Tag Archives: vacation

[Traveling Tales] Drink In Oregon’s Willamette Valley: Wine, Spirits and Cider – Oh My!

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If you’ve been spoiled on the finer things in life, chances are you were raised in California.  From the weather and the weed to the wine and the women – the Golden State more than lives up to the golden standard. But for those that choose to venture outside of the luscious landscapes and rolling hilltops of California, our neighbor to the north has a whole hell of a lot to offer.

Though it’s not the same as the Mediterranean climate of the Californian Coast, some (including myself) could make a convincing argument that the Oregon Coast boasts  equally beautiful conditions. The persistent Winter (…Fall and Spring…) rain paves the way for gorgeous green valleys with trees and wildflowers as far as the eye can see, a perfect pairing with the belated sunsets the Summer months offer.

If you rack your brain for the best in micropubs, I’m guessing San Francisco is one of the first – if not the first – city to come into mind.  But the reality is that Portland has more microbrews than any other US City.  Though the Willamette Valley isn’t exactly Portland’s neighbor, the gorgeous countryside is only a hop, skip and an hour drive away – and offers has so much to offer in the way of delicious distilleries and wonderful wineries.

The Hard Stuff

For the longest time, I thought that Wine Tasting was the only sort of alcohol tasting one could do – so when I discovered that distilleries also had tastings, I’d colored myself fascinated.  Oregon’s climate provides great opportunities for home grown spirits, and these are some of my favorites.

4 Spirits Distillery

Ever since a very memorable night my Freshman year of college, I’ve been convinced beyond belief that I’m not a rum girl; no way, no how. Enter, 4 Spirits Rum. For the first time in over a decade, I’ve not only drank – but enjoyed the flavor – of a variety of rums.  I’m also a sucker for a business venture with a community service flair, and 4 Spirits meets that mark – a portion of the proceeds of every bottle go to the Wounder Warrior Project.

Website | Facebook 

Vivacity

Ever hear of a spirit that’s been distilled hundreds of times?  How about thousands? Chances are, there’s still a ton of sediment in them; it’s why when you drink shitty alcohol, you feel shitty at the end of the mind.  The genius minds at Vivacity have their cauldrons set to be constantly distilling – almost infinitely, if you will. They’re distilling all of the toxins out and leaving you with the tastiest, cleanest, crispest gin I’ve ever tasted.  In addition to their gins, they have a kickass Coffee Liquor and a smooth as all hell vodka.

Website | Facebok

Spiritopia

Half science experiment, half distillery and all the fun – Spiritopia offers a fresh take on specialty liqueurs.  As we toured the facility and learned about the process of producing their delicious drinks, I browsed through the lab equipment in the warehouse and quickly reassessed why I’d switched my major from Biochem in the first place. The Apple and Pomegranate Liqueurs are dare I say perfect, but I have a major penchant for the Ginger.

Website | Facebook

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A Little Bit Softer Now

Liquor tasting is all fun and games until someone gets too drunk, if you’d like to err on the softer side of alcohol tasting – the Willamette Valley also offers a great variety of local wines and ciders.

2 Towns Ciderhouse

For the last decade, beer has almost become a sub-food group for me – it’s been delicious, it’s thirst quenching and yeah, I love a good tipsy feeling.  But, over the last few months I’ve felt a shift in the tasting wind if you will and have been etching over to the cider side.  Granted, I could kill a whole bottle of Martenelli’s Sparkling Cider to my face and have no thoughts about it – it’s no wonder I’ve found a new affinity for cider.  What I didn’t know until recently was just how many flavors of cider exist – all the varieties of apple, Wildflower, Elderflower, Marionberry, Ginga Ninja (a personal fav), Hollow Jack (a pumpkin cider), and so many more; and for $4, you can get a flight of four. Located in the heart of Corvallis (which, mind you, isn’t all that big), 2 Towns is open 12-7 Sunday through Wednesday, and 12-9 from Thursday through Saturday. The Ciderhouse is also featured at many local grocery stores.

Website | Yelp

Airlie Winery

Perfectly poised on a beautiful hilltop in the sleepy town of Monmouth, Airlie Winery has been a staple of the Oregon wine scene for over 30 years.  A female owned and operated venture featuring a few adorable dogs and a wide variety of wines to imbibe, Airlie features awe inspiring views and delicious wine, served with a smile and warm conversation.  For  a $5 tasting fee – which is donated to local food banks – you can tantalize your tastebuds with everything from roses to reds and whites, and my personal favorite – pairing consecutive years of the same wine to understand the nuanced differences a season can make. Airlie is open to the public Thursday to Monday from 12 to 5pm.

Website | Facebook | Yelp

Cardwell Hill Cellars

Just one glance at the landscape of Cardwell Hill Cellars would turn any average wine drinker into a full fledged oenophile.  Sitting in the shadow of Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in Oregon’s Coast Range, Cardwell Hill has been perfecting the art of both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris for the last 16 years. In addition to their wide assortment of award winning wine, Cardwell Hill also offers a picnic area and boche ball court in addition to winery tours.  Each taste is $1, and the tasting room is open daily from 12pm until 5:30.

Website | Facebook 

What’s your favorite city for trying out new drinks?  Discover anything recently that you’ve fallen mouth over mind for?  Let me know in the comments below!

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[Traveling Tales] Plan Your Next Vacation With Google Destinations 

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“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”
– Anais Nin

The last few days have ushered in the pitter-patter of rain like cats nimbly playing on our roof, while the sun has chosen to haphazardly break through the clouds, reveling down onto our atmosphere and warming the land bits by bit.  Yes, you guessed it – Spring is just around the corner and we just had some “real weather” in Southern California, providing a fresh layer of powder in the mountains and a stunning ‘Super Bloom’ out in the middle of Desert Valley. Over the last few days, we’ve been itching to plan another quick weekend getaway similar to the Sequoias and it’s gotten me all antsy with anticipation for another adventure in the great outdoors.

The more I travel, the more I realize that though we can all enjoy a vacation -between determining the destination, booking the room, exploring extracurricular activities in the area and finding some fabulous food options- planning them certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  With the assistance of any number of websites that coagulate travel data across the hotel and transportation markets like Travelocity, CheapTickets and Kayak, a host of easibly maliable and managable mobile apps, and my uncanny ability to have way too many tabs open and organized in my browser window, it’s gotten a wee bit easier.  But let’s face it, it’s still not streamlined – so leave it to the geniuses at Google to revolutionize the online travel game.

Just yesterday morning, Google announced a new component to its mobile vertical – Google Destinations.  It’s an easy, breezy one stop shop of a vacation application that’s sure to take the stress out of your search and get you into some fun on the double. As the worlds premiere online search engine, Google claims that in the last few years it’s seen a 50% increase in travel related questions and queries generating on the site. After putting their heads together, they coagulates the metadata from Google Flights and Hotel Search to provide instant travel relief in the form of easy to browse itineraries and quick buy bookings from reputable sites.  If you haven’t taken Google Flights for a spin, I’ll be honest – you’re missing out.  The algorithms they’ve developed do a wonderful job of forecasting the best times for flights, not to mention it’ll link you with any number of other travel providers.

Unlike many other large internet travel providers like Kayak, Air BnB and Cheaptickets which offer multiple ways to access their data, Google Destinations is only available on your mobile device.  Though this move could be construed as an attempt to drive traffic to their mobile site, maybe it’s also a silent hint that we should be prepared for a mobile app from Google Labs.  Either way, though, I’m into it -.  If you want to take it for a spin yourself, grab that smart phone and let’s play along.

First, head to your native Google or Google Chrome app (and if you don’t have either, I would recommend downloading them immediately.) And now, let’s just dream a little and plan a hypothetical dream vacation. From tinkering around this morning, it looks like you can either use a State from the United States or a Country from around the world, paired with the word “destinations” – meaning queries like “California destinations”, “Canada destinations”, “Italy destinations” and the like.  Now, the real fun begins!

Once you have your general location in mind, there are three ways to manipulate the data.  First, you can filter by date – and if you don’t know the exact dates you want to travel, the ‘Flexible Dates’ let’s you just pick the months you’re considering.  Next, you can refine your search by the type of activity; or you can even include the keywords in your search with hobby terms + [Location] + “Destination”, like “California Surfing”, “Colorado Hiking” or  “Spain Skiing.”  If you don’t know what you want, let Google do some thinking for you and choose from the options are as below.  And last, but certainly not least – you can adjust the end price which takes into account 7 nights away; as of now, it’s only available for 1 or 2 travelers.

If you click through to your dream spot from the first search, you’ll be presented with a window with two tabs. ‘Explore’ gives a little bit of background on the area – including the most sought after locations in the area, various itineraries based on past searches, a birds eye view of the topography and annual meteorology of the area letting you know when the best time of year to go is and a variety of additional locations to enjoy based on your search.  Currently, Google only has itineraries for roughly 201 locations but I’m sure that number will increase exponentially with the use of the application.

If you don’t have your phone handy, don’t have a destination in mind or simply would rather watch someone else do it – take a gander at the video below.

[LA Life] Downtown Goes Dapper For A Night On Broadway

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Last weekend as the threat imminent downpour loomed over the quite literal horizon, we decided to throw caution to the wind as we got dolled up and dappered out for a ‘Night on Broadway.‘ A party with a purpose, the second annual event sprawled through the stunning cityscape of Downtown Los Angeles and into the historic Broadway District.

Commencing back in 2008 under the guidance of L.A. City Council member José Huizar, Bringing Back Broadway set its sights on reinvigorating the entire outlying area, from the preservation and display of the old school neon signs to re-opening doors to awe inspiring theaters, bringing back the fabled streetcar and even the relatively new facade lighting brought onto Broadway in 2013.  A chip off of the ‘Bringing Back Broadway’ initiative block, the second annual ‘Night on Broadway‘  is designed to restore a variety old theaters in the fabled Broadway district and reinvigorate local interest in the art, music, culture and community of the area.

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Revelers are encouraged join in the shenanigans surrounded by the amazing architecture and interior design of theaters from The Palace to The Los Angeles Theater, The Ace Hotel and The Globe.  Festivites included a brains to brawns chess and boxing match, a wide variety of interactive street art, comedy from Reggie Watts, my personal highlight, Rebel Bingo, and last but most definitely not least live music and entertainment and even some of the local talent, like Skrillex from both the OWSLA and Mad Decent imprints, plus hourly performances from city’s very own electric and eclectic avant garde performance troupe Lucent Dossier Experience (which was a serendipitous treat in itself considering a friend of mine had landed himself DJ duties at the same stage for the night).

Don’t fret if you missed out on all the fun, because one of my favorite things about the city of angels is there’s simply always something stunning to do about town, and half of them are free! But, if you’re feeling the festive FOMO, make a calendar reminder and don’t forget to catch Night on Broadway next year in Downtown Los Angeles when it returns on Saturday, January 28th 2017.  For more about the city’s famed ‘Night on Broadway’ event or Bringing Back Broadway initiative, head to their website or socials –

Night on Broadway: Website

Bringing Back Broadway: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[Oh, Snap] Chasing Sunset at Malibu’s Point Dume

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Last Sunday, we bid adieu to the succulent last seconds of Autumn in one of the most blissful fashions. As I’m sure you’re well aware, Los Angeles either has the absence of seasons or a mass inundation of each throughout a single 24 hour stretch.  With strong Winter storms coming in from the North West on Saturday night, we almost changed our Sunday plans – discussing the merits of cloud coverage in romantic photography and the like, but we decided to throw caution to the literal wind and get our booties out to Malibu to enjoy the last weekend of the season with some of our favorite people, creating magic and celebrating true love.

Love.  It’s a simple four letter word with a complex, vast and almost unfathomable meaning.  Love takes you by the arm securely and leads you to safety, while encouraging you to blast out of your own comfort zone and reach for the stars.  Love isn’t only giving, it’s forgiving; the last piece of the puzzle of a beautiful picture, a picture that was once so inconceivably incomplete.  Love fills your life in time with your heart, warming each and every nook and corner; clearing out the cobwebs of the ego, unchaining your pride and letting your soul shine free.  Love is natural, like the sun, wind, water and Earth; yet love is extraordinary, like the existence of the universe, like the rose that grew from concrete, like the existence of you, or I – or the simple fact that between you and I, there’s a we that is coveted more than the deepest secrets and oldest friendships.  Love is a bridge from nowhere to everywhere, a door that opens infinitely and a dream that’s never deferred.  But the most beautiful thing of all is that love is.

Though photography is a passion of mine, it certainly isn’t a profession – I’ve left that to the fiance.  He’s been building a bustling portfolio in the three years we’ve been together and I’m so thrilled that I’ve had a first hand view at how he’s grown as a creative, as an artist, as a working professional.  Though he’s done his fair share of concerts, shows, festivals, plays and musicals – he’s itching to get his feet wet in other arenas, including headshots, portfolios, high fashion and engagement shoots – and I’m thrilled, because this means I get to learn, too!  So after a quick breakfast and conversation, we were off to the beaches to capture the effortlessness of true love in a fantastic couple.  Now, I don’t have any spoilers – because, well, they’re not my pictures.  But I did get to spend a good amount of time chasing one last Fall Sunset at Malibu’s Point Dume, and let me tell you – so worth it. And a perfect full circle from last year, where we spent the first day of Winter in Big Bear.

Locals might think of it as a total tourist trap with not a lot of parking, but I think the scenery is stunning, the views up and down the Pacific Coast are  breathtaking and there’s a whole host of marine life for you to take in. – from cranes to seals, and even a dolphin (or shark!) if you’re there on a good one.   There’s plenty of rocks for rock climbing, and tons of ocean to relax the mind and body.





For more on Point Dume, check out their State Park website and social media channels.

Website | Facebook | Yelp

[Traveling Tales] The Best iOS Apps For Roadtrips

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From the second I got my first car at 17, I realized that curves are for hugging, being on the road is physically cathartic and that the shortest distance between two points is me in my car with the windows down and music up.  Though I’ve developed a map-titude over the ages, I’m constantly praising the cell phone gods that smart phones exist and that developers are willing to share their genius with us.  From directions to attractions, a place to lay your head and places to explore – I’ve found a good set of phone apps that have you covered. Just remember – whatever you’re trying to do, wherever you’re trying to go: there’s a better way, and there’s definitely an app for that.

Lodging. 

Make sure you’ve got a birds eye view into one if not more, of the following apps so you can get a comfortable roof over your head for pennies on the dollar.  My personal favorite is AirBnb, especially because you can snag an entire domicile for an incredibly low rate – or just a single room if you’re flying solo or traveling with your best friend or significant other.  HomeAway and VRBO are great resources if you’ve got a larger group in tow, while CheapTickets can find you a discounted hotel room in milliseconds.

So Much Room For Activities. 

One of my favorite things about road trips is that they can take you wherever your little heart desires – want to head to the beach and cruise the coast? Do it!  Or how about a detour through the desert or a romp near the river?  A road trip is the quintessential choose your own adventure experience and you’re the captain.  Sometimes, it just takes a wish and a will to find something novel – but if you’d like a little assistance, download Roadtrippers for a nifty guide around your location and it’s comprehensive for the entire United States.  After signing up, you can save and share travel routes, not to mention a look into a broad range of activities within a close proximity to your travel path plus the net value of gas for your trip.

Find Yourself

If you’re an iPhone user and you’re trying to get anywhere important, or just find a specific location in general –  do yourself a favor and stop using Apple Maps.  Seriously.  Download Google Maps and Waze immediately, sit back and enjoy the seamless integration and easier to use directions that don’t lead you into the ocean, or into a dead end.

Stay organized.

I don’t know about you, but I love lists – sometimes I even have lists of lists, others I’ll purposely put a few things on it that I’ve done that day so I can instantly feel the struckout satisfaction of what’s been accomplished. But for some reason, When it comes to buckling down and actually packing for a trip I always tend to forget the little things.  So a few years ago, I made a master list and saved it to my hard drive; when I got sick of referencing it – I tossed it up into a list on Evernote.  A great alternative to a bulky Google Doc, Evernote provides a simple forum for staying on task and on top of your life.

What are your tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling?

Let me know in the comments below!

[Traveling Tales] A Leisurely Road Trip Down the West Coast

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The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been told that there’s only one constant in life, and all ironies aside – that constant is change.  As with the old adage ‘this too shall pass‘, I’ve developed a thicker skin and a willful resolve in the understanding that no matter what I’m doing or the trajectory of my life, the chances of a roller coaster moment is coming are high – so hold on and enjoy the ride.  The ups, downs and in-betweens are all wonderful side-effects of this passionate, purposeful and perpetual, journey around the sun.  This past year alone has been a crazy one, it started with a bang on a social high and it’s ending on a more personal, yet equally loud, roar – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The holidays have always provided me ample time for retrospect, possible due to the lack of a social circle in Oregon – but mostly because of the long flight up and almost two hour drive in from Portland to Corvallis once the plane lands.  Even though I’m not originally from Oregon, my dad is and I’ve felt like it’s been my second (well, technicality third home for my entire life).  Since I was a wee little one, I’ve been frequenting California’s stately neighbor to North.  Plus, now that my dad is inching towards retirement he’s left the busy, bustling and vibrant city life of San Francisco behind while trading it for the slower paced, quieter, country life of  Corvallis; where the claim to fame is green grass, football and Oregon State University.

Since they’d spent the last few months moving, my step-mom was over the moon excited to see us for two reasons – it’d been almost four months since the last time the family got together and she couldn’t wait to unload whatever household items they didn’t need into our possession.  Whether her excitement was from Column A or Column B simply didn’t faze us – we were over the moon about both! Originally when we discussed how we were bringing it all back to Los Angeles, we’d considered renting a van or renting a U-Haul, and had jokingly mentioned that we could just fill the old ’98 Ford Expedition  for a full fledged, super fun road trip – maybe we’d bring it back later in the year and use it as an excuse to come visit again; the options felt endless! Instead of laughing at us, they mused that we might as well just keep the truck since all it had been doing over the last give years was gathering rust and spiderwebs in the garage.  Without missing a beat, we jumped with joy and resolved we’d only have to book a one way flight to Oregon – and could spend the tail end of it road tripping down through Oregon to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles.  Sure, we had the chance to travel down this path when heading to and from Shambhala but we’d always been in such a rush and never seemed to have the time to smell the proverbial roses or bask in the delightful Oregon sunshine.

If you’re not from Oregon, one of the first things to understand about traveling during Thanksgiving Break is that you’re going to find yourself in a bit of traffic from the Civil War Game.  Every year after Thanksgiving, the Eugene based University of Oregon Ducks take on the OSU Beavers for what’s contended to be the 5th largest college football rivalry in the United States.
If you’re a football fan, it’s a proper time to rejoice – but if you’re trying to make your way down the 5 to California, beware – because there’s really only one major freeway and depending on your timing you might just get stuck in it.  That’s literally the only weekend of the year I’ve ever seen traffic in Oregon. Instead of getting stuck in traffic, we decided to not only leave early but to take every detour we saw fit – we were in the mood to enjoy ourselves and for once we weren’t rushing back to LA on zero energy!

Our first stop was the little known Corvallis BMX Park on the edge of the city where the Marys River and the Williamette River collide.   Some parts were too waterlog to risk, others were too icy to entertain – but throughout it all it was an enjoyable adventure, even when we had to look up exactly what poision oak really looks like. Then we were off, off and away to a rest stop near Oakland, Oregon that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale with vibrant greens, radiant yellows and blossoming reds.  Time had come to a standstill while we stood there, laughing like five year olds as we waltzed the empty paths around the field, enraptured by our momentary microcosm.

By the time we reached Mt.Ashland, it felt as though we’d experienced the brevity of all the seasons in just a few short hours.  First a cool breeze and sparse sunshine, blossoming into sunshowers and scattered clouds as we climbed our way into an indescribable winter wonderland.  Squealing like a schoolgirl that hadn’t seen snow more than a handful of times in her life, I pleaded with Danny to pull over at each and every turnout so we could embrace the snowfall, dance on the purity of the ground… and apparently have a snowball fight or two.

By sunset, we’d conquered Yreka and saw a beautiful orange and magenta shimmer off of snowcapped Mt.Shasta

We got to Menlo Park late that night, to wake up to the excitement of a stunning Saturday in the Bay Area.  It’d been forever since we’d had a day to just spend some time with my mother and I was beyond happy that she could host us for the weekend.  We spent the day gallivanting around the Bay Area to all my former stomping grounds – Strolling through Menlo Park, and into Atherton where my old High School was to grab lunch downtown at Le Boulanger, then into Palo Alto, Stanford Campus and my favorite hidden gem of a botanical garden. It was a whirlwind few days with a lot of driving and a ton of walking, but it felt great to stretch the limbs, expand the mind and really connect with my family and my fiance.

 

[Oh, Snap] Sunday Funday at Thousand Steps Beach

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The tides are in our veins.

Photo by Daniel Leist

Calming and cathartic, the ocean beckons with a quiet roar masked as a whisper – cascading from shore to shore in enigmatic harmony. Growing up in the Bay Area, only a hop, skip and a jump from local beaches like San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Capitola, and spending a good amount of my childhood on the Oregon coast – I have a plethora of fond memories building sand castles and feeding s

ea gulls while unearthing sea glass and haphazardly discovering beautiful raw stones.  And even though I spent my collegiate years right on the beach in Santa Barbara, I could’ve spent a lot more time actually at the beach. So whenever I get the chance to finally hit one up, the five year old trapped in this 6’0 body gets butterflies in her stomach and stars of excitement in her eyes.

Photo by Daniel Leist

Life, as they say, is what happens while you’re making other plans and the other weekend was no different.  After a haphazard morning leaving Los Angeles, timing had proven tumultuous and schedules had shifted. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and there’s nothing quite like hitting the road with some good jams and great friends. Soaking in the wonderful weather over Valentine’s Day weekend, a great few days filled with lots of love and great company, my wanderlust waved me over to Laguna Beach’s Thousand Steps Beach. Located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, tucked away between two bluffs – Thousand Steps Beach is a gem among beaches with loads of soft sand, caves to explore and loads of blissfully breaking waves for hydrophilic humans.  Though it’s not technically a thousand steps to get down to the beach, there are definitely enough to warrant a lazy afternoon soaking up some rays.

Photo by Daniel Leist

We couldn’t leave before Sunset on the beach and as we thought, it was absolutely stunning. Sprinting out to the water to snap a picture, my body tangled in itself and the necklace I was wearing broke and my pendant, a beautiful little piece of Amethyst that I got at the Gem Fair in Tucson,  tumbled through my sweatshirt and plunged into the current.  I watched three or four waves swoop, swish and rearrange the stone and instinctively thrust my hand into the water. Miraculously, I saved it – and it hasn’t left my neck since.  This was almost two weeks ago and I’m still finding grains of sand on it!Last, but certainly not least – as the sun went down, the creativity heated up and we tried our hands on some light painting.  Danny took hold of the wand, our friend All Day Jimmy was behind the camera – and the result: magic!

What’s your favorite beach to soak up the sunshine? Let me know in the comments below!