesn't have any foreign transaction fees, Chase had a small fee per purchase.
  • Throughout Italy, drinks (espresso and wine) are cheaper at the bar rather than at a table. Standing at the bar will save you up to 40%.

While a trip to Europe will set you back quite a few bucks, you can still have an amazing time without breaking the bank. Happy traveling!

And in case you missed them... our Europe trip recaps:
Europe Trip 2010, Part 10: Tuscany
Europe Trip 2010, Part 9: The Vatican
Europe Trip 2010, Part 8: When In Rome
Europe Trip 2010, Part 7: Ancient Rome
Europe Trip 2010, Part 6: Florence
Europe Trip 2010, Part 5: More Venice
Europe Trip 2010, Part 4: Venice (the first half)
Europe Trip 2010, Part 3: Bavarian Alps & Castles
Europe Trip 2010, Part 2: Munich
Europe Trip 2010, Part 1: The Brief Recap (our trip at a glance)

Also, I'm linking up with Saving Money Living Life on this post! Check out the Friday Linky Party there!

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