Christmas Countdown Cross Stitch Pillow

Okay – first, can I just say this is the cutest cross stitch?!

After I finished the Halloween Haunted House Cross Stitch, I moved onto this adorable Christmas Advent Calendar by CloudsFactory. I started this pattern in December 2015 and simply never got around to finishing it until now. At first, I thought I would stitch all the borders and attempt to finish a box a night, but it made more sense to dive in where I could and go for it.

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7 U.S. Places I Want to Visit

Happy Sunday! This morning, I’m listening to country music as I make my way through my Sunday List, contemplating where I want to travel to next. My wanderlust alternates between big international expeditions to local road trips. Recently, I’ve had the U.S. travel bug, feeling the urge to cross more off my homeland wish list. Below are my top 7 locations to visit in the good ol’ US of A. If you have any travel tips for the places below, please share! I’m always collecting recommendations!

  1. Portland, Oregon – Aside from wanting to see Oregon’s beauty in person, I’ve always wanted to visited Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. Additionally, I recently came across DIY Bar, which is a craft studio and bar in one, aka my dream come true.
  2. Redwood National Park, California – Not only do I want to stand among the tallest trees on Earth, I would love to do tent camping and hiking through this beautiful natural landscape. Redwood National Park has always been on my to-see list strictly for the gorgeous dense forest views.
  3. Charleston, South Carolina – I honestly don’t feel like I need to explain this one. From the classic Southern architecture and cuisine to the beach accessibility, I feel like Charleston is a town I may not want to come home from.
  4. New York City, New York – Aside from the desire to live out my Eloise and Kevin McAllister dreams, New York has such a huge draw for me from a cultural perspective. I’d love to see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. I want to go to a Broadway show and visit the MET. There’s so much I’ve read about in books or have seen in movies that I want to experience.
  5. Denver, Colorado – A number of my friends moved to Denver after college and loved the experience. Alternatively, my experience in the city has been limited to standing on the tarmac at Denver International Airport in 4*F weather. I’d love to get out and explore this growing city.
  6. Boston, Massachusetts – As an American History enthusiast, this should come as a surprise no one. However, I have never been to Boston. The Freedom Trail would be a dream come true for me to walk. I need to see the Old State House and Boston Common. I need to go back to where the heartbeat of the American Revolution started to pound.
  7. Maine – Yes, the whole state. I’m kidding – but I’ve seen so many beautiful pictures from Maine, I feel like I need to go, preferably in the fall. I would love to be there as the color of the leaves begin to change and the air is crisp. If you have a specific town that you recommend, please let me know.

Now please excuse me while I go look at plane ticket prices…

Vacation is in the Eye of the Beholder

The other night while discussing vacation plans with my mom, I had a revelation about my childhood. We were discussing my grandiose plans of my husband and I going on a big vacation, full of plane flights, hotel stays, and restaurant reservations. My husband and I are fairly adventurous and like to make our vacations “worth it”. This is what vacations are all about, right?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve strived to enjoy the types of vacations I always envied my peers taking. Growing up, my friends tended to go on glamorous family vacations – skiing at Mammoth Mountain, CA, summer trips to Hawaii, weeklong adventures to Walt Disney World. As a contrast, my family vacations consisted of either trips to see my grandparents or camping. Thrilling, right? Imagine me the first day back from summer break crammed at the lunch table as friends excitedly share tales of their summer adventures.

“Jen, what did you do?”

“We went camping. Again.”

Camping never seemed like a vacation. We generally set up camp in the same places. We always went with the same people. We spent our days caked in dirt, smelling of campfire. From my teenage perspective, there was nothing glamorous, posh, or exciting about going camping. Again.Read More »

Halloween Haunted House Cross Stitch Pillow

The year… 2014.
The project… Haunted House by Cloudsfactory.

One chilly fall evening, I started this adorable counted cross stitch pattern by Cloudsfactory. I separated out all my threads, cut my fabric, and set to work. I wanted to finish it by Halloween. A lofty but what seemed to be an obtainable goal.

I overshot the mark. Like… June 2017 “overshot the mark”.

Thankfully, it’s finally done and the finished product is awesome!

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7 Magazines I Read


Magazines are a life source for me. While I can truly find anything I need on Pinterest, there’s something about the carefully considered layouts, the editorial messages, and let’s be frank, the glossiness of the pages. There’s so much joy for me flipping through the pages, criticizing fashions I would never dream of wearing and getting lost in meaningful essays by contributors. I subscribe to eleven magazines – yes, eleven. I’m telling you, I’m a junky. But below are the seven magazines I read cover to cover every month.

  1. Vanity Fair – I live for Graydon Carter’s editorials in every month’s edition and the articles are thoughtful pieces of real journalism.
  2. Real Simple – This magazine has been on my must-read list since I first picked it up in 2004. If you need practical life tips and recipes, this is perfect for you.
  3. Women’s Health – For all of my fitness and health needs, I turn to Women’s Health.
  4. Martha Stewart Living – No one does it like Martha. I find to her magazine to be truly aspirational for me.
  5. Marie Claire – A girl likes her girly stuff. Enough said.
  6. Coastal Living – The number of quality articles about historical coastal topics and modern travel essays are worth every dollar of the subscription fee.
  7. HGTV – Holding this magazine is like taking every amazing show on the network and smashing it into one amazing periodical. Practical, realistic, and… beautiful. This magazine is beautiful.

Because I feel like I’m neglecting them, I also receive: Elle, Vogue, InStyle, and Family Circle.

Oh… and Entertainment Weekly. Ha!

Happy Reading!

Surf Lessons

A few months ago, a friend and I were talking about things we’ve always wanted to do but inexplicably never have. Somewhere on the list for her landed surf lessons. She’s lived in California almost her whole life and has never paddled out to ride a wave. Having taken lessons before but always down for a refresh, I suggested we do it. Living in San Diego without enjoying the ocean is kind of shameful.

When I first moved to San Diego almost two years ago, I knew I wanted to get back on a board. I previously took lessons in Maui on a family vacation in 2007. It was love at first ride. Not only was I living out my Blue Crush fantasy, there was nothing like feeling the board glide over the water below you. The ocean has always both intimidated and amazed me. The water is a powerful, beautiful thing, to be enjoyed and respected. When I was on a surfboard, I felt completely connected. This is the memory I would go back to when, many years later, a psychic would tell me that I have salt water in my veins. This I believe to be true.

In my present search to take surf lessons, every sign pointed to Surf Diva Surf School in La Jolla. No – seriously. Every single person I asked where to take surf lessons said, “You have to go to Surf Diva. They’re the best.” All online searches led me to their site. So, obviously, we had to give them a shot. My friend and I decided to get the best experience we needed solid, quality training time. We opted for the 2-Day Weekend Surf Clinic, selecting the women’s only time – which also happened to be mid-day with optimal weather. Let’s be honest, the water in California is cold. I needed as much sunshine as possible to not be whiny all day.

We were stoked. All registered for classes, now we just had to wait. Finally the weekend arrived and fighting off nerves of the unknown, we dove right in.Read More »

D23 Expo: Day 3

Day 3 at the D23 Expo can be summed up in one word: Waiting.

Without paying much attention to the clock, I arrived substantially early in the morning. So early that I was able to walk right into the convention center and was ushered downstairs to what felt like a basement to wait for the main doors to open. They even gave me a wristband to prove I was there early enough to be in the first group to enter the expo. How early was this? 5:30AM.
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D23 Expo: Day 2

Saturday at D23 was vastly different than Friday. With attendance at its peak, the entire expo had a feeling of chaos. From the moment my cousin and I arrived, the electricity of anticipation and confusion could be felt in the air. We arrived early – or what we thought was early. Getting to the convention center around 6:20AM, we were ushered into the main pavilion to wait for the doors to open. We brought breakfast and were ready to settle into our wait when we took a carefully look around. Where were all the overnight campers?Read More »

D23 Expo: Day 1

This weekend, a dream is coming true! I’m finally making my way to the D23 Expo at Disneyland. The days are packed with break-outs and panels, plus an expo floor that’s almost intimidating. This mouseketeer could not be more excited and I’m thrilled to share my adventure with you!

Day 1 – Friday

Having read online that arriving early is essential, I got to the Anaheim Convention Center around 7:30AM. The lines outside were insane. People had been camping out overnight and I couldn’t believe the extent of the line. I had to wait outside about 45 minutes and then after passing security another 30 minutes in a queue waiting for the show floor doors to open. The bright side is despite the length of line, I was still able to enter the Expo right when doors opened at 9:30AM. I heard from others later that if you arrived after 9:00AM the minimum wait time was two hours and all of that time was outside in the heat.

This is what the line looked like when I arrived. I’m never complaining about Disneyland lines again.Read More »