Weekend Trip: Napa Valley and Marin, California

When it comes to weekends, I’m either stressed to the max with papers or exams that are coming up. Those days are usually spent half procrastinating (because what kind of college student would I be if I didn’t procrastinate) and half actually getting my work done. Man alive, I was pumped when a long weekend came up at the end of midterms that let me get on a plane headed to California without a stitch of schoolwork in my bag. Sunshine was the only thing on my mind – well that and the fact that I’d probably return to Seattle with a bit of a sunburn. I landed after an hour delay on the runway and was welcomed by huge smiles on the faces of my mom and grandparents as they sneakily surprised me!

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A traffic-filled drive back through downtown Sacramento was accompanied by a phone interview for one of the summer internships I’ve applied for – crossing my fingers that summer plans will be full of excitement and adventure, because I’m too addicted to travel after my time in London. Finally home, the squealing duo of Ella and Lady (my two pups) attacked me and got me in the right mood for a fun weekend home. After an obligatory Mexican food dinner, I ran off for a fun evening of shenanigans with my Sacramento girls (Joce, Courtney and Cat) – nights with those girls end up in stitches of laughter and too many smiles that your cheeks hurt the next day.

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Valentine’s morning woke me up with some dogs barking, so I was off to go on a walk with my mom before we headed out for a Napa weekend. I don’t think there is anything better than a weekend spent in the place that brings you the most joy – Napa is just that for me. I’ve basically been raised up there … riding the ATV’s through the meadows and jumping on the trampoline until the sun goes down. Now that I’m a bit older, getting a few days up there a year is the best form of relaxation (and soon I’ll be able to enjoy Napa’s wine reputation – yay birthdays!)! The night couldn’t have worked out better… we headed down to Main Street to see if there was any wait at our favorite restaurant, Cook, and were delightfully surprised that they could fit us in for a quick dinner despite having a full night of reservations! Yippee!! That creamy parmesan polenta and brown butter brussel sprouts are perhaps some of the best bites I’ve had.

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I’ve got to say – waking up to a breathtaking view of Napa Valley and the sunshine already warming up your skin might just be the best way to start a day. The sunburn I was anticipating was already starting to form (thank you Seattle clouds). We grabbed a tasty veggie bagel at Model Bakery before we ventured into my mom’s hometown of Novato. The best pit stop was at the Marin French Cheese Company – brie and sweet pepper jam tasters paired with sunshine and the dogs being able to get out for a little walk. Is there anything better?

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On our way back home, we took the back roads through Lucas Valley and were absolutely stunned by the amount of twists and turns the road had. The two lane highway made it all worth it when we came across a random redwood forest that spanned the length of the road until we got onto 101. If there’s any reason to live on the West Coast, you’ve got to visit the Bay Area during those ‘winter’ months. Highs of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and endless sunshine – what is winter again? The 18 years I lived in California growing up has clearly affected me more than I thought – true winters will probably be the end of me if I ever end up on the East Coast.

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Being back in Sacramento for a short while before I boarded my plane back to my home away from home in Seattle lifted my spirits enough to get me through the next few weeks of research papers and finals. Only one month until birthday celebrations (yay, finally 21!) and spring break! I had a hard goodbye to my little valley town with the sun glowing a bright pink and orange on our way to the airport, but the amazing welcome back party that picked me up at the airport was enough to bring a smile back to my face. Thanks for the spirit lifting Tay, Julia and Emily – couldn’t be happier to have you as a part of my college family.

IMG_5914What spring adventures are you hoping for? How are you surviving your winter? Get talking in the comments below!

Until next time, catch me on instagram.

Reflecting on London

You know you’ve gained something from an experience when it’s almost unbearable to see it end.  Living in London was very surreal – I’d visited England for the first time in 2007 and knew that one day I wanted to come back and live more permanently. Even after living there for 3 months,  I have still have the desire to move back on a more permanent basis. London is part of the greatest adventure of my life so far, but the wonderful people I met while there really made this experience one I’ll never forget.  I can’t thank the girls of Flat 23 & 24 enough for all the hospitality and making London a second home for me.  Nikita, Izzy, Chloe, Rebecca, Hannah, Maddie, Lydia, Cory, Cecilia & Jess – you’ll always be a part of my little London family and hopefully we will make many more memories in the future together!

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When I first found out I was accepted to King’s College London, I was so incredibly excited that my dream of living in London was coming true. During my orientation at University of Washington, there was one thing that really intrigued me.  The counselors reminded us that moving 5000 miles away from home doesn’t come easy – that there will be a period of uncomfort with the new culture, potential homesickness, finding stability in your new city, and uncomfort for the first few days back in the states. Personally, I only felt a little homesick around the fifth week, when I was sick with a nasty head cold (earned from endless weekends of travel), but I credit the girls of my flat for truly making London a second home for me.

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I think that’s why a week after coming back to California, I’m still longing for the small rooms and loud neighbors – because those girls are a part of something that’s over for now.  With my bags on the curb of Stamford Street and my flatmates waiting with me (even though it was 8 AM), I tried with everything in me to not cry as I hugged them one last time, because I knew that once the tears started, they wouldn’t dry for a while. As soon as the car door shut, the driver turned around to me and said “no tears yet?” and then the dams broke. Happy tears that London had been everything I’d ever wanted from studying abroad – I think that the pain I felt when leaving, only meant that the adventure I’ve had was truly one for the books.

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With each adventure, you learn something. Over the past 3 months I’ve learned tremendous amounts about myself. I’ve understood that family is with you no matter how far you venture. I’ve learned that I am independent and enjoy adventures with no set plan – just a place in mind and a map in your back pocket (especially with no cell phone data when out of London!)!  I’ve learned that trying to cross things off your bucket list only leads to adding more. I’ve learned that different perspectives in teaching (whether that be nationality or where it’s taught) can expand your mind in ways you didn’t know was possible. This list goes on and on, because honestly, London taught me more than any other experience I’ve had so far. For anyone considering venturing abroad for a semester, I highly recommend it. For anyone else, I suggest stepping outside your comfort zone and experiencing life while you’re vulnerable to new experiences – there really isn’t anything that beats it.

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11 ½ hours flying, 3 hours driving and I’m back in my home surrounded my pets galore. When I stepped off the plane and eventually got through customs, my Mom and Dad were waiting outside arrivals with a big welcome home sign and cheers that made my smile impossibly big. What a weird feeling it is to be back in California and have the holidays so close to being celebrated. The morning after I flew in, I woke up wondering if I’d ever even left – but the scattered clothing, bags of souvenirs and the fact that it was 2 AM (thank you, jet lag) reminded me of all the great adventures that I’d had. It’s hard to have it over, but exciting to see new opportunities to explore come together for the future!

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I promise there will be no more emotional London posts, because I know it can get a little boring for readers – but this has been on my mind this week and I thought writing it out would do me some good. I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few weeks, so I can enjoy the holidays and get everything organized for my trek back to Seattle and UW in early January. Until then, catch me here on instagram. I can assure you that I’ll be back with new recipes, adventures and stories very soon! I’ll end with a quote that aptly describes how my mind has been working the past few days – thank you for bearing with me through the my adventure blogs!

“The voyage never ends…the mind can never break off from the journey” – Pat Conroy

Love,

Laura Reed

Thanksgiving: London Edition

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Thanksgiving. That day where there’s the smell of a turkey roasting and family gathers from near and far, might just be my favorite. There’s something about the festive beginning to the holiday season…maybe it’s all the delicious food around, but I like to think that it’s the knowledge that you get to see your family every few weeks in the upcoming months. This year, I’m not surrounded by my incredible family members in the gorgeous Napa Valley – because I’m away in London on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. While I’m not there to tell my family what I am thankful for this year, I thought I’d put it in writing.

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Every Thanksgiving I can remember starts with my dad and I up early and preparing the turkey to be put in the roaster while sipping on hot coffee or some tea. We usually spend a few nights up in St. Helena at our family home and have the chatter of family life going on all around us as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade blasts from the main room.  Sure I’m feeling a little homesick today, especially because I don’t get to be involved in the hub-bub of thanksgiving day, but this adventure I’ve been on for the last few months has been one I wouldn’t trade in for the world. Thanksgiving is all about recognizing what you’re thankful in life, because most of us don’t realize how good we have it until we’re forced to really think it through.

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While I’m not with my amazing siblings this year, I’m extremely thankful for the relationship that we have and knowing that we’ll be together in just two short weeks. Nothing compares to the love of family. And specifically with siblings, there’s no one else I’d rather bicker with and then later make up with a hug and an ATV ride through the vineyard. It’s pretty silly to be sitting here in the library with a grin as wide as the ocean thinking about my family, but what can I say – I love them pretty dang much.

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Not many people get the opportunity to move 5000 miles away to a new city in a new country and have the time of their lives. This adventure is everything and more I could have asked for. I’ve made friends I know will last a lifetime, memories that will never fade, and traveled to places I’ve only ever dreamed of. This may all sound cliché and cheesy, but I don’t know when else I can get away with putting my thankfulness in writing.  This little London family I’ve come to know will make it impossibly hard to leave my study abroad home, but I’m fortunate enough to know that I’ll be back to explore soon enough.

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Speaking of adventure, I’m so amazed by the places the last three months have taken me. I could not have made it to the other side of the world to continue adventuring without the help of the other study abroad friends I’ve made here. This experience has gotten me out of my shell and made me realize that the great big world really isn’t all that big and hard to get to. The knowledge that the globe is filled with incredible places waiting to be experienced is one of the most major things I’ve taken out of this time. So thank you to the girls and guys that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and travel with – you’ve really made me feel a little bit more at home in great big London and I hope we travel to see each other when we’re back home in the states as well.

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I came here completely alone, not knowing a single soul. It’s pretty amazing that I’ve had little to no homesickness and even crazier to think that in two short weeks, I’ll be reunited with my family. I know I talk about how much this adventure has truly meant to me a little too much, but I simply can’t recommend a study abroad experience enough. It’s changed the way that I view the world and view myself – knowing that I have what it takes to pack up and go exploring is some of the most liberating knowledge I gained from this. So, thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the experience of a lifetime – I’ll be forever grateful.

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Knowing that I return home to the states in a few weeks makes me realize how amazing California is. I’m so thankful for the friends that have stuck with me through my crazy years and for the home I’ve made in Seattle.  To my Sacramento friends, I can’t wait to see you shortly and thank you for always being there to cheer me up.  To my Seattle friends, I can’t help but quiver in excitement for the reunion that comes so soon! That city on the Sound is near and dear to my heart, and I really can’t wait to be back in January.

IMG_3433The sun is setting soon on this study abroad experience, but as you can see I’ve had the time of my life. I’m sad to think that I have to leave this incredible city – it’s comforting to know that when I come back, I’ll have a little group of friends to visit and make some new memories with. Happy Thanksgiving to you where ever you are in this crazy world – have a double serving of pumpkin pie for me!

What are you thankful for this year?

Love,

Laura Reed

 

West Shore, Best Shore

I never had perfect attendance in school, simply because I missed two days every year for our annual family reunion in Lake Tahoe over Labor Day. For 40 years, the same cabin has been rented by a group of crazy, puzzle-doing, waffle-making, always loud goofballs.  That merry little crowd would be my family.  It’s hard to explain the magical feeling that comes from boating into the sunset, so instead here are just a few snapshots from this years trip.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetLittle miss Ladybug actively leading the troops on a wonderful trek through the Rubicon Trail and the Olympic Range. IMG_7542 A sunset round of appetizers shared at West Shore Cafe.  This view continued to brighten and become more surreal each minute.IMG_7529Oysters on the half shell with pickled peach & tempura asparagus and squash blossoms filled with mint and ricotta.  Amazing! IMG_7532These might be the best oysters I’ve ever had.  A return visit is definitely in order! So simple yet so delicious!   IMG_7318Lady and Ella waiting not so patiently for their ball to be thrown. They just haven’t gotten the “bring the ball back” part down yet. IMG_7349(Above) The rocky shore around Bliss State Park.  (Below) Pop after finishing his 1000 piece puzzle – hardwork pays off! IMG_7513  Just 61 years ago, a young teacher to be and her high school basketball star sweetheart were married in the small town of York, Nebraska.  These two lovebirds are my grandparents, whom I look up to for advice in every part of life. I’m so grateful to have grown up around the truest example of love and adoration.  61 years later and they’re still lost in love!  Happy Anniversary Gram & Pop! IMG_9835Pictured on their wedding day in 1953. IMG_761961 years later at Ehrman Mansion on Lake Tahoe. IMG_7416As the sun set on yet another Labor Day weekend, I said goodbye to Unit #3 at Waters Edge and another summer. In the next week my life will be at full speed ahead – the journey to London for a four month study abroad begins and I couldn’t be more excited for all the exploring that comes with it.  Thanks Tahoe for a wonderful send off to summer.  Out and off to another grand adventure!

What do you hope to accomplish this fall? What inspires you to continue adventuring? Comment below!!

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

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As the second heat wave hits Sacramento and valley towns alike, I’ve been searching for something to cool off with.  Instead of another iced recipe, I ventured to the Bay Area hoping for a foggy and cool day.  I know it may seem strange to want cooler weather when summer is full of time outdoors, swimsuits, and sunshine, but the crisp air that I love is one of the reasons why Seattle became my home and why I’ve always loved San Francisco.  I mean, what is there not to like about Northern California’s go-to city?  Fresh produce & fish, acclaimed restaurants, stunning views AND my new personal hotel. Maybe more along the lines of a sleeping bag on the floor of my brother’s studio, but hey a girl can dream! 

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Especially with the best friend in the passenger seat and Giants tickets bought, the night away from the dry heat was welcomed with open arms.  After a typical Whole Foods panic attack (it’s just not possible to walk in and out in five minutes), breaks almost giving out on a city hill and an older angry pedestrian, we finally made it to Nob Hill and ate our over priced lunches atop a beautiful rooftop.  I didn’t even mind that my soup was horribly watered down, because this view just took the prize.  Although the fog burned off quickly, the cool weather stayed, making me one happy girl.

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We took a walk around the neighborhood, leading us into the renowned Chinatown, where there is ample amounts of dried fish. cheap vendors and an entire micro-culture.  Most importantly, my brother stumbled upon the delicious sixty cent pork bun.  Come on, sixty cents for a soft white bread bun with slow cooked pork inside?! That’s definitely a perk of living in walking distance. Living only two hours away from the city for most of my life, I’ve visited a fair amount.  An absolute favorite if you’re in the Union Square area is Kuleto’s for a classy and traditional Italian dinner, or their more casual counterpart Bar Norcini for a delicious cafe latte and margarita pizza (above).  When in doubt, ROAM Artisan Burgers fills the tank with self-created American food and hand crafted sodas and fries. Of course there are hundreds of other amazing food stops in the wonderful bay city, so these are just a few of my staples. 

IMG_7256  There’s endless amounts of things to do and see when in the gorgeous Bay Area.  I can never cross back over the Bay Bridge during Giants season without a ticket stub in my back pocket. We bought a couple of $15 bleacher seats on left field and brought the mitts in case a ball made it to home run zone. Cheering loud and sharing the delectable (and sinful) fudgey Ghirardelli sundae between the four of us made for a fantastic Monday night.  A quick stop at Uncle Vito’s pizza for a late night dinner ended a long day on a delicious note.  Even if cable car dings woke us up early in the morning, San Francisco still remains one of the best cities to visit for the day or more.

Where do you love to drive for a quick getaway?  Leave a comment and some tips! 

Cousins by the Dozens

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Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever it is and whoever you are, you need one.  In my immediate family of five, it’s hard for us to come together under one roof for a few weeks in a year, simply because of our spread out cities. From those standards, this past weekend was quite the miracle.  Not only did all five members meet up, an additional 44 cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents made their way to Keystone, Colorado for a reunion that was the definition of pure happiness.

See, these 49 people that bustled in and out of the small resort town may not be my siblings, but we sure feel like it when we’re all together. If a stranger were to have walked in to our cabin, they would be welcomed with open arms – because that’s the family I’ve been blessed with. This little band of characters that I’m incredibly lucky to have been raised with flows with compassion, love, and lots of laughter.

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With the action that comes with having dozens of cousins, there was no way to capture a posed and coordinated photo. Somehow, I’m okay with that. Because as the music was playing, the fire pit on, and the chatter and laughter ringing through the meadow, I stood twenty feet from the chaos and saw the image of pure happiness. We might not see each other every day or even once a year, but when we come together, family picks up right where we left off.

So during the long weekend, my maybe-not-so-little merry group of family and I found ourselves on hikes, rounds of golf, and bluegrass festivals. On a small group hike, we ran into a budding thunderstorm as we trekked back, leaving us sprinkled with rain and hearing the boom of thunder in the town over. We made it to the cars just before the rain down poured, however, the golfers who had tee’d off earlier found themselves drenched to the bone and still sporting winning smiles.

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This weekend was filled with happy moments – but here are just a few.  There was the time when we danced (and sang) the night away while listening to a 90s playlist. There was the time when we video chatted our hard working cousin with a massive happy birthday song.  There was the time when we fit way too many cousins in one car.  There was the time that a mouse running wild in our cabin created shrieks but eventually laughter. Each and every second from this weekend reminded me of the blessing that family is. We all take family for granted every once and while, but it’s in moments like these that my heart feels at home.

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We might be a little too silly, rowdy or big, but this group of musicians, doctors, students, and whatever else you can think of means the world to me. I don’t even mind that these last few paragraphs have been filled with the cheesiest lines because this group brings it out in me, and that’s just fine. A weekend well spent in an insanely beautiful town of Colorado, if you ask me.  What are your favorite memories or adventures with family? Leave a comment!