Recent Reads V.10

The Midnight Library | This book was unlike anything that I’ve read before. I was actually lucky enough to find it in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood – what a score! Without giving too much away, this book explores the endless paths ones life could take and all the lessons that you learn along the way. I found it very intriguing and thought provoking.
(4.25 stars)

Such a Fun Age | I loved this book, it was such a sharp read. The story explores race, privilege, class, careers, motherhood and friendship between the two main characters, Emira and Alix as they both navigate adulthood and find their place in this world. It was hard to put this book down, it was such a captivating read.
(4 stars)

Greenlights | I listened to the audiobook version because Matthew McConaughey narrates it, which makes it one million times more enjoyable. I love Matthew as an actor and getting to know the more human side of him through his book was so fun. His personality is so animated and listening to him tell a number of stories throughout his life was at times downright hilarious and enduring.
(4 stars)

28 Summers | I haven’t read too many Elin Hilderbrand books but from what I have read I’m sensing that her niche is “cheesy romance for young women”. This book is about a man and a woman that meet up every summer for a long weekend of romance over the course of 28 summers, despite both of them in other relationships each with children of their own. The story borders between scandalous and cheesy.
(3 stars)

Malibu Rising | I love a good Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Over the years her storytelling just keeps getting better and better. Malibu Rising kept me engaged throughout the entire book. I loved the dynamic between all of the siblings and how all of their drama unfolded and then eventually collided. I also loved that this book has cameos of characters from other books of hers.
(4.25 stars)

Untamed | Talk about a life changing book. I read this one so fast, I couldn’t put it down! Glennon’s story is awe-inspiring and brutally honest. I felt such an empowerment reading this book. It gave me confidence that I didn’t know I needed.
(5 stars)

Hollywoodland Secret Stairs

While in LA recently we wanted to take advantage of a nice sunny morning while getting in lot of steps. We decided to go on an adventure to find the secret (or maybe not-so-secret) stairs in the Beachwood Canyon / Hollywoodland neighborhood. Some of these stairs are no joke, they lead straight up and give your glutes a killer workout. My sister and I explored this area a few years back and it quickly became one of my favorite ways to get in a good workout while taking in some fun views of the Hollywood sign.

Where to find the stairs:

To locate all the secret stairs in the Beachwood Canyon / Hollywoodland neighborhood, first you’ll need to find a place to park on Beachwood Drive, then you’ll start walking north up the street. Once you pass the Beachwood Cafe (which by the way, looked like a very cute place for breakfast) the secret staircases are located just a bit further up on your left and your right. We loved taking the stairs up into the hilly neighborhood and just wandering around and taking in the views from the street. It’s such a unique neighborhood.

Here’s a map with the stairs circled. We found that our phones didn’t have any service while walking around the hills, so it might be best to take a screenshot to have with you for reference.
Looking north on Beachwood Drive

Colorful Los Angeles

One of my favorite things to do anywhere I go is to find pretty things to take pictures of. For me, a perfect day would be exploring aimlessly with my camera and just seeing where the day takes me. The urban sprawl of Los Angeles is beyond perfect for this because there are so many different neighborhoods and cities so close, all with their own vibe.

On this particular trip we spent some time wandering around the Los Angeles Arts District (a new-to-me area to explore) to see what street art we could find. There were so many colorful walls and photo opportunities. We didn’t stay too long because we needed to go grab lunch, but I definitely see myself spending more time in this area on our next trip – especially since Girl and the Goat is in this neighborhood and I’d love to dine there.

I rounded up some fun photos I took this past weekend all over the city. I included their locations, too, in case you want to visit any of these fun spots. I just love long weekends here.

1316 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
1316 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Paint splatters in the Arts District
Found on a random wall in the Arts District
1398 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
1398 Palmetto St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Found on a random street in the Arts District
1323 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Walking on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA
1337 Lebanon St. (at Cameron Lane), Los Angeles, CA 90015
1337 Lebanon St. (at Cameron Lane), Los Angeles, CA 90015
226 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
295 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
916 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

A Great White appreciation post

Luke and I were recently down in LA for an extended weekend. Every time we find ourselves in the area we’re always on the hunt for new and fun spots to eat. On this particular trip I found (and fell in love with) Great White. They recently opened a second location on Larchmont, but we opted for their original location in Venice for a morning breakfast. Great White serves breakfast, lunch and dinner – so it’s basically an all day cafe. When I was reviewing their menu and photos of their restaurant ahead of our visit I was sensing some strong Aussie vibes. And if you know anything about an Aussie breakfast, you know it’s going to be good.

Luke ordered the Great White Breakie and a coffee and I opted for the Breakfast Burrito and a Shaken Iced Latte. The breakfast burrito was straight from my breakfast burrito dreams and I’m still trying to figure out how to re-create that shaken iced latte at home.

We sat outside on their patio because it was a nice sunny morning, but made sure to step inside to see their beautiful indoor space.

Luke’s Great White Breakie
My Breakfast Burrito (and Shaken Iced Latte)

Rowena Crest Viewpoint

The Rowena Crest Viewpoint is located roughly 20 minutes east of Hood River, Oregon. For years I’ve seen photos of this beautiful location but wanted to see it with my own eyes, so one weekend Luke I drove out to the viewpoint to get some photos. On the day of our visit it was an exceptionally beautiful day in the gorge. The views in the gorge always amaze me; I’m convinced you can’t take a bad picture out here.

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.