Category Archives: Travel

San Diego Day (or Some More Family Time)

When I thought I was having surgery, the plan was to recover in LA with my parents for about a week and then head to San Diego to recover for almost another week. We wanted to make sure that I had enough time with help from my parents before they left (and obviously if I needed help longer we would have figured something out). Once the surgery was cancelled, my parents’ trip stayed the same but I didn’t go with them to San Diego right away. I decided to work so I didn’t have to use up the hours I had banked from work and then just went to San Diego for the day.

I’m pretty used to going to San Diego just for the day. It’s a bit of a drive, but not too unbearable. Plus, this was going to be a great opportunity for me to take my new car on a longer drive for the first time. The drive down was pretty easy (although I’ve figured out some new things that I want to see about getting for my car) and I was at my parents’ rental house right when they wanted me to get there.

As soon as I arrived, my dad and I went to get my grandma from her place. It’s much easier for her to get into my car than my mom’s since mine is lower to the ground. Plus that gave me extra time with my grandma. When we got her in my car and started to drive to the rental house, she realized that she left her sunglasses in her walker which was in my trunk. Fortunately, I have some random sunglasses in my car for just this occasion. I handed a pair to my grandma and I think she looked pretty amazing in the red sunglasses I had!

Once we got back to the rental house, most of the time we spent as a family was watching old home movies. My mom has turned most of our home movies into DVDs and it’s pretty fun to watch them. A lot of them are from family vacations and I’m glad that we have the videos since I was a teenager and don’t remember the trips as well as I’d like to. But I do still remember some of the really random moments from the trips like when we were in the amazon 17 years ago and I caught a piranha.

I posted that photo online and some of my friends commented that I look the same, but I think I look much older now. Or maybe I just looked really old when I was 16/17!

And as usual when I go down to San Diego to be with my family, my mom cooked an amazing dinner for us. There was a nice little outdoor eating area at the rental house and it was perfect weather for all of us to sit outside and enjoy a relaxing and delicious dinner.

And I know that my grandma really appreciates me coming to visit, even if it is only for a few hours. She seemed so happy with us all being together and I know that she had a great time. I thought maybe seeing some of the home movies would make her sad because my grandpa is in them, but that didn’t bother her. She didn’t remember everything that we did for each trip, but when there was stuff she did remember she seemed to light up and have funny stories to share about that part of the trip.

I didn’t get to spent too much time in San Diego because I had to be back in LA at a reasonable hour. I ended up spending about 5 hours there (and the total drive time round trip was about 4 hours), but it was totally worth it. I don’t get to see my grandma that often and I know I need to see her more. If I hadn’t gone to San Diego this time, I don’t know when I would have seen her again. Maybe at Thanksgiving but the last time I saw her was Thanksgiving and I would hate for an entire year to pass without a visit.

I know I need to make more of an effort to go to San Diego to see my grandma. It’s not that bad of a trip and just going out to lunch or dinner with her seems to make a huge difference in her day. I just need to work out when I can get down there again before Thanksgiving!

Full Thanksgiving Week (or Lots Of Family Time)

I feel like I’m still decompressing from my Thanksgiving week. It was such a great week and even though it was the same length as most of my Thanksgiving trips, I felt like I got more family time this year than I have in the past.

I was able to get my work shifted to be a bit earlier during Thanksgiving week, so I could start my drive to San Diego 2 hours earlier than normal. That made a huge difference in my drive since I ended up missing the big rush of traffic and was able to get down to San Diego in about 2 1/2 hours (normal for me is 2 hours and last Thanksgiving was over 4). My drive got a bit delayed when I was almost to the rental house when I got pulled over by a cop. Turned out my loaner car from the mechanic didn’t have the current registration sticker on it! It took some time for the cop to write the ticket, but since I’m not the owner of the car it isn’t my ticket.

Even with the time spent waiting for the ticket, the drive was easy and fast and once I got to the rental house I relaxed. I felt like I was totally in vacation mode and the view we had from the house really helped.

first-sunset

And Tucker decided to make himself very comfortable by using me as his personal pillow. At least I know he loves me since he was always laying on my legs if I was on the ground or on my feet if I was sitting in a chair.

tucker

The day I arrived, we didn’t do too much. Most of us had gotten to San Diego that day, so we were fine with relaxing and not rushing around. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and I went out to dinner that night which was nice since we were going to be around a ton of family the rest of the week.

On Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, I had to work from the rental house in the morning. There was a breakfast bar in the kitchen so I worked from there. It was a bit noisy, but it allowed me to still hang out with my family while I was working. I didn’t want to isolate myself so it worked out nicely! After my shift was done, I went with my dad to take the dog to a dog park (he needed to get out some energy). It was another pretty low-key day until dinnertime. We all headed over to my aunt’s house for dinner that night. Almost the entire family was there (we were only missing 1 person) and it was awesome!

It was a casual dinner which was nice. I ended up at a table with my brother, sister-in-law, cousin, and my cousin’s kids (so we were at a kids table), but that was fine. Eating dinner was pretty quick and most of the time we were there was spent in the living room talking. I was telling my grandma how you can look up census paperwork online and showed her how I found the paperwork her parents (my great-grandparents) filled out when she was little. Their maid was listed on their paperwork since she lived there and my grandma was telling us all stories about the maid and her parents. It was a really special thing to get to hear  since we don’t know a ton of stories from when my grandma was growing up.

Thanksgiving day was pretty busy. My morning included the family workout at Orangetheory (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions!) and then I was trying to help out my mom with getting dinner ready. A lot of stuff was done in advance but there was still plenty to do the day of. One of my jobs was to help with the big table we were using, but unfortunately even with all of the muscle in the family, we weren’t able to get the extra leaf in the table. But we managed to get everyone in between the main table and a card table (for the little kids), so it worked out well.

table

On Thanksgiving Day, my cousin Adam and his girlfriend arrived and with them there we had the entire family at Thanksgiving for the first time in a very long time! It was a very full dinner, but it was incredible to have 17 people from 4 generations together.

img_1499

This was also the first time in 6 years that the 5 of us in my generation (my cousins, brother, and I) were all together. I’m hoping this will be happening more often, but we had to get a photo together just in case it is a few more years before we can do this again.

cousins

The day after Thanksgiving, I had to work a full shift for work. I was able to get my hours shifted early again, so I only had to work from 8am-1pm. And I worked in the kitchen so I was spending time with my family in between customers (we didn’t get a ton of people calling or using our chat system so there was a lot downtime). My brother and sister-in-law left to go back to Santa Barbara while I was working, but everyone else was going to be coming back to the house for dinner again that night.

That last night in San Diego had another incredible sunset and my mom and grandma pulled some chairs over to the big windows so they could relax and watch the sun go down. We also tried to see the green flash with the sunset, but it was a bit too cloudy.

family

After having leftovers for dinner, I got back into my loaner car to make the drive back to LA. It would have been nice to spend another day in San Diego, but I really needed to get back. I said goodbye to everyone (a lot of them I might not see again until next Thanksgiving) and made the drive back up. Fortunately, I had a very easy drive (and didn’t get pulled over again) and was home in time to unpack before needing to go to bed.

Overall, it was a pretty wonderful Thanksgiving week. I know that I’m so lucky that my family can get together like this and I’m very grateful that we all make the effort to continue this family tradition.

A Tahoe Weekend (or Let It Snow!)

It had been a while since I was up to Lake Tahoe, so when my parents invited me to come up for a weekend in the fall I was really excited! The fall in Tahoe can be really nice and there is usually some really gorgeous foliage around the mountains to check out.

I was already pretty excited about the trip when my dad gave me a heads up a few days before I left to say that there was actually snow in the forecast! I hadn’t seen snow in several years so even the possibility of it was making me so happy. I tried to pack warm clothes and after work on Saturday I flew to Tahoe to meet up with my parents (and dog).

When we were driving from the Reno airport to Truckee, the fall foliage was already impressing me. The trees were so full of color that my mom pulled over the car so I could get a picture of the Aspen trees on the side of the road.

tahoe-trees

That first day in Tahoe we didn’t do too much. After I flew in, we drove to Truckee, we got some food, and got to my parents’ place; it was getting a bit late. I was pretty tired from getting up early that morning to work and even though I didn’t have a panic attack on the plane it still exhausted me to focus on staying calm. So I spent some time hanging out with my parents and I went to bed pretty early to get ready for the full day we had the next day.

The next morning I woke up to a beautiful view outside.

tahoe-morning

I was able to convince my dad to join me for some yoga in the morning, and then we all headed off to the unofficial dog park that Tucker loves in Truckee. The dog park is really a road behind the Truckee airport, but since it is gated and no cars can be on there, people let their dogs off leash to play. In the winter it can be a long walk, but when there isn’t snow you can park farther up the road.

Once we parked and started walking, Tucker was in heaven. He was enjoying all of the smells all around and he didn’t care too much that there were no other dogs for him to play with. Of course, as soon as we got back to the car, about 7 dogs and their owners showed up. We let Tucker play with the other dogs for a few minutes before we headed off to our next adventure for the day.

We drove for about 45 minutes to get to Spooner Lake. I’ve done this hike/walk before in the past. It’s a pretty flat road (although there are some uphill bits) and it’s about 2.5 miles around. Usually in the fall the trees are all super bright and yellow, but this time it wasn’t that way. But it was still a really nice day out.

spooner-lake

The walk around the lake took a while since Tucker had to be on leash and we had to keep stopping whenever he wanted to smell something exciting that he found. But it was fine that it was a slow walk since it gave us time to enjoy the view. I was also finding myself really out-of-breath quite a bit since I’m not used to the elevation that we were at. I always hate how I feel super out of shape when I’m in Tahoe since I can’t catch my breath as quickly as I can in LA, but I tried to not think about that too much.

After getting around the lake, we headed back toward my parents’ place to get some lunch at their favorite local Italian restaurant (they’ve been going there for almost 10 years but this was my first time there!). While we were eating, we noticed that the weather had changed from being nice and sunny to cloudy and overcast. And as we were finishing up it started to snow! After lunch we drove around and seeing the snow made me so happy!

snowing

In the snow, we weren’t going to do a ton of outside stuff so we headed back home and relaxed together. Tucker was pretty calm since he went to the dog park and had the walk around the lake. He wanted to hang out with us while we watched tv and decided to be a bit of a rule-breaker. He knows he can’t sit on the couch, but he can scoot back to the couch and he is so tall that his butt rests on it. I noticed him doing that and he gave me a dirty look when I asked Tucker if he was sitting on the couch.

tucker-on-couch

My last day in Tahoe started with seeing the snow that fell overnight!

backyard-snow

Originally, my dad had a couple of projects that he wanted me to help him with at their place. But because of the schedule and other things that happened our projects weren’t possible. But I was inspired by the snow and I told my dad that we should turn an old tree stake in their backyard into a snow stake so they can measure all the snow that falls this season! So my dad and I went outside in the cold with some electrical tape and a marker and we made a pretty impressive custom snow stake.

snow-stake

I helped my parents with a few other small projects and then we went out for a late lunch before they drove me back to the Reno airport so I could fly back home.

It was a quick trip (I was only there for 2 days) and we didn’t do a ton of stuff, but it was still a perfect weekend adventure and I’m so excited for when I get to go to Tahoe again!

The Rest Of My Maryland Trip (or More Family Time)

While the main event of my trip to Maryland was the family reunion, I also had all day Sunday there to spend with everyone. I started my day on Sunday with breakfast at Maria’s Love Point with my mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law. I can’t speak highly enough about Maria’s Love Point. My family were the only guests there so we had some really personalized attention. We had such an amazing breakfast every day and they asked us what we liked so they could make us things we would want. Every breakfast was fantastic and I’m just glad I didn’t gain a ton of weight from the trip!

After a relaxing breakfast at the B&B, we got into the car to head over to my Aunt Susan’s house where most of the family was gathering for breakfast and family time. It was a pretty short drive from where we were staying to her house, so everyone who was there was still there when we arrived. This was the first time I had seen my aunt’s house, so I got a quick tour from my dad and then spent the rest of my time there hanging out with my cousins.

I really was just so grateful that I’ve gotten to know my cousins as adults. I’ve had the privilege with my cousins on my mom’s side, but I see them every year. It’s not really possible for me to go back east every year or for my cousins to come to CA every year so our time together is really special to me. My cousin Danny is working on his PhD right now and he and I got into some really smart conversations. He sent me a couple of papers he’s worked on and while I knew he was smart I had no idea that he was that smart!

My conversation with my cousin Rachel, Alisa, cousin Janis (Rachel and Leah’s mom) and my mom was actually about childbirth and all the craziness that goes with it. I was the only one in the conversation without kids, but it was still fun hearing everyone’s stories. I’ve heard my birth story from my mom a couple of times, but it was fun watching my cousins listening to it and having their stories to share too. And while we had that conversation, everyone was taking a turn with Alisa and Danny’s brand new baby Hendrix (he was only a few weeks old). Everyone wanted to hold him because he’s just so cute, and finally I got my turn.

Hendrix

I’m so happy that I got to meet Hendrix, but I’m sad because I have no idea when I’ll see him (or Sebastian, his older brother) next. I’ve already been bugging Alisa and Danny that they need to come out to the west coast for a trip, so hopefully they will come visit soon!

After a few hours at my Aunt Susan’s house, it was time for us all to leave. My family headed back to the B&B where it was so hot out that the only thing we could think to do is to get back into the pool.

At The Pool

As you can tell from my photo, I got a bit of a sunburn while in Maryland. Only the parts of my body that were out of the pool (including my knees) got burnt and thankfully the sunburn is starting to fade now. I tried my best to protect my skin but I’m wondering if the humidity affected how the sunscreen worked on me. And yes, that is the bathing suit that I bought for Hawaii.

The pool was perfect and we spent a long time in there just hanging out as a family and enjoying our trip. It was nice to have some relaxing time together and I’m glad that we weren’t crazy over-scheduled while we were there.

After some time in the pool, we all got ready for dinner. We went out to a restaurant that was right on the water and we had a gorgeous view from our table.

Dinner View

After a nice dinner together, we headed back to the B&B and we all started packing to get ready to leave the next morning. My brother and sister-in-law were heading to Washington D.C. the next day and my parents were meeting with some friends to go camping. I had to get back to LA to get back to work, but it was nice that we were all leaving at the same time.

The next morning, we all headed to the airport together. The train station (for everyone else) was right next to the airport and we tried to arrange all of our transportation to be around the same time. I was the first one dropped off since I was flying and had to get through security. So I said goodbye to my family and headed into the Baltimore airport for my trip home.

I had 2 flights to get home with a few hour layover in between. My first flight was pretty uneventful. I had my window seat and the flight was full so every seat was taken. I spent most of my time reading my book and taking really quick naps (I think I slept for maybe 5 minutes at a time). My layover was spent getting some lunch and doing more reading. But when I got on the plane, I discovered that my seat was upgraded a bit!

Since I booked my tickets for this trip back in January, I’ve had several flight changes for my flights home. I think at one point I was getting flight or schedule changes every day. At one point, my new flights only had a layover of 30 minutes. I wasn’t ok with that so I called the airline to change it. I guess when I changed my flight but asked to keep my original seat number I got upgraded from economy to the fancier economy section!

The section I was in was only 3 rows of seats so it felt nice and small and I didn’t feel overwhelmed or panicky at all. I had a window seat with a ton of leg room and there was nobody sitting next to me so I stretched out on the flight.

Upgrade

It was so worth it to have the slightly upgraded seat (I would have loved to have been in first class, but that wasn’t in the cards for me), and I think having the extra room in front and next to me really helped to make this flight the most calm one I can remember having. If I have the option to upgrade to the nicer economy seats in the future (which I usually can’t do since I fly Southwest), I think I’m going to splurge on it because it was so much better for my mental health. I really am so happy that my flights were calm and I didn’t even take my meds for it. This is huge progress for me and I’m hoping that future flights go just as well.

Between the drive to the airport, my flights, my layover, and the time to drive back home I had traveled for 13 hours to get back to LA. The trip was totally worth it and I wouldn’t have changed any of it, but I was happy to be home.

I really hope that these family reunions will be more often in my future. I don’t want it to be another 5 or 16 years before I see people. I really do love my family and I want to be in their lives and not just through Facebook. Hopefully some of them can come out to visit me soon or I will have an opportunity to get back east again in the near future.

Going To Maryland (or A Cousin Reunion)

As I’ve mentioned, this past weekend I went to Maryland for a family reunion. I know it’s a bit crazy to fly back east just to be there for the weekend, but I had limited time I could take off and being there for the weekend is better than nothing!

My trip began on Friday (I was able to take both Friday and Saturday off from my box office job) when I flew to Baltimore. I was able to get on the same flight as my brother and sister-in-law so that was nice. Our flight was a bit delayed, so we grabbed some lunch at LAX before getting on the plane. It was a super packed flight and we couldn’t sit together, so I spent my flight reading and trying to not panic (I didn’t take any panic meds and I did great!).

When we landed, we got a cab out to Stevensville and arrived at Maria’s Love Point (the bed and breakfast my family was staying at) after midnight. We were all pretty tired so all we did was say hi to my parents, find our rooms, and go to bed. My room was perfect for me and I fell asleep pretty quickly that night (thankfully no jet-lag for me).

The next morning I woke up and had an amazing breakfast (seriously, Maria’s Love Point was the best B&B ever!) and went exploring around the B&B with my family. It was crazy hot and humid but we did want to go outside to check out the amazing view that the property had.

The View

There was a dock that went out into the water and we walked out to the end and back. I was shocked to see that the water was filled with jellyfish! Everywhere you looked you would see them so I was glad I was up on a dock and not walking along the edge of the water.

That day was the family reunion, but since it wasn’t starting until 1pm we tried to relax that morning. We all ended up spending a bit of time in the pool to try to beat the heat, but we were so grateful that the B&B had some really powerful air conditioning when we needed to cool off more inside.

Maria's Love Point

The family reunion was actually held at Maria’s Love Point, so that made things pretty convenient for us. We hung out in the pool until about noon and then we all started getting ready. It was being catered by a local restaurant and it was being held in a big room on the bottom floor (it was supposed to be outside but with the extra high temperatures and humidity we ended up moving it inside which was best).

I was pretty excited for this reunion! I went to the last big family reunion which was 16 years ago (half of my lifetime ago) but I hadn’t made it to any of the smaller reunions in the years since. I saw my aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin’s girlfriend 5 years ago at my brother’s medical school graduation; but I hadn’t seen them since. I was in touch with a bunch of family through Facebook, but that’s not the same.

This reunion was a reunion of cousin’s on my dad’s mom’s side. It was my dad, his siblings, his 1st cousins, and all of the 1st cousins’ kids and grandkids. We were only missing a couple of people there but we had 30 cousins from 3 generations all in one place which was incredible!

3 Generations Of Cousins

It was really great seeing people again for the first time in years and I even got to meet some cousins that I had never met before! It was a bit overwhelming, but I think we were all thinking that so there was no awkwardness at all.

Even though I was super excited to see everyone, I think I was extra excited to see my cousins that I’ve been closest to over the years. My cousin Leah (who I believe is technically my second cousin but we always called her my third cousin) and I were super close as teenagers. She came to stay with my family for a month for a couple of summers and I stayed with her family for a few weeks one summer. She even came out to California (she lives in Pennsylvania) for my Sweet 16. We were pen-pals for a couple of years and we see each other on Facebook, but the last time I saw her in person was 16 years ago at that reunion. Since then she’s gotten married and has 2 kids!

I was also super excited to see my cousin Rachel (who is Leah’s sister). She and I weren’t as close before as Leah and I were (Leah and I are only a few months apart and Rachel is a bit younger), but we’ve stayed in touch through social media and we’ve got similar personalities and senses of humor. I know if we lived closer to each other that we would be super close and probably hanging out quite a bit. She’s also had a kid since the last time I saw her.

And Alisa is my first cousin Danny’s girlfriend. Before this reunion, I had only seen her once in person 5 years ago my brother’s medical school graduation. At the time, she was super pregnant with their first kid. She actually had him a few days after I met her. And since then, she and Danny have had another baby. Again, we see each other online all the time and we’ve become very close, but it had been years since I had seen her in person.

The four of us were hanging out quite a bit at the reunion and I had to get a selfie with my amazing cousins. None of them are my first cousins, but that doesn’t matter. I love them all so much and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to have them as my family.

My Cousins

5 years ago (when I last saw Danny and Alisa), we got a picture together since before that trip it had been over 10 years since I had seen Danny. Ross, Danny, Alisa, and I got a quick picture after dinner and I’ve loved having that picture. Since we were all together again, we had to recreate the photo with the 2 babies (one of whom is technically in that first picture in Alisa’s belly).

5 Years Later

I have to say, I don’t think we’ve really changed that much in 5 years!

Sadly, the reunion had to come to a close around 6pm. I loved spending time with everyone, but we only had the space for a certain time and we didn’t want to take advantage. There was still more family time (more on that tomorrow), so it was only goodbye for the night.

While my parents, brother, sister-in-law and I were relaxing that evening; we found out that the house next to the B&B was throwing a huge party that night and they would be having a fireworks show. They do this party once a year and it happened to be the night we were there! So after it got dark, we all headed out to the patio to check out the show from the next house.

Fireworks

By the time the fireworks were done, all of us were pretty tired from the big day and we all headed back to our rooms to get a good night sleep before the next day (and my last full day in Maryland). And I’ll write about that tomorrow!

Trip Planning (or Keeping Panic To A Minimum)

This past weekend, I went to Maryland for a family reunion. I just got back last night so I’ll recap the trip tomorrow, but I wanted to share with you how my trip planning went.

I’m a pretty good traveler, but I get so nervous and panicky about things. I always want to make sure I remember everything and I know I overpack because I’m scared I’ll forget something that isn’t easy to find (like clothing). For years, I’ve taken panic meds before traveling (for a day or so before flying and then right before my flight to be ok with flying). But since I’ve been doing better with my panic attacks and my Vyvanse makes the panic meds not as effective, I’ve been trying to get through traveling without the meds. I’ve been doing ok with doing that at the dentist (which is a miracle), so it should be the same for traveling.

I tried to do all of the other things I do to prepare for traveling to keep myself calm. I made all of my usual checklists, I did all of my usual prep work (checking all my travel toiletries and supplies), and tried to plan for some fun things to do on the flights there and back. I flew there with my brother and sister-in-law, but I flew home by myself so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of new library books on my Kindle to read and other things to keep my mind off of flying.

I was doing pretty great with my prep stuff, until I started planning out my clothes. While I am used to occasionally having hot days in LA, we don’t have humidity like they do in Maryland. I wanted to make sure I had clothes that would do their best to keep me cool in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. Most of what I packed were workout clothes since those wick away sweat (I know that’s gross, but it’s true). And my outfit for the reunion was a tank top and a skirt so I figured it should keep me a bit cooler than other things. But just knowing that I might be sweaty for the entire weekend stressed me out.

I don’t know why that got to me so much, but I really was stressing a lot about the clothes and what would and wouldn’t show sweat if I was gross. I know that everyone else might be just as gross and sweaty, but I still didn’t want to look that way. I think part of it is knowing that I don’t want to look like I’m sweating because of my weight. I don’t want to be that stereotype and while I’ve been making good strides in my fitness and weight loss, others don’t know that and I don’t want to be judged.

I was talking to my mom about this a bit last week before leaving and she helped to calm me down a bit. I said that I just wanted to make sure I was impressing everyone since outside of my immediate family I haven’t seen any of the people at the reunion for 5 or 16 years (or ever in some cases). My mom was telling me how it doesn’t matter whether or not I impress people. I’m living my life the way I want to and as long as I’m happy it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I know I’ve known this, but having someone else tell me it made it finally register in my brain.

I really tried to focus on how awesome it’s going to be to be going on a trip and to see family that I haven’t seen in years. I’m so lucky that I had the opportunity to do this and I’m grateful that I got to go. These family reunions are held each year, but since everyone pretty much lives on the east coast they are always held there. And I usually don’t get to go so this time was really special. Focusing on those things did help me relax a bit and not feel like I really need to take my panic meds. I’d rather not have to take them anymore so testing myself is good for me. I’m so used to taking them, and trying to get off them is a good idea since I pretty much have to choose to take them or my Vyvanse (and I would rather be taking Vyvanse).

A full recap of my weekend in Maryland is coming and I can’t wait to share with you everyone that I got to finally see again!

Family Weekend (or Hanging Out With The Dog)

While Rayshell and Paul’s wedding was the main event of my weekend in Santa Barbara, I was there for a couple of days with my family as well. When I knew the date for the wedding, I had asked my parents if they would be in Santa Barbara at the same time. When I asked they didn’t have plans to be there then, but they looked into it and it worked out well for them to be there the same weekend. Not only did that give me time with my parents, it saved me the expense of getting a hotel since I could stay with them at the house they rented (thanks Mom and Dad!).

I got up there on Saturday afternoon after my race. When I arrived my parents were out with my brother and sister-in-law doing some wine tasting. I could have arrived up there earlier and might have been able to join them, but I was happier not rushing from the race to get ready. Taking my time was nice and even though I was alone at the rental house for a couple of hours before anyone else got back, I enjoyed that time reading and napping a little since I got up at 4am that day.

Once everyone got back, the dog was in heaven that so many people were there. He finally calmed down and settled in for one of his weirdly positioned naps.

Sleeping Tucker

While Tucker was resting, the rest of us visited. I had brought some stuff for everyone with me. My brother and sister-in-law got some stuff from a swag bag that I didn’t need (and I knew they would like), I had my mom’s birthday present since her birthday was last week, and I brought my parents’ anniversary gift since I didn’t know when else I could give it to them (I’ll see them at a family thing back east this summer, but I didn’t want to have to fly with the gift).

My brother and sister-in-law left a little bit after they arrived and I enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner with my parents. My friend Sarah came over and stayed with us that night (otherwise Sarah would have driven to and from Santa Barbara from LA twice in 2 days) and we all had a fun chat since Sarah’s last name is also Levin and I’m sure that somehow we are related. But since the wedding was the next day and I was exhausted, I was glad we all went to bed on the earlier side.

The next day, we dropped Sarah off at Rayshell’s parents’ home where the bridal party was getting ready (Sarah was a bridesmaid) and then my parents, the dog, and I headed out to Tucker’s Grove Park. I had heard of this park a while ago and thought it would be fun for the dog to go to a park with the same name as him. We started at the dog park, but some of the dogs were bugging Tucker a bit. So we headed out to do a walk/hike where everything was so nice and green because of the rain southern CA has been getting lately.

Tucker's Grove Park

It was pretty warm out and I didn’t want to get my hair too gross since I wasn’t going to wash it again before the wedding, so we turned around after a little bit and headed back to the dog park again to let Tucker get as much energy out as possible. It was all different dogs compared to when we were there before, but this time we met a dog that looked like he could have been related to Tucker!

Dog Twins

After the double dog park visit and the walk, I got some lunch with my parents before heading back to the rental house to get ready for the wedding.

I didn’t get back too late on Sunday night, so I was able to get up at a decent time on Monday. We relaxed around the house for a bit before taking the dog out to another dog park and for a nice walk. While the wedding was in Santa Barbara, the town we stayed in was called Summerland (it was just south of Santa Barbara). The town was really cute, but the freeway was really close and almost all the houses overlooked it. But at least they tried to hide the freeway with nice flowers.

Flowers

After our walk, my brother and sister-in-law came over and we went to lunch together to an Italian restaurant that they had been wanting to check out. After our lunch visit, I headed back to LA while everyone else went walking with the dog.

While the main point of my trip was to go to the wedding, it was nice to get to have family time too. It’s not too often that my immediate family is all together (and I’m not sure when that will happen again), so it was nice that we could coordinate schedules like that and all be in Santa Barbara together. I don’t know if I’ll see the dog before Thanksgiving (I might see him over the summer) and while I’ll see my parents in July I don’t know when I’ll see my brother and sister-in-law again (even though they live close to me, our schedules don’t always match). So I’m glad to get to fit in family time when I was already taking time away from home to make sure that I don’t go too long without seeing my family.

Santa Barbara Wedding (or Dancing The Night Away)

Right after my 5K, I had to get ready to head up to Santa Barbara. It was time for Rayshell and Paul’s wedding!

I’ve felt so fortunate that I had been invited to celebrate Rayshell (and Paul) leading up to the wedding. So the actual wedding was just another opportunity to celebrate them and I couldn’t wait! I was in Santa Barbara all weekend to spend time with my family (my parents were there to visit my brother and sister-in-law the same time I was up there), but first I want to focus on the main event!

The wedding was on Sunday afternoon on the beach in Santa Barbara. The ceremony was originally supposed to be outside on the beach, but due to the threat of rain it had to move inside to where the reception was going to be. But to be honest, I think it looked beautiful inside!

Ceremony

Also, being inside meant we didn’t have to worry about the wind or cold (or rain except it didn’t end up raining). When I arrived, I saw a bunch of my friends there so we went inside to claim our seats for the ceremony. I think we got some primo seats, so we were pretty happy. We spent the time before the ceremony started catching up and my friends’ husbands entertained us by being silly and deciding which groomsmen looked like which celebrities.

The ceremony itself was short and sweet (the way I think ceremonies should be). There were the traditional elements (Rayshell walking in with her dad, the vows, the ring exchange, and a first kiss before they were introduced as husband and wife), but the ceremony was performed by a friend of theirs so while it was short it was nice and personal.

Walking Down The Aisle Wedding Ceremony KissNewly Married

I had seen Rayshell’s dress before (I was there when she bought it), but it looked even more incredible on her at her wedding. She had sleeves added to the dress and once it was tailored to fit her it made her look like a bride in a magazine! I love that she was able to find the perfect dress and that she looked so gorgeous in it!

As soon as the ceremony was over, the bridal party went outside for photos and the guests stayed inside for cocktail hour. My friends and I were hanging out and enjoying the view from inside while drinks and appetizers were passed around (I didn’t eat much then because I wasn’t hungry yet, but all the food had rave reviews from everyone else!).

The Girls The View

We also wandered around the space a bit checking out what was there since we hadn’t done that before we sat down for the ceremony. We checked out the cake before the cake cutting.

Wedding Cake

There was an amazing photo display of family weddings through the years! We all loved this idea and I had never seen it done at a wedding before but I have a feeling that all the single people who were there will be copying this idea when they get married (I think I will when I get married one day)!

Table Cards

And we signed the guest book which was a drawing of Rayshell and Paul.

Guest Book

Then it was almost time for dinner to start, so we found where all the seating cards were to see what table we were at.

The Table

I loved that all the seating cards were in shells! I was seated at table 7 where some of my friends were seated (it seemed like the friends were scattered all around, but that didn’t really matter too much to us because as you’ll read we spent too much time on the dance floor).

My Card Table 7

After the bridal party and Rayshell and Paul were introduced and seated at their tables, it was time for dinner. Rayshell had told me before that it was going to be a buffet, but I had no idea that a buffet dinner could be this amazing!

Dinner

This was so yummy and tasted like any plated dinner you could get at a fancy restaurant! During dinner, I was chatting with my friends at my table and enjoying the room we were seated in. Besides the amazing ocean view, the room was really gorgeous with tall ceilings and cool beams. I hadn’t seen a venue like this before and I think Rayshell and Paul picked the perfect place for their wedding.

Venue

Rayshell and Paul had their first dance, and before I knew it the party had started! I’m usually not one to dance that much, but the DJ they had was amazing and even I spent most of my evening dancing with all of my friends and just being silly.

Friends The Group Dancing Get On The Dance Floor

I don’t think I’ve ever danced as much as I did that night. The music was amazing and the energy in the room made me want to be as much of a part of it as I could. There weren’t too many slow songs, but during those I just danced with my friends or we kind of did our own thing as a group. And during all the fast songs, we were bouncing around and making sure everyone else got on the dance floor with us. I did have to sit down from time to time because of my hips and my legs still being sore from the race, but I danced so much that the pedicure I got for the wedding got all chipped! I’ve never done that from dancing before so I think that’s a sign that I had a wonderful time.

There was a break in the dancing for the cake cutting and bouquet toss (Rayshell did a toss bouquet that broke into a couple of smaller bouquets so multiple women were able to catch it).

Cake Cutting The Bouquet Toss

After the end of the traditional reception things, the party on the dance floor continued. I swear I got close to 10,000 steps in on my Fitbit just from dancing alone! I tried to get pictures with as many people as possible (it’s not the norm for us all to be dressed up and fancy so I wanted to document that), but I have to say that my favorite picture of the entire evening is one that I got of Rayshell and Paul.

Bride and Groom

It’s so clear how much they love each other and how much fun they had at the wedding. They seriously are an amazing couple and I hope that I’m able to find someone who loves me as much as they love each other.

Before we knew it, it was time for the reception to end. Some people went to the hotel across the street to hang out at the bar, but I was pretty tired and my feet were starting to hurt from all the dancing. So I ended up leaving after saying goodbye to everyone there.

I know I say this about all the weddings I go to, but this was the best wedding! It was so perfect for who Rayshell and Paul are and even though I know they throw amazing parties this took things to a new level!

Congratulations to Rayshell and Paul! You guys are so perfect for each other and I know you are going to live your happily ever after now.

And Rayshell, thank you so much for letting me be a part of so many celebrations  of yours. I feel so special that you wanted me to be there to celebrate with you and I have loved seeing you put this wedding together (and it ended up better than I ever could have imagined from what you had told me). I love you so much and thank you for being an amazing friend to me!

With Rayshell

Bachelorette Adventures (or 24 Hours In San Diego)

After all the other adventures I had done recently, one of the final adventures for my February was going to my friend Rayshell’s bachelorette party! While I had been super excited about this for a while, I was a bit stressed with all my other scheduling things I had to work with. But the closer we got to the weekend, the more excited and less stressed I got. By the time it was time to go, I couldn’t wait!

The bachelorette party was in San Diego and was from Friday night until Sunday morning. Because of my workout schedule, meeting my sister-in-law for dinner, and rush hour traffic; I made the decision not to drive down on Friday night. I wouldn’t be getting there until after midnight so I figured it would be best to drive down on Saturday morning. But since I was driving down on Saturday instead of Friday, I was able to drive down with another friend also going to the bachelorette party! She had offered to drive (which I was so grateful for!) and I was the navigator. Between some random traffic and a big freeway closure, it took a little longer than expected. But we were still in San Diego at noon on Saturday.

Rayshell’s maid of honor had found an amazing house for us to stay in while we were there. There were a ton of rooms and couches for everyone to crash on. The only downside was that you had to walk up about 2 flights of stairs to get to the front door and then another flight of stairs inside to get to the main part of the house. It was a good workout, but my hips didn’t love it. I limited how many times I walked up and down so it wasn’t too horrible.

After we arrived, there was a bit of time to get some food and relax for a minute before we headed out for our first adventure of the party. Rayshell really wanted to try out an escape room and they found one that wasn’t too far from the house we rented for the weekend. The escape room we had was a zombie theme and we had to unlock various locks to find an antidote and the code to get out of the door in under an hour. With me being claustrophobic and having issues with fainting when things jump out at me (which is ironic since I worked at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios for 3 years), I asked the employees there if I would be fine. They told me that it never gets dark inside the locked room and while there is a zombie inside the room, you always see her and there are no startle scares. So I figured it would be fine for me to be inside and I went in with the rest of the group (we had arranged for the escape room to just be for us, but typically they will add in other groups to fill the room).

In the first part of the escape room, we had to get a code to get into the main room. We had figured out that it had to do with the numbers on the periodic table. So I was leaning over to read the numbers so we could figure out the answer when the sheet on a table right in front of me started moving and making noise (I think it was supposed to be a fake dead body). I honestly freaked out. It was pretty horrible. I didn’t faint (I’m still surprised that I didn’t), but I almost fell to my knees and I burst into tears. It wasn’t my best moment and I’m not proud that it happened, but it was my honest reaction to being scared like that.

Rayshell wanted me to leave after then, but I told her that I could calm down and the employee inside the room saw how freaked out I was and told me that in the other room there wasn’t anything like that to scare me. I wish that the employee that I had asked before going in the room had warned me about that. I asked him afterward why he hadn’t, and he didn’t think it would scare me since it was fake.

After my freak out, I focused on how I could help get us out of the room. I found some locks that needed to be unlocked and focused on opening those. I worked on solving equations and other things and pretty much stayed in one section of the room where nothing scared me and the actress playing the zombie couldn’t get me (if you were tagged you had to stand off to the side in “quarantine” for a couple of minutes before you could join back in).

In the end, we didn’t get out of the room. We opened a lot of the locks we needed to and even had the code to get out of the door. But because we didn’t get one thing unlocked, we couldn’t get to the keys that unlocked the cabinet that had the antidote we needed to win the escape room. But it doesn’t matter that we didn’t win, we all had a really great time (not counting my freak out time).

Escape Room

After the escape room, we headed back to the house to relax before getting ready for dinner. We ended up on the rooftop deck playing Cards Against Humanity. We got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset and had so much fun playing the game.

Cards Against Humanity

Next we all got ready to go to dinner and we all gave Rayshell the lingerie gifts that we got her (that was the plan for all of our gifts). And of course, we had to get some pictures with the bachelorette before we went out!

Levin Sandwich

We went to dinner in Little Italy at Trattoria Fantastica and had a table on the patio (they had a heat lamp so it was nice out there).

Bachelorette Group

We got some wine for the table and everyone was able to find something yummy to eat, even with the dietary restrictions people might have (they even had gluten-free pasta!). I got short rib pasta and it was really great (I also ate it all since that was really my first real meal of the day)!

Dinner

After we all got full on pasta (and for some people, drinks), we headed out to the Altitude Sky Lounge which is on the 22nd floor of a hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m not a nightclub/lounge person, but even I was in love with the view that we saw up there!

San Diego

Some of the girls had fun dancing, but a couple of us who aren’t really dancing people found a couch that overlooked the view and had a heat lamp above us (not everyone was dressed totally weather appropriate because we wanted to look cute). We also enjoyed sitting on the couch watching the craziness going on around us. There was one couple that we were mesmerized watching. The best way to describe it was that the guy was pretty much dancing like how we would imagine a monkey would dancing and was hard not to watch. When the bouncers walked over our way and ended up blocking the view, one of the girls asked the bouncers to move because we were watching them dance. Even the bouncers were mesmerized watching them and totally got why we wanted a clear view to enjoy the show.

The next stop for the night was another club for more dancing. But 4 of us were feeling pretty tired and not up to dancing so we split up and some went out and the rest went back to the house. I’m glad I left when I did because when I was going back up the stairs to the house, my hip decided to go out and I couldn’t get it to stop hurting. So after chatting with the other 3 girls who left early with me, we all got ready to go to bed and went to sleep. Even though there were beds downstairs I could sleep in, I couldn’t get down the stairs with my hip so I ended up sleeping on a couch (it wasn’t so bad).

Sunday morning everyone kind of got up around the same time. Most of the girls were going to go out for breakfast, but the friend I drove with and I wanted to leave by 9am because we wanted to beat the traffic and I had the Oscar party to get to! So we said goodbye to everyone and headed back to LA.

It was a crazy quick trip (we left LA at 9am Saturday and got back 11am Sunday), but it was full of so much fun stuff and awesome adventures! I really haven’t been to San Diego outside of family stuff, so it was great to explore the city with some friends and doing things that aren’t usually what I get to do down there.

The bachelorette party was the last event leading up to Rayshell’s wedding. I’m hoping that she and I can hang out for a happy hour before her wedding (we are overdue for one), but I’m really looking forward to the wedding. I know it’s going to be gorgeous and it’s another opportunity for me to celebrate my amazing friend!

Girls Weekend (or Hanging Out With My Mom And Aunt)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I think you know that I’m pretty close to my mom and to my Aunt Cindy. I love getting to hang out with them and we had a really great girls weekend 3 years ago when they came to LA to hang out with me for a few days. And this past weekend we got to have another amazing weekend hangout!

After dealing with a bunch of flight delays for my trip with my mom and sister-in-law last year, I got some credit to use on Southwest for a future trip. I thought maybe I’d use it for a trip to Tahoe or something else, but I realized that the one year mark of getting that credit was coming up and I was going to lose the credit. So my mom and I decided that we would go to Sacramento (I flew she drove) where my Aunt Cindy lives to hang out with her! I haven’t really spent a ton of time in the Sacramento area except when I’m there for Thanksgiving. But then I’m usually hanging out at my aunt and uncle’s house and not really exploring the area too much. So I was super excited for this trip!

I flew out after work on Saturday. This was my first time flying while taking Vyvanse and I was so nervous that I would have a horrible panic attack on the plane. But I’m happy to share that just like at the dentist, I did surprisingly well on the plane! I even got to enjoy the view a bit. It was awesome seeing snow out the window since we’ve been dealing with such a horrible drought the past few years.

Snow From The Sky

Once I landed, my mom picked me up and we went to check into our hotel. All we did there was drop off our bags and then we headed straight to my aunt and uncle’s house. It was so awesome to be there again, it had been several years since we had Thanksgiving there. My uncle was spending time with a friend of his while my mom and I were there, so we all went out to dinner to work on planning out our next day. Dinner was fun (we went out for Chinese food), but I was excited for our full day the next day.

On Sunday, my aunt came over to our hotel and we were off on our adventure. Our first stop was the Folsom Zoo. My aunt is a volunteer there so she led us on an amazing tour!

Folsom Zoo

I know some people don’t love zoos and I’ve had some thoughts about them after seeing the movie “Blackfish”. But the Folsom Zoo is actually an animal sanctuary. The animals there were illegal pets, animals that were hurt and couldn’t go back into the wild, or donated after someone could no longer care for them. They don’t buy or sell animals and they don’t have a breeding program to increase their animal population. So I had no concerns with seeing the animals there.

We saw a ton of different animals at the zoo including monkeys, bears, tigers, wolves, horses, pigs, snakes, birds, and chickens.

Monkeys Bear Chicken

The animal we saw the most were peacocks. They were all over the zoo and since they technically aren’t zoo animals, they run free all over the property.

Peacock

The zoo is pretty small, so we were there for about an hour before heading out to our next adventure: the Folsom Prison Museum.

This might seem like a weird adventure to go on (especially since it’s located right next to the prison), but it was a really good little museum. The man working there was a guard at the prison and he had a lot of interesting stories to share. We got to see a video about how the prison was built and the architectural history behind it. The museum also had some artifacts from the early days of the prison and a section dedicated to Johnny Cash.

We had a minor moment of panic when we were inside the museum and heard a siren go off, but it was a signal that it was noon and not anything scary. As we left we saw people heading into the prison for visiting hours, but it was cool to see it after learning so much about its construction.

Folsom Prison

Our next stop was downtown Folsom. We got a quick lunch at a pizza place and then walked a few blocks to the old Folsom Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is a state historic park and there was a very nice museum that we walked through first that explained the history of the powerhouse and the history of having electrical power in the state.

After the museum we headed down a short path to see the old powerhouse.

Folsom Powerhouse

There was a really knowledgeable guide inside the powerhouse who told us all about how it worked, showed us some historic pictures, and even showed us a beaver that was living under the powerhouse that you could see through a grate in the floor. We were also able to walk down to the lower powerhouse (it’s not always open). While walking around, we were so grateful that we lucked out on the weather and it was a gorgeous day!

Gorgeous Day

Our next stop was supposed to be the Folsom Museum, but they were closing early that day and we only had a few minutes to walk quickly through everything before they closed.

Since we weren’t spending time at the Folsom Museum, we decided to do some walking around and checking out the stores. My mom found something really cool to get my grandma for Mother’s Day and I found something that I’m going to give Rayshell for her wedding (I can’t post it on here yet because I know she reads my blog!). There was also a store that had some really cool decorative things made out of old silverware. I really liked them, but they were a bit pricy. I have no idea if I could do it myself, but I think if I found some awesome cheap silverware I might try it.

Crafty

After all that walking around and exploring, we headed back to the hotel to rest a little bit and then headed out for a quick casual dinner to end our girls weekend. It was a super full day and I had a great time, but I wish that I had a bit more time to spend with my aunt. But overall, it was an awesome Sacramento adventure.

On Monday, my mom and I were originally going to try to go to the Walt Disney Museum (my brother and sister-in-law gave me tickets for Hanukkah), but timing things out with rush hours and my flight home (which was out of San Jose) wasn’t going to work out. So we just drove straight to Saratoga so I could hang out with my dog and my dad.

We didn’t do anything too fancy when I was hanging out in Saratoga. I hadn’t been home in 2 years (since the first time I met Tucker), so there were a bunch of cool new things my parents wanted to show me in the house. We also took Tucker to the dog park (his favorite place!) and for a couple of walks. He’s gotten bigger since I saw him at Thanksgiving and he’s calmed down a bit too!

Tucker

Before I knew it, it was time to go to the airport to fly back home. I had another relatively calm flight and was home in time to get a good night sleep to get ready for the week.

I really had the best weekend with my mom and aunt. We’ve joked that in 3 years we’ll have to figure out another adventure to do together, but I really hope that we are able to do something together as a group sooner than that. We do such fun adventures/trips together and I can’t wait to see what we plan on doing next!