[Oh, Snap!] Ringing In 2015 at The University of California’s Botanical Garden in Berkeley

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After crushing it into the New Years at Sea of Dreams for the second time running, the New Years Day was spent marinating in the good tidings of the past year, and the first half of Friday was devoted to work. But, as noon settled in – I got the call from my boss that everyone wishes they had: If you have your work in, you’re dismissed. All week, I’d made it a mission to get ahead of myself so I could coast into the New Year; it was totally working.  My parents were poised to pounce with a bevvy of beautiful options for the afternoon – we could go to Land’s End and enjoy the roar of the Pacific, or they could whisk us over the Bay Bridge and into one of two Botanical Gardens manned by the University of California School System, the other located at UCLA ./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6142.jpg As Ursula from The Little Mermaid taunted, ‘Life is full of tough choices‘; but when one of them happened to be a place I’d already been, and the later a place my family had never spent time, I knew exactly where we should be.

The sun just reached it’s pinnacle and we were off, galloping across the glistening San Francisco Bay into new territory, Oakland’s Strawberry Canyon. Within seconds we were lost in the wilderness, whimsically in wanderlust.   Tucked away in the hillside, high above the city and it’s highest skyscrapers – the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Boasting over 12,000 rare and unusual plants selectively segmented across 34 acres and multiple greenhouses, these botanical gardens are among the most populated and diverse in the entire United States.

For you number nerds like me – according to their site, this is the breakdown in numbers:

  • 300+ families
    • 2,710 genera
      • 9,670 species
        • 12,800 taxa
          • 19,300 accessions (each accession represents one or more plants in the Garden).

The five best-represented families are:

  1. Cactus family (2,029 accessions; 1,198 taxa)
  2. Sunflower family (1,002 accessions; 771 taxa)
  3. Orchid family (1,030 accessions; 711 taxa)
  4. Lily family (1,097 accessions; 675 taxa)
  5. Heath family (979 accessions; 614 taxa).

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6157.jpg From Cactus Gardens to Herb Gardens, Medicinal Chinese Gardens and massive plots of native Californian, South American, African, Mediterranean and Asian plants – the botanical gardens represents the entire globe, with an emphasis on plants from Mediterranean Climates. Not to mention, there’s an amazing arena for succulents.

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The gardens are open daily from 9 to 5PM and tickets typically run at $10 a head – but, know before you go: there’s free admission the first Wednesday of every month!

 For more about the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, visit their various socials:

 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[Oh, Snap] Gallivanting Through Crissy Field and Over the Golden Gate Bridge

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For the last week of 2014, my wanderlust swept me away from the City of Angels and up to my favorite City by the Bay – San Francisco.  Even though I was born and raised in the Silicon Valley, now that my father lives in the heart of the city I spend a significant proportion of my time gallivanting around neighborhoods in search of epic street art, beautiful scenery and the unique architecture of the city.

Typically, my parents are my road dogs while I roam but this time, Danny and I enlisted a few of our LA favorites to explore with us.  Due to weather issues (typical) and unexpected detours (also, typical) over my last few trips, we never managed to make it down to Golden Gate Park, and I’ve kinda been begging, pleading – maybe even whining – to be dwarfed by the awe inspiring Golden Gate Bridge.  As we descended on the city after a hearty (and delicious) brunch at the Butler and the Chef, my friends asked around to see where we wanted to go; after squeaking ‘Golden Gate Park’ from the back seat, my friends smiled in agreement.  In sync, we took a sip of our roadies while rolling down the windows, the slow backbeat of a moody rock song filled the car while the engine purred in response.  Adventure was calling, and we were ready to answer.

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How lucky were we that the last day of the year also turned out to be a beautiful one? A quick storm from Canada trampled it’s way through California earlier in the week.  Though it left the city windy and cold our first night, paved the way for radiant blue skies dotted randomly with assorted fluffy clouds.  First on the list – Crissy Field.  Originally build as a US Airfield, Crissy Field has since been repurposed into one of the best natural spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is often considered the Golden-gateway, or proverbial front door, to the Presidio.

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Slowly but surely, we made our sundrenched way through the winding paths and up through the Battery Trail to a great viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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One thing I’ve always stood by is that you never know where the limits of your comfort zone are if you refuse to push them.  So, on Wednesday – I decided to conquer my tried and true fear of heights (known as acrophobia) and walk the Golden Gate Bridge.

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What are you determined to accomplish this year?

Shout out your resolutions in the comments below and let’s conquer them together!

[Oh, Snap] A Holiday Stroll Through The Descanso Gardens

As I’ve grown up over the years, the holidays have become less and less about the physical, tangible presents exchanged among family and friends, and in turn – more and more about the actual holiday presence of the same individuals.  I mean, sure – who doesn’t love a gift every now and again; especially if it’s heartfelt and / or handmade.  My parents are pros at both of those, but to this day I honestly still prefer long strolls and chatting them up to anything that money could actually buy. The other week, I was struck with an awkward work situation – I was going to be the big boss for a few days while my boss was out, but for the Friday and Monday after the holidays.  My original feelings were a hodgepodge of frustration, anger and sadness that I wouldn’t be able to spend the days with my parents, but instead of getting into a bind about it – we did a quick about face; for the first time since moving down to LA, they were finally going to visit me for the holidays and enjoy a crisp, clear Christmas in the City of Angels.

The crazy thing about living in East Los Angeles is that I’ve gone from being surrounded by city streets, skyrises and bustling public transportation into an area that’s a much slower pace of life, and where nature is seemingly more abundant, though in truth – maybe I’m finding it more frequently, because I’m looking for it more.  Over the last year, Danny and I’ve explored a plethora of parks and finally – we’re running out of Botanical Gardens to introduce ourselves to in the area; it’s a beautiful thing! After the local options are exhausted, we’re going to spend our weekends traveling – in search of the serenity that only nature can provide.  After tackling Griffith Park, The Huntington and The Arboretum – it was time to conquer the Descanso Gardens and I was stoked to bring my parents along for the ride.  Being a holiday, there were barely any people in the park which was nice – and for the record, the Descanso Gardens are only closed a few days of the year, Christmas Day being one of them.

After spending the early afternoon galavanting around and grabbing some quick and hunger quenching pizza at Blaze in Pasadena, we were off to Descanso – located right about where the 2 and the 210 meet in La Canada / Flintridge. Unlike the other gardens we’ve visited which were much more in the heart of the city and centrally located, Descanso is a little further out of range of the city and has the stunning landscape to prove it.  We started in the Japanese Garden and wound around to the Live Oaks Forest, the Camelias, a California Native Plant Garden and last but certainly not least, the wonderful Rose Garden.  But, that’s not to say we always stayed on the beaten path – we definitely jumped off a few times, hiked through the hills and stole a stunning view of the city.  Though there wasn’t as much color or variety as the other gardens we’ve been to (which, truthfully, could just be due to the time of year) – I really enjoyed strolling through and enjoying the forested areas.  The Descanso Gardens are perfect for a mid-week walk, artistic inspiration or a little reading on a beautiful day.

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[Oh, Snap] Celebrating the Elements of Winter Solstice in Big Bear

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Perpetually enraptured by the bright lights, booming sounds and the effervescent buzz of humanity within the heart of a giant metropolis like Los Angeles, or San Francisco where I was raised, I’m constantly dazzled, delighted by and devouring each and every detail of my surroundings like a fine wine.  With a step-mother from the North East and a father from Oregon, every now and again they’d toss in a dash of Corvallis countryside, assorted camping trips with my pre-school, some hikes here and there and some family vacations in locations I now wish I could’ve appreciated in their entirety. Almost two decades ago when I was a wee 5th Grader (…at 5’10″…), I accompanied by my Grandmother to an ‘Elderhostel’ in Mount Denali, Alaska over the Summer Solstice.  Sure, I knew that it was the day of the year with the least amount of darkness – but had I understood then what I know now about the solstice, changing of the seasons, position of the stars and angles of the planets, I would’ve had a much deeper, greater appreciation for mother nature and all of it’s offerings.IMG_5202

Yesterday at 3:03 PM Pacific Time, Winter Solstice hit the West Coast – wondrous, wild and incredibly elemental.  Contrary to (my…) popular belief, Solstice doesn’t imply that the sun is setting at it’s earliest for the year – in fact, due to discrepancies between our modern Gregorian calendar and the actual cycle of planets, the majority of the Northern Hemisphere delights in the earliest sunset a few days before and the latest sunrise a few days after Winter Solstice occurs. But, what it does mean is that we’re getting the least amount of sunlight (conversely, the lengthiest amount of darkness) of the whole year as the Sun reaches it’s lowest vertex – around -23.5°.  Often referred to as Yule, December Solstice and the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice ushers in the new moon in Capricorn.

Be it my love of a man befit for the mountains, a rapidly growing disdain for the ‘fast life’ or my commitment to adventuring through a healthy proportion of our countries National Park system – but I’ve been on a mission to conquer at least one new park a month, if not more.  Our friend’s adorable puppy was having his 3rd (or, 21st) birthday depending on how you look at those types of things and he invited us to tag along up to Big Bear.  As someone who can count the number of times they’ve seen snow fall on one hand – I couldn’t help but squee with glee. We were heading up Sunday and after a few quick calculations, I realized that I’d be truly in the elements for Winter Solstice.  I’ve never skied, gone snowboarding and definitely don’t own many snow appropriate pieces of clothing – but how could I pass up a chance to really welcome Winter and celebrate the Winter Solstice? Of course we were in!

If you’re heading up to Big Bear for the weekend, I vote you check out Air BnB for some gorgeous one night rentals; but if you’re going up for the day, like we did, meet up with your friends in the Stater Brothers parking lot before you head into Redlands.  It’s right between the 38 and the 330, so you can mash the whole mountain – plus, you should probably stock up on some power bars, water, whiskey (don’t forget the whiskey, and a flask…), fruit roll-ups and any other crucial snackables you might want as you gallivant throughout the mountains.   We started at at the Thurman Flats Picnic Area, but seeing as the snow is incredibly frozen – there wasn’t much runoff at the moment.  So, we slowly wound around the mountain – first hitting the Forest Falls Waterfalls which was a beautiful hike off the beaten trail.

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After reviewing the tread on the bottoms of our shoes (aka there wasn’t any), we decided to rent some snow shoes (knock that one off my life bucket list!) and head up to Green Valley Lake. It was definitely a hike, but so worth it. Nature fueled, wonder filled – as I looked into the vast, white beyond I felt humbled and happy, elated and insignificant.

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I absolutely loved spending Winter Solstice fully immersed by Winter: ice, snow, snowmen, children scream laughing while their parents threw snow balls. Not only that, but the drive was gorgeous and the sunset – doubly so.

How to you celebrate the changing of the seasons?

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[Self Discovery] 31 Before 31: A New Year – A New Bucket List

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Fresh off of my birthday weekend, I’m coming into 30 with a brand new outlook on life, a zest for exploring, a lust for learning and an eye for adventure. 29 was an amazing journey, and I’m absolutely blessed that I’ve passionately forged a new path for myself, even if it was taking the road less traveled.  My wanderlust took me around the Greater West Coast – from Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and up to my first trip to Canada.  I have an ETSY store for my chromotherapy candles and I’m going into the New Year with a fiance in tow and a wedding to plan. Some things are slightly inevitable and others, anything but – either way, I’m excited to tackle some new endeavors and inspired to catalog the journeys.

Looking back at the past year, I almost spent so much time lamenting, stressing and bemoaning that I was turning Thirty that could’ve very well not enjoyed the last year of my 20’s [Spoiler Alert: Don’t worry, it was very much enjoyed].  But, it brought me to an excellent realization the night of my birthday party: any time we’re spending being anxious or worried is time that we’re not spending in the present moment. To fully breathe, live and laugh in the now – you need to lose any and all ties to the past, the ego and your preconceptions of the path you’re walking.  And remember, if you don’t choose to push the boundaries of your comfort zone – how exactly can you be sure where they are?

  1. Finish 25 Books
    1. The Beginners Guide to Constructing The Universe by Michael S. Schneider
    2. Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras by Joy Gardner
    3. The Agile Gene by Matt Ridley
    4. The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts
    5. You Are Here by Thích Nhất Hạnh
    6. The Tao of Pooh
  2. Make Potstickers
  3. Get Published in The Huffington Post
    1. Step One: Got Danny’s photos and a Nod to The DJ List! Next Up: my own article!
  4. Freelance PR
  5. Visit the East Coast
  6. Learn how to ride a Bike
  7. Sing Karaoke For a Crowd
  8. Get a New Tattoo
  9. Shoot a Gun
  10. Learn French
  11. Plan a Wedding
  12. Run a 5K
  13. See the Grand Canyon
  14. Learn to Hula Hoop
  15. Make Your Own Sushi Night
  16. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
  17. Go Camping at Joshua Tree
  18. Buy a Stranger’s Meal
  19. Launch a Lifestyle + Music Blog for Southern California
  20. March in a Protest
  21. Watch a Meteor Shower
  22. Host a Weekend Getaway
  23. Crochet a Blanket
  24. Find a New Hike Every Month
    1. December: The Los Angeles Arboretum | Big Bear | Crissy Park
    2. January: UC Botanical Garden
    3. February: Glenoaks Canyon
    4. March: Desert Hearts @ Los Coyotes Indian Campground
    5. April: Coachella, Indio
    6. May: Lightning in a Bottle, San Antonio Recreation Area
    7. July: Woogie Weekend, Irvine Lake
    8. August: Multnomah Falls, Oregon
    9. September: Big Bear
    10. October: Big Sur, California
    11. November: Stanford Arboretum + Arizona Cactus Garden
    12. December: LA Zoo Nights
  25. Have a Craft Stand at a Local Flea Market / Farmer’s Market
  26. Use a Sewing Machine
  27. Build a Website From Scratch
  28. Write a Short Story
  29. Learn the Piano
  30. Create a Coffee Table Photo Book
  31. Make Incense

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[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!