Wanderlust: Vietnam



Years ago, I wrote an imaginary, maybe-one-day itinerary for Vietnam as a guest post on Jennifer Cameron’s site, Luster. I’ve still yet to go to Vietnam, but it remains one of my favorite posts—perhaps because it still rings so true and perhaps because it took a lot of research. (And my packing list has changed remarkably little!) I asked Jennifer if I could update it, and republish it here. Maybe one day… Vietnam. Here’s what I wrote: 

I think it was a feature in Gourmet Magazine that first brought on my case of Vietnam wanderlust. The glossy spread featured steaming street food, colorful lanterns, enchanting bays, chaotic moped traffic, and talked of an exotic and fragrant place where a French colonial past had left a unique culinary mark. Having traveled to Southeast Asia for our honeymoon in Thailand, I can’t wait to go back—and a trip to Vietnam is top on my wish list.


We would start in Hanoi—sampling the café culture and wandering through narrow passageways, alternately touring Belle Époque French villas in the French Quarter and Buddhist complexes built on limestone cliffs (at the nearby Perfume Pagoda)—before detouring to see the greens of the rice paddies around Sapa, the ancient Cham tower-temples of My Son Sanctuary, and the limestone towers of Halong Bay (where we might board a traditional junk boat or find more quiet and get up-close by kayak).


In Hue, we’d rent bicycles and explore the fortified Imperial city, before heading south. Along the way, we’d take time to relax at one of the resorts along the 400-mile stretch from Hue to Nha Trang, and board boats to go diving in the clear life-filled waters around offshore archipelagos.

Hoi An

In Hoi An, perhaps after putting in an order at a custom tailor in the Old Quarter, we’d do our best to capture the faded colors of this trading port, preserved since the 15thcentury, as well as the vibrant ones at the riverside fish market.


It would be a dream to set up camp for a few days at the Con Dao Islands—at the luxurious Six Senses resort with a view of the turquoise South China sea—before finishing the trip in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), rich with history.

Saigon http://www.zvereff.com/insomniasia.html


Fantasy Packing list (Remember that this was made over four years ago, so the exact styles will likely be unavailable. I updated with similar finds):

1. Day tripper pant (similar pants) / 2. City Walk Fedora (similar Fedora) / 3. Sunglasses / 4. Iris Jacket (similar jacket) / 5. Essie Clambake / 6. Madewell Bike Bag (similar bike pouch) / 7. Salina Sandals (similar sandal)/ 8. Isabelle Dress  (similar dress) / 9. Scenic route shirtdress (similar dress) / 10. My kids (and a caftan from Two) / 11. Scarf (similar scarf) / 12. Theory colsten top (similar top) / 13. Swiss Army Bicycle / 14. Triwa watch (similar Triwa watch)

Have any of you traveled in Vietnam? How’d I do? 

P.S. All of our travelogues.

Images: 01 Banh mi | 02 Can Tho | 03 Dalat falls | 04 Six Senses | 05 Vietnamese coffee | 06 Hoi an | 07 Halong bay by Owen Franken | 08 Hue Market | 09 My Son Sanctuary | 10 Nam hai resort in Hoi An | 11 Phu Quoc | 12 Lemongrass pork skewers | 13 Saigon | 14 Sapa | 15 Sapa Highlands | 16 Hue | 17 Hue | 18 Vietnam stamps here and here | 19 Halong Bay Junk Cruise

Imagined itinerary and photo selection Ashley Muir Bruhn | Layout & Graphic Design by Jennifer Cameron of Luster. Visit her on Pinterest. 

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5 Things: Dublin



In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Emily Westbrooks of From China Village and Delightful Dublin guides us on a tour of Dublin’s best.

5 Things Dublin
Emily Westbrooks of From China Village and Delightful Dublin

After growing up in small town Maine, I met my Irish husband during my senior year in college only ten miles away from my house. We got married and I agreed to spend one year in Dublin before settling down in America for good. Seven years in, Dublin has stolen my heart and we’ve finally broken it to my family that we’ll be probably spending only summers in Maine from here on out!

The perfect way to sum up my adopted city is to say it’s a constant exercise in contradictions. In the same block, you’ll have a pub that’s been around since James Joyce was sipping pints, next to a new cafe serving up the local artisan roasted coffee with the best organic Irish milk. In each neighborhood, there are thousand-year-old tourists sights, standing alongside some of the coolest restaurants or hippest shops. While you feel like you’re in an urban, modern city, you’re constantly reminded of the history of the city, whether it’s the cobblestones you spy beneath the pavement or the chiseled stone covered in street art.


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Mexico City (& Friday Links)



Hudson’s last day of school was yesterday! I take photos (this year and last year) on his last day, and Skyler was so cute trying to get in on the action.

And we’re flying to Mexico City this weekend! There’s a direct flight out of Sacramento. I’ve been collecting some recommendations on Instagram, and my friend Miroslava sent me the most amazing list of places. But I’m always all ears!

We’re crossing our fingers for some clear skies, but it looks like we’ll be getting a bit wet. So any weather-related tips are equally welcome.

[Pictured: photo by Alanna Hale in the Garrett Leight Spectacle No. 5]

Here are some links that may be of interest this weekend…


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Balboa Island



Have you ever been to Balboa Island in Newport Beach? When I was growing up—in Long Beach, CA—we would frequently drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to go to dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then get in the line for the auto ferry which would take 3 cars at a time across Newport Harbor to Balboa Peninsula.

My dad would tell me how he spent a summer in a rental on the 0.2-square-mile island and I would try to imagine him there while watching college students pedal around on their cruisers barefoot. We’d head straight to one of the two shops making frozen bananas and Balboa bars (vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings of your choice) and try to eat them without getting the chocolate all over ourselves.


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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Western San Francisco


5Things_Western San Fran

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Liz Stanley of the wonderful Say Yes shows us the sights in Western SF.

5 Things: Western San Francisco
Liz Stanley of Say Yes

I’m Liz Stanley of Say Yes, and I live with my husband and two kids on the western side of San Francisco, in a neighborhood called the Richmond District. We love it here because it’s safe, quiet, just across the street from Golden Gate Park, and close to some great elementary schools. It’s not considered hip—and it’s certainly foggier than other parts of the city—but we’ve managed to find a few secret gems in and around our ‘hood that I’m excited to share with you today!


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Through Hiking the Appalachian Trail


Hither And Thither_Appalachian Trail

In the summer of 2013, a good friend’s father, Rubén Rosales, summited Mount Katahdin in Maine, thus completing a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Starting at Springer Mountain in north Georgia and passing through 14 states—Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine—the Appalachian trail (or A.T.) is over 2100 miles long and gains and loses a total of 515,000 feet of elevation (the equivalent of Mount Everest, sixteen times). Rubén spent 6 months and 1 week on the trail, but was away from home for nearly 7 months.

He was 70 years old, and only the 24th thru-hiker in their 70s on record to finish.

Tremendously inspired, I asked him to sit down and tell me what it’s really like to thru-hike the A.T. …

On deciding to do it…
“I spent 42 years in very intense, demanding, international work. …Finally I decided to retire. I gave 18 months notice. My biggest issue was ‘What am I going to do… with my life?’ ‘Play golf?” … “I felt like I needed to do something extraordinary to transition to retirement.”


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48 Hours in Big Sur







Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California—if not anywhere. The rugged, isolated stretch of Highway 1 runs between redwood groves and rocky shores, an ocean teeming with life, for the 90 miles between Carmel and San Simeon. There are nine state parks within the region of Big Sur, and views for days. You could pass a week between hikes and hot springs—or between the pages of a good novel  (appreciating the lack of consistent cell service).

I had a chance to visit a couple of weeks ago on an adventure summit—a work retreat—with Bota Box. I’m partnering with the wine-maker on a series of posts this year and they invited me to join them and meet up along the coast. The getaway exceeded any expectations, and I’m already mentally planning a return to Big Sur with my family.

California: it never ceases to astound me.


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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Houston



In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Ashley Rose of Sugar & Cloth welcomes us warmly to Houston, Texas.

5 Things: Houston
Ashley Rose of Sugar & Cloth / Photos by Jared Smith

Though I may not be a Houston native (I originally lived in West Virginia), I’ve grown to really, really love this city and definitely consider it home these days. It’s got all of the opportunities you could want, but it still has a tendency to feel small and welcoming once you find your little niche. On top of that, it’s the kind of town foodies dream of, but with less of a wait then you’d expect most places, and there’s almost always something going on for families and young adults alike.

2-hither-thither-ashley-rose-houston-travel-guide 3-hither-thither-ashley-rose-houston-travel-guide

Blacksmith, 1018 Westheimer Road, (832) 360-7470
Tout Suite, 2001 Commerce, 713-227-8688
Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline Street, (713) 654-1970
Tacos A Go Go, 3704 Main Street, (713) 807-8226
Ninfa’s on Navigation, 2704 Navigation Boulevard, (713) 228-1175

You could go out to eat every single meal of every day for a month and still find great places to eat in Houston. Stand-outs include Blacksmith, which is great for a quick coffee and some of the best biscuits in town, and we frequent Tout Suite the most because our studio space is just upstairs. Weights + Measures has a very cool vibe and amazing brunch, and Tacos A Go Go and Ninfa’s are token places to try for Tex-Mex.


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Quick trip to New York City: The Standard, High Line


HighlineStandard-06StandardNY_HitherandThither-8 HighlineStandard-03


I had signed up for a photography workshop in New York over the weekend, so Aron and I tucked the kids in at grandma’s and grandpa’s house (thank you!) and hopped on a red eye together to extend the weekend for a night in the city.



Ever since we watched The Standard, High Line first rise above that now-iconic, elevated park, Aron and I have wanted to stay there. I’d never even stepped foot inside in all those years of walking beneath it, looking up to glimpse people in the windows and imagine stories about them à la Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.


Last week, we were those people.

HighlineStandard-04 StandardNY_HitherandThither-22

We booked the stay with our Visa Signature Card on the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection website, we were upgraded to this awesome view. (Though I’m not sure I would have put a TV right in the middle of it!)

You might recall that I’m partnering with Visa on a series of posts (kicked off with this trip to Vegas), but even if I weren’t I would have tried to use our card and the site to book—the perks are really good, and this partnership has totally changed the way I search hotels. For example: In cases like this, if I already know where I want to stay, I check to see if it is on their list. Anyone who uses the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website to arrange their stay gets VIP Status; best available rate guarantee; complimentary Wi-Fi; complimentary continental breakfast (or, at the Standard, this was a $40-per-day credit at The Grill); a $25 food and beverage credit; late check-out and an automatic room upgrade, when available. Our Visa Signature card is the same United Visa card we would use anyway—and we still earn miles.

StandardNY_HitherandThither-4 StandardNY_HitherandThither-3 StandardNY_HitherandThither-5

Red Eyes are a bit brutal. Ours landed at JFK at 5:51am—Yikes! (That’s 3am on west coast time, if you’re counting.) Thank goodness for that breakfast perk.
We dropped our bags and had breakfast at The Grill before setting off for the day. The french toast is amazing.


We walked and walked—through the Meatpacking into the West Village and then on to SoHo and NoLita, and even up to the East Village for lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar before coming back to get our room key in the afternoon.

StandardNY_HitherandThither-15 HighlineStandard-07

I have fewer photos from that evening (I think I was too busy people-watching), but the place really comes alive after dark. The hotel has such a sexy, cool factor—and it was packed with beautiful people who’d come to eat at the Grill, play ping pong and mingle (loudly) over German sausages at the Biergarten, or dance at the disco—Le Bain. I’d love to come in the summer when the seasonal pool opens and guests are grabbing bikes to ride up and down the Hudson.

And that spot with the bright pink you can see from our room, in the top photo? That’s the Whitney’s new downtown location—it opens tomorrow! (My old favorite, Untitled, is re-opening in its new lobby.) On our way back from dinner at another past haunt, we realized they were having a big opening party there.


It was such a quick trip, but it felt great to be together in this cool place that had figured so heavily in our view of the city for all of those years. Makes me think we should have considered a staycation!

Have you been? Do you have a hotel that figures romantically into your vision of a city? 

I’ll share some more photos from my weekend workshop soon. (I took so many!)

P.S. When the High Line first opened, its second phase, and the recently opened part three. Also, it was one of the first walks I took with Hudson after he was born.

Sponsored by the Visa Signature Card. Take a look at your current Visa card to check for the Signature designation on the bottom right-hand corner, and then visit VisaSignatureHotels.com for all the details on booking your next trip. The Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection is a hand-selected portfolio that is developed for Visa Signature cardholders and is constantly updated. 

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Wanderlust: A Week in Austria




After my Austrian evening in Brooklyn last year, I was left wishing I could book a trip immediately.

One reader had remarked to me that upon visiting the country, she felt like she had stumbled onto a marvelous “culinary secret.” And isn’t it funny how Austrian cuisine can feel that way—fresh and undiscovered—in spite of its long, rich history? I’ve heard similar impressions about the country’s landscapes and its small villages. One of our hosts of the Austrian evening had told a story about summer nights spent sipping crisp Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings in those villages that really stuck with me: 5-course dinners called Tafeln im Weinvertel (“feasting in the wine district”) at long white-clothed tables set among the vines and in the cellars. They happen throughout the summer season, and sound incredible.

It’s hard to say when I’ll be there next, but I’ve come up with an itinerary for visiting Northeastern Austria just as soon as I can hop on a flight!

Here’s the plan… 


We’ll start in Vienna for a taste of art, music (think Strauss, Schubert, Mozart), and—of course—coffeehouse culture. Apparently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culinary Organization has even recognized the afternoon coffee-and-pastry ritual of Kaffeejause as an “intangible cultural heritage.” (And I’ve had just enough of the iconic Austrian Sacher-Torte to know I’d like to have more.)

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Salzburg, Dorfgastein, Amoser Alm, Copyright www.peterrigaud.com

From there, I’d like to visit the Heurigen (wine taverns) just outside the city in the Vienna Woods, before driving west. In Austria, heuriger translates to “this year’s,” and means both a young wine as well as the house serving its own latest production. A 1784-decree from Emperor Joseph II made it every winemaker’s right to serve in a tavern of their own making, so there are Heurigen all over.

Next we’ll rent a car and drive along the “Austrian Romantic Road” into the Wachau Valley, a rural, storybook-looking land of medieval villages and old vines. Another UNESCO-recognized treasure, the region—formed from the Danube’s water gap through the Bohemian Massif—includes the monasteries in Melk and Göttweig as well as the old city of Krems, with its cobblestone streets and ancient churches. One can travel between Melk and Krems by boat or by bike, and I imagine us stopping for picnics of cheeses and smoked fish, with a side of apricot jam and black bread. (Apricots have been grown here since the early 16th century and are regionally known as the “Marille.”)


Of course I’m equally curious about the nearby Kamptal and Kremstal, known for being a more modern counterpoint to the pastel-hued cottages of the Wachau region. Then there’s Langelois, just under 10 miles north in the Kamptal, which mixes historic churches and homes with sharply-angled glass-and-steel cubes—like that of the design hotel Loisium Langenlois, that I might choose as a base.

Once there, we could follow a network of walking paths laid out from the hotel through vineyards and over hills (like this wine trail), or try one of the bike routes (there are miles and miles of bike routes). I might opt for trying out an E-bike (has anyone used one?), as I learned years ago that those terraced, hillside vineyards can look very picturesque going one way, and prove very demanding going the other!


And of course I’d be seeking out an opportunity to share one of those summer dinners with a view to the grapes—those very same ones that went into making those crisp, peppery white wines we’d be tasting.


What would you most like to see in Austria? A waltz at the Vienna opera? A salt mine in Hallstatt? A village in the Alps? Has anyone been to a Tafeln im Weinvertel?

[Photo credits, from top: Austrian National Tourist Office/Himsl; Weinvertel.at; Ashley Muir Bruhn; Austrian National Tourist Office/Bartl; Austrian National Tourist Office/Peter Rigaud; Austrian National Tourist Office/Lehmann H.; Loisium resort image c/o the property; Austrian National Tourist Office/Lahofer; Weinvertel.at]

This post is sponsored by Austrian Airlines. Start your Viennese adventure today by booking your trip at Austrian.com and getting a taste of the country’s flavors with the flying chef offered on each flight.

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Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part Two)


Travelogue Los Angeles 2

[Continued from Part I]

Our week in Los Angeles was so full of wonderful things that could warrant a post in and of themselves; I had to break this travelogue into two parts (and really more, if you count the drive up and down the 101 and our visit to the Huntington Gardens). But at the same time, what was really special about this trip was—having been here so many times before (and having lived here for a time)—that I didn’t feel any of that pressure to “do it all.”

Here are some more highlights from what we did choose to do… 


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Travelogue: Los Angeles (Part One)


Travelogue Los Angeles

LosAngeles_HitherandThither-56 LosAngeles_HitherandThither-72  LosAngeles_HitherandThither-23

We’d spent one weekend exploring Los Angeles’ west side last year and wanted to return for longer to explore its… Hmm, what to call it? Its central neighborhoods? When I was living in Los Angeles, in the Fairfax district, I would have called Echo Park and Silverlake “the east” in error. I’ve learned that “East LA” should really be reserved for that which sits east of the LA River. In order to best avoid the minefield that lies in naming sections of Los Angeles, perhaps I should just say that this is the “not West Los Angeles-travelogue.”

In truth, it was our intention to make it a Silverlake-centric trip. We based ourselves there, finding a house one block off of Sunset Junction.



We rented a three-bedroom house, from which we had a lovely view of the Hollywood Hills. In the mornings, it was a short stroll to breakfast or coffee (always coffee, usually at Intelligentsia). And on a couple of the days, when the kids slept in the afternoon, it was a short walk to shops like Mohawk General Store, Clare Vivier, Mollusk, Shinola, and Sweet William.

We pictured ourselves hiring a babysitter for a few of the evenings and then simply walking to dinners out—you could have an entire vacation’s worth of great meals in that neighborhood—and we arranged for a sitter to come for three nights! But we found ourselves taking that chance to drive and do more exploring.

Here are the highlights, (in typically long travelogue fashion)…


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Where the hotel is the experience



“You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on the stuff that research says makes you happy.”

So starts an article in Fast Company this month, explaining that there’s a science behind prioritizing experiences over things: it has been shown to bring more happiness.

I think that’s why I can’t help but keep planning travel. If you were to ask me about my most treasured experiences from the past year, so many are moments from a vacation away. I think about diving into the Meditteranean or eating fresh fish over the rocks. I think of driving through the Pacific Northwest (even though long drives with the baby were anxiety-ridden) and watching the sun rise over the strip in Las Vegas.


A big cost on vacation is lodging, so what if the hotel were the destination—the experience—as much as the location itself? Of course the two go hand-in-hand, but instead of figuring out where to go and then looking for a place to stay, what if I went about it the other way around? Let’s engage in bit of harmless wanderlust.

You might recall: I’m partnering with Visa and have been getting familiar with the perks of using the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website—where everyone is guaranteed VIP Status; a best-available rate guarantee; complimentary continental breakfast; $25 food or beverage credit; and complimentary Wi-Fi,  late check-out, and an automatic room upgrade, when available. It only made sense to start there.


I came up with a list of experiences—a meditation retreat, cooking lessons, days spent diving underwater—and used the site’s search to narrow a selection to some extraordinary, experiential hotels (that are still set in places worthy of exploring). Some are more aspirational than others (a euphemism for expensive) but I’m focusing on the happiness quotient.


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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Long Beach, CA


5Things_Long Beach CA

In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, I’m especially excited for photographer Jennifer Chong to share her local’s guide to Long Beach—because it’s where I grew up!

5 Things: Long Beach
Jennifer Chong

I’m a Georgia girl who moved west about five years ago. I now live in an area called Belmont Heights, which is walking distance from the beach and a short car ride from some of LA’s best attractions. And while I’ll admit that Long Beach is the only city I’ve lived in since I moved to California, I can’t imagine calling any other place home.




Simmzy’s Pub, 5271 East 2nd Street, (562) 439- 5590
Long Beach Thai, 3320 East Anaheim Street, (562) 597-6987
Starling Diner, 4114 East 3rd Street, (562) 433-2041
Open Sesame, 5215 East 2nd Street, (562) 621-1698
Rose Park Roasters, 3044 East 4th Street, (562) 434-4346

Food is my jam, and Long Beach has some good eats. Simmzy’s is a great place for lunch or dinner—whatever you do, make sure you try their Brussels sprouts. They’re seriously amazing. Other favorites include Long Beach Thai for authentic Thai boat noodles and papaya salad; Starling Diner for French toast at brunch; Open Sesame for Lebanese fried potatoes; and Rose Park Roasters for great coffee.




Make Collectives, 430 East 1st Street, (562) 612-0089
Coast Modern, 219 Main Street, (714) 404-8779
Petals and Pop, 214 Main St, (562) 936-0131

If there’s one thing Long Beach is known for, it’s its many vintage and antique shops. I’m not great at flea market shopping, but I love finding hidden gems. Make Collectives carries a great selection of new and vintage goods in addition to putting on some pretty rad workshops. Retro Row is also host to a ton of great stores—just be sure to check times before you visit, as most of them close early during the week. Lastly, just a short distance away in nearby Seal Beach, you’ll find Coast Modern, a wonderfully curated clothing and home goods shop. While you’re there, grab a soda at Petals and Pop!


AirBNB—Long Beach

You’ll be able to find all the typical chain hotels around Long Beach, but for the best live-like-a-local experience, I’d book an Airbnb in one of the area’s cuter neighborhoods—try Belmont Shore or Belmont Heights. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even book your stay on a boat!



Make time to take a stroll down Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street. You’ll find plenty of shops and good eats. Afterward, rent bikes and take the path toward downtown. You’ll pass volleyball players and kite surfers on the way to downtown Long Beach’s waterfront.


Penfield Inuvik Parka Jacket, $200

Pack a light jacket! While SoCal is known for its perfect weather, the nights can get a bit chilly. Pack a cover-up—like this Penfield Inuvik Parka Jacket from Madewell—to use as a layer after a long day out on the town.

Thank you so much, Jennifer! (Thank you to Shoko Wanger for her help with this series.)

P.S. Visiting the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and taking a toddler to Disneyland.

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Crossing California with kids: I-5 or Hwy 101?




As two native Californians who’ve spent our lifetimes traveling up and down all of the possible routes between Los Angeles and Sacramento or San Francisco (Highway 1, 101, 5, and 99), you’d think we’d have a clear opinion about the best route.

But the question does become a bit more complicated when you’re traveling with two kids under four, neither of whom are especially keen on long car trips. With Hudson, there’s always the iPad to fall back on, but for poor backward-facing, one-year-old Skyler… well, you just never know if she’s going to sleep for 30 minutes or two hours and whether she’ll cry throughout the times she’s awake. With a possibly disastrous scenario looming, it was tempting to set out late for Los Angeles on our last trip via I-5—going quickly while the kids were asleep.

But as might guess from those ocean views, we chose the more scenic 101 this time—figuring that the abundance of good stopping points along the way (a sort of insurance for the unexpectedly brief nap or a suddenly h-angry 3-year-old) justified the extra couple of hours.


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The Desert Garden at the Huntington Library



One of the highlights of our week in Los Angeles was an afternoon at The Huntington Library. We’d been for tea in the Rose Garden and I’d used the library as a graduate student, but somehow I’d always missed their desert collection. Fittingly, we chose to finally visit on an afternoon when the temperature rose to 93 degrees.

Hudson still had a great time running through the vast gardens, Skyler took a sweaty nap in her stroller, and we did our best to cool them down with splashes of water while admiring the incredible collection of succulents and cacti.





From the library’s website:

“The Huntington Desert Garden is one of the largest and oldest assemblages of cacti and other succulents in the world. Nearly 100 years old, it has grown from a small area on the Raymond fault scarp when in 1907-1908 William Hertrich brought in plants from local nurseries, private residences, public parks, and from collection trips to the Southwest and Mexican deserts. Today the two dozen families of succulents and other arid adapted plants have developed into a 10-acre garden display, the Huntington’s most important conservation collection, a most important mission and challenge.”

“Expeditions were mounted to the southwestern United States and Mexico in search of unusual plants—towering  saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea), graceful agaves, bristling hedgehog cacti (Echinocereus), barrel cacti (Ferocactus) and other desert denizens. As the garden grew, reaching roughly its current 11-acre size by the 1920s, so did the breadth of the collection, with rarities being imported from as far away as South America, Madagascar, and South Africa.  Some of those early plantings can still be seen in the garden…  Today, this otherworldly Eden displays more than 50,000 beautiful plants representing approximately 4,000 species of cacti and succulents.”



HuntingtonGarden_HitherandThither-18HuntingtonGarden_HitherandThither-08         HuntingtonGarden_HitherandThither-17

If you have a chance to visit, I recommend you bring a hat and water and take your time getting lost there and elsewhere around the library grounds. There are over a dozen different gardens spread over the 120-acre ranch. The Children’s Garden and the kids’ section in the bookstore were favorite stops for everyone. Note that they’re closed on Tuesdays.


Hoping to post a full Los Angeles travelogue soon! Until then, an ever-evolving Pinterest guide to LA.

P.S. Vertical gardens in Paris. And drought-tolerant inspiration for our backyard.

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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Portland, OR



In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, photographer Celeste Noche gives us a peek into (the East Side of) beautiful Portland, Oregon.

5 Things: Portland, Oregon
Celeste Noche of Celeste Noche Photography

Since my first visit five years ago, every subsequent trip to Portland has been a small step toward eventually making it my home. Coming from the Bay Area, the differences between the two are what make it special: the walk/bike-ability, the micro-neighborhoods, the lush overgrowth, and the food (of course). But more than anything, I think the pace of life and the open community are what have ultimately made this an easy home to adopt.

Moving here was a fresh start. Leaving California, I also left the tech scene, which felt to me like a bit of a rat race. In Portland, there’s a community of creatives made up of all kinds of people living slowly while also living their dreams. This, coupled with the subtle change in seasons and endless good eats, has made Portland my dream come true.


I could create a month’s itinerary in Portland based solely on meals, but these five places are especially dear to my heart. With Portland being such a food-centric town, though, it’s hard to go wrong here!

Random Order, 1800 NE Alberta Street, (971) 340-6995
When most people come to Portland, they’re eager to get in line for donuts or ice cream. To me, both those things pale in comparison to Random Order’s banana cream pie.

Luce, 2140 E Burnside Street, (503) 236-7195
Having studied abroad in Florence, I lean toward simple and timeless when it comes to Italian food. Luce does exactly that. And with its Italian dry goods, black and white tile, and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s so cute I’m tempted to move right in.

Broder, 2508 SE Clinton Street or 2240 N Interstate Avenue
Of all of the wonderful brunch spots here, Broder is my favorite. It’s Scandinavian-inspired, so it’s delicious and beautiful. Order the lost eggs and share the aebleskiver among the table. Oh, and either avoid weekends or go early!

Grain and Gristle, 1473 NE Prescott Street, (503) 298-5007
One of the great things about Portland bars is that they all have to serve food (it’s the law). Grain and Gristle’s motto is “fine food and libations” and it offers up exactly that. This is the neighborhood tavern that I wish was closer to my own.

Farina Bakery, 1852 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, (971) 340-9734
Farina is my favorite bakery. It’s colorful and bright, with the most scrumptious pastries to match! I always feel like a local coming in here—give Laura a hug for me when you stop in for a macaron.


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