Category Archives: Travel

San Antone To The Bone

Just a couple of weeks ago, I made my annual trip to my hometown of San Antonio, TX. Although my older sister, Annie- who also moved to Pittsburgh, goes home multiple times a year, I prefer to make the trek less frequently. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder… Plus, when I only go home once a year, it makes my parents feel more inclined to buy me stuff like pedicures and Texas flag running shorts (thanks, mom!) and all the food (lookin’ at you, dad!).

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Even though I’ve been going back and forth between Pittsburgh and San Antonio for 6 years now, I only just started noticing just how different my two cities are. The people might as well be from opposite ends of the universe, and don’t even get me started on the differences of the trees in both places! Not complaining, obviously, just making observations. SERIOUSLY, HOW DID I NEVER NOTICE ALL OF THE CACTI?!

Unfortunately, on the third day of the trip we went to the beach and I got the worst sunburn of my life (from the bottom of my butt to the tops of my ankles). I’m not being dramatic, IT HURT TO SLEEP, WALK, SIT, AND MOVE IN GENERAL FOR THE REMAINING 3 DAYS I WAS THERE. That plus the sinus infection/cold I got from God knows what, meant that I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, do everything I wanted to do, or even eat everything I wanted to eat. Woe is me, right?!

Nevertheless, I shall share my mental list of the BEST overlooked and underrated places to eat/shop/drink/do stuff in SA, some of which I got to go to this time around and some of which will have to wait ’til next time.

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SHOPPING

  1. Annie Gogglyn– located in the heart of the ’09 zip code, Annie G has been a San Antonio staple for 30+ years. My Aunt Robin worked there right after it was converted from a gas station to a bridal boutique. I worked at Annie in 2012 because I bought all of my clothes there anyway and employee discounts are the bomb (it was no longer a bridal boutique, duh, but a whimsical women’s boutique as well as a trendy children’s store ). A couple years ago, my friend Susi bought the place, but more on that later…
  2. Bless Your Heart– they sell Ban.do and Sunnylife Australia, so you know it’s cool. Plus, my friend Gretchen works there and she might be the nicest person I’ve ever met. 
  3. Aquarius– It’s true, every time I enter this boutique I make a bee line for the sale rack, but just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there.
  4. Melissa Guerra– This is where Frida Kahlo would do her home shopping had she lived in San Antonio. My BFF got me the prettiest hand painted sugar skull key chain from here.
  5. HEB– had to give a quick shout out to the best grocery store that has ever existed. When we were kids, we used to always ask to pet the live lobsters in the tanks in the seafood department.

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SIGHT SEEING/THINGS TO DO

  1. Mural Hunting– San Antonians know what to do with a blank wall. My hometown might be THE most colorful city in the U.S. of A, which is saying a lot. Do yourself a favor if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, get in your car and drive all around downtown, The Pearl, the Northwest side, and the West side and let your eyes be amazed.
  2. The Alamo- don’t actually wait in that long ass line to go inside The Alamo, though. Definitely just take a picture in front of it and then cross the street to the woman selling $3 paper flower crowns and buy one. Then go get a popsicle and stop being such a dumb tourist.
  3. Snake Farm and Animal World– The Snake Farm is not only the place where my brothers and cousins used to have their birthday parties as kids, it’s also the place where I got to hold a baby Lemur and where Christina draped an Albino Python over her shoulders like she was Britney Bitch herself. Though it is now under new management and you probably can’t do as much as the cool/dangerous stuff I’ve done at this place and although, technically, it isn’t even in the San Antonio city limits, it’s still way better and less crowded than the zoo. You may have seen it on Dirty Jobs.
  4. The Japanese Tea Gardens– an absolutely picturesque way to spend an evening in SA.
  5. DTSA library–  If you like books and cool buildings, go here. It’s the second best library I’ve ever been to (this is the first, of course)
  6. The Overtime Theatre– I grew up attending local plays on field trips and always loved it so much. The Overtime is the people’s theatre! The amazing array of artistry you’ll see here is insane. SPEAKING OF WHICH, my very first friend I ever made (her name’s Kat, we were 5 and played leap frog down my hallway and have been friends ever since) is performing in the upcoming show, Cthulhu Too: The Stranger In Yellow. NBD, I KNOW HER! So if you’d care to support local art, please click here to donate to this production!
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snake farm, 2008

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FOOOOOOD 

This is a difficult part to narrow down, but here goes nothin’…

  1. Garcia’s– THE BEST BOWL OF CHILI OF YOUR LIFE. YOU’RE WELCOME.
  2. Patty’s– BEST PUFFY TACO PLATE and friendliest staff.
  3. Augie’s– BEST BBQ SANDWICHES
  4. Raspas– a Raspa is a kind of snow cone. Piccadilly is the best/weirdest/my favorite kind to get. Mangonada is good too. DON’T FORGET THE CHAMOY!
  5. Elote- just find any snack shack that sells this and get it then tell me all about it so I can live vicariously through you!
  6. Theory Coffee– damn good coffee
  7. La Popular Bakery– ALL. THE. TREATS.

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Luckily for the whole city of San Antonio, I’ll be back at least twice next year. My brother and sister are getting married…. NOT TO EACH OTHER… and I guess our presence will be expected at both weddings. I suppose I shall just have to keep finding this city’s hidden gems and adding to the list every time I’m there. Tough job, huh?

California Is For Lovers (Part 2)

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If I could transport myself to southern California for an hour a day to lay on the beaches, I would. They were absolutely breathtaking and the weather was perfect! My friend, Cyntia, and I had a girls day while the boys went on some long hike. We stopped first at the Santa Monica Pier and walked the beach and pier. There were some pretty talented street performers, one guy even had pigeons all over his body. NOPE.

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Isn’t she like the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen?

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Next, we checked out Venice Beach aka Muscle Beach. Let’s just say, it did not disappoint. Great food, big muscles, and soft green grass to take a nap. I had my very first açaí bowl, I’m not sure why I waited so long to have one because it was super scrumptious!

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Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

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Shortly after this picture was taken, this guy got arrested for having 2 guns and a 6-pack… just kidding.

Our last and final day in California was spent in Newport beach. We got a sweet deal on rentals for surf boards and wet suits so we had to at least try! Turns out, none of us were actually able to get up but we all got a pretty good workout trying. What matters is, we got some amazing pics and enjoyed the sun!

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Peace out, Cali! I’ll be back shortly!

xoxo,
Christina

Some Beach, Somewhere.

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If you ever have a chance to take a giant, rainbow unicorn float to the beach, I highly suggest you DO IT. Christina bought this bad boy (who we affectionately named Dennis) for $25 at Costco this past winter and yesterday we brought him along with us to Port Aransas, our lifelong favorite beach/city to visit in the great state of Texas. After getting Dennis blown (up), we all hopped on and tried to stay on as my brother, Daniel, pulled us out into the waves. Although we had to karate chop the seaweed and swerve around the jellyfish (my sister, Annie, ended up getting stung on her back), it was still the most fun time ever! We felt like kids again!

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Love Bracelet/ Little Words Project

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Daniel ended up falling asleep on Dennis, so to wake him up I put some Fritos on his back so the seagulls could wake him up, ever so gently, as seagulls do. It. Was. Hilarious.

Best part of any Texas beach trip is going to Whataburger after to gorge on burgers, fries, and coffee flavored milkshakes while your sunburned butts stick to the plastic seats. Speaking of sunburns, this might be the worst one I’ve ever had… Here’s hoping I don’t spend my last couple of days in town in complete misery…

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California Is For Lovers (Part 1)

Two weeks ago, my husband and I took a vacation for the first time in what seems like a year. My husband turned 30 years old and wanted to spend his big day have a relaxing but thrilling time in California with his bestie. As much as we love our children, it can be hard to fully relax when you’re constantly keeping an eye on your kids. We were very blessed to have my in-laws come stay the week with the kids while we went away.

Making the decision to fly into LAX might have been a bad choice since we got to experience the LA traffic first hand but if we had not, we wouldn’t have stopped at Phillipe’s for some mouth-watering french-dip sandwiches and had the chance to explore Chinatown.

Holy Blue Cheese French Dip Batman!

After Chinatown, we took a drive to the Griffith Observatory. As we were headed up we saw a sign that said “Free Parking with $1 shuttle ride round trip”. DEAL! We parked and could not figure out where the bus pick up was. We saw a bus up the road so we walked up a crazy steep hill but found out it wasn’t the right shuttle. Then we hiked back down the hill and saw a bunch of charter buses an assumed “those must be it!”. No. Finally, we found someone to direct us and had to hike further down the hill to find the shuttle pick up and still waited for what seemed like 20 minutes but at least we were in the right spot. It felt like we were in the movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?” but instead call it “Dude, Where’s The Shuttle?”


Once we reached the top we saw some breathtaking views of Los Angeles and the famous “Hollywood” sign. I also learned some cool stuff about our Universe and got to check out a Tesla Coil in action! Hello, Lightning.


Later that evening, I had the opportunity of meeting up with a high school friend that I hadn’t seen in 10 years! We met up at a super cute bar called Harlowe in West Hollywood that was really chill. They made us some great appetizers that we completely devoured like wild animals. Hopefully, we didn’t leave a horrible impression.

Image from Cement Tile Shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Emilie and I

The next day was Brandon’s 30th birthday! His best friend took us to lunch on Laguna Beach and not only did we have some spectacular food but we had an amazing view!

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Look at these guys! 18 years of friendship!

 

When I found out we would be making a trip to California, I made it a top requirement that we stop at this adorable little place called Creme & Sugar. I had recently found out about this place through social media when they released their Unicorn Hot Chocolate. Following the Hot Chocolate, was a Unicorn Milkshake and Unicorn Bark. This was all before the Unicorn Frappucino was ever thought into existence. I had hyped it up a ton and I think everyone was dreading to go, assuming this milkshake would be terrible and would end in a waste of time. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

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Everyone ordered something off the menu and we were all highly satisfied with what we chose. Naturally, I chose the Unicorn Milkshake and Daves wife Cyntia ordered the S’mores Hot Chocolate. I would highly recommend coming here if you’re ever in the area.

 

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Am I dreaming?

 

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It made the Unicorn come out of me!

 

After getting a sugar fill, we “hit” up a batting cage to satisfy Brandon’s birthday wish. For being years since any of us had hit anything with a stick, we all did pretty well! To finish up the night, we met up with Brandon’s younger brother Caleb and his wife Alissah for a fancy shmancy dinner. So far, Southern California had exceeded my expectations, I would have been satisfied after 2 days but we had a few more adventures to accomplish before heading back home.

 

To be continued…

Houston On My Mind

f3bbdfa9-20c4-423b-9523-a0068fb94ca1-6444-000004c09350a274A few months ago when Sarah was in town, we kidnapped our friend Kayla and took her to Houston in a day and back for the sole purpose of taking pictures. At the time, Sarah was the only one who had a blog so Kayla and I were just along for the ride and a chance to have someone photograph us. Cool!

We headed out early morning with our first stop being outside San Antonio for breakfast tacos and sweet tea from the one and only Bill Millers. That was my first mistake, tea! Houston is only a 3-hour trip and I had to stop at least 5 times to pee on the way there. It made it pretty obvious which one of us was the mom in the group.  We had a sweet playlist set up, so it was a smooth ride… aside from all the pee stops.

My husband (being the champ he is) created a map for us to follow with all the pinpoints of the murals we wanted to check out. We weren’t able to catch them all, but we enjoyed ourselves and made it almost like a game. Arrive, change clothes, run over to the wall, take photos, change again, run back to the wall, take photos, run back to the car, hit up next destination. A few of the walls were across the street from each other so that made it easier.

1. Sugar and Cloth Color Wall
3302 Canal Street
Houston, TX 77003
*Update: This wall is no longer available. A bunch of cotton-headed ninnymuggins painted over the wall!

Isn’t she adorable?

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When we arrived, we didn’t realize it would be in a very populated parking lot next to a gas station. It made outfit changes difficult since my car doesn’t have tinted windows. A few of the men that were at the gas station ran over and asked if they could have their pictures taken with Sarah and Kayla, Sarah convinced them that she was famous and they didn’t question her for a second.

2. Synchronicity of Color “Art Boxes” by Margo Sawyer
Discovery Green Park
1500 McKinney St
Houston, TX 77010

This park was really neat, there were multiple different colored “Art Boxes” scattered through the park. We didn’t pay for street parking so we only hit up one and made it quick.

Kayla being the spider monkey she is, managed to climb up in my 5-inch heels and pose like a queen. Right up until the rent-a-cop blew his whistle and made her climb down. Nice shot Kayla, nice shot.

3. Zipper Colorful Wall by Kelly Graval (aka Risk Rock)
1513 St. Emanuel
Houston, TX 77003

This was in a huge graffiti park and the parking lot was completely empty so we had the ability to change and snap pics as needed.

 

4. Red and Teal Diamonds
Chinatown Printing and Graphics
2102 Leeland St
Houston, TX 77003Twinning. Just Kidding, she already has a twin.

I am super clumsy and couldn’t manage to balance on that pole on my own, thanks for the help Sarah.

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¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

5. American Queen Mural by Michael Savoi
3100 Smith St
Houston, TX  77006

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6. Biscuit Paint Wall
1614 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX  77006

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img_2622Again! SO ADORABLE!

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Here is a pic of Sarah’s backside. Looking good cuz!

7. About Rocks by Russell Etchen
Lawndale Art Center
4912 Main St
Houston, TX 77002

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My friend Aylin (Houston local) stopped by for some sushi and a quick snap, we’re a trio the 3 of us.

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There you have it!
Come to Texas and put Houston on your list. Come for the Tex-Mex, STAY for the murals!

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How To Be A Good House Guest

Two weeks ago, my mother-in-law/BFF, Sheila, and I flew to Nashville, TN to attend my beautiful sister-in-law’s baby shower. After flying out of a blizzard and straight into a thunderstorm (a plane ride deemed “too bumpy” for us to be served our complimentary Chardonnay) a relaxing 38 hours in a new city was just what the doctor ordered. Since all the rooms at Laura’s house were filled with friends (and one perfect baby boy), Sheila and I had the pleasure of staying with Jeremy and Elsie Larson. I’ve been crushin’ on The Larson House via Instagram for a while now, so it was truly an honor to get the invite to actually sleep there. My main goal for the weekend (besides feeling Gummergal‘s baby bump as much as possible) was to be a good guest and not embarrass myself. I can’t speak for E or J, but I think I did a pretty GD good job… For the most part, anyway.

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Although we’ve been Internet Gal Pals for a while now, I couldn’t help but think it might be, idk, a little weird not only meeting Elsie in person, but staying in her house. Would it be like sleeping in a museum? Would I be allowed to touch stuff? Would her dogs like me? Would my habit of waking up early annoy the shit out of everyone like it usually does?  I soon realized that this would be my first time being a real guest (staying with family or long-time friends doesn’t really count) in someone else’s home and I’d have to be on my best behavior.

Full disclaimer, it wasn’t even a little bit weird and the Larson Dogs, Dolly and Suki, totally love me. Elsie Larson, YOU REALLY ARE THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS.

The weekend went by so quickly, but I made the most of my short time in Nashville. Most importantly, I now have some good tips on how to be a good house guest…

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I mean, how freaking cute are these Palm Springs themed shower treats?!

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HOW TO BE A GOOD HOUSE GUEST:

  • Don’t quote obscure movies or TV shows, no matter how funny you think you’re being. Example: Elsie gave Sheila and I a tour of her home and when it was over, I turned to her and said “your house has a real ass on it” (a quote from an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia). I got a polite smile from Elsie and an elbow to the ribs from Sheila.
  • Watch where you’re stepping, you clumsy fool. I kept walking into all the cactus and getting poked.
  • Do take advantage of all the cool mirrors. If they didn’t want you to take mirror selfies, they probably wouldn’t have bought them.
  • Make your bed! I never, ever make my bed at home, but it seems like a polite thing that people do, so I did it.
  • Make yourself at home! I definitely did wake up early to sit in the living room, kick my feet up, and read my book like I do at my own house every morning.
  • Don’t just slink out into the night when you leave like some kind of cheap hooker, say goodbye to your hosts.
  • Resist the temptation and don’t snoop (even if going through medicine cabinets is one of your favorite things to do).
  • This should go without saying, but don’t steal anything… we know that pink ukulele is calling your name, but buy your own on Amazon. GET OUT OF HERE, YOU CAN’T EVEN PLAY THE UKULELE.

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A big thank you to Jeremy and Elsie for letting us stay with you and for not thinking it was weird that I took so many pictures inside your house…. Oh, you do think it was weird? We’ll work on it next time!

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¡Viva Fiesta!

Fiesta originated 125 years ago when citizens of San Antonio wanted to celebrate the heroes of the Alamo with what they named The Battle of Flowers. It became a tradition and is now ingrained in San Antonio’s culture. And get this, it is the only parade in the country to be planned and directed completely by women! GO GIRLS! When I was a kid, I was in synchronized swimming and our team, The Cygnets (baby swans), got to participate in the parade and had our own float. Being super clumsy, I was never allowed to go on the float so I had to walk. We were told to just throw candy at kids whenever we walked by them, which could be a little dangerous. When you think about it, the parade is a ton of giant piñatas spewing candy all over the place. No baseball bats or blindfolds involved so all the hard work is done.

source: walkerreport.blogspot.com
Photo: TOM REEL, Staff / San Antonio Express-Newsimg_1936

Being born and raised in San Antonio, I have a deep respect and appreciation for my city. When Fiesta comes around each year, I am again reminded of the history and culture of this beautiful city. N.I.O.S.A which stands for Night In Old San Antonio is where the party is at. Every year Sarah’s Dad, my uncle, volunteers and usually always asks for help. He works at the “Ranch Steak” tent. Ranch Steaks are a thin slice of chuck on a tortilla. Can’t get much simpler than that!

If a Ranch Steak doesn’t peak your interest, you could also try the infamous Chicken on a stick, or Steer on a stick, Elote (corn on the cob), or anything fried you can think of. Being a volunteer, you get all the sweet perks. Early entry, private bathrooms, air conditioned lobby, and free food. Whenever I had the chance to help out with my cousins, we would always be the ones taking tickets and banging the cow bell saying “RANCH STEAKS! GET YOUR RANCH STEAKS!” Then when 10pm came around (closing time) all the hungry drunks rush to your booth to get their greasy fill. Things can get a little crazy but overall, it’s a grand time.

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The whole month of April has Fiesta-related events going on, but the main events are from April 20th – April 30th. If you plan on making a trip, I would suggest coming for N.I.O.S.A., you will experience everything “Fiesta” in a span of 4-5 hours from good food, drinks, music, and partying. If you plan on bringing kids, I would recommend the Fiesta Carnival or one of the many parades. All information about the events and details can be found here.
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If you’re ever planning to visit San Antonio, come in mid-April and party like a local!

xoxo,
Christina