My family and I had so, so much fun in Palm Springs. We celebrated Mother's Day by renting a super cool mid-century modern house, where we posted up for four whole days and soaked in the sunshine. We ate at several delicious spots like Tyler's (yummy burgers), Birba (authentic Italian with such good pizza), and Cheeky's (heavenly brunch), but we also did our fair share of cooking and mixing up cocktails at home, which was so fun. I got to have dinner with my parents all by myself on Thursday evening; since James & Andrew had yet to arrive, it was just the three of us, which was a rare and cherished treat. We spent hours upon hours at the pool at our rental house and playing Bocce ball in the backyard court, and we lounged at the Ace Hotel for a blissful afternoon. We wandered through the grounds of The Parker and added a stay at the gorgeous property to our bucket lists. We drank iced coffee and ate yogurt parfaits for breakfast near the pool every morning and we took lots of long walks around our pretty neighborhood. It was such a great weekend filled with quality family time. I can't believe that our next family vacation will include our baby girl, so exciting!
Last weekend my mom and I snuck away to the best coast for a girly getaway. Santa Monica and Malibu are two of our most favorite places in the world, and while we love exploring new spots, sometimes it's so comforting and relaxing to revisit an old haunt. We both agreed that we love doing this because even though there's always new sights to see and restaurants to try in LA, we don't feel pressured to do anything new because we've already been to the city so many times. It truly feels like home at this point (and it was my home for five whole years), so coming back for a relaxed weekend was an absolutely perfect plan. We checked into our favorite hotel in Santa Monica on Thursday night and we were feeling a bit worn out after a few travel delays, so we cozied up in our plush robes and ordered one of our favorite treats, the famous salad pizza from Abbot's Pizza Company. Topped with greens, feta, vinaigrette, and the ripest avocados (and accompanied by the most delectable spicy sauce), this pizza is such a special culinary experience.
We both woke up super early on Friday morning thanks to the time change (a daily occurrence for Mom, a rarity for me) so we lingered over breakfast by the pool, enjoying eggs and crispy potatoes with caramelized onions and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and New York-style bagels and grapefruit that tasted better than candy. We headed out for a long walk on the beach - the weather was truly perfect and I am always so inspired by the nature and colors on the best coast. It was such a great way to kick off our first day.
Afterwards, we took a beautiful drive north on Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, the city that stole my heart 12 (!!) years ago when I started college at Pepperdine University. Our first stop was cult favorite Lily's for the best breakfast burritos (appropriate to eat during any time of day) that you will ever have in your life. They're made with refried beans, scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese and they're wrapped in the softest flour tortilla known to mankind. The burritos are served with the most delicious spicy green sauce and a mild red salsa. The flavors are just amazing. We needed another long walk after such a delectable treat so we headed to Westward Beach to watch the (huge!) waves and stick our toes in the sand. It was heavenly. As an added bonus, we popped over to my gorgeous alma mater, Pepperdine, to hike around the campus (and if you have ever been to Pepperdine, you understand why I'm using the word hike) and take in some gorgeous views of the ocean. We capped off our Malibu day with frozen yogurt before heading back to Santa Monica.
Even though we had intended for our weekend to be a girls getaway, of course we couldn't exclude brother-bestie Andrew, who lives in LA. He met us for dinner at cute, cute Pono Burger (I just salivated thinking about their fries + dipping sauce) before we all crashed at the hotel for the night.
On Saturday we had a super fun and inspiring outing at The Broad, LA's newest contemporary art museum. Curated and financed by the Broad family, this gorgeous museum is free to the public. You do have to reserve tickets in advance, but Andrew was able to score some from a friend who was no longer able to use his. Truly, this museum is the most perfectly curated space I have ever seen. I really do love most modern art, and the collection The Broad has is so interesting and amazingly displayed. My favorite pieces were every sculpture by Jeff Koons, the mind-blowing Infinity Room, and the hauntingly beautiful "Visitors" video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson (those vocal harmonies!). A note for potential visitors: we had to sign up to get a spot in line to go into the Infinity Room, as each person gets to go in alone for 45 seconds, making it take nearly an eternity to earn your turn. Our estimated wait time was legitimately five hours, so we thought we would just skip it. We ended up heading out for a quick Parisian-inspired lunch at Pitchoun Bakery and as we were finishing up, we got a text message that our turn was coming up two hours earlier than anticipated! Since The Broad kindly allows visitors to exit and reenter the museum, it was no problem to hop back in to take advantage of our time in the special exhibit. I wished I had 45 minutes to spend inside of it instead of 45 seconds, but the experience was so neat nonetheless.
Afterwards we retired at our beloved hotel for the night. Mom and I caught the sunset and we all agreed that, even though Mom and I had just enjoyed salad pizza two nights prior, it was in the cards for us as we planned on having a low-key evening in. We watched The Martian (I loved it!) and noshed on our pizza before drifting off to dreamland.
On Sunday Andrew had an early soccer game so he snuck out before I was awake. It was really rainy and windy, so Mom and I had breakfast at the hotel and then I curled back up in bed to read for two hours (I was so sucked into Room that I couldn't put it down). When the weather started to clear a pinch, we headed to Abbot Kinney, one of our favorite parts of Venice. We put our name in for lunch at The Butcher's Daughter and had an hour to spare. We sought refuge from the rain at Salt & Straw for the creamiest ice cream (dessert first, right) and we perused the TOMS store (now I want these and these), Cuyana, and lots of pretty home decor stores. Our meal at The Butcher's Daughter was impeccable (cauliflower grits with cheddar cheese and mushrooms, the best ever avocado eggs benedict, green juice, the tastiest flat white) and the interior design was so inspiring - I wanted the staff to come make over my house!
It was time for me to head home to Dallas after that. The weekend felt too short, as usual, but it also felt packed with so much love, delectable food, memory-making, and time with the best mom and brother in the whole wide world. I am grateful!
How was your Christmas? Ours was an absolute blast! We spent the holiday with my family in my home away from home, Florida, and I'm actually still here. James had to head back to Dallas to hold down the fort but I couldn't resist spending a few more days at the beach with my parents and brother.
This year my family decided to treat our Florida trip as our mutual Christmas gifts, which I really loved. As much as I enjoy gift-giving (okay, and gift-receiving), I thought this was the perfect idea - truly, none of us need anything except more time with each other. But James and I were treated to a gift from our favorite airline, Southwest, that we are so dang excited about: a Companion Pass! This means that James and I will get to fly together for two for the price of one for a whole entire year. AMAZING. We earned this through our Southwest credit card, as points added up through a combination of purchases on our card, flights around the country, participation in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Program, and an extremely generous credit card sign-up bonus of 50,000 points. We are already plotting out the trips we want to take together (you can even apply your points to the fare, meaning that on some adventures, both of us can travel for free!), and we feel totally liberated and empowered by the fact that we have all 0f 2016 to plan more travel. Three cheers for Southwest!
One of my most favorite memories from our Europe trip is the photo shoot we had in Paris. There is truly no better souvenir than wonderful photos, so when my friend Lauren told me about Stacy Reeves, the Texan photographer behind L'Amour de Paris, I knew I wanted to book a mini-session with her during our visit. It may have been one of the best decisions I made all year; when I got the photos back from Stacy, my jaw dropped. That girl knows what she is doing, no doubt about it. She was so much fun to be with, and our photos turned out so beautifully - I already have many plans to use them in frames and books, and we chose two to use in our Christmas card. The session itself was short and it took place at an outlook near the Eiffel Tower early in the morning, which left us with the whole day to play. Stacy gave us fun tips about things to do and places to eat (Breizh Café, one of her recommendations, became a favorite of ours), and overall our experience with her just took our trip to the next level. We are going to cherish these photos forever and ever. Thank you, Stacy!
All images credited to the super talented Stacy Reeves of L'Amour de Paris
I have been missing our Iceland adventures ever since we returned from our wonderful trip, and I got the opportunity to relive them in a super small way by writing about them for Darling Magazine. Hop on over to Darling's blog to read the piece in full, and enjoy some of my favorite photos from our adventures! I'm also including some of the places, restaurants, and excursions we loved the most. We traveled with our dear friends, Rachel & Nick, and they are excellent planners, so they helped so much with finding amazing things to do on our trip.
How to Get There
We took full advantage of Icelandair's Stopover program. We purchased tickets and chose Paris as our final destination but we opted to participate in the stopover program, which offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy a layover in Iceland for up to seven days. How cool is that? We loved the airline - the amenities were great, the flight attendants were lovely, and the prices were absolutely amazing. It was incredible to travel to two countries for the price of one flight.
Where to Stay
We loved our stay at the Icelandair Marina Hotel. Nestled right near the water, it offers really nice views and it's located in the heart of Reykjavik; we found that our favorite restaurants and local spots were easily within walking distance. The decor at the Marina is spectacular, and the hotel is continually expanding the building and adding more amenities as tourism to Iceland continues to explode.
Where to Eat & Drink
Reykjavik Roasters - we drank the best coffee here. Sometimes we would pop by multiple times in one day to caffeinate! The coffee shop makes their own unsweetened whipped cream, and we couldn't resist adding a dollop to our lattes and cappuccinos.
Sjavargrillio (or Seafood Grill) - hands down, our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik. We would have eaten here for every meal if we had allowed ourselves to. The seafood, as you'd expect, was astounding, and we are still dreaming about a pork belly + langoustine appetizer that we savored here. I ordered a seafood pasta that was served with a creamy tomato sauce, and it was out of this world. The wine list was great, too.
Sandholt Bakery - we popped in here while we shopped and explored Reykjavik's main street and we devoured the tastiest pastries. My favorite treat was a delicious, citrusy lemon tart, and we also ate yummy quiche and pretzel bread.
The Laundromat Café - yummy spot for brunch. We loved the coffee and fresh-pressed juice, too.
Kex Hostel - we came here on Friday night after spending the day at the Blue Lagoon (more on that below!) and we were in the mood for a cozy meal, which we definitely found here. The carrot soup I ordered totally hit the spot - it was luscious, and it was served with an unending selection of thick, soft bread and salted butter. We also noshed on homemade Parmesan crisps and burgers, and we drank really refreshing local beer. The decor at the Kex is just perfect - imagine if Anthropologie outfitted a hostel and you've got the right idea.
Snaps Bistro - really good French food and an awesome cocktail program. This was a great spot for the four of us to kick back, have long talks, and drink good wine.
Things to Do
Spend an afternoon (or a whole day!) at the Blue Lagoon. This may seem like a touristy activity but I can promise you that, based on our experience, the experience did not feel touristy at all. There were Icelandic locals and experienced travelers alike enjoying the geothermal spa. If forced to choose, I think I would say that spending 6+ hours at the Blue Lagoon on the day that we arrived in Iceland was my very favorite activity. The warm water is so relaxing and refreshing and there's a super fun swim-up bar where we refilled our glasses of Prosecco. There are tubs strewn around the lagoon full of mud packed with minerals, so we made plenty of masks and relished in how good they felt on our faces. We all opted to get hourlong in-water massages, which were insanely amazing - definitely an out-of-body experience, a splurge that I highly recommend.
Take a tour of the Golden Circle, and book a private jeep. Rachel booked this excursion for us and while it was pricy, it was worth every single penny. Our driver was an absolute gem who imparted so much wisdom about Iceland and the various sites we saw. We stood between two tectonic plates, frolicked atop a glacier, and off-roaded through rivers and volcanic rocks. We marveled at geysers and waterfalls and rainbows and the fact that one minute we were standing on ice but the next we were soaking in the sunshine. We stopped at a cafe and noshed on delicious grilled cheese paninis with tomato soup (bottomless bowls of it!) and drank the best hot chocolate. The whole day we were so acutely aware of how obvious it was that God really knew what He was doing when He created Iceland. If I had to pick between this adventure and our afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, I don't think I could choose.
Spend time wandering around Reykjavik's main street, popping into shops and cafes and just generally enjoying the slow-paced life that Iceland natives enjoy. There are so many cool Scandinavian-influenced home decor stores that we just loved, especially Hrim. We went up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the large Lutheran church that boasts beautiful views of the city. It was so fun to peer through the windows and look at the brightly colored rooftops.
We also did a Northern Lights tour, and while it was seriously amazing to see some of the gorgeous lights, I don't know that I would do this again...probably because I like to go to bed early and the tour starts at 10:00 a.m.
No pun intended, but this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of guides and things to do in Iceland. James and I are already plotting our inevitable return to this beautiful country - there is so much more exploring to do!