Monday, July 7, 2014

June Wrap Up

Hello blog family,
I apologize for my absence over the last month. I was doing a great job of blogging every week until I went home for a friend's wedding, took a weekend to relax, got sick, but now I am back! I hope you all can forgive me :) June was a great month and I have lots to catch you up on. The month started with me flying home to PA for a wedding for one of my best friends from high school. He was the first out of group of friends to get married and although it is surreal that we are now at the age of getting married, I couldn't be happier for him. The ceremony, food, music, everything was perfect.  I can't remember the last time I had that much fun and danced for that long. I am truly blessed to still be great  friends with my friends from high school even after I've been moving all over the country for the last 2 years. They mean the world to me, and I don't know what I would do without their love and support. The night was truly amazing,  and I was so happy I flew the 3,000 miles to be in the presence of two people who truly love each other. Congrats to the happy couple!
After all these years, we're still friends
Wedding ceremony, I cried the entire time
I'm so happy for you Banji! 
My favorite... 2006 (junior prom) to 2014. Not much has changed 
When I got back to California after flying 6,000 miles in less than 48 hours, I really needed a R&R weekend. Instead of spending all weekend relaxing, my boyfriend suggested that we go to Santa Monica Pier for a wine festival. We've been to the famous pier before but I really wasn't impressed especially because it was way too crowded. I was skeptical about going back, but the festival was secluded and you needed tickets to get in. Tickets were each $60 which allowed you try as many different wines as you wanted from 5-9pm. Honestly, I don't think I got my money's worth since I am a light weight, but the festival was really fun. There are tons of different wine booths were you can try all local red and whites and great food trucks. We made sure to take a "lyft" home after all that wine and we also didn't have to pay for parking. What a great idea! Overall the wine festival was a great time and I am glad we ended up going. 
Back at the pier, still didn't ride the roller coaster
What a great day with my boo
Some of the craziness from the festival
After my first trip to LA a few weeks ago, I was still unsure how I felt about the city. I've mentioned before I am not much of a city girl and feel uncomfortable outside of perfect suburbia. I decided to give it another try when we went to a LA Dodgers vs St. Louis Cardinals baseball game last weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful as was the stadium. I think anything surrounded with palm trees is amazing though. Since I didn't grow up in California, anytime I see palm trees (which is every single day) I feel like I am on vacation. Still not sure if it has hit me that I actually live here. The Dodgers killed the Cardinals so the energy in the stadium was great. I wasn't into the game as much because I didn't really care who won. Of course I was wearing my Phillies gear as a true Philadelphia would. It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon and I'm glad I gave LA another chance. 
Game time
Dugout 
Play ball!
Outside the stadium
View of LA
I hope everyone had a great weekend celebrating the birthday of our great country. Happy 4th of July! My boyfriend and I took most of the weekend to be lazy and catch up on sleep. I love those kind of weekends more than anything! We did go to dinner and watch fireworks on Friday in Downtown Disney. I went to Disneyland when my Mom was here last month, but I didn't get to explore Downtown Disney while I was there. It is a cute little area with stores, restaurants, and of course has that Disney flare. Parking was hard to find and ended up costing $20 for the night but you could get your money back after validating that you ate at one of the designated restaurants. We went to eat at Catal which is considered a Mediterranean restaurant but it was more upscale than the typical Mediterranean food I am used to. For an appetizer I had the Manchego salad with apples and candied walnuts and my boyfriend had the stuffed calamari. For our main course I had the risotto and my boyfriend had the lobster paella. Both were incredible. Along with alcohol and tip our meal ended up costing $200. The real reason we went to this particular restaurant was to see the world famous Disney fireworks. At 9:30 when the fireworks starting going off we realized that our table was in a bad spot and the fireworks were blocked by some buildings. The show only lasted for about 10 minutes and I was honestly disappointed in Disney. Even though we waited 3 hours at this restaurant for the disappointing fireworks, I still had an amazing night with my love and felt blessed to have shared it with him.
The beautiful flowers my boo bought me. I love them!
Menu
Enjoying my margarita waiting for fireworks 
Lobster paella 
My risotto
Overlooking Downtown Disney
Our view of the blocked fireworks 
This upcoming weekend I am super excited because my Dad and sisters are coming to visit California for a week and a half. I can't wait to share all the fun things we get to do together. Until next time...
XoXo,
Valerie 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LA for the First Time

After living in Orange County for 3 months, I finally made a trip to LA last weekend. I've seen the LA skyline hundreds of times on TV or in movies, but after seeing it for the first time in person, I felt different. I feel like now I am officially a Southern California resident. I went to LA for a rooftop pool party that didn't work out as planned, but I did get to explore a little and even forever become part of the famous city. Yes, as I was crossing the street (at Fig & 7th) the Google street view car drove by. I expect to be semi-famous in 6 months. Another highlight of the trip was eating the best grilled cheese I ever had from The Melt aka the famous food truck turned restaurant. I know there are hundred of amazing restaurants to choose from in LA, but I was really craving a grilled cheese and was not disappointed by my decision. There is so much to do in LA so we will definitely be making many more trips back. 
Finally seeing LA
There she is
Entering the city
Amazing!
Fig & 7th
The Melt
Google car
First thoughts on LA: I am not much of a city girl so my opinion is biased towards living in the OC (suburbs). Where I live here is safe and clean which is really important to me. Like most big cities, there is going to be poverty and parts are going to be dirty, so I wasn't surprised with LA. It is not my favorite city but definitely not the worst I've ever been to. I love Chicago and Dallas because although being big cities, they are still clean and friendly. The closest city to my home town in PA is Philadelphia, so I am used to cities being over crowded, dirty, and some parts sketchy. Although I love Philly, I could never live there nor could I ever live in LA. I think I will stick to the beautiful Orange County and visit LA on the weekends for good food and tourist stops. Next on my bucket list is to make a trip to the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. This upcoming weekend I will be returning to good old Philadelphia for one of my best friend's weddings. I can't wait to be home and see my friends and family and celebrate the special day! Have a great week everyone! 

XoXo,
Valerie 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend- THANKFUL

I hope everyone is recovering nicely from their long Memorial Day weekend. I think it is important to first thank all the brave men and women, past and present, who protect the freedoms that we take for granted everyday. THANK YOU! 

I sometimes forget just how truly blessed I am which is one reason why I love writing this blog. I frequently go back and read old posts to remind myself of all the amazing things I've had the opportunity to do. Recently I've been really amazed with where my life is and the journey that I took to get here. About a year ago I read the book "The Magic" by Rhonda Byrne who also wrote "The Secret" and "The Power". She recommends that you write down a list of 10 things a day for a month that you are currently thankful for in your life. At the end of the month I had over 300 things written down on my list. I didn't realize until I was staring down at this paper just how much I have to be thankful for, the things I had always taken for granted. Everything from my health, my parents health, having a job that I love, having a boyfriend who loves me, my freedom, being able to afford the things I need, the list goes on and on. Whenever I have a bad day I always look at my list so I can remind myself of how truly blessed I am. I stopped writing the list after the 30 days, but I now see that I could add so many more things that I am appreciate of in my life today. This weekend especially reminded me of that. All over my social media accounts people were taking vacations and spending the long weekend making trips to the beach. This alone makes me smile with gratitude. Realizing what most people consider a vacation, I call my normal, everyday life. I sometimes still can't believe that this is actually my real life. 
Still so surreal 
I think my boyfriend and I both just needed a weekend to catch up on sleep and relax. There was talks about making a trip up to San Francisco, but I wasn't prepared to make the 6+ hour drive on such little sleep. We spent the weekend mostly catching up on our shows on DVR, going to a few restaurants, and of course going to the beach. A pretty low key weekend for us. 
Perfect beach day 
When you pay at little extra, you get the beach all to yourself 
Found a small waterfall on the beach
As close as we will ever get to drinking on a California beach 
Walking path from the beach back to our car
Now that we've had a relaxing weekend, I'm sure we will be back to finding new adventures and exploring new parts of Southern California this upcoming weekend. 
XoXo,
Valerie 

PS- I'm also thankful for all of you, my blog family :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Mom Visits the OC

I can't believe May is almost over! I've spent another amazing month here in paradise. This last weekend was especially amazing because I got to share it with my Mother aka my best friend. I'm extremely close to my Mom so being away from her is one of the hardest parts of living here in California. I didn't get to see her for her birthday or Mother's Day so I was excited to celebrate, catch up, and show her around the OC. She was here Saturday-Wednesday which didn't feel close to long enough. We had a great time, and were lucky enough to be able to fit in everything we wanted to do. 
On Saturday we went to the Irvine Spectrum which I've blogged about before. A quick recap: the spectrum is an outdoor mall with shops, restaurants, ferris wheel, fountains, outdoor music, etc. We ended up going to The Cheesecake Factory because honestly who doesn't love The Cheesecake Factory? We ate way too much food and ended up going home and watching countless episodes of Friends on DVD. Watching Friends has always been one of our favorite things to do together. On Sunday morning we first went to The Top of the World in Laguna Beach which I've blogged about before. We hiked to the highest point and then sat and enjoyed the view while catching up and talking for hours. Next we went to the beach at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach, again which I've blogged about before. Here we laid in the sun, listened to the waves, and explored tide pools in the rocks. For dinner we went to my favorite restaurant so far, K'ya Bistro in Laguna Beach. They specialize in tapas so you can get a lot of different food items for a reasonable price. My favorite dish on the menu is the lobster risotto. Everything we've had there has been amazing. The restaurant can get loud and crowded, but it is worth it for a delicious meal. 
Top of the World, the mountain side
The ocean side
Crystal Cove State Park 
Peaceful
I love the color of that water
Taking our Christmas photo early this year
Feeling extra blessed to have the people I love here with me
Watching the sunset
Laguna Beach
My beautiful Mother
K'ya Bistro 
On Monday we went to the most magical place on Earth...Disneyland! We bought tickets online the day before and were able to print them out to avoid the lines at the park. We paid $17 for parking and had to be shuttled over to the park on a bus. There are two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure. We only bought one day one park passes so we chose to go to Disneyland. I was hoping that since we were going on a Monday there wouldn't be long lines. There was still about an hour wait for all the rides, but I'm sure it is better than what it would be in the summer. I grew up going to Disney World, and even though I knew the two parks are not comparable, I was a little disappointed. I did appreciate seeing where the Disney franchise had started and where it has come over the last 75+ years. My favorite rides were Splash Mountain and Matterhorn Bobsleds. The day was really long and exhausting, but I'm glad I got to share the first time experience with my Mom. 
Walt Disney 
Buzz
Thor protecting us 
Snack time 
Bobsled ride 
Storybook Land 
Splash Mountain
Princess castle 
When I was growing up, my Mom would wake me up bright and early every Sunday morning to watch Hour of Power on TV which is a televised church service that is based out of Garden Grove, CA. On Tuesday morning we finally decided to go to the place we had seen on TV for all those years. Unfortunately when we got to the Crystal Cathedral we found out due to finical difficulties the church had been bought by the Catholic church and has since been renamed the Christ Cathedral. The main cathedral is closed until 2016 when renovations are complete, but we were able to walk the grounds with a tour guide and explore. The cathedral even from just the outside is breathtaking. Made completely of glass panes, you can see the reflections of palm tress and blue skies. It was sad to see the place and family that we had religiously (no pun intended) watched for all those years now gone. Although it is not the place I remember exactly from my childhood, it is still magical and I highly recommend a trip here. 
So tall you can see it from miles away 
My Mom bought a "brick" on that wall somewhere
The original church before the stunning Crystal Cathedral was built  
Fountains, my favorite 
Blue skies 
Palm trees
Reflections 
Looking up
The school on the grounds 
More fountains 
The cemetery 
Culture Center 
The million dollar bathroom
What the glass panes look like from the other side
My momma 
What the inside of the cathedral looks like now
I love water!
I was sad to see my Mom leave on Wednesday morning, but I'll be home in a few weeks for a wedding. I had so much fun with her and loved spending quality time together. With the upcoming holiday weekend I can't wait to share what my boyfriend and I end up doing!
XoXo,
Valerie