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Ellwood Monarch Grove & Santa Barbara

12 Apr

Posted by: Katie

This last December I met up with my brother in LA and we went up to visit our mom and aunt in Santa Barbara (we took the train- it took only about two hours. So much fun).

We did all sorts of fun things but one of my favorite adventures was going  to the Coronado Butterfly Preserve! It is in Goleta, CA close to the University of California, Santa Barbara campus and was such a surprise treat. I never knew that when Monarch butterflies migrate South they come together in certain spots and I guess this is a place that they stop and huddle together (cuddling butterflies!) for their “over-wintering time” which is typically from November through February. The recommended months for seeing the peak number of butterflies are December and January.

This way to butterflies

The Monarchs were hanging from the eucalyptus tree branches in huge clusters and apparently when the weather is a little warmer or the sun is on them, they fly around more. When we came upon the clusters I was shocked to see how big and how many of them there were. We did see butterflies flying around but it was not like a snowglobe with butterflies all around you (although that would have been cool too). It was such a beautiful, quiet place that I felt really lucky to have been able to experience it.

Those aren't all leaves they are thousands of butterflies!

Butterfly clusters high in the trees

The preserve is 9.3 acres and encompasses the butterfly grove, woodlands and meadows and trails linking the Ellwood Main Monarch Grove to Ellwood Shores coastal bluffs, Ellwood Mesa. Spearling Preserve Open Space, the Devereux Slough and the beach. The trails are not “hikes” and you can wear flip flops comfortably, although you might prefer wearing shoes because it can get a little muddy in areas. If you continue past the grove like we did you will come to a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean.

My mom and brother

Other notable things from that trip that I would like to revisit were the Farmers Market on State Street, San Ysidro Ranch and the beach.

Farmer's Market on State Street


San Ysidro Ranch

I am excited for my next trip to see my mom, aunt and more of Santa Barbara.


Adventure Guide: New York, NY

22 Mar

Posted by: Katie

Last July Colby & I went to New York and spent a weekend in Manhattan then journeyed upstate. Getting there was quite the adventure. We had a connecting flight into Philadelphia  that after the most serious turbulence I have ever experienced (and I was in the lavatory for part of it standing up, holding the hand rail with a death grip and banging into every wall. It is so embarrassing and horrifying to think you might die in the bathroom) we landed but then they cancelled our flight, and every other flight that night, to NY due to weather. Colby and I were ready for our adventure to start so we rented a car with a crazy little lady we met at baggage claim and drove the 3 hours in the rain to NY. It was really a great time, we rocked out to tunes and talked to our travel companion about how she was an eyeglass designer and had just been in Lisbon that morning. We finally arrived at our destination, the Waldorf Astoria, and quickly unpacked my soaked suitcase (grrr) and left to explore. We had been a little too ambitious and after our day of traveling we ended up just going through Grand Central Station and walking around Times Square a bit before getting pizza and calling it quits for the night.

We have both been to Manhattan before but I am always down to visit everything. I love touristy things sometimes, not for the crowds or knick knacks, but the actual thing like, the top of the empire state building. Tourists go there for a reason, it’s awesome!

So if you have a day, or two, in the city that you want to use to hit some landmarks and enjoy some of the recognized parts of the city here is a short little guide that mirrored our trip.

Day 1:

Wake up early (ish – you are on vacation)  and go get a New York bagel for breakfast. We went to Ess-a-bagel.

We wanted to go back through Grand Central Station and Times Square in the daytime. When you are in Grand Central station make sure to look up at the ‘Sky Ceiling’ that shows the zodiac constellations of the nighttime sky. Times Square is always crazy but a must experience and excellent people watching. Quick tip: If you’re going with kids, Toys R Us in Times Square is a mad house but they have awesome things like a life-size Barbie house (oh yes) and huge Lego replicas of NY Buildings.

Walk on over to Magnolia Bakery and get a famous cupcake to go (we went to the one near Rockefeller Center) and head to Bryant Park. There are tons of little tables and chairs to sit and enjoy your cupcake. You can also see people playing chess and bocce ball and think about what this area must be like during New York Fashion Week. Backed up to Bryant Park is the NY Public Library. You might remember this as the place that Carrie was supposed to walk down the aisle with a big blue bird on her head in the Sex and the City movie, but it is also home to the Gutenberg Bible and Jefferson’s manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence. We were fascinated to see all of different things that were collected there and would really recommend it to everyone.

Bryant Park

New York Public Library

Next stop was the Empire State Building. We just got the pass for the main deck on the 86th floor because we thought that was the best value and waited in line a little bit getting up to the top. Once we got there we were treated to 180 degree views of New York city and saw out to the Statue of Liberty. I think it is a great way to get perspective of the city and see where you have been and where you want to go. We even saw a proposal at the top!

Top of the Empire State Building

We made it back down and got on the subway down to the Financial District. We walked past Ground Zero and the One World Trade tower that is under construction and ended up finding a little restaurant right on the water. We were just in time to watch the sunset and with dinner and a pitcher of sangria that was bigger than our head. Cheers! We walked down Wall Street and found the Bull. We were in a great mood, full of sangria and there were barely any people around so we took a few pictures with the bull and I even got on top. Maybe don’t do that in the daytime.


We headed back up to the Waldorf and met up with my friend Tobey for drinks downstairs. It was a very stuffy little crowd so the boys ordered scotch, naturally and after a little bit we ventured out to find a bar. It was pretty late at this point, otherwise we would have gone to a rooftop bar but the ones Tobey knew of had been closed by that time. So we went to a bar somewhere around our hotel. I don’t remember which one. But another great thing about New York is that the bars don’t close until around 4am in the morning. We walked back to our hotel after the bar closed and made the mistake of eating a gyro from a street vendor near Rockefeller Center. Word of advice, don’t do that at 5am. We woke up the next morning feeling like ick.

Day 2:

Get breakfast and head over to Rockefeller Plaza to get to your reserved tickets  for the NBC Studio tour. You get to see the SNL studio, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Dr Oz’s set, etc and the elevators and hallways will remind you of scenes on 30 Rock.

We were still feeling a little bit like death but we hadn’t had breakfast and wanted to go to Central Park. If we had been feeling better we might have walked through a lot more of the park and hit some of the museums that are next to it like the Guggenheim or Museum of Natural History. But we were ready for a little relaxation so we found a nice little spot of grass, had a pseudo picnic, and I ended up taking a nap. I wouldn’t recommend this at night or by yourself because that would just get you burgled, but with Colby there I felt comfortable and got a little bit of rest.

Love sculpture on the way to Central Park

Central Park

After the little break we felt better and headed into The Pierre Hotel right at the corner of the park  for a bathroom break. There was also the  Bastille Day on 60th Street celebration right there which is an annual street festival that celebrates France’s independence day, July 14th.

We were hungry again so we made our way over to Serendipity 3 to get some food and try their famous frozen hot chocolate. There is normally a long wait here so we put our name in and went down the street to Dylan’s Candy Bar. If you like candy (like my lovely Liz) you are in heaven here. There is candy in the floors people. But they also have lots of souvenirs and you can scope the candy wall were celebrities put their favorite candies in little clear boxes and sign their names. We went back to wait for our spot at Serendipity and found that the frozen hot chocolate was worth the wait, once. We were glad to have tried it and we sat right next to the table in the movie.

Candy in the stairs at Dylan's Candy Bar

This is when we had to collect our bags from the Waldorf and scoot over to the NYC Port Authority where we took a bus (great discovery! we spent like $34 roundtrip for a two hour drive) upstate to Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz for the week. I’ll write about Mohonk another time.

Catch you later NYC

Favorites from the weekend

3 Oct

Last minute trips to San Francisco! 
My husband works for an airline so we can fly for free as long as there is an open seat.  We wanted to go to Chicago to visit my friend but the flights filled up, so we decided to visit SF.  We have a few friends up there, along with his grandmother so we spent the weekend drinking, brunching and chatting.  Good times. *L*

Bay Bridge - View from our friends' rooftop patio

Dance party at Lucky Strike to 90’s music.
I am totally inspired to have a dance party to a compilation of the greats:  Whitney Houston (“I want to dance with somebody” or just by myself, either way I’m having a blast), Mariah Carey (“Fantasy” is truly one of the most feel good songs I can think of) and Beyonce (anything, I am obsessed). I like to move it, move it. *K*

I wanna feel the HEAT with somebodayyyyyy

New comedy with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt about……cancer?  I know, cancer and comedy typically don’t go hand in hand, but somehow they made it work. This movie is actually inspired on Seth Rogen’s real friend, Will Reiser (who wrote the screenplay), which makes it even more relatable.  It had its funny moments and its sad moments but most of all it was real.  Definitely a must see, just bring tissues.  I think you’ll love it.  *L*

New kitten –  Grizzly!!
I have a one year old little lady cat named Ella who is so sweet, but has lately been trying to get more attention by nudging things slowly off of ledges and the like. I was told she needed a friend. I mentioned the idea to my boyfriend thinking he would say “but you already have one”, but that didn’t happen, he said it would be nice to get Ella a buddy. He is very sweet. So we started looking around, and we found a little man yesterday that we took home and named Grizzly. He is a purr monster. But so far Ella hates him. The first night it was growling (guttural, yikes!), hissing and peeing!!! We are keeping them in separate rooms right now, but I can’t wait until they are cuddle buddies. *K*

Little Grizzly bear

Ella, looking like such a gentleman

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