California Road Trip

California Road Trip

I recently got to fulfill a few dreams, taking an amazing 7-day trip to California with my boyfriend! We traveled in late September adventuring through San Francisco, Big Basin Park, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and even Yosemite. We had a few mandatory must see things on our lists, but also took advantage of unscripted exploring in the areas we visited. Here’s a quick recap of some of our favorite sights and foodie spots throughout northern California. Hope you also get the opportunity to explore the beauty of California one day soon 🙂

San Francisco

We landed early in the morning in San Francisco without much of a plan – other than tacos. Phil’s request was to have tacos, so I did some Yelp research and found Tacorea. Tacorea serves Korean bowls and Mexican classics in a teeny-tiny, retro-cool spot. We enjoyed a delicious fiesta for two of tacos and tater-tot nachos.

A fiesta for two of tacos and tater-tot nachos 🌮

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San Francisco is known for fog, but we couldn’t have had a more beautiful, clear day. (Hence all the cheesy couple pictures at the Golden Gate Bridge park.) We wandered around most of the day, stopping at the famous Ghirardelli Square and drove down Lombard Street.

After exploring, we drove out to San Jose area to stay for the night in Silicon Valley at the Cupertino Hotel. (super quality for the affordable price)

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The next morning, after an amazing complimentary buffet breakfast at the Cupertino Hotel, and a bit of driving around the Apple campus, we drove out towards the coast to Big Basin park.  We loved the windy road drive in to the park, surrounded by gigantic trees. We were in awe, consumed by the forest as we explored the redwoods by foot, walking the famous Redwood Nature Trail.

A tree is strong because it's roots allow it to bend throughout the wind. 🌲👫

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Santa Cruz

We then drove out to the town that surfing originated in, Santa Cruz. We explored a bit by foot, shopping the original O’Neill Surf Shop, and again – had Phil’s favorite  – tacos.

It was my turn to choose the activity, so on our drive out to our next stop we stopped at In-N-Out-Burger! Truly amazing place. The employees are so chipper and the food is truly worth the indulgence. I suggest the animal-style french fries.

Cheeseburger in paradise @inandout___

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Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea

The main attraction to visiting northern California for us was having the opportunity to drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1. The areas of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea are all along the breathtaking coast making it easy to be entertained just by driving around and stopping at scenic outlook points.  Notable, easy-to-access spots are Lovers Point Park at the point of Pacific Grove, and the famous 17 Mile Drive including: the Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay, Stillwater Cove, the Del Monte Forest, and the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Lover’s Point

 

Spanish Bay

Lone Cyprus

Bixby Creek Bridge

🌊💕

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A bonus highlight of the trip for me was experiencing the food scene in the Monterey and Carmel area. This area features many European and French-inspired spots, including many pastry havens! We ate at French restaurant La Bicylette, Lafayette Bakery & Cafe and Parker-Lusseau Pastries & Cafe. Each was truly delicious and worth a return trip back to Cali alone 🙂

We stayed at the recently renovated Munras Inn for 3 nights. This hotel was a great pick for the price with updated rooms, in room fireplace, air conditioning (surprisingly NOT common in Cali) and parking. I’d suggest asking for a top-floor room. Monterey seems to be more affordable to stay in over Carmel, when they are only a 15 minute, seriously scenic drive apart.

Yosemite National Park

We then drove about 4 hours inland, to spent 3 nights just outside of Yosemite National Park, at an Airbnb in Midpines. I really would have loved to stay on the park grounds, but we booked our trip only a few weeks before leaving. There are limited places to stay in the area and they are booked months in advance, so we were lucky to find such a a great house – even it was an hours drive to the central point in the park.

Our first day we conquered the famous Mist Trail, climbing to see the Vernal Falls and Emerald Lake. It was quite the hike. The challenge was worth the view.  Its truly something special experiencing the vastness of the park. Many have raved about the feeling of reflection that washes over you when visiting Yosemite. Without getting too fluffy, I can say the fever/ high / serenity – it’s real. Great place to experience as a couple.

Chasing waterfalls 🌈

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Tips for visiting the majestic Yosemite are to seriously plan ahead – know where you want to park and what trails you want to hike. Timing is everything here with only limited roads in and out of the park, thousands of visitors a day, limited parking and limited sunlight for daylong hikes. Get in and park early! Having proper hiking gear and preparing water and snacks is also a must!

I’d suggest researching via Youtube series from return visitors like Zane and Mel Lamprey – they have a seriously funny travel channel on Youtube! I kinda really want to be BFFs & travel the world with them.

Cheers to being able to explore such beautiful parts of the world and to planning (saving$) for our next trip!

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Holiday Terrariums & Snow Globes Made with Glass Hurricanes & Cloches

DIY Holiday Terrarium and Snow Globe Craft Project

The holidays are my favorite time of year simply for the decorations. I’m more excited to decorate my home for the season, than a kid is on actual Christmas morning. To me there’s no such thing as too many lights, or too much sparkle. To prepare to decorate for this upcoming holiday season, I wanted to use the glass cloches and glass hurricanes I had on hand to create my own festive Christmas terrariums or snow globes of sorts. This idea is a super simple and easy way to make your own custom Christmas decorations!

I started off by gathering the elements to my holiday scene. You can use anything festive for the holidays that you love – it just needs to be small enough to fit in your containers!

DIY Holiday Terrarium and Snow Globe Craft Project

christmas ornaments

I selected small ornaments like a Santa, his sleigh, a few reindeer, a church, and tiny bottle brush trees. I love glitter, so for snow I wanted to use the really glittery extra fine snow flurries, Original Buffalo® Iridescent Snowflakes.

 

Here’s a list of the ornaments I used from Joann’s Craft store:

Decorating your glass pieces is really simple! For a festive Christmas glass hurricane I used started by filling the bottom with snow and then layered in my decorations. My theme here was a reindeer scene.

Here’s another version with a ombre glittered reindeer.I also made the bottle brush trees in the back of these hurricane scenes! I’ll be sharing a DIY on how to craft those yourself soon 🙂

You can also use any glass cloches displays you have to add a bit of festive christmas decor to your kitchen. Here I used my favorite white marble and gold cloche to create a fun scene with Santa picking out his Christmas tree.

 

I love cloches, so I had to fill them all with festive scenes! Here’s another decoration idea, very reminiscent of a traditional snow globe scene. I used a small christmas church and snow with my rustic rose gold cloche.

I added the Holiday hurricane decorations throughout my home for a beautiful Christmas display.

Hope you are inspired by my festive creations to create your own holiday terrariums and snow globes with your glass hurricanes and cloches! My displays truly make me happy, and sometimes even so overjoyed I become sappy.  Tis the season! I may just keep these out all winter because they are so precious!

Materials I used for this project:

  • Glass hurricane   (Mine is from local garden store Laurel Nursery/Garden Center, Inc. Glass hurricanes are also available at at craft stores, dollar stores, home stores etc.)

  • Glass cloches   (Mine are both from Homegoods)

  • Small christmas ornaments   (Joann’s Craft Store – linked above)

  • Buffalo Snow® Extra-Fine Flurries   (Michael’s Craft Store – or Amazon linked above)

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Le Mont, a Pittsburgh Fine Dining Institution

le mont view

Yelp Elite at Le Mont, Mount Washington

Recently I was lucky enough to have been included in a fantastic Yelp Elite event at Pittsburgh’s Le Mont. Both the Yelp and Le Mont teams were very generous to treat us to a full dining experience! I’m sharing my first experience at this Mount Washington institution known for elegant dining and beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh.

  

Le Mont is definitely known for traditional grandeur. It’s the kind of place that feels like you’re going to dinner at the country club with your parents – and their boss. It’s a special occasion venue, with an ornate and gilded décor that feels very fancy, formal, and elegant. The private room we dined in had plenty of windows featuring amazing views of downtown Pittsburgh and the North Side. The space is already lavish, with lots of gold, crystal chandeliers and ornate details – but when I visited it was also decorated for the holiday!

Before the meal, our group of Yelp Elite was addressed by the manager. She was very casual, and shared some of Le Mont’s history with us. She shared that they pride themselves on delivering a high class experience, and are now shifting to appeal to a younger crowd and expand what they’re known for.

To become more accessible and attractive to a younger crowd, Le Mont is now offering a seasonal celebrations menu with three- course, pre-fix meal cost of $38! This should be advertised more, as most deem the Le Mont as too costly – when this option is much more affordable. Le Mont as a classic institution does have a very basic menu, this celebration menu offers more fun and festive options.

Celebration menu le mont

I didn’t know what to expect, but was surprised to see that we were being treated to both red and white wine and our choice of soup or salad, entrée, and dessert. I am known for only liking sweet wine (my blog is Moscato is m Mantra) and I thoroughly enjoyed the red option by Merino of Portugal – it was truly delicious! Our menu featured very traditional high-end options, with a few of the celebration menu choices. I ordered the almond encrusted salmon entrée with bourbon glaze. I was served a large piece of quality salmon. I really liked the sweet bourbon maple glaze and the almond. It came with the classic sides of a swirl of whipped potatoes and broccolini. I also enjoyed the crème brûlée with fresh fruit.

The food was delicious and great quality! The wait staff was friendly and pleasant and cracked jokes. I’m really glad I got to experience the food and service at Le Mont. Thank you very much to Yelp and the Le Mont for a treat of an evening!

The only downside of my food was that the salmon was well done and the brûlée was served cold. It didn’t have that sensation of warm crystalized top with the creamy cool custard. I’m sure this was just due to the large party they were serving.

Overall if you’re looking for a traditional and elegant dining experience in Pittsburgh, with a view Le Mont is great. The consensus at my table of multi-generational Yelp Elites, was that Le Mont does have a bland almost boring menu. It’s just a bit old-fashioned. Their celebration menu was really needed, now that Pittsburgh is abuzz with so many dynamic dining options (aren’t we lucky that we have the luxury of being choosey?!). The Le Mont menu needs to continue offering a little more pizzazz, to truly be able to diversify and attract a younger clientele.

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Holiday Wine Bottle Craft for Festive Decorations

winter wine bottles decorations

As you prepare to dress your home for the holidays, get festive by creating winter wonderland themed decorations, by re-purposing your leftover wine bottles. I love these snowman & snowflake holiday decorations, they’re just creative & fun! For winter wonderland designs, I like to use the blue wine bottles for colorful contrast to create sparkly designs on top of.

Remove the Wine Bottle Label

The first step is the hardest part! If you can get through cleaning the wine bottles, removing the sticky labels and glue residue – then the rest is just fun! Some wine bottle labels can be really tricky to remove.

I start by running the bottle under warm water and scrape using a handled dish-washing brush with a scraper. If that doesn’t work, I try soaking the bottles in hot soapy water until the water turns cold. The labels should separate and lift off easily.

If not, I mix 3 parts baking soda to 1 part vegetable oil (or whatever cheap cooking oil you are willing to sacrifice from the kitchen) to create a thick paste, about the consistency of Elmer’s glue. This mixture should dissolve any stubborn glue or label. I slather this mixture onto the label or leftover glue residue and leave it over night.

Then, I return to the sink to scrub off the stickiness. A final wash with dish-washing soap is needed to remove the oil & baking soda mixture. You’ll want a clean, residue-free wine bottle before spraying, painting, or gluing anything on it.

Festive Winter Wonderland Designs

One crafty idea is to use Krylon’s Glitter Blast spray paint to create fun and colorful “snow” background on the wine bottles. You can find many colors of this glitter spray at craft stores, big box stores, home improvement stores and their corresponding online sites. I find it’s often cheapest online through Amazon, around $6 a bottle.

 I always spray outside in the lawn with cardboard down on the grass for protection. I wear a mask and safety eye glasses, as this spray is strong and comes out in a solid stream and glitter does get everywhere. This glitter spray is something to adapt to working with – but easier once you get a hang of it.

Definitely shake the can well for at least two minuets and spray from at least 3 feet away for an even consistency. If you spray too close the spray gets wet and runs.

I let this layer dry for overnight before starting on the decorative elements. Make sure to clean out the spray nozzle before the glitter dries and clogs the nozzle .

For a simple, easy to create design, you can create a fun holiday design with gemstone embellishments from the craft store. Below are links to the stickers I’ve used in the past. They already have adhesive on the back, but you can add a bit of clear glue if you’re finding they won’t stick to the bottle. Here are the snowman stickers & stems I used from Michael’s Craft Store:

Winter Stems:

Here’s another winter wonderland design idea using a 1.5L Magnum clear glass wine bottle and a sangria glass jug. Here are the snowflake stickers I used from Michael’s Craft Store & Amazon :

The festive snowman picks are similar to these stems:

Using silver spray paint is another glam option. The most important part is to have fun with your holiday creations 🙂

Materials I used for this project:

  • Krylon Glitter Blast Spray Paint

  • Snowflake & Snowman Gemstone Stickers   (Michael’s Craft Store and JO Ann’s Craft Store, Amazon linked above)

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Phipps Conservatory Visit with Meaghan Cutrell Photography

Phipps photography Pittsburgh

Exhibit “SUPER. NATURAL. Glass Art by Jason Gamrath”

I recently had an opportunity to spend an afternoon exploring Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory during the Super Natural glass exhibit. Phipps offers a beautiful, tranquil place to escape to for a relaxing time.  You can stroll for as long as you’d like to, refreshing yourself by soaking in the greenhouse air. These gorgeous professional photos are by my creative BBF Meaghan Cutrell Photography of Westmoreland County. See the full gallery here.

Check out more information about the artist and see more pictures and video from the display on the Phipps website here.

Girls born in October are the best kind of girls 👭

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