Out & About | San Diego

Torrey Pines State Beach

Once upon a time, we almost moved to San Diego. My husband had a job prospect, and we even flew out with the kids and toured the area with a realtor, looking for a new home. We had pretty much come to the decision that we were going to move, but at the very last moment, my husband had a bad feeling about the job, and everything that had spiraled into motion had suddenly stopped. I’m thankful Someone was watching over us because that “feeling” ended up being a very good thing as the project he would be working on folded the next year.

Torrey Pines State Beach

In spite of everything that happened, I do have a soft spot for San Deigo. The year-long mild weather, the gorgeous warm beaches, and sprawling suburbia (yes, I’m a self-proclaimed suburbanite who likes her Target close by). Don’t get me wrong — Marin is warm and beautiful, but things tend to be a tad “old” around here, and I’ve never been partial to earthquakes.

Torrey Pines State Beach

So when our family decided to go to San Diego for the second half of our vacation (mostly due to my brother-in-law’s desire to run a half-marathon), although it would add a couple extra hours of driving to our trip, I was looking forward to lazily putting my toes into the warm sand. Ironically, it turned out to be one of the coldest weeks — it even snowed one evening!

Torrey Pines State Beach

For some reason, I don’t remember a ton from this leg of the trip, but I do fondly remember two things: the beaches and getting cookies each night at our hotel. The pictures above are from Torrey Pines State Beach and the ones below are from Solana Beach.

Solana Beach, San Diego

Solana Beach, San Diego

Solana Beach, San Diego

I love how these seagulls are standing evenly distanced apart. I wonder if they know they’re doing that.

Solana Beach, San Diego

And there were lots of folks “kite surfing” (I had to look that one up) — it was a great day for kite surfing because it sure was windy and FREEZING!

Solana Beach, San Diego

Kite Surfing Solana Beach, San Diego

Seems like fun as the sails pull them up into the air — you can kind of see that here in the distance.

Kite Surfing San Diego

I just like these other pictures because they’re calming and help me to forget how cold it actually was.

Solana Beach, San Diego

Solana Beach, San Diego

Solana Beach, San Diego

We also got to see a great view of San Diego. Yelp is my friend when it comes to traveling, and once again, my friend was very good to us and led us up to Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, where stands a cross monument overlooking a 360-degree view of the city.

Mount Soledad, San Diego

And yes, the sky was actually that blue — well, at least with my polarizer on — if you don’t have one of these yet, you should get one :).

Mount Soledad

Mount Soledad, San Diego

I don’t have many pictures of food from this leg of the trip because I don’t think San Diego is really known for their food. I’m sure there are a bunch of San Diegoans who would beg to differ, so please do share your secret favorite spots. I would love to know!

Iceskimo

We did eat lots of shaved ice — which is my husband’s favorite thing, so we must always ALWAYS go get shaved ice whenever we’re on vacation (and often multiple times).

Shaved Ice

Since we decided to take the long way back home, we cut across from Interstate 5 to Highway 101 and drove through Paso Robles, which from a prettiness standpoint was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Fog, snow, vineyards, rolling hills — all of it!

Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles, California

Polarizer in action once again for those deep blue sky (I think it wasn’t turned the right way in the picture above which is why there’s a gradient, but not too shabby for a “through-the-window-along-a-fast-moving-highway” shot).

Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles, California

Interstate 5

And this snow! Missed seeing it having grown up in Chicago, or as some have grown to call it this past winter, “Chiberia.”

Highway 101, SF to LA

Highway 101, SF to LA

Highway 101, SF to LA

Highway 101, SF to LA

Highway 101, SF to LA

We weren’t even driving along the actual coast on Highway 1 (which would have taken 14 hours!), yet we still got to see all of this beauty. California really is such a gorgeous place!

So that concludes my winter vacation, and although we saw so many beautiful things and ate lots of great food, the best part was being together as a family and making great memories, even if part of that included driving together in a 12-passenger utility van.

Once again, if you have any great suggestions for places to visit or to eat at in San Diego, please do share. I’d love to hear about it!

Out & About | Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles Golden Hour

My kids are currently off of school and have something called Mid-Winter Break, a.k.a “Ski Week.” Growing up in Chicago, the weather was freezing in February, and the idea of having a mid-winter break would be a great for escaping the cold and not having to wait for the bus in -15 degree weather. Of course, we had no such thing. However, my California kids are enjoying this vacation in the middle of February while it’s 70 degrees out. Seems ironic, but I’m not complaining. Not having to wake up at the crack of dawn each morning and make school lunches is truly a wonderful thing.

Los Angeles Sunset

Now for this school break, we didn’t go anywhere big and mainly laid low, but it made me realize that I still haven’t posted pictures from my Christmas vacation to Los Angeles and San Diego with my sister’s family and my parents. Yes, I know that seems quite awhile ago, but when I think about it, I still haven’t posted my Europe pictures from last summer, so if I can get these pictures out in 2 months, I feel like I’m already ahead of the game. Although I love taking pictures while I’m actually on a trip (my patient family members can attest to this), I admit that going through hundreds of vacation pictures feels as horrific to me as going to the dentist. But like going to the dentist, I am thankful, more or less, when the task is finally done.

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

We went to both Los Angeles and San Diego, and decided to take the leisurely drive from the San Francisco Bay Area down Highway 101, which was nice because we got to see much more than we would if we had gone the quick way down Interstate 5. And by much more, I mean ostriches.

Ostrichland, Solvang

My husband said this was one of the highlights of the trip, and it was really fun to witness these rather aggressive dinosaur-looking animals trying to eat food out of a dustpan. Ostrichland is a quick detour off of Highway 101 in Solvang, California, and although not a huge place, is definitely a fun and memorable experience for young and old.

Ostrichland, Solvang

You basically get a bowl full of ostrich pellets that is attached to a dustpan. Then you hold onto the dustpan for dear life as the ostriches battle it out for your food.

Ostrichland, Solvang

The emus were a bit tamer, but they were not afraid to look you right in the eye.

Ostrichland, Solvang

They remind me of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

Ostrichland, Solvang

We also made a quick stop at Pismo Beach, where I could have stayed longer, but my husband was itching to leave, flippantly saying, “If you’ve seen one beach in California, you’ve seen them all.” I was aghast and in complete disagreement (being someone who must stop at each and every “scenic viewpoint” along the way). Why else would they put those signs along the highway, enticing you to stop, if there weren’t some gorgeous view just a little way yonder? He has learned to humor me over the years and pulls over every now and then, so that I can add one more picture to my ever-growing collection of “shorelines that look like every other shoreline.”

Pismo Beach, California

We also took a detour to Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly GroveEach year, thousands of Monarch Butterflies come to Pismo Beach, where they migrate to the eucalyptus groves to escape the cold northern winters. It was cool to see them all clustered together, and there were telescopes strategically aimed at the butterfly-filled branches, but truthfully, the butterflies were a bit tricky to see as they blended right into the foliage like leaves. The kids were done with this place after 15 minutes.

Monarch Butterfly Reserve

When we finally arrived in Los Angeles, our first major stop was Manhattan Beach.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

There was a bit of enjoyment watching these surfers paddle their way out to the waves only to be swept back to shore.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

Here we all are intently watching them.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

And a random seagull who let me get surprisingly close.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles

We also took a drive up to Griffith Observatory for a gorgeous view of the city.

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

And my token “starburst” image — always gotta get one of these in ;).

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

Los Angeles

One of my favorite pictures below — little mini people walking through the trees and the endless city. I always love the juxtaposition of nature and city.

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

And the teeny-tiny Hollywood sign, just so we could say we’ve been…

Griffith's Observatory, Los Angeles

And, of course, pictures of some of the food we ate! Fish tacos at Blue Salt Fish Grill in Redondo Beach,

Blue Salt Fish Grill, Redondo Beach

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant for Dim Sum in Rosemead,

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant Dim Sum, Los Angeles

Genwa Korean Barbecue in Beverly Hills,

Genwa Korean Barbeque

my Umami Burger and truffle fries in Costa Mesa,

Umami Burger

Umami Burger

 and my husband’s Manly burger and short rib fries,

Umami Burger

and mochi at the Japanese grocery store Mitsuwa.

Japanese Mochi

Yes, we ate a lot, but what’s a vacation without eating and enjoying the food? And enjoy it we did! :)

Next post, the second half of our trip through beautiful San Diego (I secretly want to move there).

Oh, and does anybody have any LA suggestions for places to eat or things to do? Please share! I’m sure we’ll return soon!

Macro Monday | Mimosa Tree

Neely Wang Macro Photography

Every year in the spring, a group of trees near our house produces all these beautiful yellow pompoms on its branches. These mimosa trees are filled with little puffs of sunshine, and one day a couple years ago, I decided to snip off a small branch and bring it home.

Neely Wang Macro Photography

My husband, who suffers from horrible allergies, did not share my same sentiments about these fluffy balls, so I begrudgingly put the small vase containing the buds into the back of an unused kitchen cabinet, only to be recently found. 

Neely Wang Macro Photography

I took them out, and they had turned this lovely rust color. I think they look prettier now than they did before.