What to pack: favorite beach products

Since Brent isn’t in kindergarten yet and most kids are still in school, Wednesdays have become our beach days. We’re lucky to be able to take advantage of this time before the beaches get more crowded. Newport Beach is the easiest beach to get to from our house and the kids and I have been loving playing in the sand, wading and running in the waves and finding seashells.

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

We usually try to get there a little before 11 to beat most of the crowd and find close parking. We pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snacks and water bottles in this insulated lunch tote and bring our towels and sand toys in mesh beach bags which are perfect for collecting all the sandy toys and quickly dunking the entire bag in the water to rinse off. Mesh bags are also nice since they don’t hold sand and are easy to clean.

One of my most favorite items is our over-sized beach blanket that comes with stakes and fold up into a pocket sized pouch. This blanket is awesome because it’s easy to clean, folds up super small, lightweight, is huge so we can all sit on it and is also soft so you still feel like you’re laying on the sand. It comes with 6 plastic stakes to hold it down from the wind. It’s quite perfect!  best beach blanket compact with stakes lightweight zomakebest beach blanket compact with stakes lightweight zomake

I also always carry a cell phone waterproof pouch. This is the same pouch I took on our river tubing trip in Texas and found out it’s really waterproof!

We usually only stay about 2-3 hours and feel very lucky to live within an hour of the beach.

My swimsuits and coverups are from DownEast Outfitters and Target, my flip flops are super old rainbows (my long time favorite brand), the kids’ suits and flip flops from Ross and Old Navy. Sand toys from Target or the dollar store. And of course, we always wear and pack sunscreen (lotion and spray)!

what to pack to the beachwhat to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach for families and kids

Southern Utah Road Trip Destinations

One of my favorite things about Utah is the gorgeous national parks in the south. When we lived in Utah while we were still undergrads, we were able to road trip down with Angelica and the LeSueurs to Moab and Arches. The red rock is absolutely amazing. Thanks Aurora for this awesome and informational guest post.

[‘vintage’ photo from 2006]

Ultimate Utah Road Trip Planner

Late spring and early summer is the absolute perfect time to take a road trip in Utah, before the weather is too hot, and while all of the good attractions and parks aren’t overly crowded yet. Utah is a really unique state, and we have some of the most beautiful national parks that the country has to offer. Being a resident of the state of Utah means that we often take the beauty in our own backyards for granted, especially if you’ve lived in the state your entire life. There are some truly beautiful places in Utah, and if you haven’t been there yet, you really need to make time for a visit this year. Make a road trip out of it, and visit all of the national parks you haven’t yet. Whether you decide to hit every single park and attraction on this list, or just pick a few for a shorter road trip, this list is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Arches National Park

This is a perfect first attraction, especially if you start in Salt Lake City, as it’s only about 4 hours outside of the city. If you get started in the morning, you’ll be able to spend the majority of your day at the park. This national park is over 40 miles of delicate arches and scenic views. One of the best ways to see this park is to take the 40-mile scenic road through the entire park, and stopping at the many trail heads and overlooks along the way. You can pick and choose which parts of the park are most important for you to stop at, and you can just slowly drive through the rest of it.

Canyonlands National Park

This park is only about 40 miles from the Arches National Park, making it a perfect second stop on your trip. This park is great for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding. At Canyonlands, you’ll have incredible views all the way to the Colorado River. The Mesa Arch is a great short hike to take while you’re here, taking only about 30 minutes, but boasting some incredible views.

Colorado River

Despite the name, it’s still a part of Utah, in Moab. This is a great stop if you want to try some white water rafting. You could start the day with river rafting or maybe taking a visit to the Sand Flats Recreation Area, and then spend the rest of the day exploring the city of Moab and enjoying the local cuisine and scenery.

Capitol Reef

This stop will take your breath away with the petroglyph art and the colorful sandstone formations. It gets its name from the colorful rainbow-hued sandstone formed in reef-like designs. This is a really great stop for a family, as there are plenty of places for short walks, picnics, and even ranger guided walks and astrology sessions.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The pink cliffs and delicate red rocks in Bryce Canyon will take your breath away, making you want to spend more than a mere day here. Try to make the drive into the canyon during the sunrise, so you get the full effect of the colors and unique formations. Aside from just exploring the gorgeous backcountry, there are dozens of fun activities to enjoy here, including mule rides.

Zion National Park

A road trip through Utah wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Zion National Park. With some of the best hiking available in Utah, you could spend a few days here and still not feel satisfied. Some of the most memorable hikes include Emerald Pools, The Narrows, and of course, Angel’s Landing. There’s a great variation in level of difficulty within the hikes at Zion, and so there will be something for every member of your party.

Before you go:

Road trips are a great vacation option, especially if you have a large group that can all carpool together. But before you head out, do some preparation to make it all go smoothly.

  • Get your car tuned up. This article has a really handy checklist, especially as you transition from winter to summer weather.
  • Pack a lot of sandwiches and snacks so you don’t spend a fortune on pit stop food.
  • Make sure your hiking boots (and anything else that you wear) are broken in and comfortable!

Having a group road trip can cut down on gas costs, and also help split the costs of lodging and food. Utah is full of beautiful national parks, and you could easily spend weeks visiting each of the parks, and still have some of the beauty of Utah unseen, which you can save for your next road trip.

Take me out to the ballgame

Some of my favorite childhood memories came at the ballpark. Growing up a Padres fan wasn’t anything glorious since they’re not a super wealthy or winning team ha, ha but it was always very fun to go as a family, eat a hot dog, learn about the game, and watch talented players come (and go).

Since then, Dave and I have loved going to baseball games together. We made a goal to see a game at every MLB ballpark. So far we’ve been to 19 out of 30 ballparks! Luckily we were able to see a lot when we drove to the east coast in 2009 and again in 2010. When we lived in DC in 2009, we adopted the Washington Nationals as our team together. They were a fairly new team to the area (having moved and re-branded from Montreal in 2005). This was before they had many big name players so tickets were pretty cheap and we were able to see a lot of games.

We haven’t been to a new ballpark basically since that time but we have plans to go to Seattle and see a Mariners’ game this summer for our 11th anniversary!

Dave found the website where I got this shirt (below) and I love it because it’s soft cotton, has Bryce Harper on it, and isn’t super girly. I kind of hate sports team apparel that is pink or glittery just because it’s marketed towards women. Many times I’d much rather have the same design as a men’s store just in a women’s size and fit!

take me out to the ballgame outfit

take me out to the ballgame outfit

shirt from Level500 / Old Navy flannel / Converse a million years old 😉

 

Fiesta Friday: links I love and things to celebrate

things to celebrate happy weekend links

We’re nearing the end of California’s Super Bloom – a beautiful result of the heavy rainfall this winter. It has been beyond gorgeous!

Have you ever heard of Colmar, France?! Looks straight out of a fairy tale.

And as if I didn’t already want to travel everywhere all the time, here’s a great list of the Top 10 Cheapest Travel Destinations – where would you go? All of them sound awesome, especially Spain, Serbia and and Greece.

The Perfect Weekend

One of my earlier memories is when I was probably 3 or 4, around Tessa’s age, and we were at the beach with my family. I was collecting seashells all afternoon and had a full bag. Right before we were about to go home, we noticed one shell was actually a little hermit crab. It was gross to me and I remember being so sad (and probably cried) that I had to dump out the entire bag. This memory may not be 100% accurate because why we didn’t just take the crab out of the bag we’ll never know, ha, ha! Anyway, even though we don’t live super close to the beach we are excited to be living a lot closer than before!

newport beach

CA newport beach

This weekend Brent didn’t have any Saturday sports (the pee wee sports he’s been doing through the city rec center) so we decided to check out Newport Beach (which only took us about 40 minutes). It was a little chilly at first which was actually perfect because the beach seemed less crowded and we found a front row parking spot. I underestimated how much the kids would want to play in the cold water so we didn’t dress them in their swimsuits but we still had fun wading in the water, watching surfers, and building sand castles. Neither of the kids had any interest in collecting shells but were very into the waves. The weather turned out to be perfect and it was fun to see the kids’ excitement since the last time we were at a beach was when Tessa was 6 months old.

newport beach

newport beach

CA newport beach

After the beach, we went to Hop Doddy, which is a gourmet burger place that we had tried in Austin. If I had to compare it, it would be similar to Shake Shack in price and restaurant vibe but like 10x better than Shake Shack. I like Hop Doddy’s quality of meat, variety of burgers, the basic fries are very flavorful and they also have shakes which I’ve heard are delicious. Luckily for us, there are a few locations outside of Texas including  Southern California (the one we went to was in Tustin).

hop doddy classic burger

Because of all the rain this winter, the wildflowers are in full bloom and everything is more vibrant and lush than normal. It is gorgeous in Chino Hills with all the rolling hills and the highways lined with yellow and purple wildflowers. We wish every Saturday could be like this!

CA wildflower bloom

 

Fiesta Friday: links I love and things to celebrate

things to celebrate happy weekend links

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re headed to an NHL game tonight (Anaheim Ducks vs. Buffalo Sabres)! We didn’t realize it was St. Patrick’s Day but it’ll be a fun way to celebrate. This will be our 2nd hockey game – the first was in DC to see the Capitals and it was so fun!

We’d love to go back to Ireland one day! We were in Dublin for a few days when we moved back from Edinburgh and I’d love to see the Cliffs of Moher:

cliffsofmoher

Love this dainty horseshoe good luck charm necklace:

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

Moving Lessons and Tips

With this most recent move to LA area, we have moved 11 times in our 10 years of marriage.  You’d think that by now that we’re experts and that our moves are effortless, easy and enjoyable – ha, ha! We do love traveling and exploring new cities and places but if we move again it’ll be too soon 😉 Moving is exciting, stressful and full of possibilities. We have lived in some amazing cities including Washington DC, Edinburgh and Austin.

Here are a few things we have learned through all our moves:

-Buying a brand new home is (obviously) the easiest (and most fun!) This is in regards to loans, financial transactions and the closing process. We bought our home in Austin from the previous owner and the process was more stressful because the closing process took longer since 2 parties were involved. We were in an AirBnB for a few weeks while we were in transition. So if you buy, anticipate it taking about a month for the negotiations, loans, paperwork, inspection, etc to process until the time you actually get the key.

Discard of things you don’t use! Don’t pack up something you haven’t used in years to your next home because you ‘might use it sometime’! If an object or article of clothing has served it’s purpose, doesn’t fit, is never use, etc someone else may benefit – we made numerous trips to Goodwill in preparing for each of our moves and we haven’t missed any of those items we donated. Moving is also a great time to make a few extra dollars selling items you don’t use. We had a few duplicate kitchen items we received as wedding presents that we stored, moved and for some reason kept for NINE years! Selling and discarding such items is refreshing and one less thing to pack. We’ve had pretty good success using Facebook Marketplace.

Get moving boxes from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Moving boxes from a place like Uhaul, a storage place or Home Depot can add up in cost and usually you can find people with spare boxes in good condition. We only had 2 weeks from when we moved from Utah to Texas and no one had free boxes so we had to buy them but luckily that was the only time.

And my #1 moving tip:

Declutter ASAP! You have more stuff than you think (especially once you have kids) and the sooner you start, the less you’ll have to pack. Your garbage can will fill up so fast and the last thing you want to be doing is hauling trash to a local or city dumpster. The day you know you’re moving, start de-cluttering! Pack conscientiously and try not to haul around stuff you won’t use in your new home.

uhaul moving

 

Chino Hills house pictures

So far we’ve really loved Chino Hills! We’ve been here for one month already. The main things we look for when we move cities is 1) quality of school district 2) affordability 3)accessibility (distance to important things like a gym, church, library, freeway, etc) 4) crime levels. Since we’d never heard of or been to Chino Hills before submitting our lease application we did a ton of online research. One of the sites we found very valuable is Area Vibes (thanks, Nashes!)

Chino Hills is hilly (obviously ha), has top rated schools, lots of vegetation, close to shopping, restaurants, gym, church, parks, etc. It isn’t super close to downtown (depending on traffic it can take a long time) but luckily we don’t have to drive into the city and Dave can work from the units he manages or from their downtown office. The house has a lot of natural light and lots of built in cabinets in the kitchen, like so much there are empty cupboards!

The only things we haven’t liked so far are behind the backyard is a road that isn’t super busy but still has traffic. Our other homes have been on cul de sacs and super quiet. Our current home is on a cul de sac but it’s a long cul de sac and we’re not on the end part. The other thing I dislike is the color of the main part of the house – it’s yellow!!! You can’t really tell from these pictures but I feel like the color makes the room feel dated and grungy. The master bed and bathroom are cornflower blue which I’m not a huge fan of but the hallway, stairwell and other bedrooms are white (which is my first choice). Overall though we are happy especially since we signed the lease without seeing it.

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Our favorite LA things so far

We’re bit by bit getting settled in and unpacking on rental home in CA. While we miss Austin, we are enjoying the great weather and looking forward to exploring another new city. Some of our favorite family things we’ve done so far:

Hike the Hollywood sign – There are lots of trail heads and we picked one based on Google searches that said this trail was good for strollers. The 2 small dirt lots that are usually available were closed because it was a holiday but, the trail was dirt or asphalt and great for our double jogging stroller. It’s a great hike with views you can’t beat! It’s on the opposite side of the city but if it were closer we’d probably go more.

hike hollywood sign

Georgetown Cupcake – We loved Georgetown Cupcake when we lived in DC and Virginia and happy to be reunited here in LA with our favorite cupcake place. They have classics, everyday flavors  (like vanilla squared), daily flavors and seasonal flavors – I finally got to try their peppermint cupcakes!

Georgetown cupcake

Georgetown cupcake

Tacos – there are so many great taco places, our 2 favorites so far are Guisados (downtown and Santa Monica) and a local place Taqueria Mora. We like simple street tacos, basic sides like rice and beans and carne asada fries 🙂 We’re looking forward to trying more tacos!

tacos

Salt and Straw – we first tried this in Portland and it’s my favorite ice cream so we were excited that they have a location in LA. Last summer I tried their Rocky Road and it was seriously the best rocky road I’ve ever had. Last week I tried Lemon Meringue Pie and it was also amazing.

salt and straw LA

Any suggestions of LA things or in the Chino Hills area?