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.

Magical Muggles

Earlier this year, we started reading the illustrated Harry Potter books with the kids. We weren’t sure how it would go since the books are pretty long and there aren’t pictures on every single page (the illustrations are gorgeous though!) We read about 15 minutes every night before they go to bed and it quickly became one of our favorite activities. I remember when I first read the Harry Potter books and becoming absorbed in JK Rowling’s story telling. I loved the adventures, characters and mostly the magical elements. When the final book of the series came out (after Dave and I were married) we ordered it same day from Amazon. I stayed up literally all night to finish the book that day because I couldn’t put it down!

Reading it with Brent and Tessa has been a magical experience for us now. I love seeing them discover the characters and story much in the same way I did. Brent’s school does “Literature Day” in place of Halloween where students dress as a character from a book and bring the book with them to the school parade. This year, it was pretty easy to decide which character he would be, and I must say he was the cutest Harry Potter 😉

It’s also been fun watching the movies with them after finishing the book. We are currently on the 3rd book and it’s been a treat for them to be able to see the movie and eat popcorn.

We also went to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Dave and I had gone before and loved it and now that the kids know more about the places, it was so fun to see them experience it for the first time! I especially loved that Brent asked if he could wear his costume to the park!  

They loved the butterbeer drink at the Three Broomsticks restaurant, riding the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster and Brent loved seeing the castle (part of the line to the ride inside). One of the best parts about being a parent is seeing your kids’ excitement and pure joy when they see or discover things for the first time!

Travel Essentials

When people ask where I would like to travel in the world, my answer is literally every country. It would be my dream to see every country even just for a day and experience the local, traditional cuisine. Here are some of my favorite travel items I would take for a trip around the world:

travel essentials

  1. Trtl Travel Pillow ($29) – this travel pillow is different from traditional pillows in that you wrap it around your neck (like a turtleneck). It has velcro to hold it closed and a piece of flexible plastic that prevents your head from flopping. I like that the material is soft fleece and keeps you warm since usually it’s cold on planes. It folds almost all the way flat which makes it easy to pack. I felt like it was really effective in preventing my neck from flopping, I slept comfortably on my trip to England. Here’s how it works: trtl travel pillow instructions

2) Lightweight Water Resistant Travel Backpack/Foldable & Packable ($19) – this particular backpack folds up into a small pouch which is kinda awesome!

3) Hydro Flask ($22)

4) Lightweight waterproof jacket ($89)

5) Hunter Rain Boots ($150) – I’ve had these for almost 10 years and while I don’t wear them everyday, they’ve been so reliable and comfortable for walking.

6) Earplugs – so great for planes, hostels, shared hotel rooms, etc.

7) Sleep Aid (generic brand) – I use these to prevent jet lag. I’ll time my time on the plane and take the sleep aid about an hour before I want to sleep. This helps me sleep well on a long flight and wake up feeling refreshed even with an 8 hour time difference upon arrival.

8) Chaco sandals (around $60) – these are so comfortable and great for hiking, in water, etc.

9)Waterproof phone pouch ($6) – I first got this pouch for a river tubing trip. I ended up falling off my tube and being totally submerged in the water and my phone was protected. There are lots of similar cell phone pouches out there and I also love them for the beach.

10) Solar phone charger ($40) – I don’t have one of these yet, but really want one not only for travel but for emergencies. I included this particular one just based off online reviews.

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

Wanderlust: starting a travel fund

Even though it’s only been a short time since my amazing trip to England, I’m always thinking about where I’d love to travel to next. Traveling (and moving) have been a big part of our 11 years of marriage and we’re really hoping to go back to Scotland together. It really was a magical time in our lives, and it’s a place we could see ourselves living (no, this is not another moving announcement, ha, ha!) I enjoyed this article with three ways to be inspired to starting a travel fund. The last point about inexpensive trips is something I’ve also been thinking about. Two places I’d love to visit that are close to us are Santa Barbara and Joshua Tree. I mean, look at this!!!

3 Ways to Inspire Yourself To Start a Travel Fund

By Christine H.

I think we all want to save. We have a desire to have a savings account, not just for emergencies, but so we can have a little bit of an extra money for fun saved away. For a lot of people, this is a travel fund. Because travel isn’t a necessary expense, a lot of people have a hard time putting the necessary money away to start a travel fund. It’s hard to save that money away when you could be using it right now. Here are a few tips to inspire yourself to start a travel fund.

Save your cash

A lot of people who struggle to put their money away into a special travel savings account, find some form of a coin jar to be an effective way to save money. You’d be surprised how much of your loose change can add up to be a substantial amount of money. Anytime you spend cash, come home and put all of your loose change in a jar, and continue contributing to it on a weekly basis. Before long, you’ll have a few hundred dollars stocked up. Simply take this money to either a bank or a coin counting machine(most grocery stores have one), and you can exchange your coins for cash. You can then use this cash immediately on travel, or deposit it into your bank to be used for travel expenses.

Another great cash saving method, is to save all of your 5 dollar bills. Have a jar (some people like the idea of using a shadow box!), or an envelope, or any other form of storage that works for you, and place every 5 dollar bill that comes your way into it. You probably have a lot more 5 dollar bills pass through your hands than you thought, and you’ll save up quite a bit of money this way. It won’t feel like a lot, because that’s basically the cost of a latte, but you’ll start saving and have a good amount of travel money saved up in no time.

Motivate yourself

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to save for anything, is to put reminders of your goals in places that you’ll be forced to see them every single day. Hang a large map on one of your walls, and place pins in all of the places you’ve been to. Not only is this a cute way to decorate your home, but seeing all the places you’ve traveled to, or rather all of the places you haven’t traveled to, will motivate you to put more money into your travel fund.

Take inexpensive trips

It’s easy to aim high and end up falling short, and in the end accomplishing nothing. If you have a hard time making yourself save up for a trip, start with a small and inexpensive trip as your goal. Don’t plan a 2 week trip all over Europe that you know will cost you thousands of dollars. Instead, plan a road trip with friends to a neighboring state, even if it’s somewhere you’ve been before(if you haven’t, even better!). This will keep the entire cost of the trip down to a minimum, and you can all share the cost of gas and lodging. Maybe this will satisfy your wanderlust, and you can continue to simply take short, nationwide road trips with some of your best pals. But it’s possible that this simple travel method will further motivate you to save for more exotic travel destinations. Just make sure that, no matter what kind of vacation you are saving for, that you make realistic saving goals for yourself. You won’t be able to save all of the money for a trip to Cabo in a week, so instead, plan for a trip months away. When it comes time to buy the tickets, if you can’t afford them, either postpone the trip a few more months, or purchase tickets for a less expensive destination instead.

Setting realistic goals and realistic expectations is one of the keys to being able to afford  to travel on a regular basis.

3 ways to start a travel fund

England

Last month I had the awesome opportunity to travel to England to visit Isaac in Bristol, where he has been living and working since Thanksgiving. I’ve also been itching to attend a Chelsea FC game in person and figured this was a great opportunity to do so! Pin and I found a great flight deal via Secret Flying and we’ve spent the last few months researching AirBnBs, hostels, trains, etc. When Dave and I lived in Edinburgh, we went down to London for a long weekend and were able to do some of the main tourist attractions. I loved going back to a place I enjoyed the first time and this second time around was really nice to have a more open schedule and flexibility to see the less popular items. My trip was exactly 7 days and needless to say was a lot of fun!

england

Our flight landed in Gatwick which is south of London. We took a train up to our hostel which was in the Kensington area. As I mentioned, we were trying to keep within our budget so we opted to stay in a 12 person room hostel — my first time staying in a non-private hostel room. I’m glad I packed a box on ear plugs because it’s definitely different sleeping in a room with 12 people (6 bunk beds all crammed in)! Isaac works every other week in a hospital in London so we met up with him to walk around, eat in the city and check out the Museum of Britain. We were also able to visit the National Portrait Gallery, Kings Cross and Platform 9 and 3/4, Baker Street (from Sherlock), Little Venice and Abbey Road.

We took the train out to Bristol, which is a port city about 2 hours west of London. It was a bigger city than I expected and fun to see his flat and where he works. We also saw a Banksy original street art, Bristol is one of his early locations. The next day we headed out to Bath to see the Roman Baths and abbey. Bath is about 10-15 minutes from Bristol. I had seen pictures of the Roman Baths but didn’t realize it was actually a huge complex that was unearthed. We returned to London that afternoon and stayed in an Airbnb and met up with Pin’s roommate, Brittany, who flew in from Utah.

bath england

The next day, I went by myself to take a stadium tour of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s stadium and see their museum. It was so incredible and an amazing experience to see the dressing rooms, press box and press conference room and the stadium from field level. I loved seeing all the jerseys ready for the upcoming match and they had jerseys from other famous players in the Away dressing room — including my idol, Messi, Beckham, and Cruyff! The whole time I was trying not to freak out but I was so excited to see a place in person that I’ve seen just on TV for years.

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

The following day, the 4 of us went to the Chelsea match vs West Brom. It was pretty cold but I didn’t want it to end! The atmosphere was unlike anything we’ve experienced at any sporting game in the US. I loved how intimate the stadium felt and how involved the fans were. People didn’t come late, leave to get food or talk about things unrelated to the game. This was one of my favorite experiences of my life! The only way it could’ve been better was if Dave was able to be there with me because he gets my obsession with soccer. One of my favorite players, Eden Hazard, scored twice and Chelsea won!

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

I returned from my trip refreshed and energized. I love how travel in general opens your eyes to the world and helps remind you how good the world is!

Some of my travel essentials for this trip:

Trtl travel pillow – this ‘pillow’ wraps around your neck and holds it so it doesn’t flop. It’s made of fleece and secures with velcro. It’s not your traditional travel pillow, folds up small and almost completely flat. I felt like it worked pretty well and I got a few good hours of decent sleep on the plane.

trtl travel pillow

G4Free foldable travel backpack – we didn’t check any luggage and I really liked this backpack. It was more efficient that a suitcase especially since we needed the mobility of using them on buses, trains, and foot. It was especially nice because a lot of the roads were cobblestone which would have been more difficult with a suitcase. This backpack folds up into a small pouch too! It had a good amount of pockets and straps and held everything I needed. travelbackpack england Ear plugs and sleep aid – Not only did I use these items at night but I used them especially to sleep on the plane and avoided jet lag. I calculated how long I should stay awake on each flight, took the sleep aid and planned to fall asleep within the hour. On each flight I was able to sleep more than most people and didn’t feel overly tired or jetlagged upon arrival. The sleep aid I brought was just a generic, over the counter one from the drug store.

Loving where you live

11 moves in 11 years of marriage. Now that Brent has started school we hope to stay here for a long time. We’ve loved getting to move around and see all parts of the country. One of the best parts of moving so much is being able to be a tourist in your own city, we’ve always been really excited to check out the best views, attractions, hidden gems and food in all the cities we’ve lived in. There really has been amazing things about each place we’ve called ‘home’ even if only for a short while – from the historical sites in DC, the BBQ in TX, the canyons in UT and the castles in Scotland. I feel like we feel settled here in Chino Hills and one of my favorite things about this suburban gem is all the parks and hiking trails. While we haven’t taken advantage of the hiking trails and state park (that supposedly have redwoods!) that are just minutes from us, we have because of the kids checked out a ton of parks. Chino Hills has a lot of open space preserved which is one of the most beautiful things about it. We are close to LA but far enough away to feel definitely suburban. One of my favorite places to walk around with the kids is the Chino Wetlands. It’s actually near a prison and an industrial area but inside the park is very peaceful!

chino ca wetlands park

chino ca wetlands park

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chino ca wetlands park