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Posts tagged “vacation

#My5Days A Tale of 2 Beaches

A new Star Wars movie came out yesterday!!!! So you probably think you know what I’m blogging about today, right?! Amazingly, Rogue One isn’t the topic. I did see it last night and really loved about 80% of it (the other 20% is up for debate), and I’m going again tonight so we’ll see if that number fluctuates before I post about it exclusively.

Instead, I’m sitting in front of a space heater, watching it sleet outside and reflecting on days spent at the beach. For many people, a day at the beach means hot temperatures, warm water and roasting oneself in sunshine. I prefer something a bit more rustic: rocky shorelines, pine-crested bluffs and the fewer people, the better. Foggy and overcast is A-okay by me, and I’m perfectly content not venturing too far into the waters of the Pacific (COLD!). So it should come as no surprise to anyone here that Washington and Oregon are my go-to happy places.

Back in September, I spent a week on the Oregon Coast with my momma; naturally, we had a fantastic time! Temperatures topped out in the mid-60s, and each day boasted a beautiful mix of sun and clouds. One very special afternoon was dedicated to visiting what is perhaps my favorite place on earth, Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. Just north of the bustling Cannon Beach tourist destination, Ecola is a divine mix of old-growth forest and pristine shoreline. Though hikers and surfers and casual revelers like ourselves typically flock to Ecola, this day was blissfully quiet. Our own perfect little slice of heaven, shared with only 4 or 5 other people and their canine companions. As the golden hour fell before sunset, the tide quieted and mirror-smooth water lapped against the shore, create exquisite reflections of the soaring landscape. I wanted desperately to capture the beauty through the lens of my camera, but I found it difficult to concentrate on that task…instead, I let the serenity of my surroundings wash away my self-imposed anxiety over capturing a perfect image, took in as many mental images as possible and left the rest up to my trusty iPhone.

It’s hard for me to overcome the feeling that every moment needs to be documented. Heaven knows I have enough photographs of even the most trivial bits of life stored on my phone, computer and external hard drives. But when you stand in the midst of natural splendor like Indian Beach, sometimes the strongest desire is to simply soak it all in sans camera. I hope you’ll enjoy the reflections I did capture, imagine the salty brine of crisp ocean air and unplug from the bustle of the season for a moment and do some reflecting of your own.

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In stark contrast to the peace and calm of Oregon, my husband and I found ourselves in Los Angeles at the beginning of December. In addition to christening our new Universal Studios Hollywood annual passes—Wizarding World of Harry Potter with waaaaaaayyy shorter lines than Orlando!!!—I thought it would be great fun to photograph architecture and Hollywood landmarks and all of the things that make Southern California so different from my beloved Pacific Northwest. And then I got sick. Really sick: a 104 fever yielded a diagnosis of flu and pneumonia from the minute clinic in Burbank, CA. So the first 2 days of our trip included quarantine in the hotel room and even without having cable at home, it wasn’t awesome. The nurse practitioner had instructed me to wear a mask if I went in public, which seemed like a miserable option. Instead, we found a loophole: avoid people. As you may know, this is no small task in southern California. With a little help from Google, we drove an hour and a half north of Los Angeles to a quiet beach in Oxnard and were shocked to discover we were the only people there! A couple of fishermen showed up later, but the majority of the day was spent simply walking the shore and breathing in the healing power of the ocean.

Unlike the ragged cliff faces and thick vegetation that leads to Indian Beach, Ormond Beach is surrounded by flatlands that feature a U.S. Navy base to the south and an abandoned (I think?) power plant on the northeast side. Instead of the fairy-tale forest walk to the shore, it felt more like navigating a postapocalyptic wasteland, complete with signs for rattlesnakes. My illness kept my quest for adventure at bay, so I mostly just sat on a little sandy ridge as we waited for sunset over the beautiful, blustery Pacific. I would have preferred to be healthy for our little trip, but the limitations made me slow down and be deliberate about taking care of myself. If that’s not a worthwhile way to spend a “free” day from work, I’m not sure what is.

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I’ve worked for Hallmark Cards 8 years now in various editorial roles, currently as a writer for the e-commerce team. This year, the Creative division decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A couple of days exploring the West Coast were just what I needed to refuel! #My5Days


SWCA Day 2

I’m not big on the OOTD (Outfit of the Day) trend…mostly because my outfits are rarely noteworthy. But today I’m going to brag a little, as my shirt is pretty dang special and particularly fitting for what’s happening some 1,500 miles away at San Diego Comic-Con.tfa shirt

It’s Hall H panel day for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

So what does that have to do with my shirt? Well, my shirt is an authentic TFA shirt from Star Wars Celebration—the story of my acquisition goes back to April 17, 2015. (no, this is not a glamorous photo)

After a good night’s sleep at the Alpine Inn we got up early and made the short walk to the convention center for Day 2 of SWCA. We arrived to find C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, greeting fans in the queue.

Our plan for the day included buying convention exclusives, enjoying the Carrie Fisher panel, meeting my blogger friend starwarsanon, checking out the cosplay contest and watching the premiere of Revenge of the Sith in 3-D.

Nabbing convention-exclusive swag was calculated and seemed simple enough: divide and conquer. As soon as the door opened at 10am, we were on our way to our respective assignments. Severus waited in the Hallmark line—no, working for corporate doesn’t get you out of waiting with the other lemmings—while I tackled the Celebration Store. Each of us had to wait some 25 minutes to get into the merchandising meccas, but the Carrie Fisher panel wasn’t scheduled until 1:30pm so there was no concern.

The concern began to bud when I decided to wait around for one of the elusive TFA shirts that were restocked only sporadically. Staff members were quite literally swamped each time they brought out a new rack of shirts, everyone hoping to get their hands on TFA. It was like a reenactment of the zombie swarm scene from the end of The Walking Dead pilot episode, only with slightly less blood.

Being the pushover that I am, I waited to the side of the trampling hoards and implored staffers as politely as possible, hoping that good favor might befall me. Finally a kind employee decided to hand out the shirts from a big box, ensuring that people didn’t grab armloads and prematurely drain the supply. And so, with coveted shirt in hand, I set out for the checkout line at 1130am. The line inched along with unanticipated sluggishness, moving mere footsteps over the course of each quarter-hour. The frustration morphed into anger as I mentally calculated the remaining time to reach my destination; anger melted to despair and finally urgency as I reached the cashier’s booth at 125pm. IMG_2388I was relieved to have conquered the line with mere minutes to meet Severus for the Carrie Fisher panel—thankfully, he had queued and saved a spot hours earlier. And my relief exploded into a rush of panic when I tried to enter the arena and was informed that they weren’t allowing anyone else inside. “But I have a seat waiting for me,” I pleaded. No luck.

In a desperate attempt to find another entrance, I came across a couple of other people with the same plight. They gushed about having to use the restroom and finding themselves unable to get back in; I played along. An usher reluctantly agreed to let us in and watched very carefully to ensure that I did, in fact, have a seat reserved. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I settled in moments ahead of the lights dimming.

Carrie Fisher, along with her lazy-tongued dog Gary, took the stage by storm. Ms. Fisher is an absolute live wire, spewing sarcasm and profanity and utter hilarity…though we enjoyed the raucous display they wrapped the panel a bit prematurely after she dropped the ‘f bomb’. Star Wars is, at its core, family-friendly and it was clear the organizers wanted to keep it that way.

After the panel, we caught up with my friend starwarsanon and her husband. IMG_2398It’s so much fun meeting online acquaintances in person! If you haven’t checked out her corner of the internet yet, please do—she’s a dedicated blogger, big thinker and absolute delight*! I also still owe her a Star Wars-themed Hallmark picture frame 🙂
*if only she weren’t a Patriots fan hahaha.

The cosplay contest was somewhat less impressive than I’d hoped, especially given the quantity of brilliant costumery we saw throughout the exhibit hall. Nevertheless, we had a mighty laugh when co-emcee Dee Bradley Baker mispronounced “crocheted” as “crotched”…you probably had to be there to get the giggles like I still do.

The night wrapped with a double-feature screening of Revenge of the Sith (3-D) and A New Hope (Special Edition 😡 ). The audience was a little noisy and the seats were pretty uncomfortable for 4.5 hours of sitting, but I LOVE seeing Star Wars on a big ol’ screen!

So that’s what Day 2 looked like. As always, if you’d like to see the rest of my photos, check out the shared album here.


Looking Back—Star Wars Celebration Anaheim

Greetings, fellow Blog World™ denizens. Now that we’re a full 2 months past Star Wars Celebration (SWCA), I can safely assume you are probably already satiated from others’ musings. You can safely assume that I’m going to ramble on about it anyway, mostly because IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Severus super-surprised me with 4-day passes all the way back at Christmas 2013. Time crept ever so slowly until we finally hit April of this year and then everything kicked into lightspeed. Han’s 12-parsec kessel run would feel like a snail’s pace compared to how quickly the 4 days of SWCA flew by! So we’ll slow it down and take each day at a time with the blog posts.

First things first, we did not sleep on the concrete floor at the convention center overnight to catch the JJ Abrams panel. In fact, we bought our airfare well before the panel was even announced, let alone scheduled, so we didn’t stand a chance of getting there in time to make it to the main stage. Our flight arrived at LAX just after 7:30 am but a ridiculously slow rental car company ensured we wouldn’t make it to Anaheim until just before 10. That didn’t keep us from seeing the big Force Awakens (TFA) panel, though…kind of. We watched the live stream of the event on my phone. In the car. In a Burger King parking lot. And I cried like a little girl after they rolled the trailer.

Truth be told, I’ve gotten misty eyes every time I’ve seen the trailer. Every dang time—which is a lot considering I make a point to watch it frequently on Apple TV and we’ve seen it twice in 3D ahead of Age of Ultron. It’s so much better than I could’ve ever imagined, as it rings so true to the heart of the original trilogy. I’m going to be so broke when all of the merch hits stores Labor Day weekend!

When got to the convention floor just after the TFA panel wrapped up, it was pretty quiet. We passed a lot of people leaving, presumably to nap somewhere other than on concrete, which made the main hall very easy to navigate.
Because I was stupid or naive or just had residual clouded judgment from the emotional toll of the trailer, we didn’t take as many photos then as we should have. Instead, we walked around to get the lay of the land.

I promptly fell in love with the new TFA trooper armor that Anovos was displaying, only to find that it wouldn’t be available for preorder until later this year. Then I found some vintage toys that I wanted to buy, only to find that they were priced at least double what I was willing to pay. And so I kept my money for another day.

Day 1 also featured a panel with Emperor Palpatine himself, Ian McDiarmid. Never have I seen such a charmingly terrifying person. Truly, listening to him read an excerpt from “The Jedi Doth Return” is as satisfying as putting down a good scratch on a bad itch. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

To wrap up our first day, we visited The Force Awakens exhibit. Costume displays for Kylo Ren, Snowtroopers and Flametroopers were my absolute favorites; I’m so glad we got to see the details up close.

Obviously these pictures are just a first step into a larger world (Obi-Wan fans said “hey-o!”)—full photo album is up on my share site (here).

Coming soon to the blog, a look back at Day 2. Stay tuned!

 

 

 


How I Travel

I was in my early teens when the internet first became a household amenity, so I remember quite a bit about life pre-www. We listened to music using bulky stereo systems that played formats ranging from shiny compact discs to clunky cassette tapes and scratch-prone vinyl. We bought those cds/tapes/records at brick-and-mortar stores or through the mail via rip-off “clubs” like BMG, often purchasing an entire album for a single radio hit. Yes, I’m one of the kids who fell victim to BMG.

Though I had my own computer games, VHS tapes with programs recorded from the television and a few video-gaming platforms (Intellivision, Atari, NES and Sega GameGear) at my disposal, play time most often involved action figures, Barbie dolls, storybooks, stuffed animals, puzzles, crayons/coloring books, my bike and the swing set in the back yard. Tablet-toting tykes just didn’t exist.

My 110 camera used flash cubes, took film that you had to manually advance after each photo and probably cost the same as what you’d pay now for a family of 4 to eat at McDonald’s. What if your subject blinked when you took a picture? Well, that’s just too bad because you didn’t know for sure until after the film was developed, which took at least a couple of days. No instant uploading.

We sent actual cards and letters in the mail. We wrote checks and meticulously balanced our checkbook registers. We did everything then that we do now, just a little more slowly.

Try as I might, though, I simply can’t fathom how people planned vacations back then. My parents had a file drawer full of travel brochures—something of a mystery since we only ventured out of state to visit family—and I assume the telephone must’ve played an integral role. Were that the case today, I would be even more of a curmudgeonly homebody than I am now.

Thanks to modern technology, I am empowered to explore locales unknown with nary a voice call on my phone. Airfare, rental car and hotel rooms are all booked online, and I spend time equivalent to days on end harvesting ideas and reading others’ reviews to decide what we want to see.

My travel-planning “dream team” consists of Pinterest, Google Maps, TripAdvisor, a physical map, some Post-it flags and a Sharpie. See, I’m still a little old-fashioned…I just happen to buy the maps on Amazon or order them from state tourist websites—some states even offer them for free!

When we have an overarching idea of where we’d like to go (Oregon, for example), I fire up Pinterest; inevitably, I discover places that make my heart go pitter-patter. I open separate browser tabs for Google Maps and TripAdvisor. Google Maps helps me narrow down which part of the state I’m exploring, and TripAdvisor gives me an idea of if I want to stay in a particular city or look for a neighboring community instead. I also pull up candidate hotels’ websites and scour the web for coupon codes or special pricing. It’s a lot of legwork, but we rarely end up disappointed.

Google Maps also helps me plan out how much travel time we’ll need between destinations. This is particularly helpful as we tend to cover a lot of ground on our trips.

San Juan Island, WA

{San Juan Island, WA}

Utilizing a tangible map adds an extra step to planning a trip, but I find it worth the effort. After I’ve located sights and sites online, I lay out the map and start flagging destinations; this gives me a much better feel for the terrain and helps me analyze which routes we should take to maximize our experience.
The map also helps when we find ourselves in areas devoid of cell and satellite signals, which happens more often than I would’ve thought. Let me tell you from experience, it can be more than a little unsettling when you’re driving through the middle of a deep, dark forest without any sign of civilization and no technological assistance. I’m considering investing in more comprehensive state atlases at some point for this very reason.

While it all sounds very structured, the reality is that the planning just gives me an overall “ballpark” idea of how things will go—our vacations tend to be rather free-flowing and include a lot of naps. We generally know where we want to go and how to get there, so we fill in the rest along the way.

What are your favorite travel resources?

 


Colorado Photos

Finally got around to posting photos from last month’s Colorado trip. You can find the entire album at my share site (there’s also a link at the Gallery tab above).

Here are a dozen of my favorites…