Friday, March 23, 2018

2018 Trips and Ideas Ahead

Hi everyone! I usually do a better job of sharing my travel plans for the year (well, I did in 2016 anyway) - but I've been traveling in early January the past two years so I haven't kept up with that. Better late than never! I have some fun destinations coming up (which you can see to the right) like a trip to the Netherlands for work, New York City for Brian's 40th birthday, and Iceland in September (because Iceland Air just chose Kansas City as one of it's direct routes for 2018!!). It's a good mix of work and personal, and takes me to places I've been and some that I have not.

Iceland has been on my list for a very long time. From all the photos I've seen (like this one - thanks Creative Commons), it seems like the closest you can get to another planet while still on earth. The formations of land, ice, and water are so beautiful and unique. I can't wait!
I also just recently came across this concept of "mystery trips" in a magazine. Have you heard of this? It's been around for awhile, but likely didn't occur to me because I usually like to make my own plans. However, as I am working on refreshing my blog (maybe you've noticed a few cobwebs missing?), I am thinking of ideas for my next blog winner weekend (it's been forever since the last one). So, what is a mystery trip? It appears that you take a quiz, set a budget, pick some dates, and a travel company sends you to a random location for a planned out trip.

I have found three companies that look interesting - Magical Mystery Tours (promoted by Oprah and books global destinations), Pack Up + Go (plans 3-day U.S.-based trips), and The Vacation Hunt (which let's you pick international, domestic, and all-inclusive options). My biggest question is how long it's actually a surprise destination. Like do they blindfold you and have locals hand you clues about your next activity or meal? I sure hope so. Maybe I'll try one out with one of y'all so and we can find out together!

Where are you heading this year? It's not too late to make some plans! A good starting point is to check out Wherefor to see what destinations might be available for a set budget amount based on the type of trip you want (beach, family, continent). I have also just started using Hopper which helps you find out not only when to buy your plane tickets but also what the optimal travel dates are for a specific destination. Finally, if you're looking for the best deal on a hotel room (and aren't looking for some crazy, beautiful houseboat or shipping container on Airbnb), I think Trivago is as good as their commercials say they are, comparing across sites and letting you know where to book. Let me know if you have any questions I can help you with!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Saving the Best for Last

Wednesday was my last day in Austin, so I made the most of it. I spent the morning working from one of Austin's newest hotels, Hotel van Zandt. Between their lobby (left) and the coffee shop, Café 605 (bottom right), I was in design heaven. It's a great blend of super fancy yet relaxed.
On my way to a panel about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, I stopped by the World's Longest Cheese Board, presented by Wisconsin. It was so cool! They had samples of more than 100 cheeses made by 50 cheese makers from Wisconsin, along with a bloody Mary bar, crackers, and veggies.
It was so fun to try all the cheeses - ones I had heard of and ones I hadn't. There were spreads, curds, cave aged, and everything in between. The best part (besides getting to eat your fill of delicious cheese) was that they gave you a little personal backpack complete with a cold pack to bring cheese with you to your next panel.
After working from my hotel in the afternoon, I headed out for dinner at Guild, the place I had heard about from a local food blogger earlier in the week. It did not disappoint. At first I was a little bummed that the only reservation I could get was at 5:30 for a party of one, but it turned out perfect. The restaurant was practically empty when I got there, so the staff was extra attentive and friendly - and the lighting was perfect for photos. I started off with the ceviche in cucumber & Thai lime soup with morita chili and avocado. It was on par with the ceviche I've had in Costa Rica - fresh and amazing.
The ceviche was pretty substantial, so I had a starter as my main. I picked this dish of coconut prawns and gnocchi parisienne. When it came I was a little freaked out because I hate olives, but it was so delicious and I had no problem eating around them. The gnocchi was particularly amazing, melting in the mouth at every bite.
Because I went light on the meal, I had plenty of room for an incredible dessert. (Also, whenever I see a pastry chef listed on the menu, I try to save a little room.) I went with my waitress' suggestion of the Crème Plombieres Gianduja with blackberry ice cream, hazelnuts, and whey caramel. I had planned to take a delicate bite to show you the inside of the chocolate column but it disappeared before I got the chance to snap a photo. Thanks for stopping by! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Little More South by Fun

After a bunch of talks and panels (mostly about using technology for good) and a stroll around the Trade Show (see Instagram for the new sushi printer you are going to want), I took a spin (literally) in this immersive VR pod (complete with cold air blowing from above when you're virtually whisked up into the clouds). Such a cool experience!
I checked out the Bose house (to see if they had any giveaways that Brian might like). I liked the free ginger pineapple cocktail and the outdoor living decor.
I also swung by the Land 'O Lakes house and learned about the future of farming, yes, from inside this lettuce head.
After a few days of street truck food, I needed some yummy, healthy sushi, salmon teriyaki and vegetables, so I headed to Fukumoto. I had been before and it was just as good as I'd remembered.
After a talk about artificial intelligence (from an all-female panel) and one about virtual reality for social justice (also from a woman - woot!), I found myself a yummy grilled cheese for lunch.
When I got back to the main keynote stage, to get a good seat for the talk about quantum computing, I was geeking out at the panel before it. Half the cast of This Is Us was being interviewed along with the creator and executive producer, Dan Fogelman. I was trying to stay cool and not take too many photos but it was so neat to see Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, and Milo Ventimiglia just chilling on stage.
I'd been walking by the DC Comics lot on my way to/from my hotel and finally had to stop in for a picture of Val Kilmer's Batman Forever batmobile. I know everyone has their favorite Batman movie, and this is mine (judge me if you must).
I also kept passing by this food truck called the "Angry Eggroll." I took the plunge with The Grasshopper (filled with caramelized garlic cashews and shredded carrots and cabbage). Totally worth the wait! One more day to go. Hope you're having a great week so far!

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Little South by Fun

I am down in Austin, TX at SxSW, which is always a good time. I love learning about new technologies, hearing about trends in markets, and meeting cool people who are building what we'll all be using in the future. It seems extra crazy this year, but I may always think that after sleeping in between last year and this year (or I'm just getting older since I first attended in 2011). 
Saturday, after a talk by one of Mozilla's Fellows, I headed over to the Fast Company Grill for a yummy free lunch of shrimp tacos and local beer. I also saw two talks, including one from Dan Rather, which was so awesome! He was talking about his new media and news company, News and Guts. I also got my face on a cookie - which I thought was cool and Brian thought was a little creepy (so I might bring it home to him).
The rest of the day I enjoyed the nearly 90 degree weather, checked out the Wellness Fair, a couple more talks, and a few parties (one of which yielded this light-up drink). I met some nice people and learned about a few new startups that are trying to disrupt things in banking and the travel industry - like hotels and processing travel visas.
I started Sunday early (even with the time change). I got some coffee and walked to an event with breakfast tacos (not pictured) and then to the Pinterest House for a second breakfast of bagels & lox and a grapefruit mimosa. I met a food blogger from Austin who gave me a hot tip on a new restaurant (checking it out later this week!). On my way back to the Convention Center, I spotted the baby goats sign and then saw a bunch of people doing "goat yoga." I'm not really sure why it's a thing, but I hope the goats like it.
After a talk on the "Future Trends in Technology" (here's a link to the report that futurist Amy Webb presented), I spent a little time in the Trade Show hall and checked out IEEE's mixed reality platform. It's hard to believe that the future of work, business, entertainment and more will be so different in not too long. Jetsons' world here we come!
Then I listened to Bozoma Saint John, Uber's new Brand Manager, and the panel of women after her, which included Melinda Gates (pictured), Joanna Coles (Chief Content Officer of Hearst Magazines), Stacy Brown-Philpot (CEO of Taskrabbit), and Nina Shaw (entertainment attorney and co-founder of Times Up). Watching all five of the women talk about the future of work and the critical role diversity plays in business was very powerful and inspiring.
So many brands have venues and events going on during SxSW that it can get to be a little overwhelming. It's refreshing when a brand breaks through the noise and makes you happy you stood in line. This was definitely the case for the Starz Sensory House, where they were promoting the launch of two new shows (one of which is based on the book Sweetbitter).

They used the five senses to guide you through a cool experience full of free stuff (what's not to love!). My favorite was the "scent" room where perfumer, Krista Lacey, had created scents based on the four main characters and you got to pick samples of the two you liked the most.
I met up with a friend at Fulton, at the new Fairmont Hotel. We shared this yummy cheese board and then headed to meet some others for an Upright Citizen's Brigade show. In all, it was a great day. Hope you had a nice weekend too!

Monday, March 5, 2018

California Dreaming - Part III

On Sunday we woke up and relaxed a bit before half the group headed back to LA for Monday flights and the other half caught their Sunday afternoon flights. I decided to take a little walk to find the most photographed door in Palm Springs. Along the way, I came across some beautiful cactuses like this one.
And these beauties!
I loved this tree and turquoise door.
This is the most photographed door in Palm Springs - the pink door. I was a little sad that the sun was throwing shadows, but I think you can still see how pretty it is. (Also, in case you want to visualize what I looked like walking around a neighborhood snapping photos - which slightly violates my desire not to invade people's space or privacy - I wore my workout clothes and headphones and just pretended I was one of the fancy neighbors, just out admiring the view.)
I also couldn't pass up taking a picture of this door - complete with inflatable champagne bottles and glitter pink inner tubes around the lion sculptures' heads.

Finally, a huge thanks to all of the five lovely ladies for making the weekend unforgettable and fun! It's so nic
e to be able to meet your friend's friends, especially when you live in a different town.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

California Dreaming - Part II

I woke up with this view out my sliding glass door and knew it was going to be a great day.
After hanging out and chatting for a bit, we got ready for brunch and enjoyed the sunshine. 
We pulled up to the Parker Hotel and I couldn't control my picture-taking self. This looked like a postcard.
The lobby is a vintage decor lover's dream.
When we sat down at the one of the hotel's restaurants, Norma's, our waiter presented us with this beautiful bottle of champagne that one of Dynasti's friends sent her as a present. I was so excited!!
They served fresh squeezed orange juice and peach nectar with the champagne - so I mixed them for a sunset mimosa. We started with Norma's fresh donuts, which were served with lemon curd and blueberry jam. (They were hot and amazing!) I also had the heuvos rancheros - served on top of a cheese quesadilla. The weather was perfect - sunny and warm with a slight breeze.
The best part of the meal was the company -- two more friends joined us for the weekend at the restaurant -- Michele and Jess.
After a long and leisurely brunch, we headed back to the house for an afternoon by the pool. I noticed that there were fruit trees on the property - a lime tree and an orange tree. I couldn't resist, so I picked some of each and made some juice and cocktails. How I wish I had these at home!
Then it was time to get ready for our night out on the town.
First up was the Tonga Hut and Tiki Bar for some Pi Yi’s (pronounced “pie eyes”), which are pineapples hollowed out and filled with rum and tropical juices. After that, we headed to dinner at Jake’s where I had a Hendricks Cooler, a wedge salad, and the tuna poke (spicy!). Our final stop was the Ace Hotel to dance away the rest of the night, into the morning. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

California Dreaming

I met up with my friend Dynasti in Los Angeles before heading to Palm Springs for her birthday weekend with friends. We stayed at the Loews Hollywood - which is attached to the Dolby Theatre, the home of the Academy Awards. When we checked in we were on the elevator with a guy wearing an Oscars jacket. We asked him about it and it was clear that we were more excited about it than he was.
After a burger (for D) and a grilled cheese (for me) at In-N-Out Burger, a stroll around an Adidas store, and a nap -- we headed to LIT Method for a workout. (Just keeping it balanced!) The Low Impact Training class was all rowing and isometrics in a red-lit room behind the lightning bolt door. This is our after pic - we did it!
Our sweat session built up an appetite for something healthy, so we headed to Kreation Organic Cafe for some dinner.
Any juice named 'Happy' is worth trying in my book - pineapple, pear, ginger, mint - yum! I also had the Huevos Cancun (three organic eggs with cilantro, topped with roasted corn, black bean salsa, and fresh avocado).
The next morning we picked up a rental car and Dynasti's friend, Mateika, from the airport and hit the road, headed to Palm Springs. Right outside of Palm Springs, we stopped at Cabazon Dinosaurs to check out these larger than life beauties.
We were most excited to see this guy, who you might recognize from the feature film "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," circa 1985.
Our two-hour road trip led us to The Martini House. We took so many photos of this amazing four-bedroom place - here are a few.
After a fourth friend, Taylor, arriving, a trip to the store, and a relaxing afternoon, we headed to Rio Azul for some delicious Mexican food. The vegetarian chimichanga was yummy. We sang happy birthday to Dynasti with the rest of the staff and headed home to bed. Big day ahead tomorrow -- thanks for stopping by!