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Love from Laguna

Vibrant flowers grew all along the cliffs of Laguna Niguel, CA

Vibrant flowers grew all along the cliffs of Laguna Niguel, CA

When reading Jane Austen novels, I used to crack up whenever stodgy, Victorian doctors recommended their cure for everything – time at the beach. It didn’t matter if a girl was suffering a broken heart, a broken limb, public shame, or terminal illness, the prescription was almost without fail, “Take her for a spell in Bath.” Silly as this has always seemed to me, I must admit that when my husband and I made an impromptu escape to Laguna Niguel this weekend I could feel my stress and body aches melting away. Even though I had to work most of the time we were there, I felt instantly soothed by the smell of salt air and the sounds of ocean waves. Perhaps there really is something to be said for the healing properties of time at the beach…

Don't you love how these cliffs create a cushy, flowering waterfall into the ocean?

Don’t you love how these cliffs create a cushy, flowering waterfall into the ocean?

Pretty palms abounded...

Pretty palms abounded…

My favorite meal: lobster tacos, held together by the cutest clothespins in the world

My favorite meal: lobster tacos, held together by the cutest clothespins in the world

A shot of the Laguna Niguel coastline from our balcony

A shot of the Laguna Niguel coastline from our balcony

My husband and me enjoying the last blast of summer sun on a jetty

My husband and me enjoying the last blast of summer sun on a jetty

Ah, the visage of a sunset and the sound of crashing waves...

Ah, the visage of a sunset and the sound of crashing waves…

Psst: I hope your autumn is off to a grand start! Have there been beaches, or maybe waves of foliage in your recent landscapes? Leave a comment.

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Sweet Nothings, Travel

Just Go

How can this image of gnomes and a wiener dog peering out of a trailer not inspire wanderlust?

How can this image of gnomes and a wiener dog peering out of a trailer not inspire wanderlust?

I’ve had this unshakable urge to do something irresponsible, err spontaneous, lately. I’ve been itching to pack up my car on a moment’s notice, hit the road with my sweet, and just go. Go where? I’m not sure, but I know even the simplest trip up the Pacific Coast Highway would prove to be a fabulous adventure. This feeling of wanderlust has even entered my dreams, and I’ve woken up several mornings convinced that I’ll find an Airstream trailer or old Volkswagen bus parked in my driveway along with keys in the ignition and a note that reads “Drive Me.” In one such dream, I ended up road-tripping in a trailer that had a spinning cupcake on top of it (a la these kitschy trailers), so my love and I went with the flow and sold cupcakes all the way from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. Needless to say, my dreams are getting more bizarre and delicious by the minute, and I’m now starting to crave buttercream frosting along with the cool feel of an Airstream’s steering wheel. I guess my subconscious is – if nothing else – trying to reassure me that life is most wonderful when we just go with it…

In my dreams, this is what my rear-view mirror looks like and I'm always on the open road

In my dreams, this is what my rear-view mirror looks like and I’m always on the open road

Psst: What do you see in the rear-view mirrors of your dreams? Leave a comment.

Images are from Pinterest, and The 189 via Willow and Frank.

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Love, Travel

Coronado Island

Hotel Del Coronado, a wooden Victorian that’s been standing off the coast of San Diego since 1888

Let the veil of mystery be lifted…My husband surprised me with a trip to Coronado Island last weekend for our anniversary! Coronado is a tiny island off the southernmost tip of California and it requires sitting in some pretty sluggish traffic to get there, but it was worth it to get away from the routine of everyday life and all the work that tends to follow us home. We stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado, which is the beautifully maintained, giant wood structure that actually served as the location for one of my favorite movies, “Some Like It Hot.” We sipped red wine, slept in, ate too much (the most notable dish was fried prosciutto with a dipping sauce that tasted exactly like sour-cream-and-onion potato chips), and I made the delightful discovery that wedding anniversaries are like birthdays on steroids. This is to say: as I shared a simple, seaside stroll with my love and we reminisced about exchanging our vows, I had the giddiest feeling that I never wanted the day to end. Here are some snapshots from our little getaway…

I couldn’t help marveling at how massive yet ancient this seaside structure was

Our anniversary date written in the sand

I don’t think I’ve had sour-cream-and-onion potato chips in years, but this fried prosciutto took me right back to elementary school lunches

Chocolate caramels and red wine didn’t exactly remind me of childhood, but they were yummy

My sweet and I as the sun set on our first wedding anniversary

Sunsets and palm trees…

The rooftop of the hotel looked so cool all lit up at night

Psst: Isn’t it neat that this big structure has been standing for so long, and that its wood has weathered so many years by the sea? Do you remember seeing this building in “Some Like It Hot?” Leave a comment.

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Sweet Nothings, Travel

Smile, It’s Summer

Seaside house I walked past every day while on Martha’s Vineyard

Childhood summers always had a quality about them that made me want to reinvent myself – to somehow become a better version of me who’d done all her summer reading and developed the good habit of laying out her outfits each night before bed by the time a new school year rolled around. As an adult, this feeling usually arises from my vacations, when I find myself fantasizing about how I can bring the calm, slow pace of time off back into my daily life. And, since I took a quick vacation in my home state of Massachusetts a few weeks ago, the fantasizing/scheming sections of my brain were thrown into overdrive…

We spent a few days on Cape Cod attending my cousin’s wedding, then popped over to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for a whole lot of seafood and family time. We sat by the ocean and ate lobster rolls for lunch every single day, and the sights of hydrangeas and lighthouses reminded me so vividly of childhood summers in New England. It was muggy (we’re talking clothes-sticking-to-your-skin-even-in-the-dead-of-night kinda weather), but the sea air was refreshing and the time off from the norm was inspiring. My husband and I have since left the gray-shingled houses and copious lobstah behind, and are now back to the surreality of the West Coast (a.k.a., the place of 75 degrees all the time, unnecessary air conditioning, and heaps of work). True to my ever-scheming form, however, I’m hopeful that I haven’t left everything behind me, in that I feel excited to face new challenges and attempt to bring some of the serenity from my trip into my daily life. Here are some snapshots from this nostalgia-infused slice of my summer…

View of Oak Bluffs Harbor (it was actually rumored that Oprah’s yacht docked here right before the July 4th weekend)

Tastiest lobster roll in all of Massachusetts, care of Nancy’s Restaurant and Snack Bar in Oak Bluffs

Enjoying my last lobster roll of the season

Lobster hand towel – be still my germaphobic heart

Head sculptures that doubled as planters in a Martha’s Vineyard art store

Blue hydrangeas epitomize the look of New England summer

Pink and purple hydrangeas aren’t too shabby either

Rolling clouds and the East Chop Boathouse

Farewell view of Falmouth, Cape Cod

Psst: Do you have any resolutions for the summer, or are these sunny months inspiring any changes that you want to institute come autumn? Leave a comment.

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Art and Architecture, Travel

Flanders Flashback

Me on Saint Michael's Bridge in Ghent, Belgium

I can’t believe it’s been nearly two weeks since I was in the magical city of Ghent. I’d wanted to write up several elaborate travel posts to somehow help you vicariously journey there with me, but the time just escaped me. Don’t you hate it when time does that? (When one minute you’re in Europe, the next you’re home celebrating Valentine’s Day, then your husband’s birthday, and suddenly the bris of the child you’d forgotten you were even pregnant with. Don’t worry, mum, the last bit is in no way based on reality, but I think everyone gets the gist of what I mean.)

This way time has of moving in leaps and bounds is ironically something Ghent seemed immune to. When my husband and I walked around this Belgian city, it felt like we were immersed in the stuff my childhood story books were made of – as though every piece of architecture should have been prefaced with “Once upon a time.” There was a medieval castle, cobblestone streets for days, and an air of quaintness to everything that bespoke fairies, spells, and dragons. No matter the constant snowfalls and freezing temperatures, the air felt crisper and cleaner than anything I had breathed in ages, and – standing still in time amidst the town squares of this Flemish city – my mind felt clearer, too. I felt so aware of the genuine slices of life that are really important – the stories I have to tell, the art I am fortunate enough to make, and the man who’s hand I’m oh-so eager to hold throughout all my timeless travels yet to come. I feel so much overwhelming gratitude that I was able to experience this awe and perspective, and – before even more time escapes me – I just want to share a bit more of Ghent’s timelessness with you in picture form…

View of the snowy canal at night...

And by day...

Walk down any given street in Ghent and it looks like this

Majestic piece of architecture nestled amidst quiet cafes

Close up of a window that looks reminiscent of a spider web or plant roots

Who can help taking long coffee breaks when you're near architecture like this?

Ghent inspires many handmade-chocolate breaks as well...

Chocolates had a warming effect when eaten on these cobblestone streets at night

Would you ever guess that I spotted this Madonna and child statue above a prosciutto maker's of all places?

Saint Bavo Cathedral

Marble sculpture inside the cathedral

This stained-glass window inside the cathedral felt so warm despite how cold it was outside

Ghent's medieval castle nestled behind modern trolly wires

View of Ghent from the castle

Arched ceilings of the castle - can you believe how well the craftsmanship's held up?

Psst: Has time been flying for you? If so, I hope it is flapping its wings in the direction of your dreams. Wishing you a lovely weekend, dear readers! (It is that time already, isn’t it?) Leave a comment.

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Kitsch Fixes, Travel

Kitsch FIx # 67: Belgium’s Best

Plaster waffle in the snowy streets of Ghent, Belgium

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city that feels half as charming as Ghent, Belgium. Many streets date back to the middle ages as does the stone castle at the city’s center, and every single building appears to be several centuries old and is as ornate as an opera house. For this reason, every piece of kitsch I spotted there (while few and far between in this tasteful cityscape) gave off an air of coziness. Each rare, kitschy plaster sculpture or painted sign served as a reminder of the city’s timelessness, and – thanks to their rarity – reminded me that I was in a place of brick and candlelight instead of a place of plaster and neon…

French fry sign welcoming passersby in from the chilly, cobblestone streets

Wouldn't you like this plaster barmaid to serve you a Belgian beer?

Oh how beautifully out of place this plaster sandwich looks amidst the steeples of ancient stone churches...

See what I mean?

Here's one more shot of the waffle for good measure (don't you also adore the sign "I'm a chocolate lover! You?")

Psst: Which piece of kitsch is your favorite? Mine is the sandwich, thanks to the visage of the old church behind it. Leave a comment.

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Amsterdam By Day

Graffiti on the sides of the Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam, Netherlands

I woke up in Amsterdam yesterday morning to the sound of distinctly European police sirens whizzing by my hotel window, and I suddenly had the strange feeling that I was living inside a game of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. Not only did I awaken to memories of this children’s computer game, but I spent the day feeling like an adventurous kid – I traipsed through the city’s freezing-cold cobblestone streets with a scribble-covered map and a camera clutched tightly in my mittens, and basked in the luxury of having absolutely no agenda (other than seeking out a new cup of hot chocolate every hour in order to stay warm). I had just one day to spend in this vibrant Dutch city, but the fact that I’d already spent an entire week here one year ago freed me from any museum/sightseeing obligations. It was like I had a free pass to wander aimlessly and soak up street culture, and neither my jet-lagged body nor camera lens could have been happier. Here are some of my favorite sights from the day…

Vibrant, flowering bulbs that didn't get the cold-weather memo

Over-sized wood clog outside an Amsterdam souvenir shop

Wood tulips and clogs at the Floating Flower Market

Decked out row of bikes along one of Amsterdam's many canals

Paint-splattered plaster horses through an art gallery window

Yarn-bombed rails of a bridge

Mossy tree tangles growing neatly around windows of a brownstone

Dainty yellow flowers painted on the side of a brick building

Storefront of a fancy costume maker's shop - operatic garments and a sea of bikes make this sight unmistakably European much like the sirens of my wake-up call

Psst: Today I drove from Amsterdam to Ghent, Belgium, and I’m currently indulging in some fresh chocolates while hunkering down on an evening of work. I’m technically here on one of my husband’s business trips, but I hope to have lots of chocolate tastings and medieval-castle tours to report back on after a work-free weekend here in Ghent. Whether you are working or playing – near or far – I wish you a lovely Thursday, my darlings! Leave a comment.

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Wicked-Awesome Wanderings

'Lobster Rolls' sign in Boston's North End

I’m thrilled to announce that today Bucket List Nation is featuring a fun travel post I wrote about my recent trip to Boston. I hope you’ll wander on over, leave some comment love, and let me know what you think of the photos. Ooh, and I apologize in advance for any crustacean food cravings that may strike while vicariously traveling to Beantown with me…Aside from reading up on cannolis and lobster rolls, do you have any culinary adventures or travels in store for the next few days? I know I will be doing a lot of house-related wanderings in my mind along with a begrudged spot of work. Whether you’re working, playing, or riding a unicycle on the tightrope in between, I wish you a most lovely weekend! Leave a comment.

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Planes, Trains, and Puppies

Marilyn Monroe traveling the rails with her ukulele in "Some Like It Hot" (1959)

Today my husband and I board a plane to Massachusetts so we can spend a week with my parents, sisters, and their puppies. I’m looking forward to staying awake into the wee hours just catching up, baking Christmas cookies galore, and watching lots of movies. Weather reports look unseasonably warm, but if there is a cold front I won’t be opposed to making snow angels and watching my sisters’ pups leave paw prints behind them in the freshly fallen snow. My blog posts will likely be sporadic at best next week as I cherish family time, so until the new year I am wishing you and yours a most wonderful end of 2011 and a glorious start of 2012. Leave a comment.

Still photo from “Some Like It Hot” via Pinterest.

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Kitsch Fixes, Travel

Kitsch Fix #53: Canadian Curios

"Eh!" neon sign at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Few things make traveling more fun than a tourist industry with a good sense of humor about itself. This is because it’s not only financially savvy when souvenir shops cater to grandmas desiring glitter-filled snow globes from Miami and suitors craving heart-adorned trolly cars from San Francisco, but it’s also a great photo opportunity. On my recent trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, I enjoyed plenty such photo ops, and – even though the city is not a major tourist destination – I managed to hunt down some self-effacing kitsch. My heart warmed upon spotting this neon sign of a maple-leaf-encircled “Eh,” and several tchotchkes even taught me something about my great northern neighbor. Specifically, a plethora of beaver-shaped stuffed animals, key chains, and cartooned T-shirts prompted me to learn that the beaver is actually an official emblem of Canada. Who knew? I will be sharing many more interesting tidbits and photos from my trip in just a few days on Bucket List Nation, but these critters should be able hold you over until then…

Key chains of stuffed animals wearing Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms

Giant, stuffed bear donning a hat of Canadian colors

Moose wearing a Winnipeg sweatshirt and lots of Canadian maple leafs

Toothy beaver - did you already know that this fella and his kin symbolize Canada's government and national spirit?

Psst: Do you like to buy little souvenirs when you travel, or are the memories enough of a takeaway? As you can see, I’m more of a snap-dozens-of-souvenir-photos kinda gal, but sometimes a tangible, kitschy piece of memorabilia is nice. My favorite souvenirs of all time are still these tulip pens from Amsterdam. Do you have a favorite token from any of your travels? Leave a comment.

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