Catalina Island, California

Catalina Island

At about this time last year, I found myself at a Catalina Island weekend for the spring art show hosted by the Catalina Art Association. The island was beautiful, the weather was great, and the art fair was a success. Totally loved the weekend spent there, and happy to share some of my favorite photos from the time.

We drove from Palo Alto to Los Angeles and took the ferry out to the island on Friday. The views coming into the harbor of Avalon are calm and beautiful….

Catalina Island

We were up bright and early the next morning to set up for the art show. The sunrise was amazing with the way the light hits the water….

And since the weather was good, a sunny spot on the pier was great for lunch…

Catalina Island Pier
Catalina Boats

One of the things I loved from the island are the architectural details. The tiles of Catalina are all so unique and beautiful…

Catalina Island
Catalina Tiles

On Saturday night, we walked over to the Casino to catch a movie. The path winds along the water…

Catalina

…to where the Casino perches on the coast.

Catalina Casino

The Casino has been an entertainment hub since it opened in 1929, and is full of historic art deco design. The theatre is like a time capsule:

Catalina Casino

Such a cool space with great atmosphere, and a great way to have experienced a movie.

Sunday was more cloudy, giving the island a bit of a moody seaside vibe. That was beautiful, too, in another way. And I enjoyed taking in the windy seaside views.

Ocean

It was very idyllic to experience a Catalina Island weekend, and it is easy to see why the place is so popular. I’d love to spend more time there.

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Taking a Cooking Class in Italy

Florence Italy Pizza

Guest post from my sister, Jenny, about her cooking class in Italy that she took while studying abroad in Florence. I was fascinated by all the things she cooked and learned there, so I’m excited for her to share that here!


Hello! My name is Jenny and I’m really excited to be sharing a little bit about my experience taking a cooking class in Italy! When I went to Florence, I knew I was going to study science and travel writing, but there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to take some type of culinary class. The class I picked was Italian Regional Foods in the Cultural Perspective at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute. I chose this one because we got to learn about the cuisine of each region of Italy as well as learn about the history and culture of that region. It was awesome!

cooking class italy

One of the coolest aspects of my cooking class was getting to cook in the Il Mercato Centrale, or the Central Market. We were able to use state-of-the-art equipment in one of the most bustling places in Florence, and visitors could watch us prepare dishes through the glass windows while we paid attention to our chef and his sous-chef describing what to do next. 

LdM Cooking Classroom

Like I mentioned, the class was all about regional cuisine. Each week, we tackled a new region by cooking a famous and popular dish from that region and discussed the historical significance of it. We started in the North with Liguria and moved through Italy, ending with Sardegna.

Some other dishes we made were tiramisu from Veneto, cannolis from Sicily, and of course, pizza from Campania e Puglia….

Below, left: My favorite pasta dish we made was from Sardegna called Malloreddus sardi al sugo di maiale e frutta secca, aka pasta made with pork, saffron-infused dough, and dried fruit. The island Sardegna has been a crossroads for many cultural influences over the ages due to its central location in the Mediterranean, and you can see that legacy in their cuisine. So in malloreddus, for example, the pork would come from Spain to the west while the saffron came from regions further east.

We made the malloreddus from scratch, and used a small ridged board to make the little pasta pieces. It was super fun and super delicious!

Above, right: At the end of the semester for our final, we had to pick a dish to make and present it to our chefs, describing to them the techniques we used and the history of the region it came from. My group chose Tortino alla gianduia con crema di pere, a mini chocolate cake with pear sauce. It was adorable and delicious and our chefs said we baked it perfectly! (Success!)

La Scuola Di Cucina for Cooking Class Italy

It was so enjoyable to be able to take a cooking class in Italy and really learn about the culture through the cuisine. I was able to take the recipes home with me as well, so I would always be able to recreate those dishes again. Thanks for reading through, and thanks to Kate for letting me guest post!

Buona Giornata!

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Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting in New Zealand

Waitomo Caves

This is a post from my “Photo Rescue” project where I’m rediscovering all my pictures from New Zealand. Read all posts about New Zealand here!


For our time on the North Island of New Zealand, we stayed in Raglan on the coast. (And I wrote a post all about our home away from home in Raglan here) It made a great home base for day trips such as Hobbiton and the famous Waitomo Caves!

Raglan New Zealand

We drove our rental car from Raglan to Waitomo, about 1 and a half hours in the car though the beautiful New Zealand countryside. In Waitomo, we’d choosen to use The Black Water Rafting Co. to guide us through the caves.

Black Water Rafting Co

Guides helped our small group (no more than 12 people max) get suited up for rafting, including a wetsuit, rubber boots, and helmets with headlamps. We did the Black Labyrinth Tour which takes about 3 hours. First things first, they had us practice maneuvering in our tubes… including a jump off a ledge in a nearby river. (Inside the caves you can either jump or climb down in a few places, and we were excited to do the jumps!)

After some practice, we were ready for adventure as we grabbed our tubes and headed to the caves.

Waitomo New Zealand

It is completely dark inside except for the flashlights the guides carry and our headlamps….

black water rafting new zealand

…which makes the experience of seeing the glowworms inside so spectacular. It reminds you of the night sky as you climb through the cave and float down the underground river….

In this photo on the left – we are about to jump off the ledge into more water below!

As we climbed out of the cave, the sunlight felt so bright. Your eyes adjust as you find your way up and out and head back to the hub with the group.

Black Water Rafting Co

If you are interested in exploring the Waitomo Caves in New Zealand, the Rafting Company was so fun and helpful. They also have a longer tour, the Black Abyss, that includes more climbing and zip-lining. Or, if you want a more relaxed experience that doesn’t include a wetsuit or rafting, you choose a walkthrough tour or small boat ride of some different parts of the cave system. And the Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair accessible.

What a great day.

Like many toured areas in New Zealand, the operators as well as conservationists monitor and work to care for the biodiversity and environment health of the caves.

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Bristol England Apartment Tour: Kitchen + Living

Bristol England Apartment Tour

Back with Part 2 of my Bristol Apartment Tour in the kitchen + living area. You can see the photo tour of the bedrooms back in Part 1.

Let’s jump right in!

Living Room

Like I mentioned in part 1 – when we moved, everything we brought with us had to fit in about 6 suitcases. So we have been working hard to get ourselves settled, furnishing our flat and trying to make it feel like home.

We’ve started collecting some art from around the UK – mostly Bristol and Edinburgh so far. I love seeing the art around the flat every day.

Bristol England Apartment Tour
Irises watercolor prints are in the shop

My husband and I both love media and video games – so finding a TV console that could wrangle all our gaming controllers, systems, and TV accessories while still looking presentable was a challenge. I love this one we got from Wayfair – plenty of surface area to hold charging stands for all our controllers and shelving for the game systems. All of our cords are tied up with velcro cable ties and our power strips are supported along the back… hidden from view, neat and organized!

And just across…. I’ve wanted a blue velvet couch for years. Now was my chance!

Bristol Apartment Tour

Perfect for lounging.

Bristol Apartment Tour
pillows from La Redoute and Ikea

Home Office

Since the UK lockdown started in March, my husband and I have both been working from home. We converted our dining space into a co-working space….

Bristol

The view isn’t bad!

This is our second Stendig calendar designed by Massimo Vignelli. I love the huge size (3 feet x 4 feet!) and the design. The months alternate between white with black numbers and black with white numbers. We use it for meal planning.

Stendig Calendar

Kitchen

My husband (who does all the cooking for us) loves this kitchen and it was a big part of why he liked this flat. And he loves the open floor plan because he can feel like he’s in the living room even while he is cooking.

We picked up those 3 barstools second-hand from a restaurant. I was ecstatic to scoop them up because I love the Tolix style design. Really durable, practical, and comfortable without taking up much visual space.

If you are wondering where our refrigerator or freezer is… both are actually under the counter! I think this is more common in UK flats than in the USA. The double oven takes center stage in the kitchen instead…

And new to our kitchen… an at-home espresso machine/coffee station we put together a couple of months ago. Loving the flexibility it offers, and it reminds me of working as a barista back in college!

Terrace

The living room opens up to the terrace….

As the weather gets warmer, we are spending more and more time outside – just hanging out. Enjoying the spring. Loving the views.

And that’s it for the kitchen and living area! Hope you enjoyed the photos from this Bristol apartment tour. 🙂

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What I Read in March + April

read march april
read march april

Here’s what I’ve read in March + April:

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers.

Patterns of India by Christine Chitnis

I mentioned in 10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine that we’ve been reading and cooking our way through Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar and that it had piqued our interest in India. We ordered Patterns of India after searching for something with a photography bend. This book features tons of Chitnis’ beautiful photography in Rajasthan, India as well as some of her essays about the area. I am loving it.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

A quick read for a tragic story set in North Carolina. This novel is at once a mystery and an exploration of the social issues of our time around race, class, and coming of age. The topics are not easy to read, but the book itself is hard to put down.

I think A Good Neighborhood would be a great pick for a book club. I was eager to discuss it as I read through.

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Urrea’s nonfiction work about US-Mexico border policies and the people involved with it came out 15 years ago, but it feels just as, if not more so, important to read today. The book tracks the well-known story of the Yuma 14 as they tried to cross into Arizona in the harsh desert. It is horrifying. It is important. Highly recommend reading if you, like me, haven’t picked it up before.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

This one made its way into my pile thanks to some inspiration from a Brit Lit class my sister is taking. The last time I read Jane Eyre was for school in 2003. I enjoyed the novel when I was younger, and revisiting it was really fun. Of the three English classics I’ve read lately (Vanity Fair, Middlemarch, Jane Eyre), Brontë’s novel is my favorite.

 

What I read in January + February is posted here.

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Bristol England Apartment Tour: Bedrooms

bristol apartment

I’m so excited to finally share a Bristol England Apartment Tour! We moved to the UK from California back in September and got into this apartment in October. After a whirlwind few months of getting settled and finding our footing, I can finally say we are loving our place here.

We initially thought we’d be using a liaison to help us find a flat while we were still living in the States, but we decided at the last minute to wait until we’d moved and look for a place ourselves. That meant we needed to spend time researching flats online the week before we moved and calling up agents to make a short list of places we were interested in seeing on arrival. We landed in Bristol on a Friday morning, looked at this flat Friday afternoon, and by Friday evening we were signing the lease. When it’s the right thing and you know, you know.

Let’s do this. First up…

The Master Bedroom

bristol apartment bedroom

When we moved, everything we brought with us had to fit in about 6 suitcases. We left most of our things (furniture, lots of clothing, kitchen supplies, etc) behind in a storage locker. So we really started with a blank slate in England and needed to purchase everything we would need while we live here.

We made these display frames to organize jewelry out of cotton wrapped foam board and Ikea Hovsta frames….

bristol england apartment tour jewelry

I love the way it doubles as organization and wall art. Plus, now I can enjoy jewelry even when I’m not wearing it. Win-win.

bristol england jewelry organized

We picked up this valet stand at Ikea also, to make a home for those in-between clothes that you’ll wear again but don’t want to put back in the closet. You know what I’m talking about.

Speaking of the closet…. Most of the flats we had on our list to visit had armoire-style storage, so the built in closet here is something we loved about this space….

bristol england closet

The Guest Room

Our second bedroom is a jack-of-all-trades. We use it as our guest room (the sofa is a pull-out bed), art studio, and occasional office.

bristol apartment

We were looking to add a lot of storage in here, so we choose cabinets from Ikea to organize everything. For example, this cabinet holds the art supplies I have with me currently….

And we used the 3 sets of Eket cabinets together as a TV console:

Lots of storage + TV console. I love the height of these for the TV.

Last but not least, I painted a set of watercolors and picked up this second-hand end-table from the British Heart Foundation.

I’ll be back with photos of the living area + kitchen for Part 2 of this Bristol England apartment tour!

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Working in the Netherlands: Day in the Life

working in the netherlands

I mentioned in the post about moving to the UK that I’d taken a corporate job in the Netherlands, working for the hospital in Groningen. (I’ve since finished up my work there and am now working for a hospital in Belgium – more to come on Belgium!) Back in December, I posted a “day in the life” on my instagram stories and I want to make a home for that here on the blog as well.

No two days are exactly the same with so much travel for work, but here is what a typical Friday looked like for me every other week when I traveled home to Bristol from Groningen.

My mornings always started with a 15 minute walk to work from my hotel. I love getting my blood flowing and mind cleared with the chance to walk in the morning, something I never really do in the States where I almost always commute by car everywhere.

Since this was a day from December, I was turning to oliebollen for a snack because it is popular that time of year. It’s kinda like a beignet – warm, doughy, and topped with powdered sugar if you’d like. Yum.

Friday afternoons I’d start my commute back to Bristol, going from the hospital to the train station to the airport….

My flight was usually right through dinner time, so I liked eating a small meal/snack before and after so that I wouldn’t get too hungry in flight.

Finished my days by kicking off my shoes and relaxing a little before bed. And always leaving all my unpacking till the morning, haha.

Working in the Netherlands was a great experience and opportunity! I love documenting a day in the life like this and seeing how an average day can look so different as time goes by.

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10 Travel Books to Read during Quarantine

travel books to read in quarantine

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world. -Voltaire

While we keep social isolating, I’m turning to movies, podcasts, and books for a little escapism without leaving home. Thought I’d put together 10 Travel Books to Read in Quarantine – a mix of some of my current reads and trusty faves. In no particular order, here are some travel-themed books I am loving.

All links below will take you to IndieBound.org – a site that will help you order a book from either your local bookseller or via Bookshop.org, where your purchase will help independent booksellers. Stay healthy, read local.

1. She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub

She Explores

A collection of inspiring female stories

Currently reading and enjoying this compilation of stories from over 40 woman who each, in their own way, are explorers. I love the chance to read vignettes from many different lives, and each story along the way is accompanied by amazing photography. And since this is a collection of stories, photography, and practical outdoor adventure advice – it feels like the kind of book I can put down and pick back up without feeling like I’ve lost my place. Plus, it seems like something I can keep for years and enjoy coming back to occasionally.

And did I mention the amazing photography? 🙂

2. Dishoom: From Bombay with Love by Shamil Thakrar

Dishoom

Part cook book, part love letter

Dishoom is technically a cookbook and full of recipes, but I’m including it on this list because it is organized as though you are taking a tour of Bombay (as the author says). My husband picked up this book in London after dinner at a Dishoom restaurant location there. The dinner was incredible, and the one recipe he’s cooked for us at home so far was also great. If you (like me) have never been to India, this cookbook/tour/history guide/love letter will make you want to go.

3. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years by Bill Bryson

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Who says you can’t go home?

Of course, there are lots of choices of Bill Bryson works that could go on a travel reading list. I chose this one because I think it is fascinating to see the USA through the eyes of someone who knows it well, but at the same time hasn’t lived there day-to-day for 20 years. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, but where the water is actually home.

4. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days

Classic adventure tale

This classic is a quick read adventure story that is still fun to read over 100 years after it was published. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat, reading through each scene and cliffhanger quickly to find out what will happen next.

5. Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin

Paris I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down

Travelogue with a dose of realism

Baldwin’s book is a travelogue of a different flavor – that is, a heavy dose of reality. In this story, we get deep insight into the office culture of Balwin’s work in France, the logistic trials that come with moving abroad, and his struggle to find the joy in the city as he adjusts to his new life. In between the beautiful sights and experiences of Paris, Baldwin shows us life – real life – in a way that feels familiar.

6. Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece by Patricia Storace

Dinner with Persephone

Travelogue with a dose of history

This book was my gateway into falling in love with travel writing. I first read as part of a required reading list when I studied abroad in Greece back in 2009 (more than 10 years ago!) and it felt like finding an old friend I had forgotten I knew. While this book is set is Greece and frames itself around Storace’s time there, it weaves in a lot of Greece’s history throughout the ages. If you love history, you’ll love the exposition, but if history isn’t your thing, you might find yourself skipping ahead.

7. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Travelogue with a dose of hobbits

Ok, I had to include this one. What better way to mentally escape than to immerse yourself in the great fantasy epic that is Lord of the Rings?

And bonus: once you’ve finished reading, you can marathon the movies. 😉

8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko

Multi-generational tale of a Korean family

I will always recommend this book.

This is a long-read saga that traces several generations of a Korean family that finds itself in Japan in the early 20th century. I’m including it on this travel books list due to the beautiful prose describing the land, people, and places that form the settings of the family’s world. Lee paints an intimate portrait of the era.

9. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A quest through Narnia

As a kid, Dawn Treader was my favorite of the Narnia adventures. Re-reading this romp from childhood is a particular kind of nostalgic escapism, and so it is quick and satisfying to read as an adult.

Island-hopping through Narnia is a great way to spend a couple of afternoons.

10. The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey

Old school cool

Thought I would include one of the original travelogues, Homer’s The Odyssey. If you’ve never read it, or if you haven’t read it since a school assignment ages ago – it might be time to give it another try. Reading The Odyssey for fun is surprisingly rewarding. It might be just the hint of a classicist in me, but I love following along with the trials and triumphs of Odysseus and his crew.

If you are looking for something with a more modern spin to try after The Odyssey – I love both Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and Madeline Miller’s Circe as fresh takes on these other characters from The Odyssey.

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Scottish Highlands Tour

Glencoe Scotland Scottish Highlands Tour

Last week I shared photos from our weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland last November. I absolutely loved exploring the city by foot and learning about the history of the area. But for a change of pace, we also had the chance to take a Scottish Highlands tour and explore the dramatic landscapes of Scotland.

Glencoe Scotland Scottish Highlands Tour

To make things easy on ourselves and maximize our time, we opted for a 1-day bus tour with Heart of Scotland Tours that took us all the way up to Lock Ness and back (about 3.5-4 hours one way if you don’t make any stops). Absolutely the right choice for us. Our tour guide was great, talking through all sorts of history of the areas, glens, and villages we passed. And our group was small, only 9 of us, so it felt easy to ask questions and take our time.

Scottish Highlands Bus Tour

Of course, we did want to stop and take in the sights, and we had a chance to do so in a few places along the way to and from Loch Ness. Here are some photos from Glencoe on our way north…

We arrived at Loch Ness around lunchtime, and grabbed some fish and chips from The Moorings for lunch before the Loch Ness tour….

Lunch Scottish Highlands Tour
Fish and Chips Scottish Highlands

Felt good to eat something warm in the November chill! We explored a little bit of Fort Augustus, the village where the Loch Ness tour starts….

…and then headed for the boat!

Spirit of Loch Ness

Austin and I love a boat tour, and Loch Ness was no exception. It’s always interesting to me to hear all about a place.

Loch Ness Bus Tour

We learned that the Loch Noss’ water is so dark and murky (and mysterious?) because it is full of peat from the soil all around the loch…

…and that the loch is so deep, it is actually the largest volume of water lake in all of the British Isles.

And if you are wondering whether we saw the Loch Ness monster… well, if you look closely enough….

Loch Ness Monster

Haha 🙂

After the Loch Ness tour, we headed back to the bus and back to Edinburgh. We made a couple of stops along the way, first at Spean Bridge Mill.

Spean Bridge Mill

It was a nice place to stretch our legs, grab a bite, and pick up any souvenirs you might want.

And we stopped for ice cream in Pitlochry after dark. Plenty of flavors to choose from, including Scotch of course.

All in all, a great day and I loved all of our Scottish Highlands Tour. Just like Edinburgh, I already want to go and explore more!

Scottish Highlands Tour

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Like I said in my last post about Paris, I’ve been looking through my travel photos and reliving the memories of past trips while we stay inside, social distancing. Last week, I posted photos of our first anniversary trip, and now I want to post photos from our second anniversary weekend exploring Scotland last November. Let’s start with Edinburgh, Scotland!

We rented a car and drove from Bristol to Edinburgh. It was a journey of about 7 hours, and our first time seeing a lot of the British countryside along the way. I love a good road trip.

Sightseeing

The evening we arrived, we visited the Edinburgh Christmas Market….

Edinburgh Christmas Market

European Christmas markets are so fun – we spent the evening checking out the shops, trying lots of different food, and enjoying the holiday music. And since we had driven up and knew we had extra room in our car, we were able to purchase some large prints by a local Scottish artist. Perfect.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

In the morning, we explored Edinburgh by foot. Here is the entrance to Edinburgh castle…

Edinburgh Castle

Like always, I’m drawn to the juxtaposition of the old and new. There’s a grand view of the modern city buildings below the castle….

Love a snapshot of two eras.

We listened to a Rick Steves audio tour: Edinburgh’s Royal Mile Walk. Since we had the tour on our phones, we walked the Royal Mile at a leisurely pace with lots of stops along the way whenever we liked. Totally convenient.

The Royal Mile

Here are some snapshots I took along the walk….

Edinburgh Bagpipes
Edinburgh Phone Booths

Lots of holiday decorations – I love the winter vibes.

Traffic cones topping the statues – this is a long-running thing in Edinburgh, we saw it in a lot of places! Here’s James Braidwood on the left, the founder of the first fire department in Edinburgh, and David Hume on the right, an Enlightenment philosopher born in Edinburgh.

Our favorite part of the walk was turning off the main route of the Royal Mile to explore a close, or alleyway: Lady Stair’s Close.

We would’ve completely missed this if we hadn’t heard Rick Steves mention it on the audio tour! The Writers’ Museum is a free museum just off Lady Stair’s Close that highlights some of the great Scottish writers. We loved it.

The museum is inside Lady Stair’s House, and walking through the house felt like a unique chance to explore how a wealthy Edinburgh home in history might have looked and felt.

After visiting the museum, I was totally inspired to find a bunch of Scottish lit to add to my own library (like Anne Donovan’s Buddha Da and a collection of Carol Ann Duffy poems). I’ve been excited to read literature from the UK while we are living here.

We had so much fun visiting Edinburgh, Scotland and can’t wait to come back. I would love the chance to see it in the summer, also!

I have some photos from our tour of the Scottish Highlands that I’d also like to share, so I will be back with those next.

Hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy –

kate

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