[Life Hack] Booking A Fun Filled Getaway for Your Crew

We all have them, those days that go so erroneously wrong that you’re not just committed to the fact you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it actually – literally -feels like you woke up on the wrong side of Mercury Retrograde. Thankfully, that all ended on February 11th and according to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re* going to be suffering* through another six weeks of winter.  For the record, those asterisks are to denote that we is the Royal, East Cost, we and suffering is because I’m empathetic; I live in California, we watch winter from TV while we tan; anyways.   Last December, my friends took me on an impromptu road trip to Big Bear – it was my first time really playing, hiking, reveling and flat out dancing in the snow and I simply couldn’t get enough.  And to boot, I was reveling in a bit of pre-Retrograde good luck: the company I’ve been contracted to for work was bought out, and in the happiest of mishaps, I woke up with a some extra bounce in my step and cash in my bank account.   If an adventure with just a few friends was fun, an adventure with more was obviously better – so I immediately started plotting our escape from LA. It might sound a little silly, but I’ve never in my thirty years of living planned a getaway for more than two people – so this was an adventure in more ways than one and I’m eager to share my do’s – and don’ts! – of booking a group trip.

Booking dot Yeah

Photo by Jimmy Eid

Being the first time I’d ever secured a trip for a group of more than two, I was more than a little nervous. Sure, when I’d gone to Avila Beach the year before I had a group of seven with me – but I’d taken over another friend’s booking, and as it turns out I only got to witness the easy part.  Considering the state of the economy and current wages, I abide by the principles of  ‘Balling on a Budget’ and I do it well.  Next time you want to secure a cabin rental for a group of 6+, there’s a few ways to do it.  The incredibly rote way, would be a Google search on “Location” + “Group Cabin Rental”; but if you want to get more bang for your buck, there are a few sites that feel like striking gold.  We all know that  AirBnB is a hip, happening, wonderful resource.  From single room to entire home, you can rent based on your necessity – but for large groups, the options dwindle down or are exponentially expensive. Three equally wonderfully options are FlipKey, VRBO and Home Away.  FlipKey has spotted luck depending on your Metro, so obviously the more obscure the more difficult; and for the last two, I’m a huge fan – so it’s no surprise to me that they’re actually tied to the same information hub.   If you’re looking to book an entire cabin or house, these are the sites that you want.

Location, Location, Location

Sandy beaches, blossoming blue skies and sunny dispositions – that’s my vacation personality, so when it came to booking a Winter vacation – I had to do some crowd-sourcing.  Don’t get me wrong – I definitely  have fleeting fancies of being a snow bunny, at least for a night or two.  When you’re planning your group’s getaway, you’re not only taking your preferences into consideration – but you’re taking a simple random survey and through intelligent data analysis, you’ll find the best options.  Yes, I got all statistical on you for a second but for good reason – you at least want some people to come; right? Make sure you pick a vacation, or staycation, spot that has plenty to do for the whole family.  When we were in Big Bear, there was skiing and snowboarding for my snow kittens, a hot tub for the ones who preferred to stay warm and a national park just moments away; we had DJ equipment, photography gear, mood hoops, Cards Against Humanity and Mood Hoops – literally something for every personality type.

All My Party People In The House

Last, but most definitely not least – your crew!  It’s not a party without the posse, but be sure to set some ground rules before you go because let’s face it – money and friends not only don’t mix, but have the potential of ruining an otherwise wonderful weekend.  If you’re fancy enough to finance the cabin yourself and have your friends pay you back, more power to you – because of my aforementioned work situation, I was finally able to do that and it took such a load off of my shoulders.  But I’ll be the first to tell you, it doesn’t always work that way – as I found out when I went to Arizona at the beginning of the month.  Alleviate your anxiety, and tell your friends that the way to secure a spot over the weekend is to drop a little down payment for the room.  From their entire deposit to a simple $20, every little bit helps in getting you back to square one – and keeps you from discussing or dealing with money on an exciting weekend away from the “real world.” If you’re feeling frisky and want to get super organized, Facebook Events are a great way to keep track of RSVPs and last minute notes, while Google Docs provides the perfect forum for shopping lists and sharing ideas.

Photo by Jimmy Eid

[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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[Wednesday Watercooler] Take a Mini-Mind Vacation

As we enter the middle of the week, we sit smack dab in the cusp of Gemeni and Cancer, and at the pivot point Spring and Summer; June Solstice is just around the corner, happening this Saturday around 3:50 AM PST.  Now, I’m not in school anymore but I definitely wish I was for more than one reason – I loved my collegiate community in Santa Barbara, I loved summer in Santa Barbara – but more over, I loved celebrating the Solstice there! Every year, the streets of downtown are littered with excited visitors and locals getting down in the beautiful sunshine to live music, great food and wonderful art all weekend long.

Festival Date: Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Solstice in SB

If you’re in the So Cal area, I definitely suggest getting to State St to check out the festivities; but if you don’t make it, don’t sweat it – there’s always the ‘Old Spanish Days’  and Fiesta in early August.  Put all of that together and shake it up, and you’ve got me thinking that I could use a vacation – couldn’t we all though? This whole week I’ve been staring at posts, links and pictures that literally transport me to a different world – so even if you’re stuck in an office cube, and your version of a vacation is getting off work at 5pm and diving into a cold beer, take a mini-mind trip through these awesome posts…enjoy!

Travel Through Underground Caves in Wales by Trampoline

Yes, you heard that right – in the Llechwedd caverns, Bounce Below has set up three giant trampolines to take visitors on a unique sight seeing experience.   The caverns are located in Northern Wales and the trampolines will open this July, boasting a 60′ slide and 10′ tall net walls on either side.   According to creator Sean Taylor – “It’s a one-hour activity where customers get dressed up in a cotton overall and are given a helmet…they then jump on a train and travel inside the mountain. They then disembark into a cavern twice the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral.” The cherry on top of this amazing adventure sundae? Lights.  The Llechwedd caverns will be swimming with gradients of pink, green, purple and turquoise lights. I say we book a group trip, like now.

Photo Cred: Creator’s Project

 

Nocturnal Wonderland Returns to Southern California

There might be a bit of gloom in the June of Southern California, but thanks to an early announcement from Insomniac Events founder Pasquale Rotella – residents are far from bummed. Late last night, Pasquale took to Facebook to announce that their pinnacle Autumn attraction ‘Nocturnal Wonderland’ will be making a triumphant return San Manuel Amphitheater for two days of festival fun over September 5th and 6th.

We are taking all the necessary steps we need to alleviate some of the logistical issues we’ve had in the past, especially where traffic is concerned. We’ll be lowering the capacity to create a more comfortable experience so that we ensure that everything about the event runs smoothly, even after the music ends. Our top priority is delivering the highest quality experience possible for all you Headliners. – Pasquale Rotella

As it stands, Nocturnal Wonderland is Insomnaic Events’ longest running festival with deep roots in Southern California – and as they always say, ‘The Show Must Go On’ – and, it is! Past headliners for the event have included 12th PlanetAbove & BeyondCosmic GateChris LakeGui BorattoMat ZoOrbitalSub FocusUmek and more.

Thanks to the love, dedication and determination of the EDM community at large Nocturnal Wonderland is back in a big way. Make sure to stay tuned for the latest and greatest in Insomniac Events headlines, and keep your ears to the ground for line-up announcements, ticket sales and more through the company’s websiteFacebook and Twitter.

See you in Wonderland!

Uber in Style with Optimus Prime 

In a cross-branding effort by Transformers and Uber for the new movie ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’, the companies have teamed up in three major US cities to shuttle you in tech savvy style.  In Dallas this past Tuesday, Phoenix this Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday – if it’s between 1-7pm, Optimus Prime will cruise to your neighborhood and swoop you for 15 minutes of fame.  You might not get where you wanted to go but really, who the hell cares: YOU’RE RIDING ON OPTIMUS PRIME, DUDE.

Photo Cred: Uber

 

[Doing It Right] 4th of July Weekend

No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.
– Robert Southey

rAWr!
Rocking my first Spirit Hood;
Welcome to the Tribe =D

Nails, check!

 

What a freakin’ whirlwind this last week has been; if it wasn’t evident by the lack of posts, I’ve been beyond busy and nowhere near a computer or strong internet for that matter.  I know, I know – that sounds incredibly unlike me but at the same token I think that it was necessary.  I had a few days with some of my closest friends from around the state to play, eat, drink, sleep and bounce to some amazing music all over the Southern and Central California coast.

I’ve been blessed with amazing people in my life and friends that span over space and time; the friendships I’m currently in the middle of are proof that you can know someone forever but you can get to know them in an instant.  Each and every person that was part of last weekend plays an integral role in my life and I couldn’t be more thrilled that they’re part of my journey.  And it was such a hodgepodge of personality! My close friend and former housemate just got back from two years in Shanghai and is ready to pursue new and exciting things on the East Coast, then my boyfriend and his best friend were there – and the beauty of it all is that she’s the one that introduced us!  Then there was Anne and Jeff from the Bay Area, late additions sure but the best additions by far – Anne and I have known each other since Freshman year of high school and though I can’t say for sure why we’ve never been close before I know that I’m lucky to forge such a great bond with such a fabulous person!  And Jeff, oh, Jeffery.  What a perfect addition to our ridiculous group of people =)

The festivities started early on Wednesday night with an outing to Create SBE‘s newest Los Angeles nightlife venture;  being here for five years now I’ve seen just how quickly clubs change hands, but on the plus side this means that between WeHo, Hollywood and Downtown LA there are tons of awesome places to go and get your bounce on, including but not limited to: Avalon, Create, Lure, Greystone Manor, Dim Mak Studios, The Hollywood Palladium, King King, Los Globos and Exchange (phew!).  And to boot, about half – the places in bold – are run by the Insomniac Events / SBE crew.  Eric Prydz was the headliner on Wednesday and man did he put on a motherf&*king show, and he’s so different in a club setting like Create than a nighttime pool party like XS or a festival set from Coachella or EDC.  The first hour he played as Prydz, the second as CirezD and the last he played as Pryda – the visuals echoed the alterego, and provided for both seamless transitions and an epic night of fun!

Reach out and touch faith.

As lame as it sounds, Thursday was spent being incredibly lazy with loads of sleep and I absolutely loved it!  At nighttime, a few friends and I ventured over to Pasadena to see if we could take a gander at what was going on at the Rose Bowl.  I’ve heard so many amazing things about their fireworks that I was beyond stoked to finally view them – this shot sums it up pretty well:

On Friday, we headed up to Avila Beach with a ridiculously fun group of friends for a weekend at the Hot Springs and a chance to see Above & Beyond play a sunset set on the beach; sound epic? Because it was!  I wish I had more pictures but nothing could ever accurately capture what we both witnessed and took place in.  Literally the best weekend of the year so far and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say best 4th of July weekend ever!

The cabins at the Hot Springs

There’s nothing more patriotic than BEER.

Reuniteeed!

On an adventure through Morro Bay

Above & Beyond
Avila Beach

The Crew!

Wowwww

Play: San Diego, Round 2

There comes a time in everyone’s work routine when they just need a break from the monotony; for example, my coworkers – whose kids happen to be closer to my age than I am to theirs – go on week long vacations, stomping down that PTO cap several times a year.  But then there’s me…little Miss “My-PTO’s-Been-At-Capacity-For-Six-Months”…who couldn’t seem to find any appropriate reason to take time off of work.  Sure, I’ve taken time off for Coachella, Hard Summer and EDC – but it’s been a while since I’ve felt I deserved a mini-vacation, especially considering I work from home half the time – that’s almost vacation enough from the monotony of the work week.  Well, thank goodness that all changed last Friday!  One of my close girl friends and I took the day off of work and moseyed our way on down to beautiful San Diego.  We had some delicious meals, which included one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever nommed on, and took ourselves on a little sightseeing at Balboa Park – here are some of my favorite snaps of the weekend; enjoy!

Let the vacation begin!

A little bit of rain ain’t no thang; storm clouds won’t stop us!

The sun tried coming out for us!

One of my favorite Skylines

Dinner at Urban Solace: Delish Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Homemade pie from a friend, OMNOM

San Diego sunrise =)

House Bloody Mary at PrepKitchen – it’s a must!

Japanese Friendship Garden

We stumbled across a wolf convention, NBD

[Roadtrippin’] It’s a California State of Mind

For the past few weeks I’ve had little angel on my shoulder,  coercing me to get the fuck out of my overheated Los Angeles bubble and venture up north for an extended weekend of good food, great meals and family time.  But, whenever I was close to jumping in my car and cruising back home, the devil on the other side would start with the litany of excuses: I hate driving on the 5 That’s too long to leave my cats alone for gas prices are cray cray – etc, etc.  The fact of the matter is those are all very valid reasons for not wanting to hit the road – but at the end of the

day, they all start to sound like the same excuse, ‘I don’t want to.‘  It’s been a long past few months and there was a lot of apprehension about being isolated, and in the middle of nowhere, for an extended amount of time – but I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I over-saturate my life with connections.  My phone may as well be tethered to my side as a Siamese twin because I swear I’m always on it – Tweeting, texting, Instagram-ing and Facebooking; may as well just call me a walking, talking social media slut – I’ll take it.

I also, finally, took some my own advice: get out of my head and into my heart.

Being a creature of logic and reason is fine and dandy; but, emotions can’t be quantified, feelings can’t be measured and you can’t organize anxieties.

With this freshly pressed game plan in mind, I turned to packing up my troubles, both literally and physically. Piling clothes, jewelry, hair products and my work laptop in an over-sized duffel bag, I synced my iPod and kissed my cats goodbye.  The drive can last anywhere from  6 and 9 hours, so I had a lot of music to load in to get me through it.  For the first time, I wasn’t planning outfits or huge escapades – I was going to be comfortable and at home with the people I love. Yes, the 5 is awful  and gas prices aren’t going down – but the idea that the people I love are only a tank of gas away is so comforting.

When I hit the road, I double checked my route and turned my phone off for a while; I was on auto-pilot, my car was on cruise control and it was just the two of us and the highway.  I’ve had my new car since April and the furthest we’ve gone together is Ojai – this was our first big adventure and I had way too much fun.  There’s a feeling that I get from being in the open road, windows down and music up; my mind opens up, my stream of consciousness is deep and introspective and I almost get this runners high.  Maybe it’s a drivers high.  Either way, that drive cleared out my mental cobwebs and reset my system. Around 10 pm  I cruised into the city and it was bustling with lights and noise, roaring with personality as it always does.

San Francisco at Night

5 Roadtrip Essentials:

  1. Map I know I’m captain obvious but you should probably know where you’re going – just in case your phone dies, your partner in crime slash navigator passes out or you’re just horrible with directions.
  2. Music Make sure your playlist is twice as long as your total drive – if you’re like me, you probably have musical ADD and change a song halfway through…which means your playlist doesn’t last as long as you think it does.  Plan ahead and your head will thank you later; besides, how many times can you really listen to Levels*?
  3. Good Vibes If you’re no fun, your drive isn’t going to be fun! Besides, if you can’t have fun by yourself rocking out with an air guitar and singing lead vocals at the tippity top of your lungs – why would anyone else want to?
  4. Comfort Grub There’s nothing worse than hitting the road, getting super hungry and not being able to find a damn thing you want to eat or drink – well, save yourself the problem and do a little store run before you head out or save some money and make sandwiches at home.  Make sure you have something delish to wash it all down, and a few extra bottles of water – and you’ll have a happy heart, and stomach, the entire drive.
  5. Car Charger Phone navigation applications, especially Verizon’s – and I speak from experience, do a pretty good job of draining your phones battery.  Being lost in the middle of nowhere with no phone is kind of horrible, so do yourself  a favor and make sure you have a working phone charger.

Doing it Right: Stay Classy, San Diego

Once again, I’ve fallen head over heals for the city of San Diego.  At this point, I don’t even know if I can help it – the air is fresh and breathable, the restaurants are equally affordable and delicious, and everyone is super friendly! For the past week and a half this little kitten has been going through some things and it getting out of town felt like one of the healthier options to remedy my emotional state.  So, a few friends and I said sayonara to the city of angels and hellllllo weekend of sun, fun and relaxation!

Sunset in San Diego

I was excited about taking off a little early from work and beating the rush, but apparently I hadn’t thought this out very well because unfortunately for me, and everyone else trying to leave the city, Carmageddon pt 2 had begun.  The combination of rush hour traffic coupled with the impending doom of closing the 405 Freeway between the 101 and the 10 was enough to dissuade the average bear from heading on the road, so it’s a splendid thing for me that I am anything but average!  I rolled down my windows, plugged in my iPod shuffle, turned up the sound and drowned out the world.  In a flash I was brought back to high school;  my friends and I would pile into my GTI (RIP) with our electronic music blaring and call ourselves the the techno gnomes. The drive down was cathartic, but mostly because I had been having a one girl car rave.  I didn’t make it to San Diego until after the sun had set, but I was greeted by a ridiculously scrumptious home cooked meal a la one of my best friends; whoever said you can get to someones heart through their stomach has an excellent point.

Saturday morning started off with just the right amount of laziness; we idled around the apartment all morning, preparing ourselves for an afternoon adventure at sea.  Around 1, we trucked bags upon bags of beer, wine and snackables into our cars and headed off to Harbor Island and get our yacht on. Little ol’me was under the impression that there was a person cap on the ‘boat’ we were taking out. Uhm, no. Instead there were seven silly sailors and one very impressive aquadog, accompanied by an amazing captain that was immediately dubbed ‘Captain Ron‘.  I have to throw in a disclaimer that I am so blessed with amazing opportunities through amazing people; what an experience!

We gallivanted around the water, taking our time to really breathe it all in; though we’re only ballers on a budget, I think when given the opportunity it’s only right to act like the real thing. So, first things first, and very naturally to us – we popped a bottle of bubbly as we got out into the deep blue water.  We blasted 80’s music and sang along like it was our job, dancing between the rooms and floors – we all had this up-to-no-good, shit-eating-grin plastered to our face the entire time.

We had intentions of going out on the town and dancing the night away, but sunshine and day drinking are a ridiculously exhausting combination.  It didn’t take much convincing to don some relaxing duds and stick it out in the apartment for the rest of the night.

In the morning we took to Yelp to see what sorts of foods we could get ourselves into – my friends who I was staying with recommended an adorable gastropub in Little Italy called Craft & Commerce.  From the second we walked in, I fell in lust with the place – there are quotes everywhere: from the neon sign at the front, chalked up walls and  engraved benches that say cute quotes and silly things like “PS I’m touching your ass.”  Even the menu is worth a hoot or two, check out what they say about books.  We somehow managed to go at that strange inbetween hour where it’s definitely not brunch or lunch anymore but it’s too early to be dinner; so we did the predictable thing and made our own happy hour.  It was the perfect way to round out an already amazing weekend.