California Love

We went to San Diego!

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Why, you ask? Well, first I’d ask you, “why not?”, but “Groupon” would be the easiest answer. Thanks to some distracted browsing at work (ON A BREAK, obviously), we were able to stay at places like this…

… and this…

… without breaking our still-humble bank accounts!

Since we’ve been back, I’ve noticed how many other people I know are going to California for one reason or another (answer: A LOT), and I told Abi and Robby, “I think our generation has Cali fever.” I’ll be the first to admit I’m right in there with everyone else. We had a blast on our trip, and now there’s a 5-year plan in place to all get to the Best Coast SOMEHOW. Because of that, I’m going to show you our trip in the form of a daydream for the future that’s on a constant replay in my head, anyway.

DISCLAIMER: I stole a bunch of pictures from Abi & Robby. Nice job with an iPhone camera, guys.

A Day in the Life

GOOD MORNING! Happy Sunday. Ok, I’d be a *little* happier if I wasn’t so tired from going out with Abi and Robby last night, but the concert we went to was AMAZING! When a band like New Politics is going to be at the House of Blues, you go. End of story.

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Anyway, it’s a freaking gorgeous day out (as usual), so I need to get out of this place. Meeting the kids for breakfast at our favorite place near Mission Beach.

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Would you like some avocado with that?

That's non-negotiable.

That’s non-negotiable.

ATE. SO. MUCH. Need to walk it off.

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We had enough fuel to get us to Pacific Beach. Might as well chill on the pier and watch the surfers, no?

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… and shamelessly document it because YOLICO (you only live in California once?).

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Robby and Abi wanted to run down and touch the water – because that never gets old…

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… but my attention is getting pulled elsewhere.

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Oh wait, I know them! VOLLEYBALL BREAK.

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My team managed to win 21-6 without much of a struggle (hey, this is a daydream, remember?). We’re going to head back towards Mission Beach to clean up and get ready to go downtown later tonight.

Everyone's out!

Everyone’s out!

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Don’t mind boat shopping along the way!

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Ummm… and making a mimosa stop?

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I did my own thing at home for a bit. Started getting ready until I noticed the sun was setting.

Un. Real.

Un. Real.

Once the magic died down, I ran out to hop in my Uber car to get to rooftop happy hour! My driver is a total hippie. His music is super chill, and he’s giving me sandwich shop recommendations, so I can’t complain.

We stopped to grab the other two on the way, and Robby points out that the driver sounds like a Californian.

(That was your cue to go watch that clip because it’s hilarious.)

BOOM. We’ve arrived. Wine, stat. The fried pickles are calling me from my Texas days. Can’t resist.

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After some chats about how awesome college was, how awesome our current lives are, and how Abi sent me a Facebook message a year before we ever met that I apparently never answered (oh wait, that actually happened), we head to a different place to meet up with some friends and hang out.

Some handsy friends*

Some handsy friends*

Bodyguards?

Bodyguards?

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You know a place is college classy when there’s a machine that makes vodka/Red Bull slushies.

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We’ll end it there.

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Takeaway of this story: This needs to be our lives.

– Alexa

Where We Stayed:
Embassy Suites San Diego Bay
Bahia Hotel Resort

Where We Ate/Drank/Played:
House of Blues San Diego
Saltbox – GOOD tapas bar near the House of Blues; tons of sangria options!
Olive Café – really local feel; cool patio
Swell Café – yummy veggie options; super chill
PB Shore Club – college classy (= not classy)
McFadden’s – Irish party bar. I was a little scared.
Pacific Beach AleHouse – So good, we went twice.
Funky Garcia’s – Good, cheap Mexican food. I got SOYRIZO tacos! ❤
Barleymash – bar in the Gaslamp Quarter
Henry’s Pub – Outdoor seating made for great people watching!

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When Hell Freezes Over

Abi and I just got back from a trip to southern California (that post is in the works), and it’s in the 80s and sunny today in San Antonio (sorry to brag), BUT it’s still February = many of you reading this are chilling. Literally. I haven’t written in forever, so I thought I’d use a wintery, icy theme to catch up on everything big that’s happened the past few months.

So, the question is: WHAT DOES ONE DO IN SAN ANTONIO WHEN IT’S COLD?

Let me tell you.

1. Escape to Austin with your roommate from college and warm up with spicy fried pickles and beer at Banger’s on Rainey Street.

You’re right, that doesn’t answer the “what to do in San Antonio” question, but I’m getting there.

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Skeptical.

Skeptical.

2. Grab your co-worker, go out on Sixth Street, and continue the weird pickle theme by making your East Coast roomie try pickle juice shots for the first time ever.

Fairy lights make you forget it's windy and freezing. For a second.

Fairy lights make you forget it’s windy and freezing. For a second.

My minions

My minions

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I told you they were real!

3. On your way back from Austin the next day, grab some wood-fired coffee and breakfast tacos from Summermoon, then get a hat and a hug at Buc-ee’s.

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4. Attempt to sightsee in downtown San Antonio.

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Alamo drive-by

Alamo drive-by

5. Give up, and ummmm… drink some more!

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SoHo and Barriba Cantina are both highly recommended. By me. Take that for what it’s worth.

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6. Buy some touristy drug rugs on the Riverwalk, and hang out like it’s a Sunday before classes start again.

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7. Exchange a friend for a mommy, and do pretty much the same thing all over!

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

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This time, step it up a notch, and get spiked coffee at Halcyon, which is my true love.

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

8. Do that whole celebrating Christmas thing. That’ll make you all warm and fuzzy.

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The Gristmill in Gruene, TX is extra adorable for the holidays!

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9. Throw New Year’s in there, too, while you’re at it.

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10. Finally, volunteer locally to get the feel-goods flowing and help out some people in need.

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Part of Hershey’s Austin district helped out at Morgan’s Wonderland!

As you can see, the list gets a little more wholesome towards the end, but let’s be real, there’s a reason why chilly Russians are stereotyped as big drinkers. San Antonio doesn’t usually have an excuse, but yesterday was National Margarita Day, at least! Stay warm, y’all!

– Alexa

Rural Texas Mondays

Just another Monday out in the boonies…

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I couldn’t figure out why I was so enchanted with the wide open spaces and tiny barbed wire-wrapped farms that I was passing every week, since that’s kind of where I come from, but I think I’ve actually gotten used to cities. This whole blog has been (mostly) about the big, bad, urban metropolises we’ve ventured to and tried to figure out. I think it’s about time that I infuse some country landscapes into all that glass and concrete.

Consider this your first official installment.

– Alexa

“Tuhn awn yah lights!”

Right when I thought I had finally settled enough to accept the Texas weird-isms as normalcy in my new life, it was time to visit Erin, my college roommate, in New England. Talk about contrasting cultures.

After driving to Austin in a violent mist and BARELY making my connection in Nashville, I landed in Boston.

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Erin and I had a quick running-through-a-meadow-of-flowers moment, then we jumped in the car to brave the Boston streets. For real, though, bravery was needed; almost immediately after getting on the road, a man flailing out of a truck window kindly reminded Erin to turn on her headlights (hence, the post title), then we got hopelessly turned around and *almost* got stuck on a road that I was told is the traffic equivalent of purgatory.

After some quick problem solving (“There’s a museum! Those are safe. Park there.”), we set off to grab foods and roam around the West/North End.

Mike's Pastry - HIGHLY recommended - Get cannolis. The line doesn't exist.

Mike’s Pastry – HIGHLY recommended – Get cannolis. Insider tip: the line doesn’t exist.

The conclusion I made after 10 minutes of winding through cobblestone streets, past bars, preppy college kids, and edgy Bostonians: I could totally live here.

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Yet, the weekend was not made for big city plans. Erin and I had some redneck things to do. Off to New Hampshire we went.

Things to do for fun in the country: gas up your car!

Things to do for fun in the country: gas up your car!

After driving for an hour and a half through complete darkness on twisty roads, where I thought the forest was definitely going to swallow us whole, we arrived at the House of Erin and were greeted by the biggest puff ball (“dog”) that I’ve ever met.

Meet Dakota!

Meet Dakota!

Then my old person lifestyle kicked in, and I passed out for the night.

When I woke up to this the next morning, I knew I had made a great destination choice to get away from work for a few days.

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I forgot to mention that what originally sparked my plane ticket purchase was an event in my calendar titled “Chicken Roast in NH!” It was mostly a joke… but actually not at all because that’s exactly where we went.

Cheers (& an antler chandelier) to country living!

Cheers (& an antler chandelier) to country living!

We strolled on down the road to the next door neighbor’s barn, where we were greeted by a whole mess of people in jeans, work boots, and ball caps and a flatbed trailer covered in a table cloth and full of food. I could not be more excited. Erin and I raised our glasses of sangria (one step above jungle juice but still very college) to our country upbringings, and dug in.

Hours passed by in a whirlwind of pickup trucks, family friends, and an army of grilled chickens before we called it a day.

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Or, we would have called it a day if Erin’s dad hadn’t force fed us his signature margaritas (the signature being that they’re REALLY STRONG).

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The next day we climbed to the top of the world. No biggie.

Survival skillz

Survival skillz

… then counteracted all the super fit outdoors-y hiking exercise with New Hampshire’s best ice cream. SURPRISE! It wasn’t Ben & Jerry’s.

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The long drives had me feeling a little claustrophobic. I guess I never realized that I’m not a forest animal.

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The next day brought a clearing in the trees, though, because we had some ‘sploring to do. I needed another taste of Bahston.

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AND IT TASTED SO GOOOOOOOOOOOD…

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I exercised mine and Abi’s tried-and-true method of understanding the personality of a city: walk into the first H&M you can find. My suspicions were correct, and Bostonians like their edgy/preppy combo. It was beautiful.

Once Erin and I realized we really shouldn’t be shopping because we still haven’t become insta-rich, we settled on a toast to being alive and not homeless post-graduation.

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We strolled some more. Took in the sights. I had a moment where I thought I was in Scotland.

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Then, sadly, it was time for me to mosey on back to San Antone. For my first vacation since being a “real person”, I couldn’t have asked for a better mix of relaxation and sightseeing. Thanks, Erin, my dear!

The fun part will be getting to see how she handles the Texan life when she comes to visit in November. MUAHAHAHA.

– Alexa

SIBlings in… Texas!

I haven’t had a full weekend in San Antonio since Abi and Lisa left, so here I am catching up on adventure documentation just one month later! Woo, let’s go.

If you recall, we’re pretty big fans of abbrevs. “SIBlings” came from the brain of Robby one fine day back at Pitt since we were all in the Society for International Business and hung out like sistas from anotha mista/brothas from anotha motha. Get it? Wanted to expel any confusion there right away.

The first SIBling reunion since we’ve all graduated and scattered about the country was held in lovely San Antonio, TX! How did I get so lucky, right? Abi, Lisa, and I skipped out on our corporate responsibilities for a few extra days and did things like…

pool chilling - because it is ALWAYS summer in San Antonio

chill by the pool – because it is ALWAYS summer in San Antonio

... synchronized swimm ?

… synchronized swim ?

blow Abi & Lisa's minds at the biggest gas station in the history of Earth: Buc-ee's

blow Abi & Lisa’s minds at the biggest gas station in the history of Earth: Buc-ee’s

make a necessary Whataburger run

make a necessary Whataburger run

die, briefly, after all the FUN!!

die, briefly, after all the FUN!!

joke about going to IHOP... then actually go to IHOP

joke about going to IHOP… then actually go to IHOP

find the Alamo!

find the Alamo!

discover rare street art downtown

discover rare street art downtown

and prove, once again, that everything is bigger in Texas.

and prove, once again, that everything is bigger in Texas.

Fun fact: Adam from Man v Food did an episode at this restaurant, Lulu’s Bakery and Café, where he had their biggest chicken fried steak and the cinnamon roll that Lisa and I failed to devour because it’s basketball-sized.

So, that basically makes it look like we just ran around and ate everything. That’s partially true, but we were too excited to take pictures of any of the extra fun things we did, like get lost and wander all over downtown San Antonio (yes, it was my fault), float on the river, make friends with the Domino’s pizza guy, and have a lovely dinner on the Riverwalk with friends at Iron Cactus. Pittsburghers: it didn’t hold a candle to Steel Cactus, so know that you have the superior metal desert plant.

Unexpected negative side effects to this trip were severe sunburn, memory loss, dehydration, and allergic reactions to Texas. Even so, Abi Downing was quoted as saying, “this was totally worth the plane ticket.” We all needed the mental break, and it kept me sane being able to hang out with people I don’t feel like I need to impress (HAHA YOU’RE STUCK AS MY FRIENDS FOR LIFE). They left me way too fast, but we have another SIBling reunion coming up in November – this time in Seattle to see Robby!

Any suggestions as to what we should do and see?

– Alexa

Walk in the Park

New camera = new projects!

After a photography-filled day last month, I finally decided to splurge and get that new DSLR I’ve been wanting for years. My trusty Nikon D40 has been a staple in my travel bag since 2008 but it was lacking the video abilities I’d been craving. So, on to newer and fancier things! I bought a refurbished Canon t3i (600D) and had a little test of the video setting a few weeks back. This is what happened (in HD, if you please):

Sooo yeah, there will definitely be more to come in the future, but I’m pretty proud of my first attempt. I’m hitting up NYC and Seattle in the coming months so we’ll have to see what videos those cities have in store!

-Abi

P.S. I also took this picture, which is in the running for my favorite picture ever!

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Cabin Photography Masterclass

For as often as I put “photography” at the top of my hobbies list, I am embarrassingly unfamiliar with the Manual function on my Nikon. Since I was heading up to my family’s cabin for the day a few weeks back, I decided to invite my oldest friend and fellow photography enthusiast, Natalie, along to have a little photography day.

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Usually we are taking photos on-the-go, so we wanted a day devoted to tinkering with the settings and taking our time with photographing.

After some forest exploring, we headed over to pick some flowers at a nearby farm…and obviously got a bit distracted by the border collies.

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After the brief detour, we got around to doing what we actually went there for.

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It was a lovely day to familiarize ourselves with the mysterious Manual mode. Sadly, I set my ISO too high and the photos from earlier in the day are a bit grainy. Oh well, now I know to always check the settings before taking more pictures!

-Abi

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