You witnessed my disappearing act, and now, for my appearing act:

Hi everyone! It goes without saying — I’m a terrible blogger. But, one of my goals in the new year is to more actively utilize my little corner of the Internet as a place to store my thoughts; share places, spaces and faces I love; and stimulate healthy and interesting discussion with readers.

And I think I’ll be able to. My boyfriend and I are moving soon to the west side of Los Angeles, leaving our little humble abode on the east side. We’ll miss this view and all of my favorite eateries, coffee shops and other institutions close by, but man, I cannot tell you how thrilled we both are to be closer — a beautiful, happy tear-inducing 10 MINUTES! — to work. Post-move, I’ll get almost three hours of each day back, which will be spent on cooking more, fitness, reading and side/freelance projects, including this blog.

Until that fateful step toward happiness, let me catch you up on where I have been recently-ish:

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Mexico_Matlali3

Click through the cut for más!

Continue reading

Iceland, Next Year’s ‘Hot’ Destination

Iceland The Blue Lagoon

I was interviewed by Domaine Home last week for my thoughts on next year’s “hot” destination for travelers. Very rarely am I on that side of the mic, so this was a fun break from my usual beat. In Iceland, there’s a Wes Anderson-like hostel, the famous Blue Lagoon, a likely sighting of humpback whales, the opportunity to ride regal Icelandic horses and much more. Anyone else already have their bags packed?

Head over to Domaine Home to read more!

image via

An Apple a Day Keeps the Love Doctor Away

Apples01
Since I was to be away in NYC for an extended-for-fun work trip on the actual date, Ben and I did some celebrating of our five-year (!!!) anniversary both early and late. We first happily indulged in several rounds of pasta at Bucato, which is incredible if you’re a fan of hand-rolled, hand-cut variety — and why on earth wouldn’t you be?

The following weekend, he took me Los Rios Rancho in Yucaipa, which is located about two hours away from Los Angeles.

Apples02

I’ve yearned for an apple-picking excursion for a couple years now, but never made it happen in time. I had painted a pretty picture in my head: on goes the flannel and ankle boots, then off to the orchards to fetch apples with one hand, gracefully, while clutching a pumpkin spice latte with the other. Afterward, we would go home to scamper lightheartedly around the kitchen, baking mini-apple pies from scratch with homemade dough. Martha Stewart, who?

Reality: The sun beat down, and the temperature quickly rose to above 80 degrees. Apples were sparse due to the ongoing drought and hungry worms, but we accidentally (pinky promise!) wandered into the off-limits section where pretty apples were much more abundant … until an irked employee caught us, rebuked us and shooed us out. Also, it turns out handmade dough takes up to four hours to chill. It’s even recommended to let the dough sit overnight before rolling into the pie crusts.

We glanced at each other, read the ain’t nobody got time for that look in each other’s eyes, picked up our things and went to see “Gone Girl” instead.

Apples04 Apples05 Apples06

But if you do go, make a pit stop by the nearby village center on your way out. You’ll find freshly made mini-doughnuts (we scarfed down the apple cider- and pumpkin pie-flavored ones; in my opinion, well-worth the long wait), as well as candied almonds, cold apple cider and an array of other locally produced bites.

I’ll be back for you, mini-doughnuts.

Los Rios Rancho
39611 Oak Glen Rd, Yucaipa

On the Run Tour: the Valerie Edition

Chicago_01

Totally kidding on that blog post title. I am not worthy. (Apparently, neither is this guy … )

Last week, I headed to Illinois once again, but this time for a much more leisurely four days. The visit was mostly for my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding in the quiet suburbs outside of Chicago, but we happily squeezed in a day and night in the ever-lovely Windy City. Deep dish pizza from Gino’s East predictably topped the list of highlights.

Also reigning in awesomeness was quality time with my second fam who once called Chicago home; an extraordinarily yummy brunch at Yolk; drinks with fellow The Everygirl editor Jess and her boyfriend Neal; and reveling in weather that wasn’t hovering over 100 degrees. Rain — in all of its dreamy, hazy, refreshing and Bon Iver-like glory :) — even showed up to hang.

chi

And I get to live out of my suitcase again, starting tomorrow: I head to New York! New York, I loved you then, I love you now, and I’m so happy I’ll be with you once again.

What I’m Reading: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed + More

"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and Other Good Reads

During some downtime in Big Sur while waiting for our friends to arrive, I cracked open “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed and promptly fell down a delirious and delicious rabbit hole in which I couldn’t stop reading. (My boyfriend practically had to pry the book from my hands in order for me to pause, and I snuck back into our tent several times to sneak in additional pages. I still have the remnants of a slightly severe sunburn from sitting still in the sun for so long.)

You may remember my effusive report of Strayed’s other book, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is mostly me announcing its brilliance. Well, the same applies for “Wild.” The book possesses that same signature Strayed warmth, humor and passion — that same brilliance.

In “Tiny Beautiful Things,” you receive provocative snippets of Strayed’s tumultuous life, but only as they pertain to the advice-seeker’s personal story and request for guidance. In “Wild,” however, you get Strayed’s full and unbridled background. As you follow the author’s journey on the arduous Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon, dots begin to connect.

You understand how Strayed was able to help the disconsolate, the confused and the heartbroken in her letters — how she was able to answer the questions they couldn’t (or at least state the answers they knew all along, but didn’t have the heart or courage to admit). You realize just how vast is and was her devastation when her mother passed away and how easy it can be for things to fall apart. And you recognize just how resilient and brave and strong a human can be, if he or she wills it.

Bravo, Strayed.

Additional, quicker reading (accessible via the web!):

  • Learning How to Exert Self-Control (The New York Times) – Because I personally have no idea how. Seriously, I assume I would have been one of the kids who gobbles down two cookies within the first few minutes. What about you? Do you think you would be able to wait?
  • Love People, Pleasure (The New York Times) – I have read this article a few times since my sister first emailed me its link. The  really hit close to home… I may return to this piece again and ramble about it on this blog soon.
  • Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life (The New Yorker) — My coworkers and I share a love of David Sedaris and his inimitable wit, and they recommended yesterday that I give the article a read. Prepare for several good chuckles.

On a separate note (but still related): The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles has been on my to-visit list for quite some time, and I finally paid that overdue visit a few weeks ago (and again this past Sunday, after “snacking” on tacos at Gusiados). Your turn! It’s a spectacular, two-story with a soaring ceiling, eclectic decor and bookshelves encircled by even more bookshelves. They also sell a large collection of records, and there is a cool artwork gallery on the second floor, along with a variety of unique shops. Used books, priced very reasonably, are mixed with brand-new copies. I brought home a hefty stack of books (just started reading “Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs”), so more recommendations to come.

stock photo via Death to Stock