Mid-May

How is it already May?! Mid-May to be precise. I know I always comment on how fast time flies, but for goodness sake 2014 is well on its way to being half complete! I guess one of the great things about keeping up with our blog is that it gives us a moment to reflect on time and what we’ve done and accomplished throughout the year. It’s also an incredible gift to be able to look back and recall our adventures from years past.

For some reason May has always been a good month for me. Maybe it’s a good month for everyone, but I’ve always felt like good things happen in May. The weather is usually pretty perfect, it often signifies the closing of another school year, in admissions it’s the calm after the storm that is April, and it’s my favorite month to take vacation! In that vein I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to look for a camping spot or hotel for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, I started my search a little late and hadn’t had much luck with campground vacancies or decent priced hotels. I was a little discouraged about not finding something and had expressed my frustration to Dave. He, being the amazing husband that he is, listened to my complaints and amazingly surprised me after work on Friday by having the car all packed up and a house rented down in San Clemente for the weekend!

I’m usually pretty aware (some might say nosy) so it’s hard to surprise me, but he did! We had a great weekend hanging out at the beach, having drinks on the pier, playing cribbage and doing crosswords on the house’s deck and in general just enjoying a bit of privacy we haven’t had in awhile. It was such a thoughtful surprise and I absolutely loved it!! It also made me even more excited to find our own place in LA, something we’re planning to do early this summer.

In addition to beach getaways we’ve been keeping busy with work and other activities. Dave plays on a soccer team out of LA that has games Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. He’s also been out golfing with my dad a few times and made some side trips to the driving range to improve his long ball. And on Cinco de Mayo he whipped up some homemade carnitas and for mother’s day cooked up a delicious breakfast feast. While Dave’s been perfecting his soccer, golf and cooking skills I’ve been busy with work, some social activities and a few fun preparations for the upcoming wedding season. A couple weeks ago my high school class hosted its 11 year reunion in Old Town Pasadena and it was so fun to see girls I hadn’t talked to since we graduated back in 2003! The next weekend we celebrated mothers and daughters at the annual Mother/Daughter Luncheon at church. It was fun to be ladies who lunch under the tent with a fun little boutique of homemade goods. A few weeks later my great friend Alexis, who is getting married in July, had her gorgeous bridal shower at the Palihouse in Hollywood. Then last week I was finally able to catch up with my Boston buddy, Rachel, at the Food Haus Cafe in LA. It was so good to see her and get the lowdown on her life.  And lastly, this week marks the return of The Bachelorette on TV. It’s one of my guilty pleasures and I’m hosting the girls for the premiere. Hopefully it’s an action packed season for our viewing pleasure:) So many good times with the wonderful women in my life. I’m so happy so many make “girl time” a priority- I never laugh as much as when I’m enjoying a good session of girl talk!

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We’ve also been able to have a few date nights and explore some new places in LA. Our favorite was the outdoor biergarten at Berlin Currywurst in Hollywood- reminded us of the good old days! Up next for us is a much anticipated three day weekend, followed by my cousin Alondra’s birthday and graduation party at the end of the month and then my birthday weekend getaway to San Francisco leading into a professional development opportunity in San Jose. I’m sure the next few weeks will fly by as they always do and updates will follow closely behind…Love to all!

xoxo- Daverian

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

We got an early start yesterday to make it to the sunrise service my parent’s church organizes at 7:00am on Easter morning. The service takes place in Wilderness Park up in Arcadia and is a beautiful way to start the holiday. It’s also the location where we took our engagement photos- so a special place for a couple reasons. Trumpet music opens the service and shortly after doves are released. Easter, in all Christian churches, is one of the most special celebrations of the year, but I particularly look forward to the natural beauty that comes along with the service put on by Our Savior.

After church we drove down the hill and into Monrovia for brunch at the quirky and delicious Peach Cafe. We all indulged in a decadent breakfast and warmed up with coffee on their outdoor patio. The rest of the morning was made up with reading the paper, naps and a little prep for Easter dinner. We had the traditional HoneyBaked ham with two kinds of potatoes, salad and some yummy Stone Brewery samplers. It was a relaxing and family-filled Easter and the first I’ve been able to spend in Sierra Madre in almost a decade!

This past weekend was also brought my first day off in three weeks! Needless to say- I’ve been looking forward to this time off for awhile!  Luckily April is almost at a close and then life in the admissions world should slow down significantly. I’m coming up on a month at USC and I’ve learned A LOT in the short time that I’ve been on board. It’s been challenging stepping into this role at such a critical time in the admissions process, but the other staff and students have been so welcoming and patient. I’m curious to see what my typical day-to-day will look like come May, and am looking forward to getting more comfortable with all the new projects and material. Also hopefully getting to attend a couple football games in the fall:)

Dave got back last Tuesday from his cross country road trip with our lovely new Honda Civic. We’re so thankful to have such a generous family and the car is already coming in handy. Even though I take the metro to and from work each day LA is such a car-centric city and this will give us the ability to explore more and hopefully soon find a place of our own. Dave and Alan drove together from Portland to Denver, stopping in Philadelphia and St. Louis for baseball games. They also had the chance to check out the Budweiser Brewery and City Museum in St. Louis.

They did a lot of driving making it from Maine to Colorado in just 4 days. Last Sunday, after a long drive through Kansas (Not so exciting) Alan flew home and Dave spent the night in Boulder hanging out with Jeff and Seth before hitting the road again on Monday. He drove to Cedar City, Utah outside of Zion National Park on Monday night so he could get to the park at dawn and spend a few hours hiking. He ended up waking up at 5am and driving to Zion getting there at 7 only to find out the park doesn’t typically open until 8! Luckily the gates were open anyway and Dave was able to get in and take a 7 am shuttle to the trailhead.

For those who have not been to Zion National Park it is a heavily visited park in southern Utah that comprises mainly of the Zion River winding through the massive, dramatic sandstone cliff-walled canyon often in narrow areas. Because of this geography and popularity, the only way to travel into the Canyon is by a free shuttle bus operated by the park service. The system works fairly well at keeping car traffic out of the canyon but really bottlenecks park visitors at the visitors’ center at the bottom of the Canyon. Getting there really early turned out to be a good move as by the time Dave left, the park was packed, even running out of parking spaces. This was on a weekday in April so imagine what it might be like in the middle of the summer!

The two most popular hikes in Zion are the Narrows which is a hike through the river in the narrow part of the canyon and Angel’s Landing. Dave was not interested in getting his feet wet, so he chose Angel’s landing. The hike was difficult, including a lot of elevation gain in a short distance and some hand over hand climbing at the end over a narrow ridge between two 1500 foot cliffs. The views of the winding river and the dramatic sandstone cliffs at the end were well worth it though! Here is a pic he took of the Zion River Canyon from the top of Angel’s Landing.

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After the hike Dave finished the drive passing through Las Vegas (no stop over for gambling unfortunately) and onto Sierra Madre in just over six hours. A long journey finished and now some much needed rest for both us… me from work and him from driving!

Already April

A few weeks ago I got some very exciting news from USC when they called to offer me a position as an Assistant Director of Admissions! I started at the end of March and am really excited to be back in the world of higher education. I think USC will be a dynamic place to work and we’re happy to finally know what city we’ll be in for the next couple of years! As anyone who’s ever worked in admissions knows April is a CRAZY month and I’ve been put right to work. I’m doing my best to learn all there is to know about my new office and will be traveling to admitted student events over the course of the month. Last weekend I was in the bay area and I’m headed to Texas next weekend. Starting a new job is always a little overwhelming, but I really like my colleagues and they’ve been great about sharing information and making me feel welcome.

At the end of last week Dave traveled back to Maine to visit with family and retrieve his mom’s old car. Melissa is investing in a new vehicle and generously offered us her old model. Dave and his dad are driving the car across country later this week. They’ll be stopping in a couple cities along the way to catch baseball games and Dave’s thinking about stopping at Zion to do a little hiking if time permits. Dave was in Maine to celebrate his dad’s birthday last weekend and was also able to go skiing with friends.  In the next few days he’ll be packing up some of our stuff from storage and then on Wednesday they’ll head out west.

We don’t have a ton of things planned in the near future, but are excited to be back in California for Easter. It will be the first time I’ve been home for the holiday since college and am looking forward to sunrise service in Wilderness Park, family brunch and The 10 Commandments. It’s not the most thrilling of times, but we’re happy and healthy and life aint bad:)

Trips and Training

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

I saw this quote by Lin Yutang somewhere not long ago during a particularly melancholy state of longing for our Berlin life and got to thinking about where we were last year at this time and where we are now. One year ago we were working and living in Berlin- planning our Spring trips to Paris and Greece and eagerly awaiting the open airs and biergartens that were just around the corner. This year life is a little different, but the urge and desire to continue our exploration of this big, beautiful world is not. We may not be traversing the sophisticated capitals of Europe, but we love the opportunities we’ve had to explore the west and the ridiculously vast city of Los Angeles. It’s been an especially exciting couple of weeks for this travel loving pair.

The last week of February I left for a Mexican girl-getaway with my lovely friend Emily and three of her Denver buds and my new friends, Sarah, Katrina and Meredith. Emily’s grandma generously offered up her timeshare in Cabo and we had a wonderful week lounging by the pool and the ocean, dining on Mexican food and enjoying lots and lots of girl talk. We traversed into town to dine at some of Emily’s favorite restaurants, Mamas and Ponchos and we also indulged in a sunset boat cruise through the Sea of Cortez and out to the Pacific side of the peninsula.  It was relaxing and refreshing and so good to catch up with one of my favorite friends!

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While I was sunning on a Mexican beach Dave was heading north to Tahoe for a weekend of skiing with his parents and Jack. They weren’t blessed with the best weather, but were still able to get some good runs in. I know Dave misses being able to ski as often as he used to so I’m always happy when he gets the chance to make it out to the mountains. They had three nights in Tahoe before heading back to Southern California. Unfortunately there were some issues with their plane and they ended up having to rent a car and drive down, but they made it one piece and just in time for Dave’s 29th birthday on March 5.

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It was a low-key birthday compared to what we’ve done in years past and we spent most of the day showing Al and Melissa around Huntington Gardens. The Gardens have become one of our favorite Pasadena spots and with our membership we’re often able to take advantage of the visiting hours. After a long morning/afternoon of checking out the grounds we headed back to my parent’s house for a snack and to bid Al and Melissa good bye before they hit the road and made their way to a conference in the Palm Springs area. Dave and I had a relaxing afternoon before heading into Pasadena for a birthday dinner and then a few more drinks at a local Sierra Madre bar.

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The very next day we were up early to pack and start the trek out to Arizona with my parents and Maddie. We’ve been talking about it for years and finally put our words into action when we planned a 3 night trip out to the Phoenix/Tempe area for Spring Training. The drive from LA is only between 5-6 hours and our family friend Gina generously agreed to put us all up while we were there.

Friday we caught a game at the Dodger’s Camelback Ranch. They beat the Rangers 2-1 and we were able to see Hanley Ramirez rip a homer. It is a really beautiful complex shared by the Dodgers and the White Sox with a number of practice fields, batting cages and other facilities for players and fans to take advantage of. We had great seats just 5 rows up from the field and halfway down the first base line.

Right after the game we drove over to the University of Phoenix football stadium for a guided tour. We got to see the stadium for a variety of seats including the press area and a private box. We went into the visitor’s locker room and were able to get a view of the grass that they mechanically maneuver before each game. The stadium will be host to the 2015 Super Bowl, so it was pretty cool to check it out while we were in the area.

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Saturday we took in another game at the Angels’ spring training stadium in Tempe. The Angels lost to the Diamondbacks, but we still had a great time checking out a new stadium and seeing some more great players and prospects. That night we drove up to Scottsdale to walk around the city and had dinner at a sushi restaurant off the main drag. Scottsdale was beautifully lit up with Christmas lights down every main street and there were tons of people out enjoying the evening.

Sunday brought our last day in Arizona. Dave and I decided to take advantage of our work-less states and stay a few more hours to catch one last game before driving back to LA. We thought about trying to see the Cubs play the Brewers at the Cub’s new stadium, but the game was sold out so we settled on Seattle v. Texas at the Mariner’s complex up in Peoria. We were incredibly glad we did. The lawn seats were cheap at $8 each and we had a great spot out in the right field grass. Seattle’s food and beverage options were by far the best of the three parks we visited. We were able to purchase 24oz. Red Hook beers for just $7.50 and the variety of food options available were far superior to both the Dodgers and Angels parks- they even had a “kooky coffee” stand…oh Seattle. The Mariner’s pulled off an 8th inning comeback scoring 5 runs to win 9-8. It was an exciting end to the game and the weekend.

After the game we loaded into the car and drove nonstop back to Sierra Madre, listening to a thousand Moth podcasts along the way. A good old road trip was the perfect way to wrap up a couple of fun, adventure filled weeks. In the coming months we’re looking forward to continuing our travels close to home and are hoping to include Austin, San Francisco and the Northwest in our upcoming itineraries. We’ll see what happens, but I have a feeling it won’t be long before the open road calls to us again:)

February Festivities

February hasn’t been an especially eventful month, but we’ve been able to fit a bit fun into job searching. We’re trying to enjoy the perks of lots of time off while we still can. We’ve been down this road before and it can be hard to savor your free time when you’re stressing about submitted applications and half written cover letters, but I think we’re doing a good job of balancing the two.

Dave planned a great Valentine’s Day chock full of activities.  We had my favorite cuisine, Mexican, for lunch, followed by a matinee of the film, Philomena. From there we drove up to Griffith Observatory to stretch our legs a bit and take in the sunset. We even found the Berlin Forest up there at the Observatory, we were only 5,795 miles from our favorite city❤ Red Lion was up next for dinner- a German style restaurant complete with rear “biergarten”. We finished the night with dessert, champagne and a movie at home. Such a thoughtfully planned day designed just for me by my Valentine:)

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In addition to the day of love February also provided some of the most perfect weather days we’ve ever experienced. Warm and dry days with cool and crisp nights. It’s the perfect weather for tennis playing, reading outside and walks through the nearby hills. We’ve fit in a couple beach days too, even making it up to Santa Barbara for a day to visit with Bo who was out in California for a conference. Earlier this month we took advantage of LACMA’s free day (first Tuesday of each month) and my parent’s generously added us to their Huntington Garden membership letting us visit for free whenever we feel the urge. We also found a way to earn a little bit of money when we spent a day pouring wine at the Santa Anita Wine Festival.

We’ve also been lucky enough to spend time with our great friends in the area. We went out in South Pasadena for Robyn’s birthday one weekend and to Old Town for Peter’s birthday a couple weeks later. Our friend Sachi drove up from Orange County to watch the Super Bowl with us and celebrate a Seahawks victory. I’ve also been able to continue my weekly Bachelor nights with the girls and Dave has joined a soccer team that plays on Wednesday nights.

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This past weekend we got to celebrate Maddie’s 23rd birthday with the family, a first in many years. She choose her food favorites and activities for the day and we helped make her requests a reality. She picked a food and game filled day that was a lot of fun for the whole family. We’re still eating the delicious leftovers!

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It’s hard to believe, but February is winding down and we’ll soon be well into March. We have some fun things planned coming up that we’re pretty excited about. I’m leaving tomorrow for a girl’s getaway in Mexico and next weekend Dave is meeting Alan, Melissa and Jack up in Tahoe for some skiing. We’ll rendezvous in Sierra Madre to celebrate Melissa and Dave’s birthdays and then head right back out for a long weekend in Arizona with my family to catch some spring training games. It’s going to be an action-packed couple of weeks with some much needed travel bugs being zapped! We can’t wait!!

Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon

This past weekend Dave and I packed up my mom’s Honda Accord and hit the road. We made the five hour trek up to Death Valley to check out a new national park, spend some time together and relax in the great outdoors.  We reserved a spot at Furnace Creek campground for Sunday and Monday night and decided to wait on our Tuesday night destination depending on whether we needed more time to see Death Valley or we were ready to move on.

Our first night in the park we just set up our tent, lit up a fire and spent the evening relaxing under the stars. Monday morning we were up early and ready to hit up the major “must see” destinations of Death Valley. We started by driving down Badwater Road to the lowest point in the US (and one of the lowest on earth at -282 feet below sea level) Badwater Basin. We lucked out and were the only people at the site when we arrived- making for some great shots of the scenery. Visitors are able to walk as far as they’d like across the Basin, but the trail only extends about a 1/2 mile out so the going gets tricky pretty quickly. We hiked out about a mile or so, but opted not to continue the 5 miles across the valley. Making the Basin even more beautiful is the fact that it’s framed by Telescope Peak, which sits at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet!

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From Badwater Basin we made our way back up Badwater Rd. stopping at each of the scenic hikes, outlooks and drives along the way. We did a short hike at the Natural Bridge and marveled at the dry waterfalls. Next we stopped off at the Devils Golf Course to view some of the crazy formations created by the salt and wind in Badwater Basin. Walking across the course is allowed, but extremely difficult due to the shape of the formations. Warning signs caution of broken bones and major injuries to those who attempt the hike. Needless to say, we didn’t go too far.

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Next up on our list of sights was the Artist’s Drive. It’s a three mile drive through beautifully colored rocks and canyons. Colors range from brown and green to red and purple to pinks and blues. And they change depending on the cloud cover and how the sun hits them. The one-way drive was also a lot of fun because of the thin, winding road and the fact that’s it’s off the major road. We parked along the drive at the Artist’s Palette and hiked around the hills for awhile. It was mid-day so I don’t think the colors were as vivid as they’d be at dusk or dawn, but it was still incredibly beautiful.

IMG_1992From the Artist’s Drive we made our way to the last stop of the morning, Golden Canyon. The canyon leads to the “Red Cathedral”, a formidable rock colored red and kind of resembling a cathedral. Pretty self explanatory….Before the hike we scarfed some lunch and then had a nice stroll down the “interactive” trail. At the end of the trail you can continue on to other points or take the extended loop trail back down and around, but we just scrambled along the rocks for a bit before heading back to camp.

IMG_2028 IMG_2040At camp we cracked open some beers and took a much deserved break before jumping back in the car and heading to the Mesquite Sand Dunes for sunset. Death Valley is so beautiful and so diverse. I’ve never been a big fan of the desert (I’m partial to water and trees), but I have such a new appreciation for the beauty of deserts and dry places. It’s amazing what time and nature can create. We spent all morning hiking along dusty rocks worn down by ancient waters and through salt beds that still sustain life (the Death Valley pupfish) and then spent the evening hiking over a completely different kind of desert creation, sand dunes. We sat on the dunes and watched the sun dip behind the distant mountains, keeping our eyes peeled for the first star. We saw one and then minutes later there were hundreds. Death Valley is officially known as an international Dark Sky Park because of how little light pollution affects the area. On a clear night the intensity of the stars is awe inspiring. It was an amazing sight to see.

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IMG_0247We were up early the next morning to catch the sunrise. One of the park rangers told us that the best place to see it was Zabriskie Point so that’s where we headed. It was chilly and early, but the sunrise was definitely worth it!

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From Zabriskie Point we checked out the historic 20 Mule Trail and then headed back to camp for some breakfast and to pack up. The next stop was north, just past the sand dunes at Mosaic Canyon. The hike begins with a narrow trail that opens up to a big canyon. We spent a couple hours hiking around and taking in even more incredible views and rock formations. I even got Dave to pretend our water bottle was Simba on one of them. I have the picture to prove it:)

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IMG_2115After our hike and some lunch we drove west to our last stop in Death Valley, Father Crowley Vista Point. We got a great view of the western side of the park and even got to see two low flying jets fly out on a practice run over the canyon.

IMG_2135As we drove away from Death Valley we were reading over the literature we’d gotten from the park. We knew that Death Valley’s name came from the Manly Party who back in the 1880s were lost in the area and thought they were going to die. When they eventually found their way out legend has it that one of the men turned back and said, “Good Bye Death Valley”. After hiking over the mountains they came upon fresh water at Indian Wells and today a brewery has been erected on the site. Indian Wells Brewing Company still uses the same spring water in their beers and sodas today. We love our beer and it was really refreshing to throw back a few cold ones after all the hiking and driving of the day.

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We decided that our last night camping we’d stop at a different site and had read some great things about Red Rock Canyon State Park about halfway between Death Valley and LA. The park was almost deserted and we had our pick of spots. We set everything up and then drove a little ways down the road for some dinner. That night we had one last campfire and some final stargazing before turning in for the night.

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We spent our last day on the road hiking around the campgrounds and at another canyon just down the road. A lot of old westerns and in addition to some more modern films were shot at Red Rocks including scenes from Jurassic Park. We had the trails all to ourselves and fun checking out a place so close to LA that’d we’d never taken the time to visit.

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IMG_0346We had a great time getting away from everything for a few days and seeing a new place. It sounds corny, but stepping away from technology and taking the time to be quiet with nature is so refreshing. I’m lucky I have a partner who thinks so too.

Welcome 2014

Happy New Year! To start the new year we’ll write a quick wrap up of the past year. 2013 was hands down the best year. We started the year off in Berlin with the promise of lots of travel, lots of wedding activity and lots of fun. 2013 delivered on all accounts.

We were incredibly grateful to have been able to visit 13 different countries, with Greece being the major highlight. We also had the opportunity to travel throughout Germany, visiting a number of cities in Bavaria and finally making it down the Romantic Road. In the US we were able to spend a lot of time on both coasts- staying with Dave’s family in Maine for a few weeks in September and then again in December and my family in California in between. Definitely the most extended family time we’ve been able to enjoy in many a year.

We spent a good deal of the year immersed in plans for our October wedding. Planning a wedding is a HUGE undertaking and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of so many of our family and friends, but everything came together perfectly for the big day. October 12, 2013 was absolutely the highlight of the year and without question one of the highlights of our lives. We both really took the time to savor the day and couldn’t be happier about how everything turned out. And now we’re married!!

All in all 2013 was quintessentially a year of fun.  Every year right after January 1st we make a date and share our “top lists” of the year. We have a bunch of different categories: top songs, top trips, top books etc…and then top overall moments/memories. January 2nd we dined at an awesome new-ish restaurant in Portland called Outliers. Bo and Kristie gave us a gift card for Christmas and it was the perfect spot for our first date of 2014. We had delicious pork jowel to start, short ribs and lobster pasta for our mains and a yummy of Malbec while we shared our lists. It may be the last year in a long time in which we both have extended time off and no real financial obligations tying us down. We picnicked, and read and traveled and hung out with friends, and drank in biergartens and swam in incredible oceans and generally just savored life. It was a carefree, adventure-filled year and difficult to whittle down a few highlights- which we took for a pretty good sign. It doesn’t escape our knowledge that we were incredibly fortunate in 2013.

2013 in Review
Year in Review 2013

And now it’s time for 2014! We rang in the new year with family and good friends. We had a delicious dinner of lobster mac n’ cheese prepared by Melissa and started the night with fun family games before heading over for drinks with some friends at Sam and Cliff’s apartment and ended the night at Bubba’s Sulky Lounge– touted as Portland #1 dance club. They had two light up dance floors and a DJ spinning some 90’s and modern hits. It was a lot of fun to dance the night away and a great way to start off the new year.

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2014 should also be a big year though probably not in such a dramatic, wedding and travel-filled fashion as its predecessor. The big adventure will be figuring out where we in this great big world we’ll be able to find fulfilling jobs and a new community to build a home. We’re still open to all corners of the globe, but are focusing our current search in the States. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide more interesting updates in the near future once we actually make some forward progress on this whole job/home thing. In the meantime we’ll keep seeking out free thrills as unemployed nomads. Hope you all had a festive New Year and a positive start to 2014!

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White Christmas

Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy New Year!

IMG_0030The first weeks in December were filled with lots of fun Christmas decorating and gift preparations. We had a great time celebrating our friend Blake’s birthday at a Great Gatsby themed soiree and were able to make it out Santa Monica to visit our friend from UPS, Gaelen. We also finally got out to hike in Runyon Canyon and I had another girls night with the ladies. The weekend before we left for Maine my parents treated us to a play at A Noise Within theater. We saw their rendition of a Christmas Carol and loved it! The day before we flew out we did “Christmas” with my family- preparing a plethora of our favorite foods, opening some gifts and watching some classic Christmas films.

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We landed in Maine about a week before Christmas Day and attempted to adjust to the drastic change in temperature from CA to ME: 81° to 7°!!! It was a bit of a shock to our weakened California blood, but we soon came around.

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We have been able to catch up with a lot of our east coast friends in town for the holidays- watching Sunday football, celebrating Amy’s 30th at Novare Res and hitting up a few of the different Portland bars including a one that was hosting a Stevie Wonder tribute night. I also was able to spend a day in Boston with my friend Becky. It was so good to catch up after WAY TOO long. She indulged my desire to head into our old neighborhood, Brookline, so I could eat at Dorado- my favorite Boston eatery.

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In addition to time with friends we’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with the Chebuske/Hewey clan. On Christmas Eve we had a delectable fondue dinner at the Hewey’s house, which was followed by some lovely Christmas carols. Dave, Jack and I went to Christmas Eve service at the nearby church later that night and it was a beautiful way to ring in the holiday.

The next morning we arose early to open stockings and squeeze oranges for fresh juice (one of the many fun Christmas traditions around the Chebuske home). The rest of the family came over and we had a great day opening generous gifts, playing games, eating TONS of delicious food and relaxing. It was my first Christmas in Portland and I had a great time!

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We still have a week left in Maine before we head back to California. We are excited to celebrate New Years tonight with family and friends at a couple different locations and then kick back tomorrow and watch the Rose Parade and game on TV. It’s been the absolute best year and I’ll be a little sad to say goodbye to 2013, but we both are incredibly excited about the future (which will hopefully include some fantastic new jobs).  Looking forward to catching up with you in 2014!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Thankful in the Fall

We’ve been back in “real world mode” for a few weeks now and most of our time has been spent job hunting, trying not to spend money and lounging around with the family. The silver lining to being (f)unemployed is that you have lots of time to do all the things you wish you were doing when you’re working. We’ve been trying to explore some of the cheap/cost-free options in and around LA and our wonderful family has treated us to a few things along the way as well.

The last stop of our mini-moon was at the Hangar 24 and when we told my dad about it he mentioned that a new brewery had opened up in Monrovia called Pacific Plate Brewery. The weekend after our return the whole family piled into the car and drove down to split a couple a samplers. The brewery is small, but the beer was delicious! Later that week we met up with my old friends Jessie and Travis at another local brewery called Eagle Rock Brewery. They were having their 4 year anniversary party the night we met up and were offering special flights of their Solidarity beer and passing out delicious chocolate cake. We had a great time catching up and laughing about old times while downing some more delicious beer.

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In our efforts to save our dough (and work off that beer) we’ve been taking advantage of the ridiculously warm So Cal weather by doing a lot of hiking and getting out to the local ball fields to throw and hit the softball around. Last weekend Dave and I hiked up into Bailey Canyon and got some amazing views of the south land. It had rained a little bit the day before and we could see for miles- all the way out to the ocean.

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In November Dave and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary by partaking in happy hour at DogHaus in Pasadena. We also celebrated my dad’s birthday with a family trip to Huntington Gardens and a sushi dinner at Kabuki in Hastings.

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Later in the month we headed into downtown LA to check out the LA Auto Show. I don’t know much about cars, but it was really fun to check out some of the fancy models and pretend to drive a Porsche around. After the Auto Show we took Dave to eat at the Pantry, a famous LA establishment that’s been open continuously since 1924. Fotor1206171025 IMG_1500 IMG_1509

We had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with two massive feasts. On the actual day we drove down to my uncle and aunt’s house in Temecula. They prepared a great dinner and we had fun visiting with them and my cousins, Emilie and Leah. The next day we whipped up the whole meal all over again. Dave and I hadn’t been in the States for Thanksgiving in three years and were keen to do all our favorites and have leftovers galore. We cooked all day and then shared a second amazing feast that Friday. It definitely beat battling Black Friday shoppers.IMG_4043

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In the past few weeks we’ve also been able to make it down to Costa Mesa to visit with our friend Sachi, who moved to Orange County from Berlin, grab dinner with friends Alexis and Peter, catch a taping of the Jay Leno Show out in Burbank and I was able to have a girls’ day with Robyn, Katie and Kathleen checking out Kathleen’s cute, new apartment. Last weekend we saw Catching Fire with the family. And then just this week we trekked out to the LA Zoo with Maddie’s friend Sarah who is down in LA for a quick visit.IMG_1438

IMG_1526IMG_1447 IMG_1670I guess looking back over the past month we’ve actually been able to keep pretty busy. It’s finally starting to cool down in California and we’re looking forward to getting a Christmas tree and pulling out all the decorations this weekend. We’re leaving for Maine in just about 10 days now so we have lots of Christmas gift crafting to do in the next week, plus job searching of course… Merry (early) Christmas to everyone and hope you have much to be thankful for this holiday season!

 

Honeymoon

We left for our honeymoon the Monday following the wedding. We took a red eye direct from LAX to Panama City. The flight seemed to be pretty smooth, but right as we were anticipating landing we were told by the captain that due to weather conditions we’d have to land a little outside the city, wait half an hour and then be able to get into Panama. Four hours later we were still sitting on the tarmac in pouring rain. When we finally got word that we had permission to land we took off, spent less than 10 minutes in the air and then landed. I’m not sure how dramatically weather conditions changed from one location 10 minutes of air-time away from the other, but apparently it did. We were exhausted and little worried about how the rain was going to impact our vacation, but a smooth trip through customs, a quick taxi ride and an early check-in at the beautiful Tantalo Hotel helped to alleviate some of our tension. We grabbed lunch at the hotel which was located in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City and headed out to check the area out. The rain had let up, but it was HUMID. We tried to be good tourists, but were falling asleep on our feet. We headed back to the air conditioned hotel and took a glorious, long nap. That night we had a much more pleasant walk around the neighborhood, grabbed a cocktail at a swanky bar with a view of downtown Panama City and then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of their rooftop bar- also with killer views. It was a long day, but a good start to our honeymoon.
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The next day we decided to check out the Panama Canal before our afternoon flight to Bocas del Toro. The Canal is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary next year and is gearing up for a big expansion. We toured the Canal’s small museum and took in a short introductory 3D film. Most of the big liners don’t go through the canal until the afternoon, but we were lucky enough to witness a smaller boat (loaded with school children and traditional Panamanian dancers) make the journey. It was really interesting to read about the creation and completion of the Canal and we both though the museum literature made it pretty clear that the Panamanians weren’t too happy having the US manage the Canal for so long.  IMG_3986IMG_3985 IMG_4007 IMG_4013 IMG_4022Directly from the Panama Canal we headed over to the small Albrook airport for our short flight to Bocas del Toro. We had some amazing views of the islands from the plane and loved the “baggage claim” which consisted of one guy holding up each piece of luggage until someone claimed it. We grabbed our stuff, walked to the dock in town and hopped a boat over to Bastimentos where we were greeted at our hotel, The Firefly, with a rum punch and a cute welcome sign congratulating us on our marriage. A very sweet touch from the Firefly’s awesome owners, Lauren and Ryan. We checked into our room, had a quick swim in the ocean before the sun set and then enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh ceviche , green curry with shrimp and shrimp in peanut sauce. We were officially in honeymoon mode!

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We booked five nights at the Firefly and spent most of our time hanging out at the beach or reading on the big, comfy deck. On Bastimentos it’s almost impossible to go anywhere that doesn’t require a boat. We hired a boat on our first day to take us to Red Frog Beach and a few days later to check out Starfish Beach. The other days we took advantage of the ocean right outside our door, borrowing snorkels from the hotel or chose to relax on the deck. We wandered into Basti Town a few times, but it was too hot to stray from the water. We did meet and spend time with a few other travelers- we met a fun couple from Houston who we hung out with at Starfish Beach and a fellow New Englander who we caught one of the Red Sox playoff games with at a bar in town serving up American classics and $1 beers. It was a relaxing start to our honeymoon and we loved being in Bocas del Toro, but were excited to head into Costa Rica by the end of the week.

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We found a company called Caribe Shuttle to take us from Bocas into Costa Rica. They drove us to the border, dropped us and had another shuttle waiting on the other side. The border crossing was pretty easy, but a little sketchy. To get into Costa Rica one has to walk across an old, decrepit bridge. The people in front of us kept pausing to take pictures and at one point one of them stepped onto a piece of wood that fell out from under him and his shin had a pretty good gash in it. Definitely the sketchiest border crossing we’d ever encountered (well until Nicaragua, but we’ll get into that later…).

Sketchy Panama to Costa Rica BridgeThe shuttled dropped us off right at our next hotel in the beautiful town of Punta Uva. We stayed 3 nights in what was one of my favorite hotels of the trip, Korrigan Lodge. The lodge has just four private cabins, is located in the midst of a beautiful and wild jungle and is just a few hundred meters from the best beaches in the area. Our first morning in Punta Uva a herd of monkeys went swinging through the trees above us, two toucans flew by and we spotted a sloth on our way to the beach!

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Korrigan Lodge provided us the use of bicycles and we used them to explore the area. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center and had a fantastic guide who introduced us to a bunch of local animals. All the animals at the Center were brought there by locals who found them injured or tried to raise them as pets and realized wild animals aren’t so easy to domesticate. We got to pet anteaters, raccoons, monkeys, deer and more. The Center was full of mostly uplifting stories, but also a few sad ones. We saw one owl the Center had rescued who refused to eat because her mate had died. They were working to nurse her back to health, but were still worried because this particular breed mates for life. In general we had a great visit. We learned a lot about the local fauna and had so much fun checking out all the animals.

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We logged in a lot of beach time and hammock time those first few days in Costa Rica. We also had some great meals in the area. Our favorite spot was El Refugio, where we had a delicious dinner of steak and octopus. We were initially worried a bit about the weather, but we lucked out. It only rained at night and when it rained it poured– perfect sleeping weather.

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Our time in Punta Uva flew by, but our next stop was just about an hour up the coast in Cahuita, so we had a few more ocean side days before starting our journey inland. We took a local bus from Punta Uva to Cahuita- a cheap and quick mode of transportation. We underestimated the walking portion of the journey however and ended up carrying all our luggage more than 3 kilometers down a dusty, dirt road to our next hotel. Sweating and blistered we were delighted to find a gorgeous pool and direct beach access and spent the rest of the day lounging and swimming.

IMG_0553We spent our final day on the Caribbean coast at Cahuita National Park. We spent the morning walking along the well maintained trails that provided a fantastic view of the ocean and ample opportunities to spot wildlife. We walked right past a sloth making his way down a tree. He was so close we could touch him! Right after that we spotted the famous white face monkeys. We even saw a baby clinging to the back of his mother. After a couple of hours we came to an area with picnic benches and a couple of snorkeling groups eating lunch. One of the guides pointed out a basilisk and a snake to us.  We sat down to enjoy some lunch and noticed that the monkeys we’d seen a little ways back had migrated to the well populated picnic area. Dave was holding a piece of bread in his hand talking to me when all of the sudden one of the monkeys ran up, put one hand on Dave’s knee and used the other hand to snatch the bread out of his hand! Obviously surprised he dropped the the rest of the bread and those bold monkeys kept coming back until every last crumb had been eaten! After our excitement with the monkeys we started our walk back and stopped at the beach for a refreshing swim and some reading. We spent the afternoon chilling by the pool and sipping on some beer. Great last day on the coast.

IMG_4417 IMG_4389 IMG_4398IMG_4380 IMG_4402 IMG_4427Saturday morning we began our trek across the country to the area of Arenal. We spent most of the day driving in the rain and were a little worried the rumors about the rainy season would hold true, but we ended up being pretty luck on the rain front during our stay in Arenal. We stayed at a sustainable rainforest ecolodge called Finca Luna Nueva and were one of the few guests at the Lodge. We spent our first day taking a tour of the working farm, hanging out by the pool and enjoying lots of delicious Costa Rican coffee in the rocking chairs at our bungalow.

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We rented a car for two days starting Monday and drove out to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. We hiked along the bridges, catching some views of the volcano (which until three years ago use to regularly erupt) through the clouds. Along the way we spotted some wild hogs and a couple of toucans.

IMG_4476 IMG_4471 IMG_0404 IMG_0698From the bridges we made our way to La Fortuna Waterfall. The rain was coming down pretty steadily when we got to the park so we debated if we should spend the $10/person to get in, but decided to go for. We were so happy we did. The hike to the waterfall was about 20 minutes straight down and when we got to the falls we were the only visitors at the site. We clambered out onto the rocks, stripped down to our suits and dove into the cold, powerful pool. The waterfall was so powerful that it was extremely challenging to swim away from the pool’s edge. We swam around the pool’s edge, looking up at the falling rain and watching the bats fly in and out of the cave behind the fall. La Fortuna Waterfall turned out to be one of the highlights of the honeymoon.

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The next day we took advantage of having the car and drove a couple hours north to Rio Celeste National Park. When we initially planned our honeymoon we thought about staying at a hotel near the park, but decided against it due to it’s location and price. We were very happy that we opted to visit the area though. The last part of the drive to the park is about 10 kilometers down a  BUMPY, dirt road. We parked and were one of two cars in the lot. The ranger in the information booth at the entrance recommended wearing rain boots if we had them and we were glad we did. The trail is about 7 kilometers roundtrip and even though we lucked out and had mostly sunny weather for our hike the ground was pretty muddy and the trail had a couple creeks you had to wade across to continue. We stopped for lunch a few kilometers in at the waterfall, which was just as gorgeous as La Fortuna, and then continued our hike to the mouth of the river. At the end of the trail you’re able to witness the spot where two rivers join and create the beautiful, misty blue color you see as you hike along Rio Celeste. The color change is due to a chemical reaction between sulfur and calcium carbonate. We stayed awhile to marvel at the natural surroundings before starting our trip back out of the park. Along the way we spotted some steam coming off the water and decided to take a dip in one of the natural hot springs. Our trip to Rio Celeste also made it onto our honeymoon highlight reel.

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Wednesday was our final day in the Arenal area and we decided to partake in a more traditional honeymoon activity by spending the day at one of the upscale hot spring resorts, Tabacon. We decided to kick the luxury up a notch and booked one night at the 5-star Tabacon hotel as well. This was mostly due to the fact that hotel guests get in free to the Hot Springs which are a steep $65 entry fee per person as it is, but it felt pretty nice to live in the lap of luxury for a day. We dropped our bags off in our room, changed into our suits and spent the rest of the morning and most of the early afternoon moving between the different temperature pools and lounging under waterfalls at the hot springs. 

IMG_4488 IMG_4505 IMG_4508 IMG_4495 IMG_4489 IMG_4532 IMG_4536 IMG_4545In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a were pleasantly surprised to find a congratulatory bottle of wine and a plate of fresh fruit waiting for us. We put on fluffy robes, popped the bubbly and toasted to married life. We decided to be decadent and order room service before heading back to the hot springs for a nighttime soak and to catch the World Series game 6 game at the pool bar. Dave was of course ecstatic that the Red Sox ended up closing the series out. It was another pretty perfect day.

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IMG_1026Thursday morning we woke up early to catch the first of four local buses we needed to take to make it from Arenal to the Nicaragua border. We needed to make it across the border and take a 30 minute cab ride to the city of Rivas by 5:45pm to make the last ferry to our next destination, Ometepe Island. We couldn’t believe our luck with the buses since literally no one could find us a timetable before hand, but we made all of them and were at the border just after 2:00pm. That’s where our good luck ended.  We made it through the exit counters at Costa Rica with no problem, but were stopped just inside the Nicaraguan border and told that Dave’s passport was unacceptable for entry. It was RIDICULOUS. The back page is peeling off a bit and the cover slightly frayed, but there was no damage to the photo page or the bar code every other country just scans to prove the passport is authentic. We attempted to argue and even resorted to buying glue from some “helpful bystanders”. The border patrol wouldn’t budge. We thought about trying to wait it out and see if we could enter once the current guards went off duty, but felt a little sketchy and we’d spotted a Tica Bus on the way to San Jose that had just crossed into Costa Rica. Thinking it was our best bet to get the hell away from that border we hurried back, crossed back through immigration and haggled with the bus driver to get a ride back to San Jose and the US Embassy. Six more hours of bus later we made it to San Jose and luckily had a hotel near the embassy reserved by my savior of a sister Madeline. We downed some much needed beers and crashed. The news the next morning from the Embassy was less than helpful however. They informed us that it takes up to 10 days to repair passports and Nicaragua is notorious for rejecting emergency passports. We then spent hours on the phone with United representatives because their website wouldn’t allow us to change our flight and they couldn’t find the same flights we were looking at. They eventually figured it out, but when they tried to book it my credit card was declined because it had already been charged for five $400 change fees coming from the website. Another hour or so was then spent on the phone with my credit card company and then in a three-way call with United. Eventually we figured everything out, were able to change the flights for the following day and able to have one nice afternoon out in San Jose buying souvenirs and walking around the downtown a bit. Needless to say, we’re not huge fans of Nicaragua or United at the moment.

IMG_1086 IMG_1098 IMG_1104 IMG_1108We landed in LA late Saturday night and decided that we couldn’t end our honeymoon on a sour note. We were lucky to find an great deal on a cabin rental up in Big Bear and my parents were nice enough to lend us their car. So Monday morning we drove up to Big Bear (about 2 hours from Pasadena) and ended our honeymoon in Daverian fashion- lots of game playing, drinking our weight in wedding wine, bloody marys and beer and fashioning feasts to devour. The weather difference dropped from 90° in Central America to 28° in Big Bear and we savored the chance to get bundled up, view some fall foliage and do absolutely nothing for a few days.

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IMG_1217IMG_1301 IMG_1298Our honeymoon didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but overall we had a fantastic time. And the most important thing is that we’re married, we’re happy and hopeful about the future. Now if all our recent job searching pays off soon life will be pretty perfect!