The Last Bookstore: cool things in LA

Los Angeles in endless in good food, things to see and things to do. I always say we live in a gem city, meaning that we’re close to everything but it doesn’t feel congested the way downtown does with more traffic, people, etc. A cool spot we’ve found downtown in The Last Bookstore. It’s definitely worth a trip to see if you’re in the area! Not only does it have a large selection of new and used books, they’ve created art with books and upstairs there’s small art galleries.

book tunnel! ^

 

Austin, the sequel

We went back to visit one of our favorite cities, Austin, Texas! When we moved to Austin in 2016, we chose a city where we pictured ourselves living forever, a city to love and put down roots. It was bittersweet leaving because we loved the city and people and were also excited about returning to Southern California with its amazing weather and beaches.

Dave had a work trip in Austin and the kids and I got to tag along. We loved visiting some of our favorite places, people and restaurants and seeing some new sights. One of the new places we visited was the Austin Public Library downtown which was everything we could have wanted in a library, a dream public library! It is beautifully designed with multiple levels, an awesome kids area with lots of board games, rooftop gardens, and amazing outdoor reading patios.

We also checked out the Austin Nature and Science Center and our most favorite restaurant in Austin, Terry Black’s BBQ.

Best brisket ever! ^

More of our Austin favorites highlighted here

 

The Broad Museum: cool things in LA

The Broad Museum has one of the coolest exhibits I’ve ever been to: the Infinity Mirror Room!

You walk (and stay) on a little platform and feel like you’re floating with how the lights are arranged! It’s hard to judge the depth of the room, it was a breathtaking experience!

This museum is extra awesome because it’s free. There are special exhibits that charge admission but the infinity mirror room is also free. We reserved an admission time slot online for the museum. Once you enter, you can put your name on the list for the mirror room. The museum will send you a text once your time slot is ready. Each party gets about 45 seconds in the mirror room. We waited about 2 and a half hours for the mirror room, in that time we looked at the rest of the museum which is also awesome and took an uber to lunch so we didn’t have to pay twice to enter the parking garage. The Broad isn’t huge, just one large building, you could definitely see everything in half a day.

 

Our other favorite museum is the LA Country Art Museum (LACMA) 

The Golden State

This Winter we’ve been so lucky to experience a huge wildflower bloom right in our backyard! Chino Hills has tons of hiking/walking trails and the Chino Hills State Park. After a very wet and beautiful winter, the rolling hills turned a vibrant green and a few weeks later glowed completely golden! Every turn and hill was so breathtaking, especially since the hills are usually kinda dry and sometimes barren.

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria, British ColumbiaWe had the best week up in Victoria, British Columbia! We started early with an 8 am flight out of LAX to Seattle, then a quick less than 30 minute flight to the Victoria airport. Dave’s dad had a work conference and his parents were kind enough to invite us to tag along on the trip. The last trip with just out family and his parents was our epic South America trip to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (before we had kids). This was my first time in Canada, and the kids as well (also their first time out of the country although it didn’t feel very foreign ;)

We stayed at the Fairmount Empress Hotel which is absolutely gorgeous! The gardens were absolutely gorgeous and July was the perfect time to visit. We had great weather, in the 60s with a nice breeze since we were right on the harbor.

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel
Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Here are some highlights from our trip:

Butchart Gardens: Victoria is known as the ‘Garden City’ and these gardens were incredible to say the least! The 55 acre land is a former limestone quarry that the Butcharts converted into a series of extremely well manicured gardens, including a Japanese, Rose, and Mediterranean Garden. It also has a few fountains, a carousel, a fireworks stage, a tea room, restaurant and a gelato shop. Its one of those places you could stay all day.

Butchart Gardens Victoria British Columbia family travel

Victoria Food Walking Tour: the tour started at the Victoria Public Market and then the local guide took us to a few locations nearby. We tried amazing bread from a French bakery, macarons, ice cream, pierogis, meatballs and chocolate. Dave’s mom planned most of the itinerary and this was a really fun way to try local spots and all the food was delicious.

Parliament: the parliament building which was just a block from the Empress hotel gives tours and also has a restaurant on the ground floor. I honestly didn’t know much about Canada and it was interesting to hear more about their government.

British Columbia Victoria Parliament British Columbia Victoria Parliament British Columbia Victoria Parliament

Beacon Hill Park: 200 acres of an awesome, free, public park. The land was set aside by a former governor who didn’t want any for-profit activities on the park. It’s beautiful with walking trails, lakes, peacocks, mini golf, a small splash pad shaped like a watering can and a goat petting zoo! There were 42 goats when we went including about a dozen babies.

Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids

Carriage tour: we liked learning from the guide more about the history of Victoria and seeing Beacon Hill Park, the coast and the historic part of the city.

Victoria British Columbia

China Town walking tour: it was interesting hearing about the history of China Town and seeing the alleys that were created that are now filled with little shops and restaurants.

Victoria British Columbia Chinatown

Royal BC Museum: we saw the Mysteries of Egypt at the IMAX then checked out some of the exhibits: Egypt and the mummies, sea life and a giant woolly mammoth.

We were impressed with Victoria as a city. It was not only very beautiful but it was clean, lots of good places to eat, pastries, ice cream shops, unique bookstores, polite people, and we loved the flower baskets that they hang from all the city lampposts. Even though we were only there for a short time as tourists and it was summer, it was such a nice city we could picture ourselves living in – that’s one of my favorite parts about traveling, seeing where other people grew up, live, work and play. It’s my dream to see literally every country in the world. I think each place and city has something unique and beautiful to offer the world.

Victoria British Columbia Victoria British Columbia

FOUND! My new best Donut Friend (Los Angeles)

I love donuts but not all donuts. I’m particular with the taste, texture, flavor and toppings of donuts so a regular store bought or gas station donut doesn’t do it for me. I’m more into gourmet donuts if I’m going to consume that many calories. We’ve had a lot of delicious donuts in the various cities we’ve lived in or travelled to like Voodoo Donut and Blue Star Donut in Portland, Round Rock Donut outside of Austin, Gourdoughs’ in Austin and recently The Donut Man (LA). This last weekend we drove out to Highland Park (which is near Pasadena) based on a few recommendations to try Donut Friend. It is absolutely amazing and here’s why Donut Friend is my new top donut:

  • Taste – the dough was delicious and soft with a nice consistency.
  • Flavors – they have so many types of donuts, plus you can create your own with various fillings and toppings! Donut Friend was started by a music producer and a lot of the flavors are puns on band names. Check out their amazing menu!
  • Texture – the donuts were the perfect amount of dense and light. I also loved that the glaze wasn’t overly sweet or sticky. Like you could eat a donut and it wouldn’t leave glaze all over your fingers.
  • Unique – they have a lot of donut ‘sandwiches’ for example, a glaze donut cut in half with a cream or custard layer and then topped with glaze (vanilla, lemon, strawberry) or chocolate and then toppings.
  • Happiness – we had heard a lot about Donut Friend and read tons of positive reviews. The shop is small but everyone was so happy and the employees with fast and friendly. They also have an option to buy online and pick up later. This is especially key for me because nothings more disappointing than driving an hour to have your favorite donut sold out, ha, ha! So in the afternoon I bought online two apple fritters to pick up in the evening.

In addition to the apple fritter (which is called “Fritter Seems Forever”!) I also tried the Strawberry Lab which is a glaze donut cut in half, a layer of whipped cream and sliced strawberries, similar to a strawberry shortcake but with a delicious donut. Dave and the kids tried a few kinds including a peanut butter and jelly donut, butterfinger and some custard filled donuts. They also have a donut sundae called “Taking back Sundae” that I need to try!

strawberrylab donut friend LA

Donut Friend LA

donut friend apple fritter

Here is an interview with Mark Trombino, the former pop punk producer and founder of Donut Friend.

mark trombino donut friend

Homesick candles: Places we’ve lived and loved

I recently discovered this awesome soy candle brand that makes ‘homesick candles‘ whose unique scents transport you back to states you’ve loved.  After reading the scent descriptions, I feel they’re pretty accurate! Here are the signature scents of the sttates we’ve lived and loved (minus DC which they don’t have):

Southern California: cactus, orange and ocean

Utah : desert air, mountain spruce and ski lodge

Virginia: honeysuckle and forest floor

Texas: leather, cotton and sage

texaswithprops_grandevirginiaboxwithcandle_grande

 

Top 10 things about my hometown

Even though we’ve moved about a dozen times, it’s been hard to beat San Diego as a hometown. I’ve loved things about every city we’ve lived in but would always love to move back to San Diego. Top 10 things I love:

  1. Weather- SD weather is hard to beat, generally sunny and warm with a little humidity and an ocean breeze!
  2. Beaches – between the beach and the mountains, I’m definitely a beach person! Nothing better than an afternoon relaxing or sleeping on the beach listening to the ocean waves.
  3. Relaxed culture – I feel like SD people are very relaxed, casual, and friendly.
  4. Vegetation – I love the rolling hills, finger canyons and coast.
  5. Mexican food – close proximity to the border makes for delicious and pretty authentic Mexican food. I could eat rice and beans everyday!
  6. LDS temple – This is the first temple I saw and where we got married. I love it’s grandeur that is manifest when you come around the freeway bend.
  7. Padres – I have a lot of good memories going to baseball games with my family! I still love hearing AC/DC’s ‘Hell’s Bells’ because it was Trevor Hoffman’s entrance song.
  8. Family activities like the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Sea World, Balboa Park and the Aquarium.
  9. Location – it’s close to Mexico and LA/Disneyland. I love that Spanish culture has influenced the style of homes and street names. I also love that there’s a major airport downtown, complete with an amazing view when you fly into the city.
  10. Natural beauty – I feel that SD is naturally beautiful, clean and fresh. It will always be my hometown!

lajolla

photo via

Would you want to go back to your hometown?!

Austin, TX: City Spotlight

Austin Texas Travel

We made our first trip to Texas a few weeks ago and BIG  NEWS, we’re actually moving there this week!

We loved the city – the lush, rolling hills, food, atmosphere – and my husband accepted a job there soon after. Everything happened so fast as we are in the process of selling our current home in Utah where we’ve been living for the last 3 years.

When we move there, I’m sure I’ll have lots to update on this post! Here’s a few things we loved on our short trip:

Mt.Bonnell – a short walk up about 50 stairs to the highest point in Austin with a great view of the city skyline. Free admission, public trail.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – what could be better than dinner and a movie?! The service was great and they had a large variety of items to select. I had a chili burger with a side salad 🙂

Butler/Zilker Park – like the Central Park of Austin, there is so much to do right on the across Lady Bird Lake and downtown. I’m looking forward to trying kayaking or paddle boating when we move there!

To eat:

There were so many amazing places we had recommended that we didn’t have enough time to try them all! A few of my favorites:

Torchy’s Tacos – I grew up in San Diego so of course I love tacos! I was so impressed with Torchys – I especially recommend the brisket taco and queso (cheese dip for chips)

Terry Blacks – this is where I had the best brisket of my entire life, no exaggeration! The meat was so tender I didn’t even need a knife. They have self serve sides which is awesome so you can try a little of everything (which I did!)

Amy’s Ice Creams – highly rated ice cream that to me rivals Salt and Straw (Portland) – they have weekly specialty flavors or you can create your own combo. It’s similar to ColdStone but a hundred times better 🙂

Gourdoughs (donuts) – a few locations in Austin including the permanent food truck that we visited. Their donuts are pretty amazing and come with awesome toppings (fruit, icing, etc)

We’re excited to start a new adventure and see new places! If you have any Austin recommendations, please share!

City Spotlight: Edinburgh

City SpotlihtWe had the opportunity to live in Edinburgh, Scotland while my husband was interning with the Scottish Parliament! It was my first time in the UK and we absolutely loved Scotland – the country, castles, amazing landscapes, people and culture. We would move back in a heartbeat!

We arrived not having a place to live (!) but luckily we found the perfect flat just a few minutes walking from my husband’s internship. We found the flat through Gumtree, which is similar to Craigslist.

Edinburgh is an amazing blend of old, historical buildings and new and modern shops, restaurants and businesses. They have a pretty great public transportation system in the city, we got everywhere without a car.

See & Do

Edinburgh Castle – take a tour of the beautiful Edinburgh Castle, set atop a hill overlooking the city, it even includes a pet cemetary!

The Royal Mile – the main street that starts at the castle and ends at Holyrood Palace, lined with shops, restaurants, pubs, etc.

Holyrood Palace – The Royal Family residence when they are in Scotland. Tour info here.

Scottish Parliament – The building across from Holyrood has a very unique architecture (which you’ll learn the significance if you take a tour)! Tour info here

Princes Street/Old Town Edinburgh – centrally located shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, and gardens.

Climb the Scott Monument – named after Sir Walter Scott, one of the most admired men in Scotland.

Football – or soccer as we call it in the US 😉 There are two main clubs based in Edinburgh,  Hearts and Hibs (Hibernian)

National Museum – free admission

Elephant House – One of the tea and coffee shops where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter. They also serve pastries and have a great view of Edinburgh Castle!

Arthur’s Seat – an easy hike up the mountain, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the city!

Edinburgh is cold in the winter and usually gets a small amount of snow. The sun sets in the late afternoon. The summer days are long, similar to Alaska.

There are lots of other amazing things close by: 

Glasgow – the largest city in Scotland is a short train ride from Edinburgh’s Waverly Station

The Highlands and Islands – you would need a car to get there, but there are lots of tours that leave from Edinburgh, like Highland Exhibition Tours – be sure to check out Loch Ness!

St. Andrews – the “home of golf”, St. Andrews Cathedral, St. Andrews University

Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument – about an hour from Edinburgh, you can take a tour of the castle and also hike the monument.

Ville

I may or may not have a price alert set to Edinburgh! Hoping we can make it back one day!