Category Archives: California

Santa Barbara Dog Park


Meet Odie. A furry two year old malitpoo puppy who loves veggies, squeaky toys and a good game of chase. Odie has always been a bit coddled ever since he suffered a puppy virus that threatened his life when he was just a few months old. He’s been a blessing in our family, acting as the surrogate grandchild and taking the heat off my sister and I for the time being. While Odie loves people, we recently discovered that he has a bit of social anxiety when he’s around other dogs. So with that we have been trying to find places where he can be outdoors with plenty of space and the occasional dog around so he can get more used to them. This weekend we took a trip to Santa Barbara to head out to the Douglas Family Preserve, which is an off-leash park located up on the cliffs with stunning views of the ocean. It is the perfect place to stop if you are doing a road trip up north and need a quick pit stop to let your four-legged friend stretch. At the base of the cliffs is Hendry’s Beach, a dog friendly beach that’s also a great spot for surfers. While Odie is not a fan of the beach (to my utter discontent) he still humored us and let the humans enjoy the afternoon. If you’re in SoCal with your pooch, hope you have a chance to make it out here!

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Wine, Cupcakes & Olive Oil: The Quaint Town of Los Olivos

I don’t come home to SoCal all too often, and when I do usually its just for a long weekend. Most often, I am too busy running around trying to see everyone to actually relax and enjoy the laid-back vibe I oh so love. So when two of my best friends suggested taking a day trip to go wine tasting my eyes lit up at the thought of a) day-drinking, b) enjoying Santa Barbara and c) well uh, day-drinking some more, with lots of quality gossip time!

Los Olivos is located in Santa Barbara County up in the hills in the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s actually about 40 minutes outside of the Santa Barbara you typically know (State Street, the pier, the gorgeous drive along PCH) but its in a beautiful area surrounded by lots of ranches and vineyards. To help give some context, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is about 5 miles north. The town was created in the late 1800’s because, in anticipation of a new railroad, many people came and bought land plots in the area. A local rancher first planted about 5,000 olive trees, and thus Los Olivos got its name. The town is best known for its wine-tasting, and the main reason we ventured all the way out there was because of an adorable place that pairs its wine with different flavored cupcakes. How could a girl resist?

The place is called Saarlos & Sons, and it shares a space with Enjoy Cupcakes. The combination of the two together is lethal. $20 will get you a flight of 6 mini-cupcakes and a variety of 6 different reds and whites to pair it with. The name of each wine relates back to various members in the Saarlos family – I enjoyed hearing the quick little anecdotes for each one. However, you should know that they don’t have tasting notes – as they explain it on their website, “Wine, like love, should not be explained, but experienced.” Our fav wine was the pinot grigio, and for the cupcakes it may have been a toss-up between the raspberry morning bun, the snickers, and the chocolate blackberry syrah.

Our next stop was Richard Longoria Wines, mostly chosen because of its adorable garden area. There weren’t any cupcakes this time (we were pretty sugar-out by that point anyway) but we did another wine tasting and chatted in the garden until they kicked us out. My fav was a Spanish red wine they had called Tempranillo. The best part of it was that the woman working there was kind enough to come out to us with each new wine when we were ready – can’t get much better than that on a hot summer’s day!

The town of Los Olivos gets most of its charm from its small size – being just a few blocks, you can walk the length of it in a matter of minutes. However, there’s plenty of places to choose from with wine tasting, and there was even an adorable olive oil tasting spot in the back. The only real downfall of the day came with the killer end-of-the-weekend traffic we hit on the way back. We broke up the drive a bit by pulling off on State Street and having some grub, and then N’Sync and other 90’s pop songs saw us through the rest of the way home. If you are in the Santa Barbara area, I would highly recommend checking out the different vineyards and enjoying some wine tasting yourself. However, if you’re in Santa Barbara there’s a good chance you don’t want to leave the beautiful beach anyway. Yea, you really can’t lose there – just another reason SoCal is soo awesome.

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Cruising Down the 101

It’s August. My program starts in a matter of weeks, and like most Europeans who take August off to travel and relax, I too am enjoying my summer vacation. Ok, well I didn’t make it out to Croatia or anything like my friend Robert did, but I am lucky enough that I’m from SoCal, a true summer beach destination in itself.

I left NYC, my home away from home for the last 6 years, a little over 2 1/2 weeks ago. As much as I’ve complained about New York, I really do love it. It is probably the best example of a true love/hate relationship to me – it kicked my ass and put a smile on my face all in the same day. I complained about living there constantly (about the size of apartments, about dating, about the cost of just about everything) but I also felt the biggest amount of pride living there as well. And I knew that the only way I would be ok with leaving NYC was if the next place was just as awesome to me. So when the opportunity to not only get my MBA but to get it in Milan arose, it was a no-brainer that I had to go. And the idea of giving myself a month at home to change gears and prepare for my upcoming year sounded like a good idea at the time, until I got here.

The first week I was back in Cali, I was miserable. Coming from a bustling metropolitan city to the suburbs is a hard enough adjustment, but adding on the emo-ness of moving away from many of my close friends and big city comforts was Rough. Don’t get me wrong, I am lucky that I still have a strong social network of both family and close friends here in Cali. I just needed some time to mope, I was allowed that! So mope I did, while stuffing my face with my mom’s home cooking to ease the transition. After a solid week of binge eating and watching the Olympics, I realized what a fool I was for wasting my precious time here. It’s not like I live in some obscure midwest state, I live in one of the most coveted places in the US! So I grabbed my latest NY Mag, uploaded a few Pimsleur Italian lessons onto my iPhone, and headed to the beach. And the moment I hit the sand I instantly felt better. It is true what they say about the sun doing wonders on your attitude, isn’t it Hallie?

The other day I laughed when Chris said “I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as stress in California.” I instantly thought about the road rage I experienced when I was stuck in traffic in LA last week and knew that wasn’t true, but it did get me thinking. Why is it that Californians tend to be more relaxed and generally happier anyway? I have noticed a definite difference in New York from those who are from Cali and those who aren’t. Is it the all-year-round near perfect weather, the close proximity to the beach, the abundance of avocados? It’s gotta be something.

Whatever it may be, for the last few weeks I have felt more like my old self with balancing time with friends, prepping for my move and, of course, hitting the beach as much as possible. As much as I love to travel, I can’t forget how lucky I am to be from here. I have about 10 days left in Cali before I head to Milan and am instantly thrown into a whirlwind of taking care of all my to-dos before classes start, so I need to make the most of my stress-free living now. But really, how hard can it be to open a bank account, get a new phone service and find an apartment if I don’t speak Italian, anyway?

Santa Monica Muscle Beach


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The Happiest Place on Earth

If you are one of the few people who didn’t get sick of Christmas decorations/ music/costumes from Thanksgiving through the New Year, then I sure hope you paid a visit to Disneyland this week! Today my family celebrated my mother’s birthday with Mickey and the gang at the happiest place on earth. If you know my mom at all, you know just what a big kid she is and how much she loves Minnie Mouse and all things Disney. I haven’t been to Disneyland since college (one of the major perks of going to school in Orange County!) and I was thrilled to find new surprises throughout the park. The fact that they kept the Christmas decorations up for an extra week after the New Year was a total perk. I had no idea how all out they go for the holiday. My favorites were the Haunted Mansion that was completely changed with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme, and the Christmas lights on It’s A Small World. There were also Christmas parades, fake snow and ice lights on the castle. It is absolutely beautiful. For all you old school Disneylanders, you’ll be happy to know that Captain EO is still there! One of my favorites growing up. Also, Star Tours is better than ever because they added new clips so that each time you ride you will have a different experience.

I was also happy to take note that Disneyland really did live up to its expectation of being the “happiest place.” We went on a Friday during Winter Break, when the lines for rides were about an hour each and there were massive amounts of people. Yet everyone was in a great mood nonetheless. Is it because we’re in California and people are just generally happier here? Or is there something in the air at Disneyland? I don’t know what it was, but everyone I encountered was cheery and warm, and that made the Disney experience perfect. If you go, make sure to stay for Fantasmic at night. Also  head over to California Adventure (Disneyland’s sister park next door) for World of Color, an amazing 25 minute water and laser light show with projected clips from various Disney movies.

If you haven’t made it out to Disneyland yet, put it on your to-do list for this year! Light saber optional.

Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion

Christmas Parade

Cinderella's Castle

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San Diego

Whats the first thing that pops into your head when you hear San Diego? Is it Shamu? The zoo? Quick access to Tijuana? For me, its the beautiful beaches, but you already knew that I’m a bit of a beach bum. San Diego isn’t world famous for nothing – it has so many attractions and its temperatures are blissfully mild all year round. It’s also one of those cities that has great nightlife due to the many nearby colleges, but is also known for being a fantastic place to start a family. One of my closest friends is trying to get me to relocate there right now (perhaps I will, Monica, once baby #1 is on its way.) This week, some college friends and I took a mini road-trip to visit our old roommate and her ever expanding family. We went by the Gaslamp District (very cute and fun for a Saturday night out) and spent the afternoon wandering through Balboa Park. As my friend put it, Balboa Park is like a regular park on steroids. It has enough to entertain you, no matter what kind of mood you are in. There are dozens of museums, performing arts centers, gardens, and other attractions. I enjoyed the art installations and the different fountains they have all over the premises. Also, the buildings are beautiful and takes me back to the architecture I saw in Europe. We only got to explore a little bit of the park in the time we had there, and I recommend giving yourself a good part of the day to make it worth your while. Bring your kids, your significant other, your dog, or a group of great friends like I did. I am definitely going back next time I visit!


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Santa Monica

If I had to pick a place in LA to live, I think it would be Santa Monica. You aren’t too far from downtown but far enough to avoid the ultra-pretentious, the atmosphere is more laid back, and best of all you are right next door to the BEACH. Santa Monica is always a must-visit spot for me whenever I’m in SoCal. Third Street Promenade is a perfect, lazy afternoon place to catch up with old friends over shopping and coffee, or just enjoy the outdoor air and watch a few street performers. Last time I was there I even watched one of the World Cup games at a neighboring bar with a bunch of other fans.

The pier is also a great place to take a stroll as well, which is exactly what my sister and I did today. Today’s weather outside was anything but frightful: high 60’s with warm sunshine and zero humidity. I got a kick out of watching people emerge from their cars wearing nothing but bathing suits and carrying frisbees. Ah, summertime in December – gotta love California! We snagged some great $1/hr short term parking right next to the pier off Ocean Avenue (we offset the discount by enjoying some delicious but overpriced shakes) and spent the hour checking out the pier and enjoying the sun. Neetha flew in from freezing Japan so it was even more of a treat for her. The pier is great for families because it has a ferris wheel and even a small rollercoaster, and then plenty of games for the kids. Adults will like it too though because the panoramic view of the beach and shore is beautiful, and there are many restaurants to grab some drinks and food.

After the pier, we ended the day trip by zooming down Pacific Coast Highway, my favorite drive, and enjoying the coastal scenery. Its times like these that we are reminded just how amazing California is. This is why Californians are always so happy! Make sure to check out Santa Monica on your next visit to SoCal, and also check out Venice Beach if you have the time because their boardwalk is fantastic too. Don’t forget the rollerblades!

  

Reason #225 to love California: Its beach weather even in December.

 

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December 22, 2011 · 5:21 am

Zuma Beach

In my very biased opinion, Zuma is the best beach in all of Southern California.

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December 16, 2011 · 12:59 am

Zot Zot!

Revisiting my alma mater in Orange County. The anteater is our mascot, zot zot! University of California, Irvine

 

 

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December 13, 2011 · 1:15 am

SantaCon 2011

 SantaCon is a tradition in big cities like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, where hundreds of people dress up in santa costumes and bar hop all day.

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December 12, 2011 · 2:48 am

San Francisco

After an emotional and exhausting week, I headed to San Francisco to relax with some close friends from college. Shirin lives downtown, just up the street from Union Square. If you have ever been to SF, you know that I’m not lying when I say Up – her studio was atop one of the many steep streets that gives San Fran its character. Good on the thighs, at least.

San Francisco is very much a laid-back, mini New York. It has so much packed into such a small space, but with much less foot traffic than you would find in the Big Apple. We were surprised to find that we had the streets to ourselves on Sunday when we took a stroll through the town. On Friday night we went bar hopping on Polk Street, a great place if you are looking for a mix of bars and lounges. I recommend The Bigfoot Lodge if you are looking for a low-key, unpretentious vibe with a good crowd. We ended the night chatting it up with some other SF folk on the street, I do love the friendliness of Californians. Another great part of San Fran that we checked out was the Ferry Building which is at the bottom of Market Street. The Ferry Building has a fantastic marketplace with many delicious gourmet food and craft stores. You can also get a great view of the Bay Bridge from outside, and check out a cool art installation and ice skating rink across the street. Must do!

It was a laid-back weekend for me since I hadn’t had a chance to relax after coming back from India, but you can find lots more to do if you are visiting SF for the first time. I love California, and I can guarantee that you won’t regret stopping by here.

 

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

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