Friday, August 16, 2013

happy weekend!

After a long couple of weeks, R, Moz and I are headed out for an overnight trip in the wilderness for the first time all summer.  With only a few more weeks left (though in SF it hasn't really started yet), we are escaping the urban atmosphere for lakes, mountain air and warm meadows.  It will also be an excellent opportunity for the 3 of us to get some much needed strenuous hiking in.  With busy schedules and gloomy weather, we have not been getting outside nearly as we would like.
Happy {nature-filled} weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

dreaming of...stealing away to a reading nook

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C.S. Lewis
The last few weeks have been really crazy and stressful.  I find myself during the day dreaming of going home and spending hours reading a favorite book.  Long days at the office and distractions at home often keep me from doing it.  At times, it feels like vegging out with a good movie or binge watching a TV show would be the perfect way to unwind.  However, I have noticed that the evenings I spend quietly, lounging in my favorite chair enjoying a hot cup of tea (or, admittedly often times a beer) leave me more refreshed and rejuvenated for the following days' challenges.  The busy schedule does not seem to be letting up for a while yet, so I will continue to dream of small, quiet spaces to enjoy my latest must-read.

via-Raining Sheep

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

i spy: fashion + sweatpants

left, right
The latest trend...dressing up your sweats.  Whether it is a plain sweatshirt with an amazing graphic tucked into a lace skirt, a jeweled neckline with a chambray shirt and jeans or a slim fitting sweatpant with heels, the latest fashion trend is all about comfort. 

I will admit that I was kind of hesitant to jump on this particular bandwagon.  The idea of fleece fabrication for the longest time has been oversized hooded sweatshirts with your college logo.  However, I bought my first crew neck sweatshirt earlier this year from Old Navy and I LOVE it.  Less formal and tougher than a sweater, it is the perfect lightweight piece.  I have worn it on the weekends with boyfriend jeans and TOMS, or to work with a statement necklace and skirt.  I decided today I would fully embrace the trend, and with fall just around the corner, share a few that embody the new version of sweats.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

California Adventure: swimming holes

A couple weeks ago, R and I took a short road trip to the central Sierras in search of a swimming hole.  I know that may sound ridiculous, to drive over 3 hours to go swimming in a river.  But summers in SF can get pretty winter-like at times, which leads us in search of sunshine, hot weather and cool, refreshing pools.

Years ago, R and I had visited Mushroom Hole, a local swimming hole off the Middle Yuba River and a short hike from the main road.  We had intentions of revisiting this same place, until after over an hour searching for the trail head (hidden amongst the brush), we were deterred when we ran into a long, barbed wire fence that blocked off the trail to the river.

Back at the car, we went back to our guide book, Day Trips with a Splash, and found another local favorite, Oregon Creek, back up the road about 7 miles.  After another short detour down the wrong trail, we were feeling a little bit desperate that our entire trip would be in vain.  Nearing the early evening, we found our destination.  Oregon Creek is a group of small pools and waterfalls down a dusty path and filled with shade-covering trees.  The water was cool and flowing over polished, moss-covered rocks, creating natural slides.  If you're searching for a place for solitude, this is not the destination.  Scattered across the smooth rocks were small groups of people enjoying the sunshine splitting through the cracks in the tree canopy.  After such a long trip in the car; R, Moz and I basked on the sunny rocks, dipped into the clear water and overall enjoyed a Saturday afternoon getaway from the city.    

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 edition

This one has actually been a long time coming, and a collection of my favorite things!

Read: Grace, by Grace Coddington.  Simply amazing for anyone who loves fashion, photography or is just interested in the interior workings of the industry!

Visit: there really much else to say?  Fashion capital and the birthplace of couture.

Wear: Anything that makes you feel fabulous.  This particular image is from Vogue, 2003.  Photography Craig McDean, styled by Grace Coddington.  This image is featured in the back of Coddington's book, but is also one of the first images I ripped out of Vogue and hung on my inspiration board for years.  I cannot get enough of Christian Lacroix's red flared jacket.

Watch: The September Issue.  Same reasons to read  Grace Coddington's book.  Fascinating inside look!  

sf love

On August 7, 2005 I walked into my first job as an adult.  A short 24 hours before that, I stepped off a plane in Oakland with 2 suitcases full of shorts, skirts and tank tops.  24 hours after this, I was shopping at Banana Republic buying as many jeans, sweaters and jackets as I could get my hands on.  This week marks 8 years that I have been living in San Francisco.  Despite its very chilly Augusts, I have come to love this place and call it home.

I will be honest, usually this day passes without me noticing it.  But lately, my journey here has been on my mind.  I moved out here because I got offered a dream job for any young graduate and for the adventure of living in California.  But I also moved out here alone and without ever visiting the city...ever.  I was very lucky, because I joined a company full of young people.  And from the beginning was adopted by some incredible people, who to this day are some of my dearest friends.  

I started here in a shady hotel in Civic Center and spent my evenings and weekends wandering around Union Square.  There were many times that I got on the Muni going the wrong direction or laid in bed feeling lonely, but these last 8 years, I have also had the opportunity to meet so many people whom I cherish, eat ahh-mazing food constantly and ride my bike all around the sunny Mission district.  The thing I love most about the last 8 years is SF has allowed me to grow and be challenged as a person and for that, I am grateful!   Happy 8th!

Monday, August 5, 2013

european tour: budapest

" awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude[,] we have eyes, yet see no, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand."
-Samuel T. Coleridge wrote of Mr. Wordsworth in Biographia Literaria via "The Art of Travel

If I had to describe Budapest in two words, they would be golden and ornate.  Our first views of Budapest were at night, where the entire city is illuminated with a soft golden glow (see above).  The Parliament building, the Royal Palace and the Chain Bridge, which we enjoyed as our final group outing.  Budapest at night is golden, but Budapest during the day is absolutely ornate.  The Parliament building is filled with intricate details and the Hungarian State Opera auditorium is lined with gilded balconies and plush red velvet seats.  

R and I started our tour of the city on the Buda side wandering through the Castle district.  Then made our way down the hill via a secluded, tree-lined path (giving us the perfect opportunity for a selfie with the Chain Bridge).  We were informed that the Parliament building tours can sell out quickly so we headed straight over to the Pest side to secure tickets.  The advice was very true, and I highly recommend buying them online prior if you have a chance.  

Afterwards, it was straight over to the Hungarian State Opera house for their last tour of the day.  I will say that this was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.  The Opera house is absolutely stunning!  The entire interior is made of hand-carved wood painted in gold.  The. entire. auditorium.  Unlike Vienna, the Budapest Opera house suffered minimal damage during WWII, leaving it in its 19th century original stature.  After the tour of the building, there is a mini performance in one of the intermission rooms.  Having never been to an opera, I was amazed at the power the music can have, even in a short 5 minutes.   

Following the tour and a full day of walking, R and I headed over to the famous New York Cafe for a glass of wine.  Much like the rest of Budapest, the cafe is far from an ordinary coffee shop.  The carved molding, impressionist murals on the ceiling, crystal chandeliers and a live pianist made it another feast for the eyes.  Though, a coffee is more than enough for the price.  With our feet still aching, we had dinner and beers at Italian Garden, a chic, open air restaurant in the city center.     

Our final day in Budapest, we visited Cave Chapel and the market hall for some local shopping.  During our wanderings, we found a local pop-up shop that featured a couple of Hungarian jewelry designers.  Eszterda featured beautiful, handmade dolls on a long, beaded necklace.  It was unique, local and the perfect memento of our European trip.  Another designer, Soie Essentielle, made gorgeous  thread wrapped necklaces and bracelets.  After missing most of the local shops during our trip, it was amazing to see some Hungarian designers at their best and most unique.  

At the end of 15 days, 11 hotels, 6 flights, 4 countries, 250 miles biked and countless miles walked; R and I were both ready to head back to SF and Moz.  We met so many amazing people along the way and will cherish the memories of our first major adventure as a married couple.

Köszönjük for following along on the journey!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

european tour: vienna to budapest via bike

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.  You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
-Cesare Pavese (via "Writing Away")

A few years ago, R mentioned to me that for his 30th birthday he would like to go on a bike tour in Italy.  We missed his birthday, but the idea of biking in Europe stayed with me.  So when it came time to plan our {belated} honeymoon, I started exploring the idea of doing adventure travel.  During my search, I found Velo-Touring which offered guided rides through Austria and Hungary.  It was substantially cheaper than what I was finding in Italy, and a long desire to go to Budapest, led me to present the idea to R.

I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I commute on my bike, but this was nothing compared to spending 6 solid days on two wheels.  Also, with not many people sharing about their experience online it was difficult to gauge what the group or ride would be like.  For us, it all turned out to be amazing!  This post would turn into my longest one yet to describe each day on here, but I will say that the ride itself was relatively easy {highly recommend bike shorts and a hat that does not fly off in the wind}.  I say easy, mainly because nearly the whole 250 miles was flat.  It is still riding a bike for 8 hours a day and it was hot.

There were 12 guests + 2 guides.  It was a mix of people from Europe and the US, and we could not have asked for a better group to spend a week riding through the countryside with.  In total, we rode around 250 miles from Vienna to Lake Balaton, where we hopped in a van to ride the final hour to Budapest.  The whole landscape was very picturesque with rolling fields of wheat, sunflowers, vineyards and vegetables.  It was also wheat harvest, which made the scenery very reminiscent of Kansas in the summertime; combines and grain trucks included.  In contrast to the US midwest, the towns are closer together and are truly villages, with narrow roads, brick sidewalks, 300 year old churches, small "castle" and homes built on Roman ruins.  

Our days started around 9 am, after some "warming up" and the shout of, "Indulás!".  Then riding all morning, stopping to take short water and rest breaks every 6 miles or so.  Around 1, we would stop for a leisurely lunch.  Most days were picnic lunches that we bought at grocery stores in the morning, but a couple of times we were fortunate to stop in a village and visit a local restaurant.  After lunch, it was more riding until we arrived at our destination for the evening, followed by group dinners.

The highlights were that nearly everyday there was a "surprise" addition!  During the week, we visited a charming village named Rust, where we were introduced to storks.  Storks actually spend the summers in Austria and Hungary, building nests on top of the locals' chimneys or telephone poles and raising their babies.  In Rust, there was a nest on nearly every house, filled with 3-4 baby storks.  Another day it was the village of Sopron, "The Most Loyal Town", where the buildings were built in the 13th and 14th century on top of ancient Roman ruins and marked by the Fire Tower.  Sopron also marked our introduction to delicious Hungarian wine and brandy!

Next, it was an exclusive tour of the Palace of Esterházy.  A gorgeous palace that was once occupied by the Hungarian royalty and home of the famous composer Joseph Hadyn.  After WWII, it was occupied by the Russian army, but in recent years has undergone a significant renovation, and was absolutely gorgeous!  Later (on the same day), we visited a local "spa", or more accurately a small water park.  After many hours of riding in the sun, it was the perfect opportunity to relax in the pools and have some fun on the water slides!  Needless to say, it was a true highlight of the trip!

Another day was lunch at a local park, where we climbed wooden statues and played on the swings and monkey bars.  Then, an afternoon in Heviz, where we swam in a thermal lake.  Our final stop before Budapest, was in Keszthely on the shore of Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe.  Our 8th floor room of our Soviet era hotel had a balcony that overlooked the lake. However, the hotel that night was also hosting the European championship for womens boxing, so it was full of young teenage boxers, which made for a very interesting atmosphere.

Our final day, we rode along the shore of Lake Balaton, zigzagging through tourists, RV's and other cyclists.  For our final rest stop, we decided that a swim in the lake was the perfect ending to the hot day.  So changing in 1 tiny bathroom, we rushed out into the waist deep water; splashing, floating and enjoying the final moments before heading the final miles into Budapest.   

Overall, the trip was an incredible opportunity to meet new people, to learn a little more about their world and cultures.  And, if anyone is looking for a bit of planned adventure in their travels, I highly recommend Velo-Touring and our amazing guides, George and Steve!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

european tour: vienna

"But there may be a more profound pleasure as well: we may value foreign elements not only because they are new but because they seem to accord more faithfully with our identity and commitments than anything our homeland can provide."
-Alain de Botton "The Art of Travel"

Leaving Prague on an early morning train, R and I spent 4 1/2 hours riding through the Czech Republic and Austrian countryside.  Arriving at a Vienna train station, we were in for our first adventure...finding the way to the hotel.  Vienna has a very extensive and efficient public transportation system.  For someone who doesn't read/speak German it can be challenging to figure out which train and station was closest to our hotel.  Fortunately, a couple of local residents, were kind enough to help R and I navigate the 3 trains to the Lassalle Hotel next to the Danube.

Dropping off our stuff, we headed out to explore downtown Vienna for the late afternoon.  Our first stop was lunch at a cafe in the Museum Quarter.  In the square, surrounded by 4 museums and various other art and theater buildings, were people lounging in the sun, enjoying drinks at the cafes and in general milling around.  The whole area felt very hip, trendy and was full of young people.  In contrast to Prague, where many of the tourists were college-age students, Vienna seemed teeming with young professionals from a variety of countries.  Sitting in the Museum Quarter, felt a little like sitting in the middle of a cultural mash-up of our generation!  Needless to say, both R and I were in love.

After a quick lunch, we headed over to the Albertina Museum.  We only had about an hour and half before it closed, but it was the perfect amount of time to stroll through the amazing exhibits.  The entry of the museum opened up to an atrium with the perfect shade of pink walls and full skylights.  The permanent collection featured various artists from the period of Modernism, including Monet, Matisse, Degas, Chagall and Picasso (all personal favorites!).  Feasting our eyes further, we visited the exhibit from Gunter Damisch and also a special collection from the early 1500's by Rembrant, Reuben and Brugel.      

The rest of the evening we spent wandering through the main square of town, visiting St. Stephens Cathedral (sitting right in the middle of the mains shops and restaurants) before making our way over to Central Cafe.  We enjoyed coffee, dessert and a live pianist in the same cafe that was formerly the key meeting place of Viennese intellectuals at the turn of the 20th century.

Vienna is filled with interesting museums and sites, so our second day was packed in trying to fit as many places in as we could.  We started off the morning visiting the Vienna State Opera.  80% of the building was destroyed in World War 2, but it is still a magnificent building, with the original part that survived being absolutely stunning.  Vienna being the home of Mozart and Beethoven, the opera house was the perfect place to visit.

After the opera, R and I, taking some advice we read here, split up to each explore on our own.  It was the perfect opportunity to each do what we individually wanted.  I went to the Freud Museum and then to the Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments and Silver Collection; while R headed off to the Museum of Architecture, Roman Museum and then lounging around in the park.  R and I have an amazing time traveling together, but there are just some things (including a collection of teacups, visits to psychoanalyst's house or a museum dedicated to a former empress) that should be experienced by only those who truly love it!

The Freud Museum, located in his former Vienna apartment, was interesting, but less based on his life, and more on the apartment itself.  Since Freud escaped to London towards the end of his life, many of his original belongings are no longer in Vienna.  The only original furniture that was remaining was his waiting room.  Interesting tidbit, Freud studied about the effects of cocaine on depression, anxiety and hysteria.  He even used it himself from time to time.  Fascinating.  Another, Freud was passionate about 3 things. 1.) Smoking 2.) Traveling and 3.) Collecting.

The Sisi MuseumImperial Apartments and Silver Collection were much more in line with my direct interests.  With a visit to the museum, you get an audio guide that lasts nearly 3 hours.  I skipped the audio portion of the silver collection, and mostly just wandered through, enjoying the royal teacups, teapots and silver.  The next portion was dedicated to the Empress Elizabeth of the Hapsburg Empire, or Sisi.  This was a woman who struggled with severe depression and melancholy throughout her life and it was fascinating to learn about how she lived her life through that.  Her gowns and jewels were mostly replicas, which was a little disappointing, but I am sure the originals were gorgeous.

In the evening, R and I met back up to share notes over dinner and to ride the giant ferris wheel.  This landmark of Vienna, I have to admit was one that I had been looking forward to greatly!  It is one of the oldest ferris wheels in the world and have large red cars to travel in the 20 minutes it takes to go around.  We went at night, hoping to get a view of the city lights.  We enjoyed our ride with an American family (4 girls), which made the fact that the city was completely dark, much more entertaining.  Nevertheless, it turns out that this too, I should have enjoyed on my own...

A day full of sightseeing and ending at a local carnival, it was the perfect excuse to go back to the hotel and straight to bed in preparation for our 6 day bike tour the next day.

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