Recent Reads V.9

Normal People | This is a book that absolutely stuck with me and I’m sure will for a long time. Aspects of Marianne and Connell’s story felt all too real. The emotions these characters feel are raw and relatable. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this one. I listened to the audiobook and it was narrated with an Irish accent. Swoon. Also, the miniseries is to die for and in that rare occasion, even better than the book in my opinion.
(4.5 stars)

In Five Years | I listened to the audiobook version and loved it. I went into this book thinking that it was going to be romance story – I was wrong. While there are aspects or romance, it’s more about life and how you deal with it, but throw in a time travel/parallel universe twist. I found the story to be unique and compelling.
(4 stars)

The Vanishing Half | This book was incredible and it was heartbreaking. The story features black twin sisters and how their lives go in different directions. Their skin is light enough to pass as white and one of the sisters disappears and starts a new live for herself under the guise of a white woman. This might have been one of my favorite books.
(4.5 stars)

This Is How It Always Is | I believe this book should be a required read. The book centers on a young boy, Claude, who tells his family that he’s decided to be a girl. The story follows how the family keeps Claude’s secret from the world and how they learn to cope with having a transgendered child. The family is full complicated feelings as they try to find a delicate balance moving forward with their lives to both love and protect Claude.
(4 stars)

Beach Read | This one was a cute read, a bit predictable, but still cute. Perfect beach read – pun intended.
(3.5 stars)

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird | I didn’t love this one, but I didn’t hate it either. There’s loss, grief, turmoil, and then hopefulness. I didn’t love the somewhat unhealthy behavior of Lydia returning to her old life (the storyline has an alternate parallel universe) but she’s grieving and struggling so I gave the character a lot of grace. Overall it wasn’t my favorite though.
(3 stars)

DJI Mini 2 Drone Flying for Beginners

I mentioned in this post that I recently purchased a drone. Owning a drone that can take beautiful aerial photos had long been a dream of mine and one day a few months back (after a lot of research) I decided to just go for it! I purchased the DJI Mini 2 because it appeared to be the best option for beginners and for me specifically. I read a ton of reviews and watched countless videos just to make sure I was making the best choice for my needs.

Before my first flight:

Before I flew my drone for the first time, I took the recreational UAS safety test and familiarized myself with all of the flight rules and regulations. Even though my specific drone doesn’t require you to be registered with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) because the weight falls just under the recreational requirements, I went ahead and registered it anyway. If I want to add any aftermarket accessories to my drone (propeller guards, landing gear, or any other miscellaneous gadgets) it could increase the weight and then a registration would be required. The fee is only $5 and is good for 3 years, so it was worth it to me to just have that part taken care of. Since technically you’re operating a small aircraft, it was important to me that I have all my bases covered in case I run into any situations where I’m questioned for flying my drone. I also have my name and cell number label-printed on my drone in case it gets lost and I can’t locate it. Then the best case scenario would be that a nice person would find it and contact me.

I found watching this video to be extremely helpful to familiarize myself with operating my drone for the first time. It walks you through embarking on your first flight step by step. I then downloaded the DJI Fly app on my phone and got familiar with setting up my phone and controller. In the app you can also view “fly spots” to ensure that you’re flying in an authorized area.

My first flight:

For my first drone flight I ended up being more nervous than I anticipated. I even googled “afraid to fly my drone for the first time” and came across a ton of articles with advice and quickly learned this is a very common feeling, haha. I was visiting my parents in Central Oregon and thought their house would be the perfect location for a weekend of test flying since there aren’t many large trees and the landscape is very open. I completed roughly 10 flights over the weekend, practicing basic flight moves and just focusing on getting comfortable with the controller and movements. I practiced all of the built-in QuickShots (pre-set shooting modes that record your flight path) and took hundreds of photos and videos. I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice A LOT in a wide open location as you’re starting out. The more I fly, the comfortable I become.

What’s next:

Now that I have gained a lot more confidence in flying my drone on land I need to get more comfortable flying over water. I know with practice I’ll gain more confidence. We have a trip to Italy planned in May and I want to be able to capture videos and photos of the Amalfi coast without being scared the aircraft will dive straight into the water.

I am also going to start diving into the more advanced features that the DJI Fly app offers, specifically the Pro camera mode and manual camera settings. My goal is to get comfortable adjusting these settings while in flight so I can take better photos. All of the photos that I share below are taken on the Auto camera setting and are un-edited.

photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
photos from my first drone flight in Central Oregon
flying the drone straight up from my street
an aerial photo from my local park
a photo from my local park
flying the drone straight up from my street
downtown portland on a beautiful winter day
the Tilikum Crossing bridge
my street on a snowy winter day

The Best of 2021

It’s been a good year and it’s also been a strange year. We entered into 2021 with the pandemic still in full swing and so much uncertainty in the air. Luke and I both became fully vaccinated in April but still followed all of the safety precautions to keep ourselves and others safe. In some ways life slowly feels like it’s getting closer to “normal” and in other ways it doesn’t. This year we experienced more travel, more time outside of the house and more interactions with friends and family. Overall it was a more uplifting year than the previous one with so much hope on the horizon. When I take the time to write everything down and reflect on the past twelve months, I’m reminded that there is so much to be grateful for. Here’s my list of highlights from 2021:

Best Purchase: A drone. I’ve had my eye on this drone for a long time and one day I just decided on a whim to buy it, haha. It’s been so much fun learning how to fly it and get more comfortable with it. The pictures and videos are just unreal. I couldn’t be happier with this little gadget.

Best Meal I Made: Whipped feta. A few months back when we were in Nashville we had the famous whipped feta from the Butcher & Bee. We instantly became obsessed and sought out to recreate the dip at home asap. I think I’ve landed on a good attempt. It’s so simple yet tastes so complex.

Best Travel Experience: Lake Tahoe! Luke and I visited in July and fell in love with the beauty and charm of the lake lifestyle. I’ve always been a lake over beach kind of girl anyways. We found great restaurants, breweries, hiking, viewpoints, you name it. We’re already dreaming of our next visit to the lake.

Best Thing I Watched on TV: This was an easy answer for me last year but I can’t decide what I liked best this time around. Some of my favorites this year were: Curb Your Enthusiasm (newest season), Succession, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, Only Murders in the Building, Cruel Summer, The Other Two, The Sex Lives of College Girls, Euphoria, Mare of Easttown, The White Lotus… They’re all so good that I couldn’t pick just one.

Best Song: Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) by Elton John and Dua Lipa. If you haven’t listened to this jam yet, do yourself a favor and do it now.

Best Personal Accomplishment: I started seeing a therapist. I’ve been wanting to find a therapist to connect with for a long time and I finally decided to make it happen. I meet with her monthly and it’s been such a positive experience for me. Investing in your mental health is important and I’m glad I finally prioritized this.

Best Professional Accomplishment: About halfway through the year I got a new job. I’ve been working towards this goal for a long time and it feels so good to know that all my hard work was recognized and rewarded. 

Best Thing to Look Forward to: We booked a trip to Italy in April/May 2021 and we could not be more excited! We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the ever-changing world of travel logistics stays in our favor because Positano has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.

A fun visit to Lake Tahoe

Back in July, Luke and I spent five days exploring the Lake Tahoe area. It was our first visit and I can say with complete confidence that it will not be our last! The lake and surrounding areas are just stunning. The lake looks like one hundred different shades of blue depending on what area you’re viewing it from.

We chose to stay in South Lake Tahoe due to the number of accommodations, restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, shopping, etc. We could not have loved our location more! We ended each day completely exhausted from exploring, hiking, rafting and swimming. We would return to our hotel at the end of each day to freshen up and then walk only a few blocks to a variety of restaurants and breweries in the area – it was perfect.

See below for links to our favorite restaurants, bars, activities as well as a few helpful tips.

Restaurants: Artemis, Poke Rok, Freshies, AleWorX Pizza, Brooks Bar @ Edgewood, Sandwiches at Sprouts Cafe and New Moon, Coffee @ Trailfolk Coffee Co.

Breweries: Sidellis, Third Man Taphouse, South of North Brewing Co., The Hangar

Activities / Outdoors: Truckee river rafting, Sand Harbor, Heavenly Village Shops, Incline Village, Emerald Bay hiking trails, Donner Train Tunnels

A Few Tips:

We flew into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, rented a small SUV and drove just under 60 miles to South Lake Tahoe. We made South Lake Tahoe our main base and spent different days exploring different areas. One day we dedicated to exploring South Lake Tahoe. One day we dedicated to exploring Incline Village and the northern area of the lake. One day we drove to the west side of the lake and went river rafting in Tahoe City.

If you want to spend any time at Sand Harbor, make sure you get there very early in the morning to secure a parking spot. I’m talking 7:30am or earlier. We arrived around 9am and the lot was already full and they don’t allow you to park down the street and walk in. We found the parking situation to be the same for the hiking trails. Arrive. Early. Do your research on any area that you’d like to spend time in ahead of your visit.

If there are any activities that are high on your list (rafting, kayaking, jest skis, boating, restaurants, etc) check to see if you can make reservations in advance. It was quite busy when we visited in July and as each day passed more and more tourists arrived at the lake. Thinking ahead to our next trip, we’ll likely visit during the week and not over the weekend because the crowds on Friday and Saturday became overwhelming.

Viewpoint at Memorial Point Scenic Overlook
Viewpoint at Memorial Point Scenic Overlook
Beers at South of North Brewery. We visited their location at the Basecamp Hotel a few times during our trip. They have live music in the evenings!
Sand Harbor
Sidellis Brewery
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park
Back at South of North for some pre-dinner beers.
A ski chair at the Heavenly Village Shops.
Edgewood Golf Course
Edgewood Golf Course
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
Donner Train Tunnels
A quick stop to explore Truckee, CA before heading back to the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

The Best of 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 was not the stellar year we had hoped it would be as we entered into a new decade. This year presented us with a lot of devastation and heartache. It’s been a dark year in more ways than I can count and when you find yourself in a dark place it can be difficult to see your way out. I know I’ve had my fair share of those moments this year. I realize we’re all in different situations and circumstances, but when I deliberately shift my perspective and focus on the things that brought me joy, it really helps me to feel gratitude. I encourage you all to find what made you happy this year too. Well, without further ado, I present my list of happy things that came my way this year!

Best Quarantine Purchase: We purchased a king-sized bed frame and memory foam mattress and then promptly wondered what in the heck took us so long to do so in the first place. It’s the best! I even wrote a post about it here.

Best Thing I Watched on TV: In 2020 its been all about the mini-series for me. I love when a great book is made into an even better mini-series. For me it was without question Normal People. My friend recommended that I read the book and watch the mini-series and I have to say that both are just phenomenal. I felt all the feels. It’s raw, emotional and extremely relatable, like scary relatable. I watched it for a second time and found more meaning in the story. Ugh, I’m just not the same after this, haha. Also, the soundtrack is bomb.

Best Book I Read: This was a hard one to narrow down. I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked to and I kind of fell into a reading slump only finishing 29 books this year. I had a goal of 30 and I can’t believe I missed it by a single book. After reflecting back on those 29 books I would have to say that the best/favorite book I read this year was Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (see my review here). There were so many books that came in a close second.

Best Song: Summer Feelings by Lennon Stella (feat. Charlie Puth). Whenever this song came on it just made me want to dance and put me in a happy mood – I couldn’t get enough of it this year!

Best Discovery: Please don’t make fun of me but I used to diss on La Croix real hard buttttt I discovered a flavor that I absolutely love and cannot live without. Now I drink a Passionfruit La Croix every. single. day.

Best Meal I Made: So this is not really a meal, but we’ve been eating a lot of salmon and I came up with this stand-out sauce that goes so well with salmon and anything you choose as your side (roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, cous cous and asparagus are some of our favorite sides). The sauce is a maple-mustard sauce and it’s very simple to make. In a small bowl combine 1 TBS of melted butter, 2 TBS dijon mustard and 2 TBS maple syrup – whisk together and voila! This sauce seriously elevates anything you place it on!

Best Thing I Baked: Baking was a thing this year! The best thing I baked is hands down these soft chocolate chip cookies. My secret weapon is to use coconut sugar instead of white sugar. Trust me on that one 🙂 Also, only bake them for 9 minutes, no longer. You’re welcome.

Best Travel Experience: Without a doubt, Australia! Luke and I barely squeaked in our international trip this year right before the world starting spinning out of control with the pandemic. We visited Sydney, Melbourne + the Sunshine Coast in Feb/March and made it home one day before all international flights were cancelled. Words cannot express how grateful we are that we were able to take this trip. A very close second is the quick trip we took to California to get some sunshine and fresh air.

Best Professional Accomplishment: I started a “stretch assignment” at work where I carve out space from my current role and step into new responsibilities on a different team. It was a bit stress-inducing to learn a new area of the company remotely in our current WFH scenario, but it’s been the best thing that has happened to me professionally this year. I’m working in a digital operations capacity and not only is it a great fit for my skillset but it’s given me a lot more confidence in myself.

Best Personal Accomplishment: I opened an Etsy shop! I’ve been wanting to do something with my travel photography for a long time and this sounded like a fun thing to do! Photography has always been a huge passion of mine and I’m excited for this new venture and hope that I can connect with people that like my work and want to display it on their walls. Visit my Copeland Print Studio! Keep checking back because not only am I’m continuing to add new prints, but I have some ideas and projects coming up in the next few months.

Presidential Election: Luke and I are very invested in politics and have daily conversations on everything going on in our community and our country. There was a lot of stress and anxiety leading up to this election and I couldn’t be more thankful for the outcome. Joe Biden is going to be our new President and Kamala Harris our new Vice President! The future is hopeful my friends.

Upper Left USA

A few weekends ago we took an extra day off of work and spent some time up in NW Washington for a little escape. We made Port Angeles our home base and explored the surrounding areas. Port Angeles is a cute little town with a historic vibe and from the waterfront you can see our Canadian friends just around 20 miles north. Oh, how I wish I could’ve hopped on a ferry to Victoria, sigh. We’ll save that for a time in the future when this pandemic is successfully behind us.

This trip was spent mostly taking in the scenery and exploring the outdoors (sensing a theme here from my previous travel posts during a pandemic?) and we were very lucky with beautiful albeit very cold weather! Not far from Port Angeles, we explored Lake Crescent and Snug Harbor, located in the northern part of the Olympic National Park – which is where some of the darling photos below were taken. Even though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the beauty here still amazes me every time. The mix of evergreen trees and fall foliage is uniquely NW. It’s little weekend getaways like this that alway inspire me to explore more of Oregon and Washington since we live so close.

On the way in/out of town we briefly explored Sequim and Port Townsend – both of which I see us visiting again in the future!

A Quick Trip to California

Back in September we were itching to get away for a quick weekend trip. We had California on our minds and envisioned driving up and down 101 and taking in the views of the central coast. We figured staying in our car/finding places to explore outdoors was our best bet given there is still a pandemic in full swing. Anytime we were around anyone else we 100% had our masks on. We actually had our masks on just even walking around outside. For us, it’s better to err on the side of caution and plus I truly don’t mind wearing a mask. I understand people being leery of traveling (trust me, I am as well) which is why we take our safety and the safety of others very seriously by wearing our masks, washing our hands, sanitizing, eating meals outdoors away from other people, etc.

In California we explored Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea were new-to-me places and they were just adorable! I don’t have any restaurant recommendations, coffee shops or fun things to do to share in this post as this trip was really focused on being close to the water and breathing the fresh California air. I do have some pretty pictures to share though, which is something I’m always good for!

New Bed + Bedding (our best quarantine purchases!)

Being in a constant state of quarantine for the past 6+ months and the foreseeable future has really made us think about what we want to upgrade in our house and what we can live with and what we dont want to live without. One thing that had been on our minds for months was whether or not it was the right time to purchase a new bed. We’ve had a queen-sized bed (in good condition, just not my style) and even though we always dreamed of having a king-sized bed we never thought our primary bedroom was big enough for one. One day I took the measurements and realized IT WAS big enough! My sister coincidentally had purchased a new mattress around this time and had been raving about it. When we visited to help her move apartments we instantly fell in love with it, too. It was firm, but soft – and very comfortable. After a few stressful months of not sleeping particularly well on the old spring mattress (the pandemic, fears of losing our jobs, the administration that is running this country and just general fears of an uncertain future) we started looking into finally upgrading to a king-sized bed. It has been very clear to me in these uncertain times that prioritizing our health needs to be a the forefront. Purchasing this new bed definitely falls into this category, amiright?! After a ton of research we landed on a new frame and memory foam mattress and because of the size increase, we had to purchase new sheets and a duvet cover as well. We kept as much as we could (rugs, curtains, queen pillows, throw blanket, nightstands) because it really isn’t in the budget to makeover the entire room 🙂 We’re super happy with how the room turned out and we’ve been sleeping better than ever! See below for links to everything in the room.

King Frame in Charcoal, Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress, Queen Pillows (purchased a few years ago at IKEA and I believe still sold in store but not online), Throw Pillow, Bedding in Gray, Throw Blanket (purchased a few years ago but linking similar from Costco), Moroccan Diamond Rug, White Curtains, Nightstands

Recent Reads V.8

Recent Books

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland | I’ve long been fascinated with Northern Ireland history and when Luke finished this book late last year, he recommended that I read it as well. It was a phenomonal read and one that will stay with me. The author spent four years doing research, interviewed over 100 individuals and made seven trips to Northern Ireland for this book. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about The Troubles through specific and real events, I cannot recommend this book enough!
(4.5 stars)

The Sun Does Shine: How I found Life and Freedom on Death Row | Anthony “Ray” Hinton was accused of crimes he didn’t commit. He spent 30 years on death row in Alabama because the racist system was stacked agains him. There was no evidence linking him to the murders he was being accused of, only a few accounts of false testimonies from people that were set to see him imprisoned. Ray spent three decades attempting appeals that ultimately failed until the Supreme Court decided to throw his case out in 2015, making Ray a free man. While Ray’s story is incredibly heartbreaking it’s also lined with hope and inspiration. He made a life for himself on death row, transforming himself and those around him.
(4.5 stars)

China Rich Girlfriend | This book is the follow-up to Crazy Rich Asians (which I read a few years ago). China Rich Girlfriend follows the same characters, only a few years later. The crazy stories and family drama intensify with each passing scandal. It was a fun escape into the extravagant lives of these ultra-rich billionaires in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
(3.25 stars)

Americanah | A story of two young adults from Nigeria that leave their country for America and London, respectively. Ifemelu learns what it’s like to be Black for the first time in the United States while Obinze navigates a life in London undocumented.
(4 stars)

White Fragility | An eye opening and important read. This books dives into why white people have such a hard time being confronted and challenged on racism and how we need to work at being anti-racist every day. This book really made me take a hard look at how I show up and what I can do to be anti-racist. 
(4.25 stars)

Know My Name | A powerful memoir by Chanel Miller, the young woman who was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus by Brock Turner. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Chanel and I was blown away by her bravery and eloquence. While is story is horrific, it’s also filled with hope. 
(5 stars)