Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2013: My Favorite Moments

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe 2013 is over! As many people do with the start of a new year, here's a recap of some of my favorite moments of last year. It included four trips back to the East Coast, three trips in California, two weddings, two Bachelorette parties, turning 30, jumping out of a plane and becoming an "Auntie"... whoa, it was a busy one!

In February, my high school best girlfriends gathered in Atlanta to celebrate our bride-to-be Caroline for her Bachelorette weekend. Caroline is one of my oldest friends that I've known since we were babies. The weekend included lots of girl time, fun games, laugh-till-it-hurts conversations, a bridal shower lunch, a Greek dinner complete with dancing in circles around the restaurant, a wild night on the town -- and a NeNe Leakes (Real Housewives of Atlanta) sighting! 
Then in April, it was time for Caroline and Dan's wedding in our hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia! It was such a blast to be together with so many of my childhood friends and our families to celebrate the happy couple. It was a beautiful wedding and I am so incredibly happy for these two! 
In May, it was time to celebrate another bride-to-be, my friend Erin who I worked with at my first job here in San Diego. We headed up the Southern California coast to Santa Barbara for a wine tasting weekend! We stayed at an adorable B&B close to the water, went out on the town for dinner and drinks the first night, and spent Saturday touring the Santa Ynez valley for wine tastings (where the movie Sideways took place).
Then in late June, it was time to venture up to Northern California for the epic Yosemite wedding of Erin and Doug. They are both big outdoorsy people, and had done many hiking trips to Yosemite together. It was the perfect place for them to say "I Do." It was a magical wedding and I was so honored to be there. It was an incredible long weekend of celebrating with the happy couple, exploring Yosemite and spending time with some awesome friends.
For more about my summer travels around California, including a week in San Francisco, I wrote about them awhile back here

I had made a  "30 before 30" bucket list to be completed by my 30th birthday in October. As life often does, the year slipped by quickly and I didn't get to check off everything on my list. But I'm so happy that I checked off probably the biggest and scariest of the items, SKYDIVING! My Dad and brother Nick came out to visit the weekend before my birthday, and I talked my brother into taking the plunge, literally, with me. I'm so glad I had him there to calm my nerves and it's an experience I'll never forget. I will definitely be skydiving again! It was the craziest and most exhilarating five minutes of my life, and I loved every second!
On the night of my birthday, I met up with my friends at Stone Brewing's new restaurant for a fantastic dinner and beer. I'm so lucky to have met such an awesome group of friends in San Diego, they rock! Thanks for helping me ring in my thirties y'all!
Then on the morning after my 30th birthday, I flew across country to my beloved Carolinas to catch up with many of my dearest friends and their families. I went to college at Clemson University in South Carolina, and lived in Charlotte for two years post-graduate school. So I called the Carolinas home for 6 wonderful years. I got to see to some of my favorite people, some of whom I hadn't seen in several years! And I got to see lots of their babies and kids, some for the first time! In five days I was able to get to five cities across North and South Carolina and see eleven dear friends. It was a whirlwind to say the least. 

I was able to spend two nights in Charlotte with my dear college friend Amanda and her family. She has two hilarious three and five year-old boys who I love being an "aunt" to. I was able to go to their five-year-old's school fall festival and flag football game while I was there which were priceless! We were also able to squeeze in some quality girl time with another good friend from college, Leslie, who just so happened to have just moved into Amanda's neighborhood! I also got to visit another friend from college that I hadn't seen in many years. Kate had just had a baby boy a week prior, and has an adorable three-year-old girl. It was wonderful to visit with them and catch up with Kate! I was so happy to also get to see my sorority little sister, Mary, and catch up over a delicious southern breakfast. It was definitely nostalgic being back in Charlotte, a city I love!
Then it was onto South Carolina, where I made lots of stops to visit friends on my trek to Charleston. I drove through Spartanburg and Greenville, which aren't far from Clemson. I got to grab coffee with my sorority sister and college roommate Kelly, and it felt like no time had passed at all, even though it had been over two years! Then I had lunch with another sorority sister Heather and her fiancĂ©e Ryan. Heather and I always went to Olive Garden together for the soup and salad lunch, so it was only fitting that we met there! It was wonderful to see them and get all the details on the upcoming wedding.  From there I met up for some sweet tea with my friend Ashley also from college. I last saw her right before I moved to San Diego three and half years ago, and it was so great to see her and hear all about the awesome things she's doing as a pastor. We were part of the same campus ministry group and she played a huge role in my spiritual growth in college. I miss all of these girls (and college!) so much!
In Charleston, I stayed with my friend Virginia, who I've known for 25 years! We met on her 5th birthday in our hometown, and lived down the street from each other. She had recently got engaged, and shortly after I got to her place, as we were on the couch sipping wine and having girl talk, she gave me a lovely box. Inside was a candle with the sweetest words on it, asking if I'd be her Maid of Honor. I cried! We jumped in to high gear wedding planning for the rest of my visit, visiting the venue she'd chosen, went by the bridal shop to see her wedding gown, tried on a few bridesmaid dresses and played on Pinterest :) But we also had a great night on the town Saturday night and a low-key dinner Sunday night at a great Southern restaurant with all the staples - fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and shrimp and grits! And I also got coffee and caught up with another friend and sorority sister (and one of my first college friends and freshman dorm neighbor!), Heather, who lives in Charleston. 
Another friend I grew up with, Biz, lives in Charleston with her husband David, and I was beyond thrilled that she gave birth to their beautiful baby boy the morning I was driving into town! His due date was the Monday I was leaving, and I was praying he wouldn't come late. The timing couldn't have been more perfect! I was able to visit them in hospital the following day on Sunday and meet baby Buice (pronounced Bice) at a day old. Then on Monday as I was driving out of Charleston, I was able to stop at the hospital again and see them as they were discharged. It was so special to be there at such a momentous time in their lives and in mine - when I became an "auntie"!
From Charleston I drove up the coast and back into North Carolina to Wilmington. One of my friends from my time in Pittsburgh (where I did graduate school) by coincidence moved down South about the time I moved to Charlotte. Alissa and I lived in the same small apartment complex and became psuido-roommates, since we were both in separate one-bedrooms, cooking dinner together and watching the same bad TV like The Bachelor and The Hills. We stayed close over the years and I was honored to be a bridesmaid in her wedding over two years ago. Now her and her husband Darrin have a beautiful baby boy, and I was so excited to meet him! He'll be 1 next month! 
All of these visits made me feel so lucky to have so many wonderful and lasting friendships, and that they have stood the test of time and distance - even across the country. The trip was the perfect way to ring in my thirties!

Before I knew it, Christmas and the end of 2013 was here. I'm so glad that was able to make it home to Virginia to spend Christmas with my family, and friends that feel like family. Even though I call San Diego my home now, Virginia will always be home to me. My family spent Christmas last year in San Diego, and even though it was fun to be outside in gorgeous weather, it didn't quite feel like Christmas. I was so happy that I could make it home this year for the holidays, even though it was too short a time as always. We spend Christmas dinner with our family friends most years, and this year I got to meet my friend Betty's little boy Evan. I also got to spends lots of time with Biz and baby Buice, he's already gotten so big! And a group of high friends got together at a local bar, it was so much fun catching up with everyone! And we even fit a bridal shower in for Virginia at my parents' house. All in all it was my favorite Christmas to date! 
2013 was definitely a memorable year filled with a lot of exciting moments as I entered a new decade of my life. And I have a feeling 2014 will be even better :)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Californian Summer: San Diego to San Francisco

This has seriously been one of the best summers of my life, and I've been so busy enjoying it that I've neglected this little blog.... anyone still out there? :) I've checked a lot of things off of my 30 before 30 check list, and have enjoyed a lot of trips around California. It started back in May when some girlfriends and I headed up the beautiful Southern California Coast to Santa Barbara. We were celebrating our fabulous friend Erin's upcoming nuptials with a wine tasting Bachelorette weekend. Here are a few photo highlights...

Then a month later, I road tripped up to Yosemite with a couple of friends for Erin and Doug's wedding, and it was an absolute blast! This will take a whole other blog post (or a few) to share some of the photo highlights, or you can look on my Facebook page for the several albums of beautiful pictures of the amazing wedding and Yosemite Valley. It was a really special weekend celebrating with the happy couple, and spending time with some awesome friends that I've made out here in San Diego. The day after the wedding we did some hiking and ended at Glacier Point at sunset, where you can see a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley and its famous Half Dome. We toasted to the newly married couple and shared our favorite moments of the wedding weekend. This will go down in my life as a pretty amazing memory.

And here's me and the beautiful bride.

Then, just a week and half after returning from Yosemite, I headed back up to Northern California to San Francisco! I had a conference to attend for work and my family decided to meet me out there and we'd make a vacation out of it. So the conference ran Sunday-Thursday, and my parents and brother flew out from Virginia on that Wednesday. So we had 4 days of fun together exploring San Francisco and they flew back to San Diego with me to spend a few more days.

The conference was for a database that many arts organizations use to track ticket buyers and donors, and several of us from my theatre went. I use the database heavily in my work as Annual Fund Manager. I met some incredible people from all of the world (used in US, Canada, Australia and UK) and left feeling inspired and reinvigorated about working in fundraising. 

After the conference wrapped up Thursday afternoon, I moved my luggage over to the beautiful Fairmont Hotel where I'd now be staying with my family, and I met my Mom for lunch at a cute Italian restaurant near the hotel. My Dad and brother golfed, obviously :) We enjoyed catching up over great food and a glass of wine (we're on vacation, why not?!) The area we stayed in is called Nob Hill, and as the name suggests, it was a very hilly walk back to the hotel. Here's me feeling victorious after making it up a VERY steep hill, with the Fairmont Hotel behind me. 

When the guys got back we headed down to Fisherman's Wharf to check out the touristy shops and get some Happy Hour drinks and snacks at a bar overlooking the Bay. Here's my brother and I on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, with a great view of the city. 

And from the end of Pier 39, you have an amazing view of Alcatraz, the famous former prison. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out for the weekend months in advance, so we weren't able to tour it. 

That night, we went to dinner at an amazing restaurant called The Big 4 at the historic Huntington Hotel, also in Nob Hill. I had the Truffled Ahi Tuna Tartare with Roasted Golden Beet Carpaccio, and for my entree the Pan Seared Diver Scallops. AHH-MAZING! The scallops melted in my mouth. The restaurant was really cozy, all dark wood and antique decor. It had a very 1950s feel to it. 

On Friday morning, we headed over to Golden Gate Park to visit the California Academy of Science and the De Young Museum. The Academy is an amazing place, with a simulated rainforest, acquarium, penguin exhibit, IMAX theatre and "Living Roof" by famous architect Renzo Piano. It is a 197,000-square-foot rooftop that accommodates a living tapestry of native plant species.

Me on the Living Roof, with a view of the De Young Museum.  

A view of the California Academy of Sciences and the Living Roof from the De Young Museum. 

It was a fun morning and afternoon in Golden Gate Park! Mom and I did some shopping afterwards in Union Square and ditched the boys for a bit. Hey, they golfed, so it was our turn :) Then my brother and I went to get a drink at the Top of the Mark, in the Mark Hopkins Hotel, another old Nob Hill hotel. It was fun to just catch up the two of us :) Although it was foggy, the San Fran norm, it was a nice view. 

Then we met back up with our parents for dinner, and went back to the Italian restaurant near the hotel that we'd gone for lunch the day before. I had some delicious pasta and we drank great wine. We had to prepare for our day wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa Valleys!

We woke up early Saturday morning and left on a guided tour up to Sonoma and Napa, which takes about an hour from San Francisco to get to. Here's us crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, with lots of fog per usual.                                                                                     

It was such a fun day and beautiful weather! We had some fantastic wines, and even met up with a friend who lives near Napa who we'd traveled to Italy with 10 years ago! I haven't seen her since, so it was so great to catch up! Here's a few picture highlights.

My wonderful family, a rare photo of all of us.

Mmmm, I love wine! 

We were pretty exhausted from the day after getting back to the city, and wanted a really low-key dinner. So Nick did some google magic and found us the perfect place, Tommy's Joynt. It was even featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives! Here's the clip of the episode:


For under $10 dollars, you get a pretty massive plate of food. I had the "World's Best Turkey" with veggies and potato salad.  It was delicious.


Afterwards, we went to the movies and saw The Heat, with Melissa McCartney and Sandra Bullock. It was pretty hilarious. I haven't laughed that hard through a movie in forever. The theatre was right across the street from Tommy's Joynt where we had dinner, and is a really awesome building that used to be a Cadillac dealership. 

 On Sunday, we were leaving in the afternoon to fly back to San Diego. We went for breakfast in the North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco's Little Italy. It was such a quaint area! We then climbed a HUGE hill to Coit Tower, that has amazing 360 views of the city from the top.

Climbing uphill!

Nick and I at the top of Coit Tower

View of San Fran and the Transamerica Building (pointy top)

Then it was time to head back to the hotel and head to the airport. It was such a fun week and I can't wait to go back again! Here's Nick and I in front of the Fairmont Hotel before leaving. 

So, that concludes my summer travels. If you've made it this far through this novel of a post, you're awesome! I can't believe that Labor Day is Monday, and the official end to summer and wearing white. But on the bright side, summer never really ends in sunny San Diego :) Actually the hottest weather in San Diego is to come in September and October. Beach, here I come!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thirty Before Thirty

So, I decided after turning 29 last October that I would make a "30 before 30" list of all of things I want to do before turning the big 3-0. I've been meaning to get this on my blog for awhile now, but better late than never! I hope by putting this out in the blogosphere, I'll be more motivated to complete it. Come on friends, hold me to these! If you want to join in on some of these, let me know! I've only got 4 and half months to get through the list!

I'm a lot less anxious about this milestone birthday than I thought I'd be when I was in my early twenties. I'm excited to enter a new decade of my life and am grateful for all I've been able to do thus far. Besides, thirties are the new twenties, right?!? My twenties had a lot of ups and downs, but it was overall a pretty awesome 10 years. I look forward to seeing what my thirties have in store, bring it on! 

Deadline of October 23, 2013

1. Run first 5K (I ran the Color Run in November 2012, so fun!)

2. Skydive

3. Open an etsy store

4. Make a quilt of my fav. sorority shirts and finally get rid of the rest

5. Organize my closet and donate old clothes I couldn't part with for so long

6. Take a hot air balloon ride (they go off near the beach in Del Mar, CA - so pretty!)

7. Cook dinner AT LEAST twice a week (pre-packaged or prepared doesn't count!)

8. Have an awesome 30th birthday bash! (Dinner at Stone Brewery was so fun!)

9. Begin a consistent yoga practice (getting there!)

10. Join a book club  - San Diego Literary Society, what, what?!? We're so fancy :)

11. Finish all the books I've started and never finished (Hmm, might need an extension on this one!)

12. Watch 5 classic movies I've never seen

13. Learn to surf

14. Go sea kayaking (Went in La Jolla, so beautiful and fun! Thanks Bill!)

15. Get a nice SLR camera and take a photography class

16. Go to an outdoor movie or drive-in

17. Hike in Yosemite (Went for the amazing wedding of good friends Erin and Doug, and stayed a couple extra days to explore!)

18. Get out of debt

19. Start saving more

20. Blog at least twice a month (I've been such a slacker!)

21. Join a community orchestra

22. Meet the man of my dreams (sick of meeting frogs, you gotta be out there somewhere!)

23. Find a church to go to regularly 

24. Take a California road trip (Went to Santa Barbara for Erin's Bachelorette weekend, and Yosemite for her wedding!)

25. Watch the sunrise on the beach (I've watched some amazing sunsets on the beach here though!)

26. Go to Disneyland (CA) 

27. Go to LA for a taping of a talk or late-night show (Went to Jay Leno!)

28. Host or go to a murder mystery dinner party

29. Reconnect with some old friends (I've seen some old friends already this year that I hadn't seen in a long time!) 

30. Turn off phone and email for a whole day and just spend it alone doing my favorite things.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Max!

This post is a few days belated, but Happy Birthday to my "fur-child" Max!

About 3 and half years ago, I went into a pet store on my lunch break from work. I looked through the glass at an energetic maltese puppy. He was a ball of white fur with the funniest expressions. There was a sign on his window with "Sale" written large across the price which had been reduced pretty low. I asked the shop worker why (did he have some health issues or some defect... although I would have loved him anyways!) and she said no, it was just because he'd been in the store too long. How no one snatched up the cutie is beyond me!

So, long story short, I went after work to tell my friend/roommate about him and she came back to the pet store with me to meet him. And that night I came home with Max (then unnamed), a crate and a box of food, treats and toys. I had never had a dog before in my life, and had no idea how to care for a 4 month old puppy! But he stole my heart, and I quickly learned how to keep shoes hidden and the woes of house training. 

Here's Max shortly after I brought him home exploring the yard.

Max made the cross country drive with me to San Diego almost three years ago and has quickly adjusted to the Southern Californian lifestyle :)  If it's above 80 degrees he thinks it's too hot, he loves catching some waves at Dog Beach and is an all together chill dog. 

Pit stop in the Painted Desert in Arizona during the cross-country drive to San Diego.

Max cooling off in the water.

Almost a year ago, I adopted my second dog Millie from a rescue group, and she is the perfect friend for Max! They love each other and keep me laughing. They are quite the duo. Most people think they are related. 

Last Thursday, on March 21st, Max turned 4! He got a "pup-cake" to celebrate :) He is the most loyal, funny, smart, energetic, sweet and loving dog I could have ever asked for and until I have kids one day, he and Millie are my fur-children :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Merry Christmas from Max and Millie!

I took Max and Millie to their Doggie Daycare to get a picture with Santa last Saturday morning. They wore their Christmas sweaters and Millie even tolerated bows in her hair. I'm so pleased with how the picture turned out, it really captured their personalities. I'm a bit of a crazy dog owner I know, but how stinkin' cute are they?!?

And here's one of two versions of my Christmas card this year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of laughter, love, good company and blessings.