Weekend Walk in Chew Valley

Chew Valley Cows

This weekend, we went for a walk/hike around Chew Valley Lake, a reservoir nearby in North Somerset. It was a nice way to stay socially distanced and get some fresh air.

Grebe Trail Grasses in Chew Valley

The Grebe Trail has been marked into a one-way traffic hike as part of the COVID-19 precautions….

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Grebe Trail Walkway
Walkway over the Stream along Grebe Trail

Grebe Trail Bridge

On our way home, we passed these cows…

Chew Valley Cows
Somerset Cows in Chew Valley

A nice day spent outside clearing our heads.

Here is a link to the trail map and guide from Bristol Water.

xo Kate

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Yosemite National Park Photos

Yosemite Waterfall

I’ve got parks and hikes and outdoor activities on my mind lately. (I think it is because it is an activity you can do while maintaining social distancing.) I’ve been researching some good hikes in our area in Southwest England and hoping to explore more of those soon. But in the meantime, I’m thinking back to this time last year when we took a trip to Yosemite. Talk about some beautiful hikes and views. So, here are some of my favorite Yosemite National Park photos from our visit.

First things first – (my favorite) – I totally love all the waterfalls in Yosemite. This one is Yosemite Falls, which is a very easy walk from the Visitor Center…

Yosemite Waterfall

After checking out these falls, we hiked a portion of the Valley Floor Loop Trail in the morning when the air was coolest….

Yosemite Valley Floor Trail beneath the Trees
Yosemite Valley Floor

It includes a great view of El Capitan as you make your way through the valley….

Of course, the Valley Loop Trail gets really hot in the sun on a summer day! So once the day started to heat up, we switched gears to a shady hike out to Mirror Lake.

The water there is nice and cool, perfect as a midday chance to take a break and feel refreshed.

Yosemite National Park Photos Mirror Lake

And near the end of our day, we found a sea of rock cairns….

Yosemite National Park Photos

A nice conclusion to our visit.

You can see the latest information on Yosemite’s re-opening plan and availability on their website here.

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Photos of Bristol in Lockdown

Bristol City Hall

I was reflecting back on 2020’s Spring season and decided to put together some of my photos of Bristol in lockdown. (This is our first Spring in England since moving here last fall.) I did not venture out much as my husband was the designated person from our family to do the grocery shopping, so most of these photos come from late May or early June.

Lots of empty streets….

Even the busiest roads in Bristol were quiet…

Bristol in Lockdown with Quiet Streets

And space to queue outside before entering grocery stores. Someone handling the queue and managing the number of shoppers by counting how many people go in or come out….

Sainsbury's Bristol

In June, some of our local restaurants that had been closed began to open up back up for take-away orders. These places, too, had space to queue outside and barriers to keep employees separate from anyone picking up an order…

We tried to pick up something from a restaurant that wasn’t delivering on days we went out for errands or groceries, hoping to support these business owners.

And of course, always seeing lots of rainbows in windows as signs that, while Bristol is in lockdown, there is lots of support for the NHS…

Bristol City Hall
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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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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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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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