Passport to Paris

UGH the jet lag is real…. I think it’s finally starting to set in as I’m writing this! This past week I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Paris for a long weekend getaway. Now that I’m back I’m trying to do everything I can to get back to a functional routine and writing this post seems like the perfect way to start! 

This entire trip starts with a tremendous story. One night, shortly after Thanksgiving, I received a text from a good friend of mine in LA saying she found round trip tickets to Paris for quite literally an unbelievable price (round trip from LAX for less than $400, cheaper than a flight home to Iowa!) My friend then proceeded to ask, “Who wants to go with?” Being that the trip would only be a few weeks away and having to hastily decide in order to take advantage of flight prices made me both incredibly nervous and extremely tempted. I began to think my way through the logical steps.  First, check the bank account and then check the amount of PTO I’ve acquired. Next, I make a phone call to my mom fully expecting her to be the practical one and reel my crazy thoughts back in (as one does when they call their mom in moments like this.) However, much to my surprise that wasn’t her response at all. It was actually something along the lines of When are you going to have this opportunity again?”  So true… 

Hearing her say that, I knew my mind was already made up! So, I went home and booked a round trip ticket–there was no turning back! A few days later 6 women in total (many of us having never met before) had booked their tickets and started planning the trip of a lifetime! 

First night in Paris at the Eiffel Tower

Many people I’ve talked to have said they only spent a few days in Paris and that that was enough. After having been now, I can attest to that! We arrived in Paris late Thursday afternoon and left Tuesday afternoon arriving back in LAX Tuesday evening. (Time changes will always be confusing.) Four and a half days was perfect in my opinion! It was enough time to see the city and cross majority of the things off my list without feeling too rushed. By the end, I was exhausted and ready to return home. 

Next we had to find a place to stay! After looking into hotels, hostels and Air BnBs, considering there was six of us, Air BnB seemed like the best option! Paris is divided into different districts and with help from a friend of a friend going on the trip, we had the best insight into the perfect locations. We ended up staying in 2, from which everything was perfectly walkable. Contrary to popular believe, the Eiffel Tower is actually not centrally located so when planning your trip, you may consider staying in a more central neighborhood like we did. My favorite thing about Paris is how easy it is to get around. Whether you want to walk, take the subway, or Uber, all options are readily available and easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any French! 

Like most major European cities, I’ve noticed so far, you can get by with only speaking English. However, it’s always important to me to at least try and speak the language when interacting in public at a restaurant for example No matter where you’re traveling to, I challenge you to at least prepare a few words such as…

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Yes/No
  • Thank you 
  • Sorry
  • Excuse me
  • Bathroom 
  • Check/Bill

I attempted to learn a little French before I left using a free app called Duo Lingo! Although it was helpful to learn some phrases, it’s important to practice consistently in order to retain any of it… I wasn’t very diligent and realized all I could remember was how to say “cat” and needless to say, that didn’t come up in conversation very often.

When I travel, I’m just as much about seeing all the sights and main tourist attractions as I am about finding happy accidents and things off the beaten path. One of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new city though, is to take a hop on/hop off bus tour. It’s an affordable way to make it to all the main attractions in a city in a short amount of time. It also always helps me to get the lay of the land and realize where things are at in relation to another and not to mention its essentially “free” transportation that you would have paid for to get around anyway! Tours like this are offered in most major cities in the US and Europe. My favorite has always been City Sightseeing or Big Bus tours! We got a two-day pass that included two different bus routes as well as a river boat tour. 

My favorite path less traveled spots included the covered passageways that have been transformed into little shops and restraunts. I also fell in love with the small vendor booths known as Riverside Bouquinistes, that line the river around Notre Dame and contain collections of old prints and books as well as other trinkets and paper goods.

Paris being the city of love was the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although not with our loved ones and out on a girl’s trip, we still made sure to celebrate. We went to an amazing restaurant, Matignon (located in 8, an area equivalent to Rodeo Drive or the Upper East Side). It was surely a group date even the Bachelor would have approved of! Afterwards we hit the town for a night out and wound up at a Spanish inspired spot complete with Latin music and dancing. The whole night scene was lively with places that stay open all hours of the night. There was a lot of influence from other cultures depending on the bar, so there’s no reason to not come across an Irish Pub that feels too close to home or a place that feels so foreign you don’t know where to start! 

Arguably the best part of traveling has to be trying all the food! Part of the fun of it for me is ordering but not always knowing what you’re going to get! France is no exception! The bread is outstanding, the desserts are worth every bite, the onion soup is unbelievable… but my favorite French cuisine has to be steak and pommes frites (French Fries) What an unexpected pair but man is it good. 

On our last night I treated myself out to a restaurant that came highly recommended, le Relais de l’Entrecote. Not only is it delicious but it’s a genius business idea, really! It’s a beautiful, higher end restaurant that you’ll most likely have a wait to get seated (but it’s totally worth it.) Once you sit down you can order a drink but there’s really no menu. The entire place only serves one thing- steak and frites. I got a wonderful glass of red wine and was then treated to a side salad and baguette while I waited for the main course. The waitress then brings the steak and fries from the kitchen, takes them over to a serving station and then prepares the plate for you. (I sat right next to her station, so I got a first-row seat at how it’s done.) She brings you ½ your steak covered in a sauce that’s a cross between au jus and a very subtle pesto along with an order of fries. Meanwhile the other ½ of your steak is covered and resting on a heated tray and when you’re ready she’ll bring a fresh order of fries straight from the kitchen and the other ½ of your steak… two meals for the price of one! Then if you’re really looking for the whole experience, you can select from the extensive and incredible dessert menu (which I couldn’t read a single thing.) I let the waitress pick for me and wound up getting the most incredible two-part chocolate cake (one half is like a brownie and the other a fudgy, very rich flourless cake topped with mint whipped cream.) I left there having never felt so full and got all that for $40 dollars. 

Getting the money shot with your 7 euro cappuccino… priceless

That being said… Paris was actually way more expensive than I thought especially compared to other places like Rome. A double espresso shot would be 5 euros when I could have just got a Starbucks cappuccino at home for cheaper… still it seemed worth it. Overall, it was very comparable to the prices we pay in LA (very expensive to drink cocktails and dinner is typically in the $25-$35-dollar range.)

 Something else that reminds me of LA, the traffic. Although it’s not as densely populated with cars, 15 miles can take you an hour to drive. For example, I always thought Versailles was much further away but when we looked it up, it was only about 15 miles from where we were staying but it’d take over an hour to get there by car. We ended up taking the train all the way there and it couldn’t have been easier! 45 minutes and $3 later we found ourselves standing outside the Palace of Versailles, one of the places I’ve always dreamed about visiting since studying it in Art History classes in college. This was my favorite place we went to during our trip! The palace itself was a little underwhelming but the palace grounds were spectacular, even during off season. I loooooved visiting the Estate of Trianon (something I didn’t even know existed) and I’m now convinced my dream house will resemble Marie Antoinette’s Queen’s Hamlet. You could spend days walking through these parks and still never see it all and if your feet are too tired to go on you can always rent a bike or golf cart to zip around! I would love to go back sometime in the late spring, early summer and see everything in bloom and fully landscaped!

Overall, I’m so glad pulled the trigger and went. It taught me that not everything in life has to be planned and well thought out.  Sometimes just taking a risk can pay off in ways you never even dreamed of. Seeing the world, experiencing history firsthand and learning about other cultures makes traveling so worth it and so important to me. I hope everyone has a chance to explore new places and see the things they’ve dreamed of in real life. 

Thoughts & Theories on El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

I now interrupt my prepared blogging schedule to bring you a special edition post about a new movie that is officially out and available on Netflix today (10.11.19) El Camino, A Breaking Bad Movie

WARNING:
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

If you plan on watching El Camino, please watch the movie first then follow up with my blog post and please offer your commentary and thoughts based on what I’ve shared.  

ATTENTION: If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, please watch the series before watching El Camino. They are very much reliant on one another and this is NOT a stand-alone movie.

TIP: It’s been 6 years since the series finale aired, if you haven’t seen the show in some time, I suggest you refresh your memory and watch at least the last 2-3 episodes! 

Ever since attending the world premiere Monday night (and if I’m being honest even some time before that in anticipation of the event) my mind has once again been consumed by all thing in the Breaking Bad universe. I’ve been waiting day racking my brain, over analyzing every detail I could remember, and just waiting for a moment to share my thoughts with you! Now’s my chance. 

Some Thoughts

The opening scene we flash back to Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) final scene in the show and him having a conversation with Jesse (Aaron Paul.) All though the scene feels a little out of place and really tested my memory, Vince Gilligan not only gives us an opportunity to enjoy a favorite character and relationship for a few moments longer but also does his traditional foreshadowing of the events to come. For a minute, I found myself forgetting where we left off and buying into the whole “beautiful moment by the river” which contrasted really nicely and had me jumping out of my seat when we jumped back to the present. 

Back at Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger’s (Matt Jones) place we get a more intimate moment seeing Jesse struggling with getting back to reality. Something that stands out to me in this moment is the emphasis they put on the scars on his back and face… I’ll come back to that later. Once Jesse emerges from the shower, he appears to be back to normal. PTSD to survival mode, it seemed like a quick transition but I’m also ‘okay’ with the decision to not linger on it more. Skinny Pete and Badger finally get all the lines they deserve and many that have me laughing every time! 

Perhaps one of the most interesting moments in the whole movie in my opinion is as Jesse starts to take off Skinny Pete hands Jesse his signature stocking hat. A gesture that speaks louder than words, but when you pair it with what he says about Jesse being his “hero” it takes it to a whole different level. I’m still internalizing this scene. I think Skinny Pete’s help here gives Jesse the will to survive and is just the encouragement he needs to remember what he’s fighting for. Without someone so actively fighting in his corner and motivating him to push on vs. turning himself in (which comes in to play later on also) he has a force driving him forward. 

Next we get a whole deeper look into a relationship I 100% didn’t expect. The whole premiere I was wondering why everyone was obsessing so much over Todd (Jesse Plemons.) He’s easily the worst character in Breaking Bad because of Season 5 Episode 5 and if you still don’t know, yes, the one where he shoots the kid… However, we get to see a whole lot more Todd. How is it that the same guy that can murder an innocent child and be fine with keeping a human locked in a cage also the guy who will send down ice cream, cigarettes, and volunteer to stay home and look after Jesse all weekend? Still not a sweetheart but the conflicting actions that seem to have no degree of difference in emotions for him—so interesting! 

It’s here in these next few flash back scenes that I do enjoy getting to learn a little more about the El Camino itself and some of the other significant events that have taken place. Right off the bat I wasn’t buying that the apartment was Todd’s. If the pastel colors didn’t give it away, the kitchen table sure did and the snow globe collection really sealed the deal. What I am confused by is the story that she was the maid and found the money and that was the motivation for killing her. I think it’s a lot more likely that he needed that location/apartment specifically for whatever reason and decided to kill her and take it. Why? Well besides the interior decorating, he didn’t really have an idea of what would be in the cupboard (a collection of things an old lady is a lot more likely to have than a twenty-something-old guy. Although don’t get me wrong I do feel that he’s been living there based on the out-of-place random collection of very modern furniture. 

Now the true crime junkie in me was very concerned with the question, “Why’d he chooses to strangle her, more specifically with the belt.” For that he would have most likely snuck up on her from behind, not attacked her in the middle of an argument. It’s also the kitchen so knife seems like a heat of the moment choice, but again nosy neighbor might have heard maybe that’s why? Probably not worth lingering but how the rest of this plays out with the rolling the body and “moving” her to the car—priceless moments! My final thought on this poor dead woman that I have so many questions about. When the “police” officers come to visit the nosy neighbor tells them that he’s met the guy that’s living there and basically isn’t a huge fan of Todd (who is?) but this leads me to believe that either that lady has really been dead for a while long enough for people to assume she moved out and someone moved in OR it really is Todd’s apartment…. Still not buying it though. 

Burying the body‑now why Jesse gives the gun back… well if he would have shot Todd the story obviously would most likely have not led to the ending, we see in Breaking Bad. Obviously, I believe it took more than just pepperoni pizza to sway Jesse’s mind. However, I think it’s more than just Jesse thinking that Todd’s uncles would still manage a way to get after Brock. I think its kind of back to the idea of Jesse feeling like although life is seemingly as bad as it gets—he doesn’t have much to fight for anymore. Everything he loves and knows and cared about at that point has been taken away and it’s arguable that Todd is the only person he has in that moment. 

Looking for money I thought for sure it would be in the pool but then we kept getting shots of the chimney… the refrigerator door, honestly the last place I’d think. You’re telling me the same guy the hid money in books also thought to hide money in the fridge door? I don’t really think so, but maybe!

Unfinished Business

Moving on to some unfinished business. From having to pay debts carried over to the first get-a-new-life attempt to reencountering the welders/DEA agent/ assholes.  It’s in these scenes we see the damage 5 season of Breaking Bad has done on Jesse Pinkman. From staying calm and outsmarting situations thinking 5 steps ahead while having a gun to his head, to trying to strong arm his way into convincing the Vacuum guy to give him a break… all characteristics that remind me of someone else I know. 

Speaking of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) the motel diner scene gives me all the feels! From seeing our beloved characters transition and flash back to their season one selves naive and optimistic we’re really reminded just how far they’ve come. This moment and transition amazes me in these two’s acting abilities to be able to change and rethink back to all those years ago where they started and who they were! 

The conversation though is what intrigues me and opens a few questions. What will Jesse do one day when it’s done? When he has a chance to do something special with his life? I certainly doubt exercise science is where he ends up. Even more confusing is Jesse’s response letting White know that his family will get what they have coming. Potential foreshadowing? Or simply speaking to every decision Walter made during the show FULLY came back to bite his family in the butt? I prefer the first option… more to come! It was based on this statement that I hoped we’d get a peek at modern day life of Skyler, Flynn, and Holly but then I remembered. This is only a few days later not years like in real life. 

Transitions

This brings us to Jesse breaking into his parents and more genius thinking of coming up with the perfect plan to get them and the undercover cops away. You know the first thought here is if he only needs $1,800 surely, he could get the cash or valuables around the house to amount for that much but instead, he gets the guns and gets out. Which we learn is part of a much bigger, premeditated plan. At the shop is when I feel Jesse has transitioned into his full-on Heisenberg mode. Why go back when he doesn’t presumably need the whole amount? Not only does he have nothing to lose but he’s seeking revenge. Like Heisenberg he can’t handle letting the Welder’s get away with the pain they caused and the turmoil they brought into his life. Jesse isn’t ok with letting the welders feel like they got away with something most likely motivated by the main guy’s taunting as Jesse leaves “Todd’s” apartment and remembers him. 

I love the old western style shoot out and getting outsmarted by the sense of betting, genius! The whole scene seems so true in nature to some of the shows biggest moments and did not disappoint, explosion and all. 

So now we’re in Alaska, alas the place Mike recommended (about time Jesse listens to something Mike had to say.) With one final question to answer we see Jesse hand over a letter to be delivered to Brock and then seemingly we’re supposed to trust that it’ll be delivered, and Jesse can go on living his new life. The scene is beautiful, white, quiet. Jesse seems restored refreshed and is in an uncharacteristic white turtleneck sweater. Either he’s really is restored to a new identity and life or this is really an ironic ending. 

Theories

Here. We. Go. The ending does not follow anything we’ve come to expect from Gilligan. It’s too neat. It’s too wrapped up and perfectly presented, somethings fishy. Somehow although all our questions have been answered, I feel left with less resolve than the ending of the TV show. 

Looking back at the scenes and being excited to watch the movie again, I’m reading between all the lines and pauses and honestly, I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Jesse Pinkman. The scars that I mentioned before, I don’t feel as if we learned the cause. I don’t believe they were caused by the running and trying to break free from Todd’s lab. The conversation at the Diner with Walter White—there’s got to be more to it. Then if that’s not enough the first trailer shows Skinny Pete in with police discussing where Jesse ran off to. That’s a lot of work to go to just to film a trailer…. Then there’s the ending of the full, main trailer where we hear what we assume is White’s voice (for the record, I do believe he’s actually dead though once they confirmed on the radio news when Jesse was in the car.) 

I feel like we’re missing the other side of the story, the side Hank would tell if he were still alive, the side of the pursuit. I also feel like were missing out on the grief of the family although they did seem to consider their “dad” and “husband” as being dead before it was a reality.

I know this is a stretch, but it also seems to me like a conscious choice to name it “A Breaking Bad Movie” instead of “THE Breaking Bad Movie.” And really stretching it out even further listening to reviews from the premier and reading different articles. Aaron Paul says things referencing hopes for a long relationship with Netflix and “if I only worked for Gilligan the rest of my career, I’d be the happiest man in Hollywood.” Suspicious…. 

Please share ALL your thoughts with me and send me things to support, disprove, inspire, anything! Clearly, I can’t get enough! 

Premiere

Finally, I’d just like to share some photos from the premiere and say it was 100% worth the experience. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to experience this movie this way for the first time and laugh, clap, and jump with a room full of fans. It was truly something special and I’m so glad I get to share a sliver of that experience with all of you! 

All this being said I really enjoyed the movie! I’m such a huge fan though that I would have taken any ounce of these characters in any version they’d deliver. 

Cars, Castles & Clesi

I’ve taken a little hiatus these past few weeks, because I have a special visitor staying with me this summer! He’s in LA for the Summer for an internship and between that, my work, and getting adjusted to each other’s lifestyles, we’re staying very busy. We have managed to have some fun since he got here a little over a month ago and I’ll continue to post on Instagram and Facebook our various adventures.

Two weeks ago, we even made time for a little weekend getaway and headed up north for the weekend. I’m excited to share the details of our trip and would highly recommend that you take your own version of this mini road trip. Whether you need a weekend getaway driving distance from LA or the Bay Area or whether you’re looking for a unique, small-town vibe vacation to California. Our trip started in LA and headed north to Paso Robles, Cambria, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbra. There are plenty of other places on the way so if you have any recommendations or you’ve already done something similar, please let me know in the comments below!

Friday:

The whole idea for this trip started when we we’re invited to a family friend’s graduation party from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (SLO.) We left Friday evening once we both got off work. Around 6:00 pm we hit the road and it took us about 3 hours to hit San Luis Obispo where we stopped for dinner at Woodstock pizza! (Would highly recommend loading up on your favorite toppings and creating your own personal size pizza!) Even at night, we could tell San Luis Obispo was going to be something special, but we were saving that for Sunday.

As you can imagine on graduation weekend, a lot of the hotels were incredibly expensive in the area and even affordable Air BNBs were hard to come by. We ended up booking a wonderful Air BNB in Paso Robles just another 30 minutes from SLO. (Our Air BNB was perfect, and I would highly for one or two people, and I would be happy to pass on that info as needed! Let me know!)

Saturday:

The next day we started semi-early with an incredible breakfast in the Paso Robles town square at a café called Andrea’s on Pine. Most of their menu is new every day and cooked fresh that morning. So be prepared to remember a long special list and try something original that is sure to impress. (We split a strawberry lemon coffee cake. Emory had a berry French toast bake and I had the best quiche I’ve ever had!) Following breakfast, we took a little stroll around the square and walked through the little farmers market.

Then we set out in destination of the Hearst castle however, along the way we passed the charming town of Cambria and we quickly decided to make a detour. The Cambria Lions Club was hosting a car show and chilly cook off. The whole town seemed to be out and about, and we went around to some shops and got to know some of the locals.

From Cambria we then made our way to the Hearst Castle.  We knew we were getting close when the coast came back into view and the pasture was filled with not only cattle, but also Zebras! (Yes Zebras! Not something you see every day that is for sure.) I had had many people recommend that we stop by the Hearst Castle and I think Emory and I would both agree it worth it and should be at the top of your list!

The Hearst Castle created and originally owned by William Hearst, or Hearst Publishing. Although, it’s not technically a castle —it might as well be and it’s easy to see how it got the name. Part of the property including the main house has been donated to the State of California and is now recognized as a state park. During your visit, you can select from a number of different tours. Emory and I did the Great Rooms tour (the standard tour) and it took about 2 hours total (1 hour for the tour and the travel time to get to the top of the hill) We chose not to book our tickets a head of time for a few reasons:

  • We didn’t want to be rushed and miss our reservation
  • They charge a steep online reservation fee of $8 per ticket
  • You can look up how many tickets are still available online (which there were plenty of at the times we wanted to go.

The Grand Rooms Tour takes you through the main property showing you the most famous common rooms. Between the architecture and the priceless artwork collections that includes Egyptian era statues and 15th & 16th Century tapestry and paintings you feel as though you might as well be in a classical European Castle once inside. After the tour you’re allowed to explore the grounds of the property as much as you’d like so Emory and I probably spent another hour taking pictures and taking in the views.

With a little time to spare still, we made our way to San Simeon just down the road to see the Elephant Seals. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and most of the seals were beached and napping. Some went for a swim, some got into arguments with one another but most just laid there throwing sand on themselves. Regardless it was pretty incredible to see, and I could have stayed there a lot longer especially if they were more active, but we had to get back for the graduation party.

The party took place at Clesi Wines, a smaller winery in Templeton (about halfway between Paso Robles and SLO.) We tasted a variety of the wines (all of which were delicious) and spent the evening catching up with friends and challenging one another to competitive games of bean bags. This area of California is quickly becoming known for its wine and with over 400 wineries is even considered the “New Napa” to some. It’s definitely on my list of places to come back to whether with Emory, my family, or even for a girls get away! I would love to spend more time wine tasting but with that many to choose from, how would you ever?!

Sunday:

After a generous amount of wine, the night before, we slowly made our way to San Lui Obispo again to begin our adventure back. For breakfast we wanted something a little heartier and more familiar and decided to stop at one of our favorite guilty pleasures, IHOP. Let me say—that was a mistake! While they got us right in despite being very busy for Father’s Day… it was the worst IHOP experience we’ve ever had… Oh well we left with full stomachs in the end and that was the primary goal. Also, the IHOP is located close to the Madonna Inn (which is my dream hotel for a girl’s trip see why here.)

Next, we headed to down town SLO and walked around to various boutiques and shops. We stopped by the San Luis Obispo Mission and walked down the little “river” walk. Of course, it’s not a trip to SLO if you don’t stop and partake in the grossest tradition there is—the bubble gum alley. People come from everywhere and add their blob of gum to the wall. Watch where you step and don’t back up too far whatever you do!

Getting back on the road we took a route that took us through the Los Padres National Forest stopping along the way at various look out points and taking some mini hikes to stretch our legs! It was really the most beautiful day outside, but I was amazed at how we went in and out of the clouds while going up and down the mountains.

The last stop on the list was Santa Barbra (which looked nothing like the Santa Barbra I remembered when I visited with my family a few years ago.) We stopped by a few shops and had to try some famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. The dairy-free flavors for me and the Cornbread Cookie and Honey flavor for Emory was worth the 45-minute line-out-the-door-wait. Then we had the pleasure of battling traffic the 2 hours back to LA.

The trip was truly a wonderful experience and I’m so glad we decided to go. Like I said I can’t wait to go back and would love to know if there’s anything we missed that you’d suggest for next time? Have you ever been to any of these places before? Of the places we went, which would you most like to go to yourself? Comment below!

Birthday Bash

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This weekend has been one to remember and I can’t wait to share my festivities with you in this post! But first I would like to thank you all for all of your kind wishes this past week and weekend. I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life to celebrate with and I definitely felt the love this past week!

I’ve been thinking about Birthdays a lot lately (coincidence, I think not!) How some people love to celebrate and go all out while others prefer to keep it to themselves and enjoy their day in private—we all have different personalities!  I’ve also been thinking about how we sometimes look at it as being one more trip around the sun and a time to reflect on all our accomplishments in the past year. It’s also interesting to me how our personalities change and develop with time, but also how we sometimes rely on our age as being a standard to measure where our priorities should be focused and what goals we should work towards next.

Since graduating college, I’ve taken on the mentality that age is just a number. I look at the various friends I’ve surrounded myself with and although we’re all very different ages, we’re all in similar stages in our lives and that’s what brings us together rather than a number or “what grade we’re in.”  However even at 24 now, I’m still often one of the youngest when it comes to groups in LA. The youngest at work. The youngest in most of my friend groups. But being the youngest has been something that I’ve learned to cherish. When looking back at all the things I’ve accomplished during 23 there are a lot of milestones on that list and I’m so proud of myself that I accomplished those things sooner rather than later. There’s no time like the present to just go for it and get things done when you know they feel right. At the same time, I hope that I have plenty of time to look forward to.  There’s no perfect age to do things so from now on I’m just trying to live in the moment and try my best not to plan every step of the way.

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It’s no secret how much I love holidays and my day of birth is no exception. While it’s nice to feel extra special at one day out of the year and get a little extra attention, I most look forward to using my birthday as an excuse to get family and friends together (and maybe even throw a party or two!

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My Birthday celebrations started a week early when I went back to Iowa! My brother and I are 4 years and 1 day apart which always made for a bittersweet celebration growing up (bitter because he usually got to pick what dessert we were having and sweet because it was unique and we could celebrate together—which I’m sure made it easier on my parents too.) So, this year was no exception, we celebrated both of our Birthdays together with a family cook out! I also got to celebrate with Emory

 

Between traveling and having an already busy week and big weekend plans, I wanted to keep things a little more relaxed on my actual birthday! I decided I wanted to do something that I’ve thought about doing for years but always chickened out and made an excuse—more ear piercings! A girl friend and I made our way to Oak and Poppy (the coolest tattoo parlor I’ve ever seen and a place that also specializes in piercings.) I was not brave and was nervous as could be, but honestly it really wasn’t that bad. Also… did you know using a piercing gun are not the normal method and actually if you go somewhere that’s using one… there’s a greater chance for them to be messed up? Well me neither but now I know. They do not use gun here but do it all by hand which is honestly a relief considering the noise the gun makes was always the worst sound! Afterwards we met up with a few other friends and treated ourselves to some fancy desserts at Crave Café (easily one of my favorite casual restaurants I’ve been to in LA.) I got a chocolate brownie cheesecake… YUM!

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Saturday was the day for the big celebration! As I mentioned, I love coming up with different ways to bring people together and try new things and make memories! This year I wanted to come up with something that I could invite all my different friend groups to so that everyone could all have a chance to meet one another AND I wouldn’t have to pick and choose who I do with what. Also, as I get older, I certainly can’t handle going out quite like I did during my Iowa City days… I like to go to bed at a decent time now, I can’t drink that much without being hungover the next day… I sound so old already. BUT I still love an excuse to get all dressed up and I still enjoy night life energy of being out and about.

All these factors lead me to the idea to do a Classy Cocktail Crawl, like a bar crawl but classier. LA has sooo many bars, many of which are very cute and are designed to look good on your Instagram at any part of the day. Since many of us are always up for a crazy rowdy party— I thought it’d be better to start earlier and end earlier. Then I picked a location that was somewhat centrally located for everyone, Hollywood, and then from there I researched bars in the area within walking distance of one another and picked 5 places I had never been before.

We started the night at 5:00 pm at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. This bar has been on my list for a while. It’s like walking through a time machine and traveling back to 1968 completely styled in 60s and 70s decor. We started here early because this placed gets packed as the night goes one. There’s also outdoor patio space, throwback music, the option to get food, and the coolest entrance ever! I will be going back at some point!

 

Next, we walked a few blocks to The Highlight Room, a pool and patio bar and cocktail area at the top of the Dream hotel. This was by far the fanciest stop of the night with the most amazing views and priciest drinks. I loved the atmosphere and it was so great to be able to sit down with everyone and catch up. It was also the most “LA” place we went too but I loved every minute of it.

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Afterwards we literally walked around the corner to the next bar, Beauty and Essex. Again, a cool and interesting place. Primarily a restaurant/lounge kind of place. When you first enter, it looks like you’re walking into a high-end pawn show with a whole bunch of sparkly jewelry cases and an assortment of memorabilia.

From there we walked next door to grab a slice of pizza from Lucinis and across the street to the Powder Room. I have to say although we had a great time playing games and hanging out… this was my least favorite stop of the night. It was way smaller than expected and the décor was a little off due to the child’s bedroom additions. All around it was interesting…

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Last but not least we went to No Vacancy, another beautiful house that has been transformed into a bar! We got there a little behind schedule about 11:45 and had to wait a good 15 minutes to get in but we easily could have had to wait a lot longer. The experience of entering the place and the surprise at the top of the stairs is by far the most exciting part. When we got in… it was beyond packed and felt like we were at a frat party. We hung out, danced a bit, and fought our way to the bar.  It didn’t take long before we were already to go. I would definitely go back, but earlier in the night for sure and leave before the crowd gets so out of hand!

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The whole weekend was a blast! I enjoyed every minute of it and 24’s celebration will be a tough one to beat. Thanks again to everyone who celebrated with me and made this year so special.

 

Me, Myself & My

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Since I first mentioned in February Fresh my whole idea of “Personal Dates” and different version of “me time” I’ve had a few people ask me what I meant by that and I’m so excited to share!  For me a “Personal Date” is basically when I take my self out on a date, alone! (I know what you’re thinking…. I need a better name for this—open to suggestions! No other friends, no significant others, just me going out of my way to leave my house and doing something with me, myself, and my time.

Once I decided to get my own apartment, I knew I was going to have more time than ever spent alone. I’ve always known that I’m the complete opposite of a homebody. When I was growing up, I’d do anything to get out of the house and do something with friends or family!  Now that I’m living on my own, I’m realizing the the amount of discomfort I have when I’m alone.

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Autophobia is the fear of being alone. I wouldn’t say what I have is necessarily a fear though… more a moment of anxiety because I’m not afraid of the idea of being alone. I love to plan in personal days but then when that day and moment actually comes, I tend to freak out. I feel incredibly stressed like there’s 100 other things I should be doing, and then it takes me a loooooot of pep talking (to myself) and sometimes a phone call with a friend or family member to call me down… So you see, I’m not great at being alone, but that’s why I need to practice! If you’re reading and realize you can relate… stay tuned I have a solution!

“I wouldn’t say what I have is necessarily a fear though… more a moment of anxiety”

But the idea for my Personal Dates actually started well before the move even happened and actually started for another reason entirely (it just so happened they came in handy out here too.) When I first came up with the idea it was after doing my goal planning for 2018. At that time, I wasn’t really happy with my relationship status. All of my friends were going on dates and getting engaged and some even married! I was annoyed seeing everyone going out with their significant on these lavish dates. If this sounds like you… here we go!

Rather than bum myself out more about not having a person in my life to do those things with, I figured stop wasting time waiting for someone else when I could do all of those things right now! So, I made a promise to myself that each month I’d treat myself to a special date. Not by treating myself to pulling the trigger on the thing that’s sat in my online cart for forever…but by actually leave the house and going out to do something.

Examples Please:

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I started off very strong! The first month, February 2018, I booked a trip to New York and although I was going to visit I friend, I still knew I was going to have a significant chunk of time alone. From museums to tours to stores—I did it all! Obviously being in a new city with a large bucket list made it easier than being home on a Sunday… but it was a start!

Sometimes I make plans to 100% go alone, but then friends will reach out and ask what’s going on and although it’s supposed to be me time, I try to also never turn down friends when they reach out. Plus, I prefer the company! I think it’s important to find the balance until it feels comfortable in your routine. The second month, March, I went to a comedy show with a friend!

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Later in the year I got Movie Pass and that became my go to activity to do alone! Although I no longer have Movie Pass and switched to AMC A-List (which I highly, highly recommend) I still go to movies ALLLL the time, so much that I no longer allow myself to count movies as a Personal Date. (Keep up with all my movie reviews on Instagram Highlights & Stories)

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Another activity that I actually love to do alone is go to Flea Markets. There’s so many in LA that any weekend, I can find one going on. I prefer to go alone when there’s something I’m specifically keeping an eye out for because I’ll walk the whole pace 2-3 times to make sure I’m getting the best deal!

Some other activities include going to various networking event like #imakealiving and AIGA events or going to art museums (another activity that I might spend more time at than the average person.)

Just this weekend, I went to the Japanese Gardens near my house. I had been with Emory before, but this time everything was in bloom.

For these Personal Dates I try not to plan ahead and let them happen more spontaneously. Most of the activities I’ll still invite friends to go, but if no one can make it then I decide to do it any way! Or things like special exhibits that I know I’m interested in more than most people, I’ll save that for a day when I need something to do!

 

Trust me, this is a harder habit than you’d think to get into! The last thing I want though is another thing stressing me out so if at the end of the month I reflect and I’m like… wow I forgot to do anything. Who cares? That must mean I had a pretty full and busy month and that’s the real goal! It moments where I start to feel the anxiety creep back in that I try to push myself to find something to do. Sometimes it’s even as simple as let’s go run an errand or take a walk around the block. Not only have they helped me feel more comfortable being alone, but it’s also introduced me to some new activities that I otherwise may not have found!

Let me know if you give it a shot or if you think this will help you! What activities do you like to do alone that I should try? I’m always open to suggestions!

 

Here’s a list I’ve brainstormed to get you started with some ideas!

  • see a movie on opening night— it’ll be packed with strangers, so you won’t really even feel alone
  • go to the new restaurant you’ve been dying to try and order a 3-course meal. Pretend you’re there to write a review (don’t tell them that… just in your head)
  • go to a museum, take a sketchbook, and pretend like you know what you’re doing—you might surprise yourself
  • go to the dog park and make a new friend — even if you don’t have a dog
  • explore a neighboring town that you’ve never actually been to… maybe they have a great boutique or the best BBQ… you won’t know till you try
  • Go for a hike (but put your safety first & be smart about where and when!)
  • Try a new work out class that you’d normally never do, maybe even indoor rock climbing?
  • Grab a book, go to a coffee shop or a beach or somewhere not your house and just start reading (especially if you don’t really like to read!)

 

Only in October

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As much as I wish Halloween and October festivities could go on throughout the year… Having a month dedicated to all things Fall and spooky makes it seem even more special. Although I’m not really sure where my love of Halloween started, I get so excited as it starts to get darker earlier and begins to cool off. This year, my first year celebrating my favorite Holiday in LA, did not disappoint. This month was jam packed with so many festivities, I wanted to share them all with you!

 

I started October off extra spooky with one of my favorite Halloween traditions, haunted houses.  We decided to go to one of LA’s top Halloween attractions, Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. Every year Universal transforms their theme park into the ultimate Halloween experience. They set up over 8 haunted mazes and houses just for this event. Being Universal, you know their budget is going to be huge and they go all out. Every detail is thoroughly thought out and something scary lurks around every corner. Emory had never been to Universal Studios before AND he had NEVER been to a haunted house (I know I couldn’t believe it either.) We had such a blast enjoying Harry Potter world, drinking butter beer, and getting scared out of our wits!

 

Another October tradition that’s popular with the 21+ crowd and isn’t scary in the slightest, is Oktoberfest. Germany’s autumn festival dedicated to drinking beer and eating pretzels and sausages. This is one holiday I’ve never celebrated and although I would have loved to be in Munich, I couldn’t have asked for a better time.  I went with a group of ladies to Lake Arrowhead for their Oktoberfest celebration! We had such a blast enjoying a weekend by the lake, a break from the LA heat, and just enjoying each other’s company. We ate lots of pretzels, drank our fair share of beer, but my favorite treat was Tajin flavored popcorn. I had never heard of such a thing, but Tajin is Mexican seasoning salt that is a blend of chili pepper and lime… mmm so good! You can buy the seasoning and try it for yourself!

 

I think my love of Halloween has been heavily influenced by movies. Growing up I loved non-scary classics like Halloweentown, Haunted Mansion, and Hocus Pocus. (Also known as the movies I watch on repeat every October, every year.) As I got older, I was introduced to movies of the horror, scary, thriller genre. With that being said I know I have A LOT of classics to catch up on especially with the new release of the classic, Halloween. This year, on Halloween night, I went to see the new Halloween movie. Let’s just say I really underestimated how scary a man wearing a mask can be and I should have never doubted Michael Myers. Although I was terrified and on the edge of my seat the whole time, I loved every minute of it. My heart was racing, and the adrenalin rush had me racing! Thankfully Emory was still up to console me on the drive home! I’d highly recommend going to see the movie even though Halloween is over. It’s by far one of the best scary movies I’ve seen in a long time!

 

But of course, it’s no secret that I looooooove to dress up. Every year I look forward to coming up with costume ideas and making them from scratch. I love to dress up and pretend for a night to be something I’m not. I love the creative challenge of thinking outside the box. This year I sported two new costume ideas! These past two years, I’ve gotten pretty into plants (if you haven’t read Plant Possibilities check it out and see what I mean) That with the California landscape inspired me to take stab at creating a cactus costume. It gave a new meaning to Pokey Jae. Last year I dressed up as a client for work, so for this year’s Office Halloween Party I wanted to come up with something related again. Although I never had one but always wanted one, I decided to be a style me Barbie. Everyone at work loved it enough to vote me the Most Creative costume!

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College had given me an outlet to take this love of dressing up in costume to the next level with events going on every night of the week and an excuse to wear multiple costumes. This year I took a trip through Instagram with 13 Posts from Halloweens Past! I hope everyone had a sppppppoooooookkkkkkkkeyyy Halloweeeeeeeeennnn (If you haven’t listened to my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, I suggest you do, and you’ll get that reference. BUT its not just a Halloween thing!) Until next year! Stay spooky and get excited for next year’s Halloween!

 

Party Planning

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Party Planning has always been one of my favorite hobbies and I seem to have a knack for it. I love everything that goes into the process of planning a big event from deciding the theme to organizing even the smallest of details. Party planning really plays well with my OCD. I like to have some control, think out of the box, organize things, make decorations, but most importantly create an experience and memories for others!

“There’s nothing that makes me happier than a social event that brings people together.”

Needless to say, that when one of my greatest friends asked me to plan her bachelorette party, I was beyond excited and ready for the challenge.  It was going to be a new experience for me having never been to a bachelorette party let alone never having planned one.  It’s also the first event I’ve ever planned remotely here’s how I got started…

Party Planning for Bachelorette Babes

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1.) Research

The first step of planning a Bachelorette party (or any party really) is doing your research. I made sure to ask the bride-to-be all about what she’s interested in and how she’d like to celebrate. It’s really important when planning a Bachelorette party to keep the bride’s personality in mind. You want to plan an event where everyone will have a great time but also be comfortable with one another (not everyone is excited about having a male stripper show up to their home, and I don’t blame them…)

Although it can be awkward, it’s important to have a conversation about budget and realistically what you can contribute as well as the bride (and in some cases, what you’re asking of the attendees.) They’re your close friends, they’re going to understand one way or another! Making sure all of that is transparent from the beginning will make the rest of the process go a lot smoother.

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2.) Location

Picking out a location can be a fun and exciting trip. While it may be tempting to road-trip it to Nashville or book a flight to Vegas, keep in mind that that can be a pretty big ask of people and a pretty expensive weekend.  A mini-weekend getaway or even an overnight somewhere nearby can be a great compromise.

For Rachel’s party, she knew she wanted to have it in Des Moines. It’s where she lives and is the city she loves. It’s also pretty centrally located for all of the friends and family she was planning to invite. BUT also, it was realistic for everyone’s time and budgets!

Knowing the party was going to be in Des Moines, we also had more resources available to us and most of the guests were somewhat familiar with the area. We had her apartment available, tons of bars, restaurants, and other activities easily accessible, AND Rachel’s apartment was nearby and a perfect solution for a cost-effective venue!

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3.) Theme

The foundation of a great party usually stems from an awesome theme or event. When comes to picking activities and themes, it doesn’t hurt to look around and see what other people have done. Of course, Pinterest is an excellent source and a great place to get started.  It was my personal goal to plan a party that would not only be a great time, but I also wanted it to be memorable. I wanted to get everyone out of their comfort zones a little bit and do something that they wouldn’t do on and regular basis.

I started brainstorming with the bride ideas of what she thought would be fun. We talked about all the things Rachel loves to do in Des Moines and in general and came up with a list that included minor league baseball games, tailgating sporting events, going to breweries—you name it!  One of Rachel’s favorite things though, is the Des Moines Farmers market…

I think she knew I laughed a little when she first suggested that… I mean come on, Farmers Markets don’t usually scream “Party” let alone a Bachelorette Party. But it’s her day and it’s what she wanted to do, and it was now up to me to make a Farmers Market into a party-worthy activity (also… I love a good challenge.)

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4.) Help & Delegating

Being over 1,000 miles away, there’s only so much I could do.  I knew I’d have to fly in for the event which was not only and expense on my end but also meant what I could bring with me was very limited.  Luckily so many of Rachel’s friends stepped up and offered to help! Since I love the whole process of planning things… It can be hard for me to let go of responsibility sometimes—it’s hard to give up control (but I’m getting better at it.) Delegating out the tasks though was THE MOST IMPORTANT step. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the other ladies, they pulled through to help make it happen!

So, I planned out the itinerary and then asked the other girls to pick a portion of the day that they’d lead and take care of the background stuff. We divided and conquered:

  • Bringing Snacks
  • Making Party Favors
  • Decorations
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Planning Games & Activities
  • Dinner Reservations

5.) Itinerary

After we decided on the date, I moved forward with planning the Itinerary around the Des Moines Farmers Market!

10:00 am         Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

11:00 am         Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

12:30 pm         Return to Rachel’s Apartment & Go over scavenger hunt findings

1:00 pm           Lunch at Apartment and Games

3:30 pm           Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

5:30 pm           Special Surprise

7:00 pm           Dinner

9:30 pm           Going Out

Itineraries are a great game plan, but they shouldn’t be set in stone. Keep the schedule flexible! It’s always a good idea to have some back up ideas and filler ideas in case things take longer or shorter than you expected. If something doesn’t work out, stay calm and keep moving on and try not to rush anything. As someone who is never on time to anything… I knew I couldn’t jam pack the day because I always under estimate how long things will take. This day was about me and I knew it needed to run smoothly for the sake of my friend. I always had a game plan but tried to go with the flow as much as possible!

The Big Day

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Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

Since the Farmers Market ends at 12:00 we had to get the party started early!!!  I always feel better about waking up early when I know there’s going to be breakfast involved.  We had a breakfast buffet complete with a mimosa bar in Rachel’s apartment. It worked out so well because everything could be bought directly form the store or easily prepared ahead of time and warmed up on the spot!

Bachelorette parties can be challenging because usually you have guests from all different parts of the Brides Life. Our party was no different, there were women she’d grown up with, friends from college, friends from graduate school, and family members. Many of us didn’t know one another so it was a little daunting to be social with strangers that early in the morning. I knew we’d need a little ice breaker to get everyone started wile ate our breakfast.

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I ordered a Wedding’s Mad Libs book off Amazon and it was just the perfect solution.  First off, it’s very affordable and required no additional planning or materials. It’s a good activity to get everyone involved in coming up funny words to create some silly stories. The Mad Libs in the book were also still pretty PG (maybe PG-13 after we added to them) so everyone was comfortable and participated.

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Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

So, the morning of the big event—typical Iowa weather, it was storming all morning and they canceled the Des Moines Farmers market. My initial reaction was— oh-crap! (but I always have a backup plan!) I originally designed the scavenger hunt to incorporate a little bit of all of Court Avenue. Court Ave. in Des Moines is where Rachel’s apartment is located as well as the Farmers Market, so everything is walking distance. There’re tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and even a grocery store. We went ahead and did the scavenger hunt any way, we just all had to get a little more creative about how/where to complete the tasks.

 

We split up into four teams of three. I gave each team a bag with a pen and they’re scavenger hunt card and the option to either take a photo of the things for 1 point OR bring back the item for 3 points. We all had so much fun with it.  It was challenging, sometimes awkward, and funny as can be. By-standers got so excited about it too, coming up and asking us what we were doing and how they could help! It was a hit.

Go over scavenger hunt findings & Prizes

Afterwards we met back at her apartment and went over what we had found!  The pictures we comical!  One group went around the grocery store and asked for a sample of almost everything and the store agreed and gave it to them!!! One group made a lot of new friends and found a dog with an impressive mullet, and I somehow wound up taking a shot of Fireball with a lady at 11:30 in the morning… too much fun.

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Lunch at Apartment and Games

Afterwards we had lunch. One girl brought these croissant sandwiches from Costco… they were beyond amazing, and I now crave them all the time. If you have a party, I’d highly recommend them! Another girl planned out a game where she asked the groom-to-be 20 questions about Rachel and their relationship and she had to tell us the right answers, what she thought he might say, and then we revealed what he actually said. Man, this couple is meant to be because he was spot on for everything! It was great, simple, and provided a lot of heart felt laughs.

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Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

The hotel we were staying at, the Hyatt Place in Down Town Des Moines. It was beautiful. We got two double queen rooms with pullout couches that were next door to one another and they were perfect!!! We all freshened up and got ready for the rest of the evening and changed into our party clothes.

We “signed in” by signing a picture frame matt and kissing it to leave our lip-print. One of the girls made goodie bags for everyone that had lipstick (for the kissing frame) nail polish, band-aids, Advil, shout wipes, gum, a hair tie, and a Florapy facemask. AKA everything you could need to survive a bachelorette party out! We opened gifts and even played a “drop your panties” game where everyone anonymously brings a pair of new panties for the bride, and she has to guess who brought which ones—this game was not so easy, but still fun!

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Special Surprise

I wanted to do something special for the bride and have a surprise that she wouldn’t know about. Something to look forward to and of course something to hold over her head and make her guess a little bit. All week she was texting me begging that it wasn’t going to be a stripper but of course I had to tease her a little bit. The surprise however, was a photographer.

I hired a talented photographer friend of mine, Meursault Photography, to meet us down town Des Moines to meet us and take some cute, sorority-ish pictures of the whole group as well as individual shots with each girl and the bride. I knew it’d be great to have the photos for all the memories as well as content for everyone’s Instagram. Also, who doesn’t get excited about a photoshoot and being all dressed up, with a fun group of girls having their pictures taken. I brought a few fun props to try including some balloons but then really let the photographer go for it.

We lucked out and had the perfect window of no rain to get some great pictures (it was steamy and as humid as could be though.) It was also nice knowing we got some great pictures early on and could relax a little more the rest of the night and not worry about it!

IMG_8307-4I’m so thankful to Meursault Photography for capturing these moments and couldn’t be more impressed! If anyone needs photos for any event or even just because you’re in the mood to have your photo taken, I’d highly recommend (especially if your located in Des Moines OR Eastern Iowa.)

Dinner

For dinner we went to one of Rachel’s favorites, Malo. It’s a trendy Mexican restaurant close to the hotel and the bars. Mexican food was great because it’s a lot of carbs before drinking but also because some of us weren’t that hungry and just got a few street tacos. One thing to keep in mind when you have a large group is to definitely call and make a reservation a week or two in advance!  We also addressed the check situation when we made the reservation too. We knew everyone was going to want to be on a separate ticket, so we requested that ahead of time. That way the restaurant and wait staff were prepared. They had 2 people to handle our table of 20 and they automatically added in gratuity for us as well! They were amazing and did such a great job, and no one was un-happy because they got stuck picking up a 20-person tab only to have no one pay them back!

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Going Out

After dinner, it started raining! A lot of us were a mess, but since we already too photos we decided to go back to the hotel, take a moment and a few of us changed out of our cute shoes for more comfortable options (it was the best idea I ever made!)

We then headed to Hello Marjorie, craft cocktail lounge that is super trendy (because of this adorable sign) as well as the amazing atmosphere and delicious cocktails. It never hurts to start a long night out with a good-quality cocktail! From there, I didn’t really plan it out. I knew we’d head to the area of Court that’s lined with bars, but I didn’t want a strict plan (remember my itinerary comment.) We went where ever the night took us and as long as we had a good time! We stopped and got Fong’s pizza just before bar close and headed back to the hotel where we talked for a while and tried to recover. Then we all went to sleep, woke up, at free hotel breakfast and went on to our other weekend activities.

I think everyone would say it was just the right amount of everything. Everything was relatively affordable (nothing out of the realm of a normal dinner and night out) everything was pretty walkable, so we didn’t have to coordinate too many Ubers back and forth. Everyone got to go where they wanted!
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I had such a blast celebrating my friend and her engagement and upcoming wedding. I was so happy to be a part of it and so glad to see everything work out. I hope you were able to come up with some ideas of your own after reading this for whatever the next party is that you’re planning OR if you need help planning an upcoming party—let me know and I’d love to help!

All The Time In Anaheim

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If you drive about 30 miles South of Los Angeles and you’ll reach a magical land in the middle of Orange County called Anaheim. Anaheim is home to many classic California attractions including Disneyland, various sports venues, breweries, and shopping districts-making it the perfect place to visit. This past month, I’ve spent a few days exploring some of the places Anaheim has to offer.

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Disney World in Orlando, Florida has always held a special place in my heart. We visited the different parks a few times while growing up and every time I went there I was always amazed by the magic. It never mattered how old I was-8 and still believed the characters were real or a freshman in high school-it was always the greatest adventure. Ever since moving to California, Disneyland was one of the places at the top of my list despite being 23 years old and some what of an adult, I’m still a kid at heart.

Lucky for me, I’ve made some pretty great friends out here that love Disney even more than I do!  My friends used to work at Disneyland and are still pretty well connected. They know the park like the back of their hand and know the best way to experience the day! I’m pretty lucky to have such amazing tour guides!

When we got to Anaheim we started the day by walking through Downtown Disney, a mini town-like area located outside of the park with lots of little shops and restaurants. You can visit this area without paying admission to the park! When you arrive at the park entrances, you have two choices right across from one another, the classic Disneyland and California Adventure. As mentioned, my friends are such big Disney fans they have season passes so there were able to get me a little bit of a discount. With that being said we did both parks in one day. While it was do-able, it would have been hard to make it on all the rides and see everything if you didn’t know what you were looking for. I would suggest you do a 2-Day pass and do one park each day so that you have plenty of time to experience both!

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We started off our morning at Disneyland, strolling down main street and seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle followed by Adventureland and favorite rides like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Although both rides are also at Disney World, they’re still a little different and there are new things to see! My favorite ride of the day was one I’ve never been on before, Indian Jones! The rollercoaster-like thriller will take you on an exciting journey to the Earth’s depths!

The park includes other classics like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain! Disneyland is a great park for families, especially younger children. There are rides and entertainment options for all ages. If you know me at all, you also probably know I usually experience extreme motion sickness, but none of the rides seemed to bother me much!

For the afternoon we made our way to California Adventure, which was probably my favorite! It had a lot of attractions I’d never seen before! California Adventure is home to one of my favorite rides, the new “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride (formally known as Tower of Terror.) Personally, I don’t think that it’s better than the original, but it is a fun spin on things! My favorite area of California adventure though was Cars Land where the animated classic Cars and Radiator Springs comes to life!

This summer has been special for the parks because of Pixar Fest (ending in September.) California Adventure set up “Pixar Pier” in honor of the celebration with attractions from this years’ Incredibles movie including the Incredi-coaster and even Nom Nom Cookies!

We finished off our day with some amazing cocktails and appetizers at Lamplight Lounge, an adorable all-things-Disney themed restaurant looking over the water at the park! The food and drinks were amazing, and it was the perfect end to a perfect day! I would highly recommend planning to have dinner there, but make sure you put in a reservation ahead of time!

That was more than enough Disney for one day, but two weekends later I was headed back to Anaheim for some more California fun! This past weekend I crossed another baseball stadium off the list and saw to California teams battle it out. I went with some friends to the Anaheim Angels stadium to watch them take on the Oakland A’s. The group I was with was all A’s fans, but I must say, the Angels fans were pretty nice considering. Before the game we headed to one of the breweries that surround the stadium for a drink then we walked over to the park. Our seats, at only $15 a piece, were great and in the shade most of the time which was awesome considering it was a one o’clock game. We enjoyed an afternoon of hot dogs, pretzels, and singing “take me out to the ball game.” Everyone was happy when the A’s walked away with the W!

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Following the game, we went to grab dinner (or dessert) at the Packing House. Located in the Packing District, the Packing house is an old warehouse that has been converted into a “walkable culinary” adventure featuring over 40 unique restaurant and stores with a ton of options to choose from. I had too many treats at the game and spoiled my dinner so ice cream for me! I can’t wait to come back here and explore this area some more.

Whether in Anaheim for a day or a few days, there’s plenty of things to do!

Is there anything I missed? If you have any recommendations or suggestions of what I should do the next time I’m in Anaheim, please let me know!!! Please comment below or email dayofjae@gmail.com.

All About Art

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IMG_7368You know…? I’m all about the art! I always have been. You name it, movies, television, music, theater, but mostly visual arts from crafting and sewing to basically anything that allows you to make something out of nothing (except for baking that is, I’m still working on how to do that successfully.) 

I’ve always been a creative person!  I don’t know that it was ever a conscious decision to pursue art but more so that I was always taking small steps that would lead me down that road. In fact, it wasn’t until my final years of high school that I even found graphic design and digital design. I did, however, know I needed a job that would allow me to be creative, think outside the box and provide a lot of variety.  I remember in fourth grade for career day all the girls were dressed up as teachers and nurses while all the boys wanted to be famous athletes and scientist. Me on the other hand, I showed up with a mood board (complete with fabric and paint swatches) and rendered drawings of a dream house because I wanted to have my own HGTV show one day.  (Sharing my ideas on a blog and social media is the next best thing to having my own tv show these days!)

So, I’ve always felt a connection with art, creativity, and other artists BUT I know that’s not the case for everyone. If you think art museums and exhibits sound boring, well keep reading because I’m writing this blog for you whether you think you’ll like it or not!  This week I’m here to offer up ways you can bring art into your own life in a fun and approachable way that works for you! Just stay with me…

Trust me, I get it! There was a time growing up that I thought visiting an art museum sounded like torture (I was probably five, but that’s not the point.)  In our culture, art museums sometimes get a “tricky” reputation.  They’re often thought of as being too prestigious, upper class, for people that have a higher education level and a big wallet… this is no longer the case and, in some places, it’s actually the exact opposite. Art and society generally follow suit with one another.  With the way our world is changing right now and growing to have a more open understand of other people, cultures, and lifestyles the art community is too.

I didn’t fully begin to appreciate art history and museums until I got to college.  Until then, I just like to make things and create my own art and not put much thought into it.  As part of my degree requirements I had to take a number of art history classes. I knew going into these classes that it’d be hard.  I knew art history meant learning hundreds of different dates and movements, learning words from other languages, and having to spell things like baroque and cubism and also be able to tell you what those words mean.  Don’t get me wrong-it was hard, and it could also be incredibly confusing at times.  Surprisingly though, my art history classes became some of my favorites (even despite they’re early start times and that they met on Fridays.)  Art history changed my life and outlook on art completely. It opened my mind up and changed my college experience for the better.

Art history classes taught me about other cultures, religions, and history that I hadn’t otherwise really been exposed to. It encouraged me to travel the world and look to the past to understand other people and traditions. It gave me a further appreciation and understanding for things that came and existed before me as well as for the things that will outlive me.  Now every time I step foot in an art museum, I’m reminded of all of these things.

I have been incredibly blessed to be able to travel around the world and our country.  In some cases, I was even fortunate enough to get to see the paintings, sculptures, or buildings that I’ve studied in real life. There’s nothing that can describe the feeling I get when I turn around a corner in a museum and find myself standing face to face with the statue of David or gazing into Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I literally lose my breath and just try to take it all in. Now, I don’t expect everyone to have the same reaction or get as much out of it as I do, but you may just surprise yourself.

Another stereotype closely related to the art world is you have to be rich to see it, to travel to it, or to have it in your home… all of this-not true.  Whether in a large metropolitan area or a smaller suburban or rural town, art is all around you and I guarantee you can find it if you’re willing to look. If you don’t believe me, the first place I’d start looking in your area is a local college campus.  They’ve got to have something going on whether it’s a student show or a private collection of work in a gallery it could be worth your while to look into it.  If you find yourself somewhere like New York, don’t let the prices scare you!  A lot of the museums offer different discounts and pricing options, some even take donations rather than set a strict ticket price.

Once you find one and once you get in, then what? What do you look at? How long are you supposed to look at things? What all are you supposed to read?  What if I don’t get it? 

These are ALL valid questions and my answer to all of them is to stop worrying and do what feels right. Other than being quiet and not running sprints down the hallway, there’s not much “right” or “wrong” to an art museum.

IMG_4170If you aren’t drawn to something right away (or if you think it’s absolutely horrible and don’t understand it as I first felt with abstract art and work by Matisse) I challenge you to just take a brief moment to ask yourself, why don’t I like this piece?  Your answer could surprise you and even lead your mind down a rabbit hole to discover something new… but if it doesn’t ring any bells or take you on a journey then on to the next one I say.

I guarantee when you visit a museum, you’re going to see a lot of art that you’d never want to hang on your wall or put in your house (but that’s why it’s hanging a museum and not over your mantel)  The point is you came to this place, you saw the things, you thought about it, and it gave you a reaction (that reaction could be “wow this is amazing” or “this is horrible.”)  An artist’s most basic goal though, is to get a reaction… might not be the one they had in mind but none the less, they just want to shake up something in you. Try your best to keep an open mind and give it a chance.

Believe it or not museums aren’t just paintings hung on walls these days.  There’s actually a lot of artist that are trying to change the traditional “museum” experience and setting AND there’s a lot more work and thought that goes into it than you’d think.  I myself got to explore and experience this logic myself when I created and curated my first show, Married to my Work.  It was my goal to break these art and museum stereotypes and create a space that was welcoming, memorable, and encouraged you to get involved and play a part in the art. (To read more about my own art show click here: Married to My Work.)

This idea of creating a welcome space is popping up everywhere and LA has some of the greatest examples.  If a traditional museum still isn’t speaking to you then find yourself a pop-up exhibit. One of my favorite shows I’ve ever been to was a collection of work for a lot of different artists that transformed a warehouse into an immersive experience in the middle of LA called the 14th Factory organized by artist, Simon Birch(You may remember or feel like you’ve heard about it because one of the installations was knocked over by a girl taking a selfie resulting in thousands of dollars in damage… let’s take a moment to feel for her though, because I was almost that girl.  No, I wasn’t taking a selfie, but my bag did bump one of the pedestals in that same exhibit and almost knocked them over like dominos, but I was able to catch it and steady it in time…still gives me anxiety thinking about it though.)

Another, more pop-culture based exhibit is The Museum of Selfies (where a lot of my pictures have been from lately.)  This museum did aim to teach you a thing or two and not just how to take a good selfie, but it’s main purpose was to allow you to interact with different scenes and from there create your own art with your selfie.

IMG_0872Most recently my team at Florapy also attended a pop-up art show in LA called Bloom Art Show.  It was an outdoor, weekend event that was all about flowers and experiencing the beauty of nature.

See… there are so many different ways to experience art!  Change, breaking out of your comfort zone, try new things, do something different… all key parts to an art museum as well as my goals of this blog.  I’m learning from my experiences and pushing my limits with the hope that my readers will too.  I challenge all of you who have made it through this lengthy post to keep pushing your boundaries (whatever that may mean to you!) If you go to any cool museums or exhibits OR if there’s any you’d like me to check out, let me know! You know me, always looking for suggestions. If you’d like to see more of my own art and designs, visit designforthestory.com, @designforthestory on Instagram, OR just simply click the Art Work tab above!

Home to Hollywood

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Hollywood: the entertainment capital of the world and the main reason I’ve day dreamed about Los Angeles since I was nine years old. It’s the home to America’s most beloved movies and television shows and everywhere you go in this city, you’re surrounded by the industry!

 

If you love to watch a screen (whether big or small) it comes to life right before your eyes. Everywhere you look, you can almost guarantee it’s served as a backdrop in one film or another (even the Buca de Beppo around the corner).  All of the major production studios are scattered around the city and many of them even find unique ways to open their doors and let you in. Whether you want to grab a cup of joe with an old Friend at the Central Perk Café at Warner Bros or travel the back lots at NBCUniversal Studios where you’ll find The Voice, Amity Island, and even Whoville. There’s something fun about interacting and seeing firsthand how and where some of your favorite movies are made.

IMG_6404You don’t have to take a tour or be on set to see where the magic happens. Like I said everywhere you go has played a role somewhere. Of course, it’s hard to miss some of Hollywood’s favorite backdrops like the iconic Hollywood Sign and don’t forget to take a trip on Mulholland Drive! While traveling through the city you will also probably pass or cross over the LA River, (not much of a river) home to one of my all-time favorite movie, the drag race scene in Grease (Go Grease Lightning go!)

When you’re here, there’s also always the excitement of you never know who you’ll run into (literally). Twice on my recent evening jogs in a quiet residential neighborhood I’ve passed a filming session for Julia Robert’s new TV Show, Homecoming (before you ask, no-I didn’t see her or any of her co-stars, but I did see the lighting guy, and he’s just as cool). As far as other sightings, I’ve seen countless Bachelor/Bachelorette stars, multiple E-personalities (even though I didn’t really know who they were), and a few of my favorites like Aaron Paul and Tyra Banks!

doj_instagram_17The key to seeing celebrities is mostly being able to be aware of your surroundings and knowing where and when to pay attention (something I’m not great at, but I am super good with faces!)  You could see someone at dinner, while out shopping, or even walking down a street (all places and real-life situations I’ve seen someone.)  When you do see someone, just keep it cool and gage the situation!  But come on we all know those few people that’d we’d freak out if we ever walked into a room and saw them, that one person standing right in front of us. I’ve gotten into convos where I try to think about who that person would be for me… sure, a few years ago it would have been Adam Levine, but I’ve seen him and we’re not getting married anytime soon so I’m over that. My inner middle schooler though, would still probably lose it though if I saw Zac Efron or Robert Pattinson though! I have been known to get more excited over the fact I actually spotted and recognized someone than the fact of their celebrity status or who they are. I mean when it comes down to it, they are normal people just out trying to live their everyday lives, but you bet if I run into Ellen, I’m going to ask her to take a selfie with me! I’d love to hear who you’d freak out over meeting! Send or message me your fav celebs and I’ll keep you posted if I ever run into them!

The most important way to experience the movies though, is still by actually going to a movie theater to watch a movie.  In LA there’s no exception, even when on vacation it’d recommend going to see a movie because it can be a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else and it plays a huge part in this city’s history and future. To get a unique LA movie theater experience, you can purchase tickets to sit where the stars sit for movie premieres at the Chinese Theater or see Disney’s latest hit at the El Capitan theater.

I love seeing a movie at the actual theater for many reasons that aren’t just butter covered popcorn. I think it’s so special to sit down next to your loved ones or sometimes even complete strangers to sit and experience a movie together.  The feeling of sharing a laugh with a room full of people during the latest Melissa McCarthy movie or jumping so high out of your seat during a trailer for an upcoming horror movie that it leaves the whole room laughing afterwards-that’s movie magic. It’s less about what you’re actually watching and more about experiencing it together and sharing that memory.

Movies literally bring people together in so many ways!  In LA there are some very unique ways to experience a movie especially a classic. Why sit where the stars sit, when you can sit right next to one of the greatest stars of all times (and by sit next to I mean set on top of…)  One of the greatest traditions in LA is to go see a favorite movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  You’ll actually be surrounded by some of the greatest entertainers that ever lived while you watch some of the most praised and loved movies of all time. With theaters the way they are nowadays, the comfort of your own bed is no longer an excuse. You can find theaters that are even better and comfier than your couch at home.  At iPic for example, you can sit in a recliner (big enough for two) that goes all way back. They’ll give you a pillow, a blanket, and free popcorn. You will also then have the chance to order things like sushi, steak, dessert and other delicious meals and they’ll bring it out for you. Now I don’t know about you but that sounds way better than what I’ve got at home.

Look, I know how expensive movies are getting, especially if you want to enjoy an experience like iPic, but trust me… I have a secret.  (It’s not much of a secret any more but it’s still so new to me that it feels like a secret.) If you love going to the movies, listen up this one is for you, finish reading my blog then before you go do whatever else you’re going to go do, you’re going to download Movie PassMovie Pass is the answer to your prayers and is exactly what it sounds like. It’s not a scam and it’s not too good to be true, but it is the greatest thing ever! It is a service that you subscribe to (just like Netflix) and for $10 a month you can see as many movies in theaters as you want (well up to one per day and you can’t see the same one twice-but still! That up to 31 movies a month for $10 total).

This is how it works… You sign up online or through the app, they they’re going to mail you a Movie Pass Card (it looks like a “credit card”). Once you’ve activated your card, you can go to select theaters in your area (in LA they’re everywhere, in Boone and Ames, don’t worry you can use Movie Pass at Movies 12 AND North Grand Cinema I already checked!) Once you have your card ready and you’re at the theater you select the movie and showtime you’d like to see and then click check-in. Next, you’ll go purchase your tickets, when you get to the counter to pay you simply swipe your Movie Pass card and then they take care of the rest. Some select theaters will even let you reserve your seat and ticket online, so you don’t have to show up extra early but check in with your local theater. The first time I ever used movie pass I would have paid $14 for a ticket at that location, but with Movie Pass all I paid was my $10 earlier that month and it had already paid for itself. Just keep in mind that this is a heck of a great deal and please don’t try to scam the system and ruin it for the rest of us. You can’t use your movie pass on other people or multiple tickets AND you can’t use it in combination with concession stand purchases.  Just take your “free” ticket and enjoy the show.

Now you have NO excuses not to go see the latest and greatest movies. If you just go to one movie a month, it’ll pay for itself. Since being out here, I’ve used my Movie Pass to see Life of the Party, Oceans 8, and Tag (all movies I’d highly recommend for very different reasons!) Next on the list is Incredibles 2, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (supposed to be awesome) Gotti (supposed to be horrible) and Hereditary (if I can find any friends brave enough to go with me).

Bonus: When I went to see Tag I also saw the trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale and it was the most beautiful, terrifying, magical, and creepy trailer I’ve ever seen. If you’re confused how all those adjectives fit together, check it out right now.

***Credits start rolling***

Don’t get up and leave your seats just yet! This city is known for making movies and a lot of people work in this industry. People appreciate every roll and all the effort that goes into make a great film.  With that being said, don’t be surprised if people stick around so that they can cheer and clap when their friend’s name scrolls across the screen! It’s worth the wait to see the joy!

This week my advice is to go to the movies and share an experience with other people. Whether the movie truly speaks to you or is the worst thing you’ve ever seen, there’s nothing like crying, laughing, and sometimes screaming all together.

Share with me what movies you’re excited to see or what your thoughts were on ones you’ve seen recently! Comment below, email dayofjae@gmail.com, or DM on Instagram!  Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for all the latest updates >>^^