Posted in family and home, Lifestyle, My Why, Travel Log

Going to the Snow

Going to the Snow

How our day trip to Donner Memorial Park reminded us to stay resiliant.

Miles, my 17 year old, pointed out to me that only in California do we say things such as, “going to the snow.” The snow is not so much a place as it is a weather condition, but despite that, in California we “go to the snow.” Growing up this phrase meant my family was going to pack up in our mini-van and drive up the mountain. Usually it was a couple of hours until we found a spot, conviently located close to the side of the road. Then we would hop out of the car to go sledding, make a snowman, and then go home. Say what you will about my home-state, the ability to drive equal distance to the snow or the beach will always be one of the main reasons I continue to reside here.

One such trip to the snow as a child occurred in the late-80’s, early 90’s, when my family spent the day at Donner Memorial State Park. Located off of Interstate 80, this park has a small museum and statue memorializing the fate of the Donner party, who got snowed in at this particular location while trying to migrate to the west. They got stuck, people died, and some of those people got eaten. 7th grade me, along with my 3 brothers, made LOTS of jokes while we were at the location. But the magnitude of this event has always stuck with me. Especially when you take into account the fact that the memorial statue is built to represent the height of the snow these pioneers were stuck in. It’s leaves you awestuck at the fierceness of nature and at the resiliance of humans when faced with a seamingly impossible task. 22 feet of snow stopped those pioneers in their tracks. And still, with the help of others, they made into the North Valley of California. Not how they had planned, but they persisted.

The Miller’s at Donner Memorial in 2021

The Nelson's at Donner Memorial in the late 80's early 90's

So, when my kids asked to go to the snow a couple of weeks ago, this was the obvious choice. It took us just a couple of hours to reach the park, which was teaming with people in the parking lot, but which was spacious enough to let us all comply with social distancing guidelines. The snow there on this day, wasn’t as tall as the statue, in fact it was only about a foot or two deep, but it was enough ot make some snowballs and have a couple failed attempts at snow angels. Most important, it got us out of the house for awhile. With all that 2020 had thrown at us, any excuse to get out into nature is a welcome excuse.

As soon as we got out of the car I was hit with the cold-clean fresh air; such a welcome change from the indoors. I was instantly relaxed. The kids too seemed to relax just by the mere fact that they were outside. We walked over to the monument and spent just about an hour in the snow. We tried our hardest to make snow-balls, snow-angels, snow-anything really. The absurdity of chunking out ice and then throwing rock hard bits at one another had us all laughing out loud.

Unfortunately, the snow was not fresh and there was far-less than 22 feet of it. We really didn’t mind the lack of resources. The important thing was we were outside and we were making do with the circumstances as they were dealt us. With everything my kids and husband have had to deal with over the last year, quaratine, staying at home, grief over the life we used to live, my kids rarely get the chance to just be kids anymore. And with Miles about to go on to college, he rarely lets himself act his age. For just a little bit, my kids and husband spent time just being themselves without a worry for all of those problems waiting for them once we returned.

Going home, we felt a bit lighter, refreshed by the outdoors, and grateful that we live in a place where such day-trips are possible. One thing is for certain, in 2021 I am grateful for the ability to “go to” just about anywhere. Getting there may not be what we planned, but we’ve made it ours just the same.

Looking for more informaiton on Donner Memorial Park? Here is the link to the website: Donner Memorial Park

Posted in family and home, Lifestyle, Travel Log

Geneva: History Comes to Life with La Escalade

Here we are in front of Jet D’eau (or “Old Spouty” as we came to call him throughout the week). This truly is a symbol of Geneva. Throughout the week we used it to get our bearings and to remind us of what an amazing adventure we were on.

Sometimes an opportunity comes along you just cannot refuse. This happened to my family in December when my husband was asked to teach for a week in Geneva. We jumped on the opportunity to take the kids; even though this was definitely not a trip we had planned for at all. Geneva has never been on my radar as somewhere we would go independent of a larger trip to Switzerland. Finances were also a concern given the fact that we had done zero planning in advance for this trip-which was scheduled approximately 4 weeks before we left.

In fact, immediately I was faced with the choice: Do we do an in depth week in the city or do we tackle a more broader trip with the kids (and without my husband)? I knew nothing about Geneva, other than it housed the United Nations AND that it was the hub of Swiss banking. However, given time constraints and the fact that we did want to actually hang out with Jason after he was done teaching for the day, we opted to dig deep into the city of Geneva.

I am SO glad that we did!

First of all, every year Geneva celebrates in its Old Town the Fete De La Escalade, which commemorates the City’s victory over a Paris invasion in 1608. This festival just so happened to be the weekend we arrived. It involved patrols of the Old Town by soldiers in period clothing (a portion of Geneva that is filled with cobblestone and notably, St. Peter’s Cathedral), demonstrations of drums, sword fighting, mulled wine and sausages, a SECRET TUNNEL only opened one weekend a year, and ends with a giant bonfire at the base of St. Peters. Approximately 600 volunteers march through the city to ignite the fire and celebrate their continued independence.

Oh and let’s not forget the chocolate sculpted cauldrons with sculpted candy vegetables that you break open with a sword in celebration! We got in on the action ourselves by buying a small pot and breaking it open with Maizy’s Swiss Army Knife!

The City was full of Chocolate Shops selling these beauties! We opted to get our’s at the convenience store call Migros. It quickly became one of our favorite places to stop and get a snack.

I would say one of the highlights of the festival was the free access to the bell towers in St. Peter’s Cathedral. If you arrived after 2pm you were given access to all three. This involved what seemed like a never ending ascension into the towers by winding cobblestone and rock stairways. There were three separate towers: The original bell tower (which was complete with hand rung bells), the mechanical tower, and the watch tower.

We stopped for a photo during our never ending climb.

St. Peter’s Cathedral served as a lookout for invaders and was continuously manned until after the end of WW1. The bell in that tower was used to warn the city about fire and invasion up until that time.

What an experience we had being thrown into the heart of this truly Genevian celebration. Geneva is primarily a French speaking town; although we were able to communicate just fine with our limited French ability (think Google translate) because most people understood and spoke English as well. Regardless, our experience with the festival was truly magical. We felt like we got to see a glimpse into a side of the City not available any other time of the year.

Posted in HD You, Lifestyle, Travel Log

Let’s Taco-bout San Diego: What a taco a day really looks like

Last week I spent 5 days in the Carlsbad/San Diego area for a work. Most of my days were spent in lecture; however, the lunches and evenings were free to explore. Luckily, I was with co-workers who were as committed as I to eating at least one taco a day (which turned into two taco meals a day on at least one occasion. No judgment here, right?)

A Taco a Day Makes for One Happy Traveler

Now let me be clear. This isn’t going to be a recitation of all the places I ate and what I thought of each delicious one. I literally didn’t find a taco in San Diego/Carlsbad that I didn’t love. The point was that I knew I wanted to experience my favorite food in a location known for it’s AMAZING Mexican cuisine. While I can get good Mexican in Northern CA, it is definitely different down South. For example, I literally watched the tortilla I ate being made in front of me on more than one occasion.

My favorite place by far was Salud, located in Barrio Logan in San Diego. Only 10 minutes away from the San Diego airport. This was the last taco shop we visited before leaving the area. The wait? Over an hour, but oh it was worth it! My al pastor taco was on the best tortilla I have ever eaten AND I also ordered Cerviche and promptly ignored my travel-mates for at least 10 minutes while I ate it (and no I didn’t share).

Also in Barrio Logan was a little coffee shop called Por Vida Cafe. The picture of me with Frida Kahla in the gallery was taken there. Horchata Cold Brew has never been on my radar. But now that I’ve tried it I can never go back. I’m putting this little art district barrio on my “must return” list because there was so much in this area I wanted to see; however the plane was calling.

Other highlights of the trip?

The Flower Fields

Carlsbad is home to this little gem of a location, wedged between Lego Land and the Outlets, that is a must see if you are in the area in Spring. There were so many people there living their best insta-life’s!!! So many photos were taken by me, my friends, and just about everyone there. And how could you resist? The fields of flowers were stunning and provided the perfect background. I’m not going to lie, I’m not sharing the most ridiculous photos here but, at one point, I was pretending to be a lion looking through a field of flowers. In addition to just being able to walk the grounds, you can also take a tractor ride AND get a strawberry dole whip. There is a wedding chapel, large lawn chairs, and tractors. Everything about this location screams, “Come and see me! Take your picture!” I was happy to indulge.

The Grass Skirt

We happened upon this Tiki Bar while looking for more Dole Whip. At first there was mass-confusion by our group on how to get in. We could see that there were people inside enjoying their fruity punch tropical drinks but none of the doors were open. We took to Google and I called the number hoping to be clued in. Simultaneously we heard the phone ringing in the neighboring Poke Bar AND saw another group of individuals disappear into the walk-in freezer.

That’s right, the Tiki Bar had a secret entrance using the neighboring Poke Bar’s walk-in!

I’m not exaggerating when I say I could have stayed at The Grass Skirt all night. The vibe, the drinks, and the mystique was right up my alley.

The Beaches

Need I say more?

Overall my work week was filled with plenty of after hours activities making my short trip to the Carlsbad/San Diego full to say the least. These were the highlights for me and this small taste of the area has left me hungry for more.

Posted in HD You, Lifestyle, Self Care, Travel Log, Year of Self Love

Week 16: Year of Self Love-A case for traveling alone

September 2018-somewhere over the mid-west as I traveled (SOLO) to New Orleans.

I remember distinctly the moment I realized that traveling solo is really a gift. My work had taken me to Anaheim for the week and I had flown down the day prior to get myself situated and well, go to Disneyland obviously; Anaheim is the City that was built by a mouse! My colleagues, to put it mildly, wanted nothing to do with it. I, on the other hand, had an annual pass and Disney well, Disney is my thing. So I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go solo.

I had read on several of the travel blogs that solo Disney is actually not that uncommon of an occurrence. I scoured the internet for tips and tricks, travel journals, anything that would make me feel like what I was about to do was normal. I brought a book (just in case it got awkward standing in line for an hour or so with no one to talk to), my phone, I had earbuds so I could listen to music. Basically I prepared to entertain myself in the event I couldn’t handle being alone.

The day came and I flew from Sacramento down to Orange County, I checked into the hotel and then off to the park I went. I had my purse of supplies and I remember calling my husband shortly after getting in the park because I was nervous about spending 12 hours by myself. We spent 10 minutes or so outlining my touring plan (if you don’t know that that is, send me a message, that’s a entirely different subject) and then, with a bit of trepidation, I set off on my own.

I didn’t need any of my packed-in distractions. Traveling solo allowed me to open my eyes and see what was around me.

Taking the opportunity to go to one of my favorite places in the world by myself let me experience it exactly as I wanted to. More importantly, it allowed me to slow down and just be an observer. My typical role in life is that of a planner. I joke (but it’s not actually a joke) about carrying a clipboard. I will tell people I have a clipboard that outlines my clipboard projects! Disney is no different. When we go, either as a family, or with friends, I tend to plan the day, know the course, and guide the group.

Late in the day on this first solo trip I remember standing in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. There was a Dad and his three boys in front of me. They were rambunctious and rowdy…typical end of day Disney behavior right? One of the boys was particularly worried about me; he must have been about seven. As we boarded the ride, he and his family got in the front row and I climbed in, by myself, in the row immediately behind. When he realized no one else was boarding with me, he turned around, and with wide-eyes asked me, “Are you alone?”

I smiled and said, “Of course. Hanging out with myself is one of my favorite things to do.”

Since then I haven’t shied at the opportunity to travel solo. Usually, these opportunities are tied to a work event or a conference I am attending. Not only do I get to slow down and really take in what is around me, traveling solo also pulls me out of my comfort zone and tests my ability to be social. I’ve made new friends in Ashland, New Orleans, and sometimes, just sometimes, I even chat up people on the plane.

Lastly, by freeing myself of distraction while traveling solo, I have found that I have been able to clear my head. Usually these opportunities come at a time where I am really wrestling with something. I have a decision to make and taking some time to be alone let’s me focus, think, and listen to the inner voice in my head that often gets drowned out by life. Without a doubt, taking an opportunity to be by myself for a little amount of time has always helped me make a decision.

So here comes the challenge, this week, start planning a solo trip. It doesn’t have to be big. Take a day trip to the city. Spend a night at a hotel and have a spa day. Find a weekend conference and book it. The possibilities are limitless but I promise you, so are the rewards.

Me riding Autotopia…all by myself.
Posted in Ballet, family and home, HD Beauty, Lifestyle, Travel Log

Seeing Sugarplums in the City: A Girls Trip to San Francisco

For Christmas, Maizy and I took an overnight trip to San Francisco to go with her ballet school (and mom’s) to see the San Francisco Ballet and a performance of the Nutcracker. It was a magical overnight stay at the Royal Sonesta Hotel right in Union Square. The tree was still up, the macaroons were still available, and the Opera Hall was simply stunning. It was a Passport performance, meaning our young dancers in training received an activity “passport” and were encouraged to explore the venue through a series of stations such as: a historical overview of the Nutcracker, a close look at point shoes and my favorite…locally made, organic marshmallows (only in CA right?). We Uber’d our way through the city, had homemade Rootbeer, and ate giant cast iron skillets of mac n’ cheese (with bacon of course).

The next morning we lounged in the hotel and ordered room service. The room was designed to mimic a California sunset, which led to a beautiful progression of color as it became light in the morning and only enhanced our relaxation in the morning.

It was a leisurely 24 hours in the city. Maizy and I relished every moment of our down time where we got to bring our comfy socks, see an amazing ballet, and spend some quality mother-daughter time.