Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet Melody + One Crazy Adventure

Happy Thursday friends! Oh, how I love Thursdays!

Just wanted to share two things with you today. First, this sweet tune by Nashville newcomers The Band Perry called "If I Die Young." I have literally had this song in my head on repeat for days. It's so bad I consider listening to other music just to get it out of my head! But then I think, hmm, this is a pretty good song to have in my head after all... :)

I love the lyrics-- melancholy as they are, they speak of contentment with one's life and are surprisingly encouraging-- and I love the sibling trio's voices harmonizing together. The music video, below for your viewing pleasure, is gorgeous, too. Plus, isn't the lead singer Kimberly so cute? I want her hair!

Second, one of my Facebook friends posted a link that I simply couldn't not share with you. Get this, a Texas family consisting of 2 parents and 3 kids are going to pile into 1 van for 12 months for a "Year Long Adventure" through 48 states! How incredible, huh?

After dreaming of visiting far off places across this great nation some day, the Dad decided a few months ago that some day could be today, right now! And mom was on board! The fam is going to be documenting their travels over at their new blog, Year Long Adventure. Right now all that is up is a fun Q&A-style FAQs post but the first leg of their trip starts tomorrow so I'll definitely be checking back in to see what this crazy bunch is up to. (You should too!)

I seriously admire their willingness to drop everything, pack up and pursue their dreams. I know much planning had to have gone into this big adventure but I see it as ... brave. Yeah, courageous. Because so many times in life we want to chase our passions but we don't because of fear of the unknown, fear of change. It's easy to come up with an excuse not to, you know? And I think there might be some people who disagree with this family taking their kids out of school for a cross-country road trip but I agree with the parents-- it will be the educational experience of a lifetime!

So, let's dream big for a second. If you could go anywhere, do anything, tomorrow, where would you go and what would you do?

My answer is easy: I'd catch a flight to New York City, bask in the bright city lights, rub elbows with natives in Times Square, visit the MoMA and go to the top of the Empire State Building to get a bird's eye view of the bustling metropolis below. And do everything on this list! (Yes, I'm ambitious.) Oh, and don't forget grabbing a vanilla cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and hopping on a Sex and the City bus tour! Yep, I'm that touristy!

Your turn. Go!

P.S. Ok, one more thing! Another one of my friends shared this quote on Facebook today and I "liked" it. Both literally and as in the button.

"There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them."

Who knew FB could be so thought provoking?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad to the bone

If you don't know my last name, this picture might confuse you...

Hello world! I'm back. Sorry for the being all quiet on the western front. Did I really leave you with a Twilight post for two weeks? Bad blogger! Unfortunately, work took over my life, as it always does, but that isn't the whole story. See, the longer I went not blogging, the harder it was to get back into it. Has that ever happened to you?

Anyway, I'm back. (Even though I should be working right now but whatev. I worked all day and I'll probably stay up late working, too.) And I have been meaning for weeks now to share some photos with you that I took at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. No time like the present!

It's not often that my job takes me out of Simi Valley. And while my story on the Simi Valley Mastodon taking center stage at the new "Age of Mammals" exhibit at NHM didn't necessitate me driving out to the museum to see it in person, I used it as a good excuse to do so anyway.

Though I can't be certain, I have a vague memory of going to the museum as a child. But since my recollection is more than a little foggy, I was dying to go back and see it as an adult, especially since I had read that the old historic 1913 building had been beautifully restored. My editor came along for the ride, too.

The "Age of Mammals" exhibit itself was phenomenal. The two-story exhibition hall was chock full of mesmerizing fossilized remains and interesting information. Of course the showstopper was the Simi Valley Mastodon, the partial remains of which were found in the hills of my hometown in 2001. It was definitely a sight to be seen and my editor and I couldn't help but snap photos of ourselves in front of the giant, curving tusks of "The Original Valley Girl."

Me with the Simi Valley Mastodon in all her glory!

My editor, and friend, Kyle.

We were amazed when we walked out of the exhibit hall, looked at the time and realized we had been browsing for more than two hours already. We had such a good time examining each fossil and skeleton, reading all the plaques, playing educational games on the exhibit's touchscreens-- museums really have come into the 21st century!-- and making (sometimes inappropriate) jokes along the way. (Such as when my editor pretended to walk like a gorilla and I pretended not to know him, or when I sheepishly pointed out the, ahem, "manhood" bone of a Dire wolf.)

Here's a quick "tour" through the rest of the exhibit:

Just a few of the many articulated mammal skeletons, as well as some taxidermy specimens in the background (do you spy the zebra?)

A saber-toothed cat. You can tell it's from the La Brea Tar Pits because of the dark color of its bones. (I noticed that before my editor did. Score one for me!)

There were even human skulls that visitors could touch! (Though honestly, it kind of creeped me out!) The exhibit explored the evolution of mammals, including ourselves, and the impact of global climate change.

While we didn't get to as thoroughly explore the rest of the museum as I would have liked, we did also see...

The Fin Whale Passage, which features a breathtaking 63-foot-long specimen of a fin whale from Humboldt County, Calif.

The gorgeous Haaga Family Rotunda (which includes a fun, mini-exhibition on the lower level and a series of paintings that bring prehistoric animals to life on the top floor). The stained glass is stunning, isn't it?

One of the museum's iconic diorama halls, the African Mammal Hall. The giraffe leaning down for a drink of water is so adorable!

And Dueling Dinos! Located in the Grand Foyer on the ground level, these dinosaurs are actually replicas of the authentic T. rex and Triceratops specimens from the museum's collection.

I can't wait to go back and see everything else the Natural History Museum has to offer, particularly the Pavilion of Wings (read: fluttering butterflies!) and "Dinosaur Mysteries," which will open next summer once the renovations on that part of the museum are complete.

So, have you visited any museums lately?

And more importantly, since I've been so out of the loop, how have you been? :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bitten by the Twilight bug? Perhaps...

I’m not a Twi-hard. Never have been and I probably never will be.

I didn’t see "Twilight" until god-knows-how-long after it came out. And I had to watch the second flick ("New Moon") alone, on my couch, in the middle of the afternoon two Thursdays ago because I had told a work friend I’d go see the third one with her that night!

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the first two installments of "The Twilight Saga" just fine. But it didn’t get me all in a tizzy like it does for most tweens (and heck, middle-aged women) across the country. I wasn’t bitten by the Twilight bug.

But after seeing "Eclipse" (in IMAX!) two weeks ago—which I agree with critics and fans was the best installment so far—I’m slowly starting to come around, and thinking of jumping on the bandwagon that the rest of the world has been riding for two years.

I have also found myself gravitating toward any Kristen Stewart-related news that pops up on my Yahoo! page.

While I was once put off by her awkwardness, I now find it kind of endearing; and hopefully the mark of someone who won’t let massive fame give her a big head. I could certainly take a few tips from her this-is-me, I-don’t-care-what-anybody-thinks attitude.

I’ve also realized how beautiful she is—and I kind of hate it. Oh, just kidding. But I wish my eyes looked as enchanting and smoldering as hers always do.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve found myself envying the gorgeous dresses she’s been donning on the red carpet (or black carpet, as the case may be) at premieres.

Since I haven’t been following her every move over the past couple years, I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Kristen (or her stylist) has been making better fashion choices recently.

I especially like it when I see her depart from her typical dark numbers and go for something brighter or with a pop of color.

And seeing her unabashedly flaunting her pale legs in micro-minis makes me feel not so bad about showing off my own pasty stems this summer, too.

Here’s a look at some of my favorite Kristen Stewart fashions as of late:

So there you have it. It seems Twilight-mania has got its fangs into me after all, if only just a little.

And I guess I have a new girl crush, too.

Whose your girl crush of the moment? (I’m pretty much always crushing on Drew, Reese, ScarJo, Zooey, SJP… you know, the usual.)

(Oh, and if I had to pick a Twilight boy crush, it’s definitely hard to choose but I think I’m leaning toward Team Jacob. Let the fighting in the comments begin!)

Photos via: Eclipse poster, image 2, collage images: 3, 4, 5, image 6, image 7

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A (quick) taste of wine country

When one thinks of California wine country, most minds go to Napa and Sonoma. Maybe Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

But although it is easily left off the list, Temecula Valley has some vineyards worth checking out, too.

For years now-- basically since discovering my affection for vino at the ripe age of 22-- I have desperately wanted to go wine tasting. (I have spent many many hours looking at the Cloud Climbers website.) And yet, my plans never worked out. So after being told that Temecula is home to several wineries, many of them sprawling and award-winning, I had it set in my mind that I was going to finally step inside a tasting room this Fourth of July weekend.

And, to my delight, I found success! After spending Independence Day morning slathered in SPF 70 sunblock while watching a charming parade on Old Town Front Street in Temecula, the group of us took a drive down the town's rambling wine country row, more formally known as Rancho California Road.

It's hard to know where to stop when you are just driving aimlessly. And it's hard not to judge a book, or in this case, a winery, by it's cover. But we took in our choices and spontaneously decided to pull into Wilson Creek Winery. Even from the road, we were drawn in by the gorgeous Tuscan-inspired grounds, and the number of cars in the parking lot spoke volumes, too.

Now, I may be a wine novice, but in my limited opinion, the wines at Wilson Creek did not disappoint. I bought the boy and I tickets for five tastings each (the tickets cost 12 bucks a pop; not sure if that is average or a rip, but whatev). The boy gave some of his tastes away to his sister, but I kept all mine for myself :) Bring on the wine!

My first taste ended up being my favorite: 2009 White Cabernet Sauvignon. The sweet smelling wine is bursting with the flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, kiwi and ripe pear, and cutely described as "a tropical drink in a bottle, without the little umbrellas." Who could resist, right? Not me apparently. I ended up buying a bottle-- because I wanted to but also because I felt like I had to. It was my first wine tasting experience after all! Plus, it came in a beautiful blue bottle that I plan on saving long past the wine is gone.

My second taste was a red, the only one I tried: 2006 Estate Mourvedre. I asked the woman behind the wine bar to suggest a red that a white-loving gal would like and this is what she picked. After reading the tasting menu that said it "exudes aromas of dark cherry, ripe plum, raspberry with vanilla and sweet wood," I wasn't so sure how light it would be. But after my first sip I decided I actually quite liked it. One day I'll be a red-loving gal. One day.

Up next was the winery's wow-factor specialty, Almond Champagne. Yes, almond. It really did taste like the nut! The sparkling white wine is naturally fermented with a hint of pure almond oil. It was strange... but intriguing. And according to the winery, it would be great paired with a light dessert. Thinking about the possibility, I'd have to agree. 

My fourth taste was Golden Jubilee, a white wine named after the owner's Golden Retrievers, two of which ran into the tasting room, tails wagging, to say hello while we were there. So adorable! It definitely gave me that family feeling the winery is known for. And the wine was just as enjoyable as the dogs. The menu described it as "unique and refreshing," and those were the very words that came out of the boy's mouth after he tasted it! Like Wilson Creek's other whites, this also has a fruity bent, with flavors of kiwi, ripe peach and pineapple. If had a more money to spend, I would have left with a bottle of Golden Jubilee, too. It is one of those wines that you'd reach for on a hot summer day, while sitting on the porch watching the sun set.

My last taste was the 2008 Estate Muscat Canelli. (sorry, no link for this one!) This one was tropical too, with a citrus twist from tangerine. I liked it but it didn't make the same impact that Golden Jubilee and the White Cab did.

After all those tastings, I left the dark, barrel-filled tasting room with a little buzz. (I know, I know. Light weight!)

Overall, it was a fun, relaxing way to spend an hour or so of a summer afternoon on a holiday weekend. Unfortunately, it was our only pit stop along Temecula's winery row-- the boy's 8-year-old niece wasn't in the mood for another tasting session-- but I was glad to at least get a quick (first) taste of wine country.

I can't wait for more!

So, have you ever been wine tasting? Where did you go? (I'm taking recommendations for my future vineyard travels!)

P.S. Speaking of wineries, I saw this gorgeous vineyard wedding on Etsy today-- the bride bought many of her Big Day items from Etsians-- and I'm smitten. A lovely backdrop of green vines + a big white tent on a sprawling lawn + handmade goodies + lotsa wine (duh) = what's not to love?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I am out of town, in Temecula, and I only have a few minutes on the computer/Internet, but I wanted to wish you all a very happy Independence Day!

We got here last night and are staying at the boy's grandma's house with his grandma (of course) and his sister and her family. We got a pre-Fourth fireworks show yesterday evening at Pechanga. It was a great display of lights in the air-- especially the finale-- but I'm hoping whatever show we witness tonight will be even better! And I hope there will be music... my favorite part of this holiday is hearing all the patriotic songs.

As the fireworks lit up the sky above the casino last night, I hummed a few. The boy wasn't as appreciative of my accompaniment, but once everyone piled in the car to go back to grandma's house, I was successful in getting the whole brood of us singing along. It was seriously like a scene out of a movie. Too funny!

The singalong stopped though when it started distracting our driver. We were singing I-don't-remember-which patriotic song while slowly driving through the casino traffic when all of a sudden the car slammed on its brakes and we came thisclose to hitting the car in front of us! One minute I was singing, the next I was screaming!

But life-threatening experience aside, a minute later, we were laughing at the whole thing, too.

I'm not sure what is on the agenda for today, except that there is a parade at 1 p.m. I'd like to vist a winery... we'll see how that works out. And the Pechanga Pow Wow is going on again today. We stopped by the Pow Wow yesterday and I was taken with all the booths selling Native American crafts like turquoise jewelry and dream catchers, but I walked away empty handed. Maybe that will change today.

Until then, I hope all my American readers have an wonderful Fourth. Celebrate safely!

Images via we heart it, here and here.