Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

I think the last time I actually celebrated Saint Patrick’s day was in 2018? I was visiting Toronto for a conference and the parade just happen to pass through the street my conference center was at.

This year was a bit special. One of my best friends was getting married this weekend in Chicago and I knew Chicago was known for their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Of course, I knew I couldn’t see the parade that was happening on the day of my friend’s wedding. However, I thought I could see the green river afterward.

I have never seen it in person but I have seen it on the news several times about Chicago turning their river green for Saint Patrick’s Day and I was just so excited to see it in person! The tradition of turning the river green goes back to 1962 (so much history) and this year was their 60th anniversary.

pic: Green Chicago river

My friends and I didn’t know where would be the best place to see all the greenery but once we got to the river, we realized anywhere on the river is a great place. It was all green!

I love looking at Chicago architecture and have done with Architecture River Tour previously (I highly recommend this tour) and seeing all the different styles with the green river was just gorgeous.

You can view from the street side but we decided to walk down to the River Walk for a closer look. I was surprised to see kayaks on the river!

Pic: 2 kayaks on the green Chicago river

We walked about a mile on the River Walk and there were several areas to sit and just view the river as well as exits back to the street side. Just walking upstream and seeing the green Chicago river was like looking at emeralds. The pictures don’t do it justice (This was all taken with my phone).

Pic: green Chicago River with a cityscape view

I hope you enjoyed the green Chicago River because I did! It was a beautiful day to see such an amazing view. This only happens once a year and stays for a couple days so you have to plan it accordingly.

Beyond Van Gogh: The immersive experience

For a while, I have heard about this exhibition traveling in the US and I really wanted to go. I saw they had LA on their list and I thought about driving up to see it. But when I found out that it was coming directly to San Diego, I knew I was 100% going. I have always admired Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork, especially The Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at Night. I was fortunate enough to see some of his pieces in person at the National Gallery in London, as well as at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

So I asked my girls if they would like to join me on this quest and they all said yes! So we booked our tickets and waited for the day to come. The ticket prices varied depending on the day of the event and we decided to go on a weekday evening. The tickets were $36.99 per person for the off-peak days, plus a $6 ticketing fee. On the day of the event, we drove separate cars but should have taken 1 car! There was a parking fee of $10 per car at the entrance of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

pic: entrance of the event hall

From the entrance, I was already excited! It was my favorite piece and it was so inviting! Well… to me it was at least 🙂 Once you enter, you are welcomed by an attendant who will check you in, as well as a giant self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh. From here, there were photo spots you could take part in. It was already starting to feel immersive.

Pic: Me inside The Starry Night painting pop-up

Once you pass the entryway, there were lots of information about Vincent Van Gogh and it was backed up by letters Vincent sent to his brother, Theo. They had a great relationship and kept in touch wherever they went. You could tell that the brothers really loved and supported each other.

pic: inside the exhibition, showing the curatorial text

The text covers Vincent’s life, his ups and downs, his decision to go from an art dealer to an artist, and also his struggles with depression. Reading the letters made these issues feel so raw and I felt like I got to learn more about the artist. It isn’t a lot and doesn’t go in-depth, it gives a great perspective for people who are new to the artist.

Once you pass the wall of text, you are able to enter the immersive section of the exhibition and wow. The music and the moving images really took my breath away. The artwork I was familiar with made it easier for me to immerse in it. And the music was a perfect fit with all the images and I really enjoyed the moment. The immersive portion was about 40 minutes and we all just took up a spot and just became part of the show.

The space was pretty big so I kept moving around to find a place to see the whole room but every corner or even the middle of the room provided a great viewing spot. I think with the music and the moving images, I could have just stayed a long time. It was really relaxing and I think it was worth it for the experience.

pic: Me in front of self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh

For videos of the event, please see my instagram! And for tickets, go to the Beyond Van Gogh website 🙂

[day 2] Hiking in Mount Laguna

Waking up in the morning to the sound of birds and also your girls talking about breakfast was perfect. When I got out of my tent, the girls were all up (I like to sleep in on weekends!) and they were all cooking breakfast. And it was legit breakfast. They all had their burners out with their skillets, cooking bagels and scrambled eggs! What a perfect breakfast!

Pic: Individual burner with a skillet pan, cooking a bagel

We needed to make sure our bodies were ready for the 6-mile hike and once we were done with breakfast, we all geared up, packed extra snacks, and headed out. We figured it would be about 2-3 hours with lots of rests in between.

We didn’t have to drive anywhere because the campground we stayed at connected to the trail we were going on. We were going to walk the “Big Laguna Meadow Trail” and to start off, it was really nice. Also, we were having the perfect weather for a hike. Lower in the temperature with lots of sunlight, with a little bit of a breeze. Perfect.

Pic: One of my ladies, leading the hike

We had to walk through some forest to get to the actual trail but it seemed like a lot of people used this path as well. It was very easy to get to the trail from the campsite. And trees! It was so nice to be surrounded by green trees again! I’m not 100% but it also looked like this was part of the pacific crest trail. So I can say that I hiked the PCT?

There were also a lot of other hiker and bikers! The trail had lots of bumpy roads and I was so surprised to see so many bikers. Everytime we saw them coming, we moved to give them space, and if they came from the back, we heard the bell. ring-ring. Everyone was so nice to each other, with lots of “good mornings” and “have a good hike.”

Pic: biker coming down the trail

After about an hour or so, we took our first break. We found a flat area with some rocks so we all just plopped down and unpacked our snacks. It was just nice to relax a bit, take off some layers, eat some snacks, and share stories.

Pic: camping ladies group photo

We literally looked photoshopped here! But that is how beautiful it was that day. After snacking and resting, we had to get up and finish the trail. As we kept following the trail, we did end up at a fork and did take a wrong turn, and with our internet not working, we were all making educated guesses but eventually, we were back on the trail.

On the trail, we took in the forest and mountain view, the crisp air, and all the little critters we saw. There were part of the forest that was burnt down and the water hose was still looming around. We were careful walking but it was interesting to see all the brunt down trees and right next to it, there were already new saplings.

Pic: one tree surrounded by ashes

I think I really slowed down the group because I wasn’t so used to walking. I think I was prepared for the 6 mile but I think our hike ended up being around 9 miles? My body was not prepared for that. I was glad that the ladies all waited for me every corner. Eventually, we got back to our campsite and I think it took us about 4 1/2 hours. This is with our snacking time and me being a slow walking. But we stayed on the trail, stayed strong, and finished it!

Once we were back at our campsite, we were met with a mess! Some birds got into our bags and threw some of our paper plates and napkins all over. We quickly picked up all the trash we saw and cleaned it up. We were surprised because there wasn’t any food out. It was just utensils but now we know to even put those away.

We also made the decision to pack up and leave a day early because of the temperature at night time. I was very glad because I thought my toes were going to freeze the previous night! But we wanted to enjoy it until the very end, so we decided to see the stars for the last time before leaving. We put our tents away, started a fire, and just relaxed.

This time, we had a campfire favorite! Smores~ I was so excited! We used vegan marshmallows and it was just as good! I like to keep mine slightly away from the fire and roast them with time. My friend on the other hand, just stuck hers into the flame and made them super crispy!

pic: roasting marshmallows in campfire

They say there are two types of people…. haha. Overall, they were all just so good. And while roasting by the fire, we started to play a card game called “Do you know me?” It asked lots of interesting questions and we got to learn more about each other. If you haven’t played the game, you should! It is a great icebreaker game as well as a getting to know someone better. We had some hot seat questions that made the conversations all the more interesting! (Clik here to find it on Amazon)

We finished up the questions, looked up at the stars more, tried to take some pictures of us and the stars and not getting it quite right. Overall, I think the trip was a success and we all had so much fun! I cannot wait until our next trip together!

[Day 1] Camping at Cleveland National Forest

My friend invited me to a local camping trip and at first, I said no because I didn’t have any camping gear. But when she offered to lend me some, I just had to say yes! The last time I actually went camping (like legit camping) was when was 12 and was on a cross-country trip with my family. I was excited to get back into camping but I haven’t had a chance to do so. So I took this invitation as an opportunity to learn how to camp again.

We were heading to Cleveland National Forest and camping at El Prado Group Campground. I was going to carpool with my friend so I headed over to her place. She has a hatchback and thought it would be enough space but we ended up moving everything to my Tuscon. And good thing we did because we filled the backspace!

Gif: packed trunk space

The two of us had a lot of stuff. I think we had 2 tents, 3 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping mats, 1 box of arts and craft things, 1 icebox, 1 box of cooking utensils, a guitar, 2 folding chairs, and our clothes and shoes?

We took the 8 for about an hour and a half and made a small pit stop right before heading into the Park. Once you get off the Sunrise Hwy exit and take Old Hwy 80 to find the last supermarket and gas station. We followed signs for the gas station but if you want the actual pinpoint, use Mountain Super Market. We ended up getting ice here and noticed it was already really cold.

We wanted to get to the campground before sunset so we were rushing but when we saw something amazing, we stopped to take pictures. And that was right before getting into the park. There was a viewpoint and the sunset was just beautiful. We took a moment to take in the beauty before getting back on the road. If you have more time, drive slow and enjoy the mountain views.

pic: mountain view from the viewpoint

Once we got to the campground, the sun was already gone. So we pitched our tents as fast as possible. It got dark really quickly and it was also very windy. My tent almost flew away! Thank goodness a tree branch caught it. After pitching the tent, I got to meet the other ladies. They were all friends of my friend and they were all awesome ladies! They all pitched their own tents and all brought an abundance of camping gear, including snacks 🙂

The sun was gone instantly and we started our firepit right on time as it got to freezing really fast. We all sat by the fire and got to know each other and talked about life. It was really peaceful. Because it was still winter, there weren’t a lot of campers. When we were all sitting in silence, the sound of the wind, the branches brushing against each other, birds and other animals, and the firewood crackling, were all sweet sounds of nature.

pic: campfire

We ended up going to bed a little early to make sure we were prepped for the hike the next day. Once I was in my tent, the temperature hit me so hard. It was FREEZING! Even in the below 0 degree sleeping bag, my toes were not heating up. Plus, the high-speed wind that was shaking my tent didn’t help. It took a while but I think eventually, I passed out. If you are going camping during the winter, make sure to pack thick socks to keep your toes warm, maybe double layer your sleeping bag, and take some heat packs to keep you warm. (This is my notes for future events)

pic: my tent under the stars

Right before going to bed, I took this picture. The wind was so strong that even on my tripod, my phone couldn’t standstill. But I really loved being able to see so many stars with my naked eyes. Not my best photo of stars but I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone 🙂 I hope you are celebrating with your loved ones!

I haven’t written in a long time so I have a lot of catching up to do but I first wanted to write about a trip I took to Julian for Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t know Julian, it is a small miner’s town about an hour outside of San Diego. During the 1800s, a lot of people moved here for the gold mining rush! Of course, they don’t use the mines nowadays and is more famous for the apples.

public parking space but it was $3 an hour. So if you want free parking, come early. For us, that was arriving before 10am.

The town is really cute with lots of historic buildings. The shops and restaurants all have some history to them. And because they are a town known for apples, they have lots of apple related items, such as apple scented candles and bath bombs to apple butter and jams.

Pic: Main street at Julian, California

My favorite store was The Warm Hearth (address: 2125 Main St.) because it had everything. From cooking items to vintage signages, it was really an all-in-one shop. I really enjoyed looking through all the vintage signs, playing giant size games, looking at backyard water features, and more.

Pic: Downstairs portion of The Warm Hearth

I loved that everything was within walking distance of each other and since this is off-season (not apple picking season), it didn’t feel like it was too crowded. Some of the apple pie restaurants had some lines but it wasn’t too bad. Also, every time I walked by the pie places, the smell of fresh apple pie was just mouth-watering.

For lunch, we went to the Miner’s Diner, which was just across the street from the shop. The shop feels like an old diner and I loved it. It has character 🙂 At the entrance of the shop, the old miner greets you, waving his axe and drinking his soda.

Pic: the animatronic miner

They have several sandwich and burger options and you can also split an order. We ended up getting a split Reuben because we were going to get something to eat later as well. As we were dining, the toy train moved around the restaurant, just choo-chooing away.

There was another cute candy shop inside the Miner’s Diner. It is small but very cute and there is a small metal miner, ready to detonate dynamite in the mines. How cute!

Pic: Metal figure holding a bucket of candy

There were also museums and old mines you can visit to learn more about how the city started and to see how people lived during the time. Most of them had small fees but if you are a historic buff, I think these places would give you a lot of insights.

Pic: Julian Piooneer Museum building

After walking around the town, visited the Julian Tea & Cottage Arts for their Valentine’s Day Tea event. This place was fantastic! If you are a tea lover, you need to visit this place. The store itself is pretty small but it has indoor and outdoor seating and has lots of different things they offer.

Pic: Colorful teaware

We were here for their Valentine’s Day Tea party and it was really good! It was a special set menu that had some romantic flair. A four-course (almost) meal starting off with soup (Tomato or Pumpkin) and a variety of finger sandwiches, followed by some scones with different jam, and lastly a dessert plate.

Pic: Valentine-themed finger sandwiches

And they have a list of tea you can pick for your drink and you can switch out to tea at any time. It was an experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat! If you would like to see their future events, visit their webpage (https://juliantea.com/)

Before leaving Julian, we had a final stop. We needed to get apple pie. There are several ones to pick from but we ended up going to Mom’s. They had several different pies but I wanted to focus on the main one, the apple pie. Also, you can get your crust in 2 ways: Flakey or in crumbs. I wanted the most basic one for my first trip, so a flakey apple pie.

Pic: Flakey apple pie within the box with instruction

I brought it home and ate it but you can freeze them and the box has instructions on how to reheat them. Overall, excellent pie. I loved the buttery crust!

Julian is definitely worth a trip. You can do a day trip or if you want to hike around the area, an overnight trip would also work.