Monday, December 30, 2013

An Escape During the Hectic Holidays

What better way to avoid holiday crowds than head out to the coast?

That is what Jillian and I did recently, taking a trip out to Half Moon Bay and Pescadero. Usually I drive but ever since she got her new car she always wants to drive!   

By the time we arrived we were starving, and decided to head over to Pescadero to eat. We stopped by Arcangeli Grocery Co. and purchased some artichoke bread and a couple bowls of soup. We highly recommend this place if you are in the area. The bread is delicious and the artichoke soup is just the thing to warm you up on a cool day at the beach. Very nice location in a wonderful small town as well. It was just what we needed. We headed out to the beach and ate lunch on a picnic table at Pescadero State Beach.

After lunch, Jillian relaxed on the beach reading a book, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. She seems to be enjoying it so far, but I will wait till she is done to make any real determination for her.

Jillian's choice for a nice spot to read.

Meanwhile, I took a walk along the beach with my camera as the clouds began to break up and the sun came out. The waves gently washed onto the soft sandy shore. Seagulls stood near the edge of the water, hoping for tasty tidbits to wash ashore. The air was crisp and clean, and quite a welcome change from that of the city.Though the sounds of the waves can be quite loud at times, there is a wonderful calm and peace that can be found while walking an empty beach.

Here are some of the shots from Pescadero State Beach.

The beach was virtually deserted which was awesome.

The waves turn an effervescent blue while they crash toward shore, creating a wonderful spectacle.

Seagulls following the edge of the surf, hoping for bits of food to wash ashore.

A mother expresses concern for her daughter who was playing below the cliffs as the tide began to come back in.

After a wave rushed back out to sea, the ground was left shimmering like a sheet of wet glass reflecting the shore and sky.

After Pescadero we headed over to the Half Moon Bay area, where the coastline has a different feel than Pescadero State Beach. The shore is much more rocky and rugged.
California Fur Seals are a common sight along the coast. This one was very interested in me, perhaps because of my camera, or perhaps because of my interest in him!

Large flocks of seagulls and cormorants took refuge on the rocks to avoid the pounding surf.

The tide started to come back in and with it came larger waves and rougher surf.
As it neared sunset, we decided to head back down toward Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We had never been there and decided to take a chance on seeing sunset from the grounds of the lighthouse. This payed off immensely. The views were spectacular, and the sunset was absolutely incredible. We even had the opportunity to see a pod of dolphins swimming by. No pictures though as I only had a 70-200mm lens with me.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It is the second tallest on the west coast at 115 feet and was built in 1872.

Tide rushing in during sunset at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse, with a beautiful dusk backdrop.
Another photographer kindly offered to take our picture after I took one for them.

I could not have asked for a better way to spend the day. The weather cooperated beautifully, presenting wonderful views and pleasant weather all day. The coast of California is a wonderful place to visit and experience a much needed get away. Especially during days when most people would not want to make the drive out. Empty beaches are so relaxing and gorgeous to behold.

What about you guys? Where do you go when you need a break from the daily grind? Are there places nearby that you can venture to? What are they and what makes them special?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Long Distance Relationship Idea: Holiday Stockings

Long distance relationships are tough, and the holidays can make it especially more difficult. Mike and I have been in a long distance relationship for a year and four months now. Over the period of time that we are not physically together, we constantly try to come up with ideas that we can do for each other. The goal, as always, is to make one another a part of each other's lives as much as possible, despite the distance. 

This year, we decided to buy stockings for each other to keep for the holidays. I keep Mike's in California, and he takes mine to Washington state. From the first of December until Christmas day, we will try to fill these with random gifts and items. Then, we give it to each other either by mail (in time for Christmas) or in person (hopefully!) 

The goal is to find things that you know the other person would appreciate getting, or an item that reminded you of the other person when you saw it.
The stocking stuffers don't have to be pricey, and they don't have to be big gifts. At the end of the day, it really is just the thought that counts. Be creative, and have fun! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ten Favorite Things About the Holidays.

I have always loved the holidays! It's my favorite time of the year, and November-December is definitely my favorite months for so many reasons. Endlessly Beloved  asks a topic every month, and for this month, the topic is appropriate. Here's my (Jillian's) ten favorite things about the holidays!

1. Family time. 
I get to spend time with my parents and siblings all the time, but it's rare that I get to spend time with my relatives: aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and more. I love this time because I get to catch up with them, eat good food, drink a little, and just have fun. 

2. Break time! 
I work as an English teacher, and so I do get the regular school holidays. It's really nice to have days off, and just not to anything. 

3. The weather.
People think I'm a little weird that I like fall and winter weather. I adore it! Maybe because I live in Northern California, and it doesn't necessarily get very cold here, but there is something I love about cold, chilly days and nights. It's comforting, and is so cozy!

4. Decorating.
I love Christmas decorations! I particularly like it it's white, gold, and burgundy themed. Everything about decorating is just so festive. I also enjoy wrapping gifts! 

5. Christmas music. 
I particularly enjoy listening to She & Him christmas album; Zooey Deschanel's voice during the holidays is the best! Another favorite are the Carpenters Christmas songs, Michael Buble's My Grown Up Christmas List, Snow by Sleeping At Last, and Wintersong by Sarah Mclachlan. 

I LOVE winter clothing! I love scarves, beanies, boot socks, pea coats, boots, leggings, tights, long sleeved dresses... I'll wear them all! I also really adore the colors during this time of year. I love deep, dark colors like burgundy, olive green, bordeaux red, and even mustard yellow. I wish it was fall and winter all year long just so I can keep wearing these. 

7. The food and the drinks.
I am a huge fan of holiday themed anything: cookies, coffee drinks, teas... and so much more. Peppermint Mocha anything is a favorite, and good old hot chocolate will do the trick too. 

8. Traditions, Parties, and and Get togethers.
I have a lot of traditions with my family (we are Filipino), my friends (exchange gifts, white elephants, get together dinner), and with Mike. I love this time of year because I feel like there's a lot more free time, and we get to hang out a lot more. 

9. Giving gifts.
There's something about taking the time to make a list of people you plan to give something to for the holidays, and actually going out and getting them. In some cases, it's even better when you plan to make the gifts yourselves! I am fond of the idea of thinking of the special people in your life, and what you think they would love to get. It doesn't even matter what the price is, but just the thought that was put into it. 

10. The overall feeling. 
People seem to be nicer, and in a much more festive mood. People are a lot more generous, and kind too. Everything around seems a lot more peaceful and joyous, and I just love the atmosphere during the holidays! I also feel like I am able to reflect a lot about the past year, and the many things I'm grateful for, and the things I look forward to for the coming year. 

What's your top ten favorite things about the holidays?

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Visit to Big Sur

Who doesn't long for a sunny day on the coast? The wind from a fresh cool breeze blowing through your hair. The beautiful views and sunsets over the water. The calm serenity that being on and near a beach brings.

Jillian and I had the chance to travel out to the coast a week ago and it was wonderful. I had always wanted to visit Big Sur. I think I had been there as a child, but have few memories of it now. On the drive down from the Monterey area, the landscapes were spectacular. All of highway 1, from Washington to California is amazing, but this section is especially so. 

One of the first major landmarks of the Big Sur area is Bixby Bridge. The bridge was built in 1932 and has remained largely unchanged, although it underwent a seismic retrofit in 1996. Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges on the entire Pacific coast of the United States.

We had lunch at an American style restaurant named Nepenthe within Big Sur. This was the view that kept us company while we ate. It was absolutely incredible. The weather was gorgeous, and our burgers were quite delicious. We would definitely recommend this place if the weather is nice and you can sit outside. 

Another spot you absolutely must visit is Pfeiffer beach, although it can be quite hard to find. It is an easy to miss turn off on highway 1 down a single lane road, with no signs or designations of any sort until you are already on it. This is likely done to help limit traffic to this beautiful beach. The road down to Pfeiffer beach is between milepost 45 and 46. The cost of entrance to Pfeiffer beach is 5 dollars. Make sure to bring cash as they will not accept cards or any other payment method. Once you are in the parking area, it is a short jaunt to the beach, which extends to the north and south of the parking area.

The beach is often colored by the manganese garnet in the hills above the beach. This gives the beach a purple or magenta color which is most often seen after rain storms. Sometimes it can appear in intricate patterns due to how water flows down from the hills and cliffs above.

The most photographed locations are almost straight ahead of the trail that leads to the beach, located in the large rock formations between the sand and ocean. There is a large arch formed in the rock just to the right, as well as a smaller one on the left rock. Near sunset the light dances beautifully through and will illuminate sea spray or fog that is in the arch. It can be a beautiful effect and I hope to go back to capture that one day. Jillian and I arrived a little too late in the day to see this phenomena, but it was still absolutely breathtaking. 

I cannot wait to go back and spend some more time in this beautiful area. I also hope to capture some shots of the glowing archways before sunset. It really is an incredible feeling being able to relax and enjoy such a wonderful landscape. If you are ever in the Central California area, absolutely check out the coast along highway 1 in Big Sur.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

San Francisco Guide for First Time Visitors

If you only had a few days and you want to explore the city of San Francisco, here are some places definitely worth checking out. Like our Seattle guide, these are just some of the places we think you should see, but the city is huge and full of other wonderful areas, waiting to be discovered. 

1. Golden Gate Bridge - Iconic landmark, and a must see. If you are lucky and you go on a clear day, as SF can get enveloped by fog, you will get to see this from afar. However, most of the time, you will probably have to go closer to truly see its beauty. I would definitely suggest driving through it! As far as where to go to see it and possibly take photos, I would go to Crissy Field in the Presidio.
2. Alcatraz - This infamous prison is located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. You have to take a 15 minute ferry ride to get to it, and it's truly something else. This place is full of history, and there's a lot to learn. Being in this place is an experience for sure. It's a bit eerie in my opinion, but it's fascinating, informative, and always interesting. We enjoyed doing the audio tour - you get your own headset and you can do the tour in your own pace. 
There are also night tours available, though the space is quite limited. It's a different experience as they open other places that are normally restricted during the day. 
Dress warm even on a seemingly hot day in the city. It can get windy and cold up there! It is an island after all and you are surrounded by the beautiful bay. 
3. Palace of Fine Arts - This is one of my favorite spots in the city. It's such a beautiful site, and it will transport you to another time and place. Even though it is located in the middle of a bustling area, it's peaceful and quiet once you walk around this area. You'll be surrounded by gorgeous classical architecture, and you'll be amazed at the level of detail in the sculptures and buildings here. It's also surrounded by a pond, where ducks and swans like to hang out. Take a leisurely walk, and enjoy the scenery and landscape around you.

4. Legion of Honor - If you like art, check this museum out. It's the best one in the city in my opinion. It has a great collection of European art, and it's located on a scenic hilltop. Here, you will find a lot of Rodin's sculptures, and many Impressionist pieces. I am no expert on art and art history, but I appreciate it, and this place makes me want to learn more.

5. Golden Gate Park - If you are in San Francisco, you need to go here. This huge park is a great treasure in the city. It has 1,017 acres of public grounds, and is full of unique sites and areas. Here, you will find the Conservatory of Flowers, Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and so much more. Many people go here to have picnics, or for the museums. A lot of people also just go here for a nice walk and a run. 

6. Crissy Field - This is my favorite place to be. It is the most beautiful place to have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it's a scenic place to have picnics, go for a run, bike rides, or play with your pets. It's a dog friendly beach, with a lot of space to roam around. If you want a reason to appreciate San Francisco, visit this place. It reminds me every time why I love it so much. Be reminded that it can get chilly here as well, so bring a lot of layers, even in the summer time. 

7. Union Square - This is the central shopping area. The stores here range from Forever 21 to Chanel. They have Sephora, a Macy's, Urban Outfitters, North Face, and even a Westfield Mall. There's a lot of restaurants as well. There's also an area in the middle where you can sit down and relax for a bit. Be warned that driving here can get pretty bad. There's some parking garages, but I highly recommend taking the Bart if you can.
7. Pier 39 - Yes, it's a tourist trap. And yes, it's very crowded. But it's worth visiting! It's full of shops and restaurants for everyone to enjoy, but what I like about this place are the sea lions sunbathing. They're always there, and they're hard to miss as they're pretty loud.
Pier 39 is not for everyone, but I think it can be entertaining. It probably won't be a must-visit stop every time, but if it's your first visit here and  you've never been, why not check it out? 

8. Musee Mecanique - I am putting this here because Mike and I went on our second date here, and it was a lot of fun. This place has a huge collection of mechanical games and toys dating back to the 1800s or so. There's old arcade games, fortune tellers, and so many others I have never seen before. It's near Pier 39, so pay a quick visit (an hour or less) if you are around the area. Make sure to bring quarters!

9. Twin Peaks - On a great day this place affords a beautiful view looking down on the city. On a foggy day, you will only be able to see several feet. Definitely worth the drive up on a great day. We even went up on a foggy day in the hopes it would clear up. Sadly, it did not.

Other notable places you might want to go to: 
- Ike's - This is a pretty popular sandwich place. So good! (order Menage a Trois)
- Bi-Rite Creamery is also pretty awesome. Their ice cream are homemade, and they have so many unique flavors. I personally love their Salted Caramel. They also have options for lactose intolerant! 
- The Exploratorium - I haven't been here in so long, but if you have kids, it's a fun interactive place! 
- Academy of Sciences - Again, I haven't been here in a while, but I remember it being a fun and educational place to visit. If you like nightlife, they also have one here on Thursday nights. The whole area turns into a club/bar scene, but you can still see the animals. It's a crazy idea, but it works.

That's pretty much it! Have you been to San Francisco? What are some of your places here? If you live around the area, what are some spots you recommend? This city is huge, and is so diverse that there's so much to see and do. I hope this list sort of helps you with your ideas when you visit! 

Seattle Guide for First Time Visitors

Washington is a gorgeous place. One of its most well-known cities of course, is the city of Seattle, or as it's fondly called, the Emerald City. Mike currently resides around the area, and I've been there plenty of times. We figured we'd create a guide to help out those who are looking for things to do and places to check out if you're there for a few days. Now these are just some of the places we think you should check out. Seattle is just a part of the beautiful state of Washington, and these places are just a part of the city of Seattle. There's many others, so explore away. 

1. Pike's Place Market - You need to go here if you are in Seattle. It is a 2-3 floor public market consisting of various shops: fish markets, food stands, local florists, book shops, craft stores, specialty stores, independent business owners, and so much more. The place is lively and vibrant, with so many local vendors to check out and appreciate. The famous Gum Wall is located in Post Alley under Pike's Place Market. The very first Starbucks store is also located around the area, right across the Market. 

2. Kerry Park - This in my opinion, is one of the best places to get an overall view of the city line. You can see the Space Needle surrounded by the many buildings. If you go on a fairly clear day, you might even get to see Mt. Rainier from afar. It's a sight to see. Bring a jacket if you are not used to this kind of weather! It can get chilly there at night. 

4. Seattle Public Library - If you like books and visiting libraries (or appreciate beautiful architecture) this is a must to visit. It's one of the best buildings I've seen and been into. I would recommend going there just to see its unique design, architecture, and space.
6. Space Needle - It wouldn't be Seattle without this iconic structure. It's easily the symbol of the city. It's easily recognizable, and you know you're in the city when you see it. I like to look at this structure from Kerry Park, but I have also been up there. It costs $20 to go. You can stay there as long as you would like. It's a beautiful place to be.
8. Chihuly Glass Museum - I personally have never been here before, but people always talk about how gorgeous this museum is! It's filled with blown glass by the glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. I've seen some of his work before, and can only imagine how it would be a good place to visit. The artist was born in Tacoma, Washington and went to the University of Washington later on. Maybe someday I will go there and we'll have photos to show. 

9. Museum of Flight - This is an expansive museum filled with pretty much everything related to flight. In this museum, you'll definitely learn a lot about the history of aviation. You will find old planes from the Concorde, Air Force One, planes used from different eras, to the planes used today. There's just so much to see and so much to learn we spent almost half a day in here! It's also good for all ages, so children and adults will benefit from this trip. Worth every penny!
10. Alki Beach - It offers a different view of Seattle. It's located on the West side of the city, and across the harbor. It's a relaxing place to be, it's not as crowded, and is a nice place for a walk. There's also some shops and restaurants here that you can check out. 

11. Century Link Field and Safeco Field - If you are sports fans, check these out. Safeco Field is the home stadium of the Seattle Mariners and Century Link Field is the stadium for the Seattle Seahawks. 

11. University of Washington - It's a beautiful campus! I again have never been there, but from Mike always raves about how picturesque it is. 

That's pretty much it for the list of places to see in the city of Seattle. Again, these are just some places we've personally visited (and some want to visit), but they are here mainly because we believe they are worth checking out. If you're ever around the area, just walk around, appreciate the scenery and the people, and have fun!

Have you been to Seattle? If so, what are some areas there would you recommend a first time visitor to check out? And if you have not gone to Seattle, what are some of your favorite cities that you have visited? Tell us about it! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

Mike is a photographer, and an environmentalist. He likes Star Wars, video games, and is interested in everything about the universe. You can check him out on
Jillian is an aspiring writer, English teacher, and a huge bookworm. She will always love the Harry Potter series, considers herself to be a Ravenclaw but was sorted into Hufflepuff, and can't get through the day without coffee.

Together, we are a long distance couple, aiming to be in one place someday soon, but are currently living in two different, separate states instead. While the distance can often be a challenge, we've decided to take it and make something out of it. 

Fortunately for us, we are living in two of, in our own opinion, the best states: Washington and California. We are inspired by the idea of bridging the miles between, by sharing thoughts, ideas, photos, mementos, and other forms of inspiration on this blog, while we live in these two beautiful places. 

Here we will try to feature photos and thoughts about and from the places we've been to together, as well as apart.

This is our space, as we live 800 miles away from each other.