What Happens in San Diego Part 1

Well friends, I am back from California.  This trip was… interesting… to say the very least.  Don’t get me wrong.  For the most part, it was amazing.  I saw a blue whale, I hung out with sea lions, got to visit some amazing museums, and saw One Direction in concert (for the record, they put on a great show).  But there were a few bumps in the road as well.

Why don’t I just start at the beginning?  I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible.

The first incident occurred in Dallas, before I’d even made it through security. I accidentally left a bottle of my favorite lotion in my backpack and it had to be thrown away.  I was slightly distraught as Bath and Body Works doesn’t make that particular lotion anymore, but I told myself that in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal and that California was still going to be great.

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Things quickly turned around once we hit California.  For one thing, I got to pick my own rental car and it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made in my life.

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A baby blue slug bug. Is there any way I WASN’T going to pick this car?!

After cruising around for a bit in our sweet ride, my sister and I headed to the beach which was way too crowded, and then to the marina for our afternoon whale watching adventure.  I love being out on the water.  It’s exhilarating and uplifting and so absolutely freeing.  And knowing that we were going to see whales made it even better.

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For the record, I have about a zillion other pictures.  I’m trying to share the best here, but I’ll probably add more to my Tumblr and my Pinterest board. Anyway, seeing Dudley the Blue Whale was one of the most amazing moments of my life.  I’ve always loved marine life, whales in particular, and although it’s always been a dream of mine to see whales in the wild, I never imagined I’d get to see a blue whale!  The largest animal to ever exist.  It was so incredible.  Such a dream come true.  I’ll never forget that boat ride.

After the whale watch, my sister and I were starving.  Since we were by the ocean, naturally, we wanted some seafood.  For some reason, however, we had a very hard time finding a seafood restaurant.  Odd, since we were in California, but whatever.  We finally found a Joe’s Crab Shack and helped ourselves to calamari, shrimp, fried fish, french fries, and hushpuppies.

That was the beginning of the second incident.

Fast forward a few uneventful hours to 3 AM that morning.  I’m dreaming about a house party and I’m waiting for this really cute guy to arrive when all of a sudden, I hear coughing.  I hear gagging.  More coughing.  A few agonizing moments later, the toilet flushes.  Knowing exactly what was going on, I called my sister’s name.  She appears a few minutes later, white as a sheet with dark circles under her eyes.

“Don’t panic…” she begins.  “But I just got sick.”

Food poisoning.  In a hotel room.  At 3 AM.

Now as you may or may not know, I have this annoying little phobia.  Of vomit.  Not just of me vomiting, but of others vomiting around me.  Perhaps it was my anti-anxiety medication or sleep-deprivation or maybe my big-sister instincts just kicked in, because I wasn’t panicked at all.  Instead, I threw on my sweatshirt and trekked down to the lobby in my PJs, retainers, and bed-head to retrieve tea and tummy medicine.  After commiserating with the night watchman, I headed back up to the hotel room.  I made my sister tea, but she was still really sick.

Not sick enough, however, to pass up an opportunity for a food poisoning selfie (yes, I do have her permission to share it here).

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Unaware that she’d taken that picture, I actually took a selfie myself to send to our mom.  It’s probably only fair that I share it here as well.

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That’s my sunburned, sleep-deprived, 3 AM, dealing with food poisoning face.  It’s not a happy face.

Two hours later, she was finally feeling a little better, so we went back to sleep.  We slept for a good while (which is just what she needed) before she decided she felt well enough to venture out for a smoothie.  We didn’t want to force anything, but we also knew she needed to stay hydrated and needed to at least try to get a little bit of nutrition in her.

As we were exiting the hotel, we passed by the manager, who happens to bear a striking resemblance to Chris Pratt.  We both exchanged a look and an inner dialogue that went something along the lines of, “Hi, hotel manager Chris Pratt.  Sorry I vomited in your hotel last night.  Call me.”

Thankfully, by the time we reached the smoothie place, KJ had gotten almost all her color back and she was able to laugh and joke about what had happened.  She did very well with the smoothie.

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Afterward, we decided to take a chance and head to Balboa park.  We visited the Museum of Natural History and saw the Mayan exhibit.  Again, it was incredible (though, to me, Dudley the Blue Whale was still the best).

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Afterward, we met a young lady named Jamilah.  She’s made it her mission in life to revive the art of Polaroid Photography.  She takes pictures for free but accepts donations for her art.  She’s so cool and sweet and I love her dedication to old school photography.  You can follow her on Instagram: @strangeframe_

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(Yes, I was carrying Boy Band around Balboa park.  Don’t judge).

After we met Jamilah, we decided to head back to our hotel.  KJ wanted to rest and I didn’t blame her in the least.  While she took a nap, I went down to the hotel pool, sat in the hot tub (it is WAY too cold in San Diego for real pool swimming), and read one of the most amazing books ever, Defending Jacob by William Landay.  I love to read and I love books, but this one really has stayed with me, even days after I finished reading it.  It’s gripping and captivating and heartbreaking and disturbing.  I loved it so much.  Highly recommended.

Thus concludes Part 1 of the San Diego Adventures.  Tune in next time (or perhaps even later on today) for Part 2, featuring Sea Lions, One Direction, and A Bank Account Theft.

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Castello di Amorosa

Deep in the heart of Napa Valley, there is a castle.  A wine castle.  It’s called Castello di Amorosa and it is just about the coolest place in the United States.  

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This is a legit castle.  It has everything, from gargoyles…

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To wishing wells…

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To lush gardens…

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To the regal Prince Edward the Cat (we named him… that’s not his official name) who reigns over the castle with a stern paw. 

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He’s so regal.  

And of course, there are the vineyards…

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And the wine itself! 

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The wine, of course, was amazing.  Interestingly enough, I’m usually a fan of red wine, but my favorite wine here was definitely the Chardonnay.  It was the most amazing white wine I’ve ever tasted.  

Finally, after the sampling, we made our way to the gift shop, where I realized that these vineyards and wineries have discovered the most brilliant marketing plan ever: get your customers buzzed and then set them loose in the gift shop.  Seriously.  You want to buy everything.  I especially liked this book…

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After a delightful dinner, we ended up leaving Napa around 10:30 – 11:00 at night.  Four hours later, the massive 6.0 earthquake struck.  My friends and I had no idea until the next morning, when I woke to several text messages, a missed call, and a voicemail.  

I immediately assumed my parents were checking to make sure I would make it to the airport on time (which, in case you’re wondering, I almost didn’t), so I called my mom and told her, “Don’t worry.  I’m awake.  We have plenty of time.”

But instead of expressing her relief, she just asked if I was okay, if we’d been affected at all.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  By that point, my friend Hannah was awake and also receiving text messages from concerned loved ones.  It turns out that, had we been awake at 3 AM, we would have felt the earth shaking and swaying. 

I know it’s been more than a week now, but I’m still thinking about all the nice people that we met in Napa.  It’s such a beautiful and wonderful community with good, honest people.  I hope that they’re all alright and that they will soon bounce back from this horrible disaster.  

Aside from the earthquake, my trip to California was an absolute delight.  Thank you, Hannah, my dearest friend.  I can’t wait to return! 

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Redwood Wanderings

When I planning my trip to California, my lifelong best friend Hannah asked me what I wanted to do once I got out there.  I had several things in mind, but something I really wanted was to spend more time with the redwoods.  I’d seen them once for about five minutes.  It was awesome, but it really wasn’t enough time at all.  

I love hiking and I love forests and the redwoods are nothing short of magical.  Just being there, you can sense how old they are, how long they’ve stood.  It’s almost eerie thinking about how much they’ve witnessed and how short our lifespans are in comparison.  

The redwoods are perfect for sparking the imagination.  I envisioned witches gathering in the groves and fairies flitting about through the sunbeams.  

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We ended our time with the redwoods by driving to one of the neighboring beaches for a quick stroll.  It was lovely, but the entire time, I felt my thoughts drifting back to the forest.  Odd, since I love water and the beach probably more than just about anything. 

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The Problem with Pictures

So, I have a problem. It’s called I Want to Share my California Pictures with all of you but I Take WAY Too Many Pictures for One Blog Post.  To solve this problem, I’ve decided to split the pictures up into several different posts.  

For this first post, I thought I’d share my favorite part of San Francisco… the SEA LIONS!

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Seriously, I love sea lions. They are absolutely one of my very favorite animals ever.  I was thrilled this trip to be able to visit the Marine Mammal Center and see how they work to help stranded and sick marine mammals all over the coast: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org

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I also got to visit the Aquarium on the Bay (I think that’s what it was called).  I’m a big fan of all marine life, so I will never pass up an opportunity to peruse an aquarium. 

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As you can see, I’m particularly fond of jellyfish and sea stars, especially this sea star who looks like he just finished an epic Broadway musical number.

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California Bound

Hi, friends! 

Well, after writing that lovely post about getting back to work and being a responsible adult… I’m off to California!  My best friend from high school lives out in San Francisco, so I’m going to spend a few days out there, seeing sea lions, drinking wine, and having an all around good time. I’ve been once before and had an awesome time. 

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I’m especially excited this year to visit some new places, especially the Marine Mammal Center. Although one of my goals is to become a New York Times best-selling author by the time I’m 30, marine life will always be my first love.  

Well, I’m going to continue writing as much as I can today, though I will be setting my books aside in order to pack and prepare for the journey to San Francisco tomorrow.  I hope you all have a great rest of the week!  

Where the Music Meets the Ocean

Note: I apologize for the onslaught of photographs.
Also, the title of this blog post is a lyric to a song by the Zac Brown Band called Jump Right In. It was pretty much all we listened to on this trip.

Last week, my sister and I went to the beach. It was awesome.

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The only downside was that we stayed in a hotel with no wifi. Yes, those still exist.

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The good news was that there was a Jurassic Park marathon on all week.

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But enough about hotels. The trip itself was amazing. We spent a morning at Fort Morgan, a civil war site. It was also used in the first world war.

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We ate a lot of great food.

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For the record, if you ever eat at Lulu’s, they will give you the option of waiting a really long time to be seated or being seated immediately at one of the bars. Guess which option we took?

Also, Lulu’s is owned by the sister of the one and only Jimmy Buffett! How cool is that?

On the trip, we also saw hibiscuses and dolphins.

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We also saw boats…

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A sandcastle…

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A crab…

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A lesser electric ray in a bucket…

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And a lot of herons.

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I’d actually been complaining throughout the entire trip that I just wasn’t seeing any herons. Then, our last night there, we hung out at the big fishing pier and saw no less than five great blue herons! I was very happy.

The rest of the time, we just kicked around the beach, which to be honest, was my favorite part.

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Honestly, there is no place I’d rather be.