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!

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Donut Friend LA

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

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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

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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!

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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

City Spotlight: Washington, DC

Vantage Points

I had never been to the East Coast before we moved to DC and it’s one of my favorite cities. Its very beautiful, especially in the Spring (Cherry Blossom festival!) and the fall with towering trees and changing leaves. We left Utah in January to drive across the country to our apartment in NW DC and arrived shortly before Obama’s first inauguration which we were lucky enough to attend – an amazing experience which would need a whole separate post 🙂

See & Do

Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall: My favorites were the American History Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Also located just off the mall is the Holocaust Museum (reserve tickets online beforehand). You could literally spend weeks at the museums and most of them are free.

Monuments: from the Washington Monument, Iwo Jima, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veteran Memorial, WW2, Lincoln Memorial you will be amazed by the history and reverence of these monuments. Tip: they are also cool to see at night- a lot cooler temperatures and less people! 

White House: tours need to arranged prior to visit

US Capitol, Library of Congress, National Archives – where you can see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution!

Arlington National Cemetery: Very accessible by Metro (the stop is literally across the street), make sure you watch the changing of the guard (The guard is changed every hour on the hour October 1 to March 31. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.)

Mt. Vernon: George Washington’s home on the Potomac River, tours are approximately $20 and is located 15 miles out of DC. Book tickets online for $17.

Georgetown: lots of great shopping, restaurants, movie theater. Metro accessible. Also original location of Georgetown Cupcakes, my favorite cupcake place!

Nationals Ballpark: catch a ballgame with one of MLBs most exciting teams, metro accessible. Food selections include Ben’s Chili Bowl and Shake Shack.

Eat: 

(all of these are on/near Capitol Hill except Ben’s Chili Bowl)

Ben’s Chili Bowl – a DC landmark known for their chili dogs, metro accessible.

Old Ebbitt Grill – historic bar and grill with traditional American cuisine.

Good Stuff Eatery – delicious burgers and shakes, located next door to We The Pizza

Georgetown Cupcake – second location in Bethesda, they have classic flavors and daily and seasonal flavors. The Vanilla Squared and Chocolate Ganache are two of my everyday favorites.

Getting Around:
DC has a great Metro system and most things you’ll want to see as a tourist will be metro accessible. Check out their website for travel info, stop locations and predicted travel times: http://wmata.com/ . A friendly tip for visitors: while on the escalator, stand on the right, walk on the left 🙂

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Portland: City Spotlight

Since one of my favorite things to do is travel, this series will spotlight cities I love and also destination cities – a brief summary of things to see, do and eat!

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I’d been fascinated with Portland for a while before we actually went last fall. My husband and I also love the TV series Portlandia 🙂

See and Do

We both loved Cannon Beach, where the famous Haystack Rock is found. We lucked out and were there during a low tide so we could see the tidepools and walk basically all the way out to the rock!

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Multnomah Falls is even more beautiful than the pictures! It’s a short drive from downtown Portland and is not a long hike. We only went up midway but it was a pretty easy, paved trail.

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Tillamook Cheese factory, about an hour west of downtown Portland, is great for adults and kids alike. They offer tours, delicious cheese samples and my favorite part, the ice cream!

Crater Lake – about 4 hours south of downtown, but worth the drive! We went in a non peak season and basically had the place to ourselves! There’s a short hike down to the lake and they have boat tours (we didn’t do one though). You can drive the loop around the lake with lots of viewpoints – it’s very beautiful if you have the time to drive out there!

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While this isn’t a full travelogue, I of course wanted to include a few of the amazing places we ate at because 1) I love food! and 2) a cool thing about visiting new cities is trying new restaurants!

Eat

Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donut – apple fritters are my favorite donuts and I was beyond excited to try these places! Voodoo had more novelty donuts and crazy flavors while blue star had more classic and gourmet flavors. I loved both places!

Salt & Straw – between here and the Tillamook ice cream, I feel like we ate best ice cream in the country! I tried the ‘Oregon Rocky Road’ and it was probably my favorite ice cream ever, no exaggeration!

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photo from Yelp

Piazza Italia – both the food and the decor were awesome!

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