McArthur-Burney Falls State Park: California’s Very Own “Niagara Falls”!


When I returned home from my Chico trip, I could not stop talking about our road trip to Burney, California. Burney is a humble, small town (under 5,000 people) that has easily one of the best kept travel secrets around: Burney is home to The  Burney Falls. At 129-feet, Burney Falls is not the highest or largest waterfall in the state, but, could still be dubbed  the “Niagara Falls” of California and is one of the most beautiful state parks I have been to. (Granted, I have not been to Niagara Falls, but, still–). To think, I had never heard of Burney Falls until my BFF, Ariel, asked if I would be down for a road trip while I visited as she had never been.

From Chico, we were looking at a good 3 hour trek to Burney, and we discovered the ultimate pit stop: An hour of jumping and being as silly as we could possibly be at Rare Air Trampoline Park in Redding. Little did I know just how much I needed this in my life. I let loose and enjoyed every moment (in between water breaks). Who knew what a workout jumping is?!

Then, onward we went to at last find our falls. When we arrived, we got a bit turned around as to which road to use, and ended up parking right off a trail on the opposite side of the main entrance. It takes a bit longer to get to the destination, but very well worth it. Check out our view as we walked up to the park, and the quotable benches…..


The weather was nearly 100 degrees or more in Shasta County. Yet, after we walked down to the falls? I was wishing I had a jacket. The air was crisp, cool. The scene as I made my way down the small hike? It was so serene, not even my pictures could truly capture it…..

Funny story, I got very lost from my friends after a “quick” bathroom run! Word to the wise: Stay together if you go to Burney Falls as their “Restroom” signs are deceiving and I actually RAN down the trail looking for everyone. But, these waterfalls still managed to stop me in my tracks….

It literally took my breath away. I truly had not known what to expect, and was hoping there would actually be some water, and that it would not be a deserted area. It was filled with fellow tourists and families enjoying the sights. I admit, once we all found one another and went back down, I didn’t want to leave….

The park has 910 acres of forest and five miles of streamside and lake shoreline, including a portion of Lake Britton. They offer cabins and camping (And, of course–a gift shop!). Cool fact: Burney is apart of the infamous Pacific Crest Trail that Author, Cheryl Strayed, hiked across in her 20’s, and was turned into a recent Oscar nominated film with Reese Witherspoon .

I am so thankful for Ariel for wanting to take a road trip with me, her fiance and nephew out to this spectacular state park. I already cannot wait to return and I hope if you were unfamiliar with Burney, that I have now put it on your radar as it is a MUST SEE for all. Especially, though–California natives! Get more info HERE.

Fun Memories Made with the Fujifilm Instax 70 Camera!




Something that can easily give my age range away is if I mention the good ol’ days growing up with a POLOROID camera. Polaroid’s were so cool growing up;  take a picture and get it instantly! Who would have ever tought technology could be so good? 😉
Well, fast forward to the millennium, my friends, and we all can easily have an instant photograph thanks to our phone.

But, ah…those early years of mine…..

Baby Mary!

Baby Mary!

If you’re like me and love to actually get a hard copy of your selfie the moment after taking it, you’re in luck. Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 70 camera gives you the best of both worlds. With this camera, you get the posh retro  look of a vintage camera, complete with that instant copy to put on your fridge or stash in your wallet. Added bonus? Theres an adorable mirror on the front to give it that flawless selfie assistance.

I was thrilled to get my own Instax thanks to Fuji when I attended the Mother’s Day movie screening. It could not have been more perfect timing as we were soon off to Vegas, and I got to test it out on our road trip….


And, once we were home. Hammy and Nova needed in on the fun, right?



This is such a fabulous camera for both millennials who might recall Polaroids, and for the younger crowd who just want a fun, instant photo. Just like Polaroids, you can write on the bottom of your picture, too!

Loading the camera with film, I was disappointed that there was a foul up with my camera and we lost 2 photos. They would have been cute group shots with the pups, but, instead…


Luckily, we only lost 2 out of our roll of film for 30 snap shots. Except for that frustration, I have been having a blast with my Instax. This is a great gift for the photographer lover in your life, or just that someone who loves a good old-fashioned kind of camera. They’re super cute to keep on display in between takes. Very fashionable!

Learn more about Instax and ALL of the Fujifilm cameras by checking out my affiliate link below. Did you know they’ve even got a Super 8 camera?! xo

(*Disclosure: I received a Fujifilm Instax Camera 70 for review purposes. All opinions are my own.)

My Year in Pictures!

Goodbye 2015, helloooo 2016! 2015 was an incredible year for me, both personally & professionally, especially here on Along Comes Mary. While I have a goals post, as well as my Word of the Year post coming shortly, how about a glimpse at my year in pictures? Enjoy! xo


A beautiful trip to California’s capital, Sacramento.

The Amber House B&B. Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

One of my favorite places to stay is now in Sacramento, The Amber house Bed & Breakfast. So cozy & peaceful.



Stay right on site at an exquisite vineyard at Wine and Roses in Lodi (next door to Sacramento).




Such an honor to see & meet Academy Award winning costume designer, Colleen Atwood, at The Vanity Fair Social Club’s Oscar party!

TravThe LA Travel & Adventure Show was an amazing weekend for me, as I got to hear from amazing women I consider role models like Pauline Frommer (above) & Samantha Brown (below) talk travel, must see places & the importance of the “Summer Family Road Trip.”






One word: NOVA! This amazing little lady found her way to me on a very low day (I had decided I needed to quit my full-time job, due to their budget & my un-happiness). Nova has been a handful, but we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂



Greek Theatre Soundcheck. (From Damien Rice's Instagram.)

Greek Theatre Soundcheck. (From Damien Rice’s Instagram.)

MUSIC filled my days quite a bit in April, as I attended the opening show at The Greek Theatre with Damien Rice, & was thrilled to be at The Pasadena playhouse as they pulled out ALL their stops with their 2nd annual One Starry Night gala; Petula Clark performed & it took me back to loving “Downtown” as a kid.



I got to interview George Clooney! Sort of. I attended my first Disney Films press junket as I went on assignment for Horsing Around in LA to write about Tomorrowland. Best part? The above selfie with Brad Bird; I had yet to be introduced to the ground breaking animated flick that is The Iron Giant, which he directed, & after recently watching it with Mike, I am still in awe & hooked.




Nothing beats a Summer getaway, so I kicked off my series of Weekend Getaway posts that gave you a chance to look into such great California towns like Solvang & Carmel. The series was a success & I plan to bring it back in 2016!


Claremont, California

Guitars at The Folk Music Center

Guitars at The Folk Music Center



I got to do my own getaway as I headed off to Claremont, California, with fellow IFWTWA (International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association) members. I am still recovering from the generosity of the city & all the amazing restaurants I got to experience!



Johnny Knoxville released an amazing documentary about his idol, Evel Kineval, & I had the pleasure of interviewing him. Such a great guy, you would not associate him as being a “Jack Ass”!


Oh, my friends–then, THIS happened. After trying for many years, I was granted media credentials to cover the very well-loved & prestigious LA Food & Wine Festival. It was all I hoped it would be….wine, food, lots more wine, more food….


Saturday night, The Roots headlined the event & they were fabulous.

The Roots

The Roots


Final outcome: cute new picture, maybe?

Final outcome: cute new picture, maybe?

While attending The Entertainment New Media Convention  (#ENMNCon15), I came close to zip lining….harness & all 😉

Another reason to check out Del Rio? The photo opps!

Del Rio Winery in Gold Hill, Southern Oregon

Del Rio Wine


I then headed up to Rogue Valley, Oregon, once again with IFWTWA to check out Medford, Jacksonville & more gorgeous, tranquil destinations as we were treated to wine, chocolates, dinners & learning so much about the history of these towns. Jacksonville Cemetery, Dancin Winery & The Butte Creek Flour Mill were my highlights.


Gotta say, October was pretty bad ass (pardon my French). Just like seeing Cher in 2014, I at last saw another one named pop star idol of mine: Madonna. We were treated to her first performance of Like A Prayer in nearly 5 years, & the entire show in general was easily one of the best I have ever seen. I would see Madonna again in a heartbeat……

Even though, yes, our seats brought nose bleed to a new level….& they were $100 each. Worth it!


Coming next month on the blog? My tips on how to get on The Price is Right….I may or may not have experience, & on my birthday, no less 😉





This selfie truly sums up my year. Heres Mike & myself at our dear friends wedding. There was so much love & fun in that room. This is a true moment of BLISS.

Which bring me to……



Photo: Marc Chalfin.

An ‘ordinary’ day at The Getty, where Mike & I first held hands (almost) & made our relationship official 2 years ago, turned into Michael proposing, & me becoming a Bride-to-be! (You might see some wedding planning posts in the new year, just sayin’).


Photo: Marc Chalfin



I know. I didn’t think this would be my December picture, either. BUT, guys? Star Wars: The Force Awakens is truly, really, out of this world good. I think George Lucas selling his ‘kids’ as he affectionately calls his movies, is one of the best moves he could have made. Yes, Disney is taking over the world, but, man, they know how to do it right. I am still working on a post to share more about how awesome this film was. I am a fan! xo

Weekend Getaway: San Luis Obispo. #TravelTuesday



San Luis Obispo, or SLO as its known to the locals, is a great gem off Highway 101 as you’re heading north to San Francisco (Or, down to LA). Minutes from Pismo Beach, you’ll find yourself nestled among lush mountains & landscapes filled with mountains, wine country & adorable local shops along their main drags like Marsh & Higuera Street. You will have so much available at your finger tips in this city. Read on then begin planning your weekend getaway to San Luis Obispo, California!


Settle in to Apple Farm, one of SLO’s most beloved 4 star hotels. Cookies upon arrival, wine receptions & beds that will have you wishing it could stowaway home with you, Apple Farm is truly one of my most favorite hotels I have stayed at.

Bubblegum Alley.


Visit The Cal-Poly University campus, a renowned institute responsible for some of the best Engineers in the country, or take a gorgeous hike & check out a waterfall on Reservoir Canyon Trail. Nature walks give you an appetite? Cruise on down to Higuera Street & get a delicious pizza at Woodstock Pizza (gluten-free options!) or explore one of the many countless other eateries to be dined at.
Shopping is abundance, too. From name brand shops like Sephora & Ross, to mom & pop shops that have been there forever, there is something for everyone to find in SLO.

Want to see a wall of bubblegum, & maybe even leave your mark? they’ve got you covered with that, too! Bubblegum Alley is…famous? Infamous?? You decide.

Don’t miss the lovely California Mission & their gardens. Ran on donations, make sure to thank them for your visit!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach


Besides Woodstock Pizza, another great local spot is The Splash Cafe. With their famous original location down the highway in Pismo Beach, they finally opened up shop a few years back in SLO & the beach bums couldn’t be more pleased. Still capturing the beachy atmosphere, they’re serving up all your faves like tacos & burgers & that famous clam chowder.

Want something a bit more formal? Guess what, Apple Farm has you covered. From breakfast to dinners, their restaurant, just like the hotel, won’t disappoint. Casual wear is cool, too.

Get more information on San Luis Obsipo & its surrounding areaas by visiting

Happy Travels! xo

Weekend Getaway: San Diego

Happy Summer! In this mini series of posts, I thought it would be fun to tell you about some California destinations that are especially perfect for those like myself who reside in Los Angeles. Kicking this series off will be at the border of our golden state: San Diego! San Diego is such a diverse, eclectic city loaded with much to do & home to one of the greatest weeks ever (Hello, Comic Con!). San Diego is also where some awesome people reside, like my friend, Lauren 🙂 Read on to discover some of my personal faves to check out in this city.

Step back in time to the old wild, wild west & bunk up at The Cosmopolitan Hotel, located in Old Town San Diego. You will literally feel like you’ve been transformed back to the 1800’s. One of California’s oldest hotels, there is a delicious restaurant & continental breakfast that’s also in store for you at The Cosmopolitan. Park your car once & you’ve got enough to keep you entertained walking the old Mexican heritage streets of this historic landmark.


Photo: Michael Farah



Japanese Friendship Gardens, Balboa Park.

Japanese Friendship Gardens, Balboa Park.

Or, need somewhere a bit more modern, maybe kid-friendly? While Legoland California is a great resort for young children, young & old alike will love a stay at their new hotel. “Everything is awesome” as you enter The Legoland Hotel, located 30 minutes out of San Diego in Carlsbad. Between a restaurant, cafe, bar, pool & life-size Lego rooms, I would gladly stay here just with my boyfriend.

Believe it or not, my best meals in & around San Diego have been that of Asian cuisine. In beautiful Oceanside, I absolutely love The Wok Inn (511 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92054, 760-754-2167); a small ‘hole in the wall’ style diner, The Wok Inn is family owned & operated & I love to stop in for a bottle of sake & their Buddha’s Feast.
Another local favorite is The Orient Thai Cafe, when Mike & I met Lauren here awhile back, it was amusing as he questioned if it would be any good for carnivores as he was against  2 vegetarians. The verdict for us all? Its amazing. Great service, food & ambience.

You also will have countless restaurants, both chain & locally owned, in The Gas Lamp District. Theres bars, clubs, stores & more all at your fingertips. Perfect for some night life.

Argh Matey! Legoland, California.

Argh Matey! Legoland, California.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park


Balboa Park is where it’s at. Its larger than New York’s Central Park & is home to The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, The Japanese Friendship Garden, The Natural History Museum (Make sure to check out their current Dr. Seuss exhibit!) & The San Diego Museum of Art. You could even simply walk around this park & be entertained. I also adore The Globe Theatre, one of the gorgeous buildings highlighting the town’s rich architecture.

The Coronado Hotel is a great must-see for tourists & film buffs alike. Probably most famous for the filming location of Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like it Hot, this would be a wonderful place to get some pictures of your trip or simply hone your photography skills as the views are breathtaking. If you think you hear something, yet no one is around, don’t fret, as that is just their resident ghost, Kate! 😉

Want to catch a concert while over looking the marina? Look no further than Humphrey’s by the Bay, located in Shelter Island. All Summer long, Humphreys not only rents rooms, they also host top name performers like Lyle Lovett & The B-52’s.

Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado

This is only a small beginning of what San Diego County has to offer. What did I miss that you love? xo



Hammy Turns 2!

So, today marks 2 years since I met one of my greatest companions ever. He’s been my cuddler, a terror, a loud brat, a baby with big eyes when he doesn’t feel well, my over sized stuffed animal, my buddy when I felt like poo, my face cleaner if I cry, my protector (cuz, you never know when the UPS guy might be a murderer), my main man, my love.

Happy Birthday, Sir Hammond Brody Lansing….aka: HAMMY! I love my dog so much & am so happy that everyone else I love does, too. I cannot imagine the past 2 years without him, & now, we have your crazy little sister, Nova, to watch grow too.



xoxo from your family!

Downtown LA Walking Tours!

Remember when I visited The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles? Walking a few blocks to get there, I was taken a back at how gorgeous & historic it felt to walk along those streets. I easily could have been in a well-loved city like Manhattan, I think sometimes people forget how much awesome history Los Angeles has to offer. Why pay big bucks for the theme parks & pricey attractions, when you can learn so much just walking through the neighborhoods?

Well, that’s what Downtown LA Walking Tours is all about. Downtown LA Walking Tours started in 2009 as a Sunday only service, which grew to weekends in 2014 and starting in 2015 is providing three daily guided tours of Downtown Los Angeles! Each two-hour tour tells a unique and passionate story about the history and culture of Los Angeles:

Explore, Visit, Tour, Experience the architecture, absorb the history, see the monuments and learn about the growth of Downtown Los Angeles through any of the following tours offered:

11:00 am – L.A.’s Beginnings – Witness the transformation of Los Angeles from a pueblo into a world-class City while learning how the neighborhood is continuing to grow into a cultural icon.

1:30 pm – Old & New Downtown L.A. – Experience the history of Los Angeles from its mirrored development in the early 20th Century to its eventual growth of unique landmarks.

4:00 pm – Downtown Architecture Tour – Stroll through the Financial District and Historic Core and watch the City’s commercial heartbeat and learn the details of the architectural wonders of the early and late 20th century.


Downtown LA Walking Tours also offers customized private tours for parties, groups or corporate events. Contact them and they will gladly work together to figure out the right itinerary for your special party and provide a great personalized tour experience. How perfect would that be for a school, field trip, or say, if you have a lot of family in town for a reunion or wedding? Show ’em how great LA is! 😉

Founded in 2009 by Neel Sodha. Neel previously volunteered at L.A. Union Station and realized locals and tourists alike were interested in exploring cultural monuments and learning the history of Downtown Los Angeles. The Company was formed in 2009 to fulfill the interest of those who wanted to learn more about Downtown Los Angeles. Neel has a strong passion for the Downtown community, attends local civic events, walks the streets each day and is constantly educating himself on the ever-changing neighborhood. Neel wants to teach his tour groups the history, witness the present changes and prepare themselves for the exciting future ahead. Tours are tailored for both tourists enjoying a few days in the City and for the local who has lived twenty plus years in Los Angeles. Each guest comes away learning something fascinating of the City of Angels!

And, psst-keep a watch on my Twitter for further promos & deals to come for Downtown A Walking Tours, courtesy of USFamilyGuide! 😉 xo

(*Disclosure: I am working with USFamilyGuide on behalf of these features. I’m looking forward to my walking tour & reporting back to you!)

Star Wars Celebration 2015!

I have long-awaited attending a “Con”: Comic Con, Wonder Con…translation, A NERDS galore weekend of awesome-ness filled with costumes, dudes proudly wearing a laynard decked out with pins & being able to eavesdrop in on conversation I may not fully grasp regarding the topic, but still appreciate. I love it when hundreds of thousands of people gather to celebrate their passion & geek out over collectibles, meet stars from movies & connect with new fans. Well, friends, I think I asked for it when I finally attended one of these conventions: I was invited to cover The Star Wars Celebration over the weekend in Anaheim & did I EVER get my fill of storm troopers, Jedis, Darth Vaders & Skywalkers.

Photo: Michael Farah

Photo: Michael Farah


The 4 day event, celebrated worldwide as fans not only gathered in Southern California but via live streams, hashtags & chat forums, kicked off with JJ Abrams discussing his newest venture as Director of The Force Awakens, the most anticipated film of the year coming this December & continued non-stop as more legendary characters & stars graced The Convention Center, like Princess Leia & Luke Skywalker themselves, Carrie Fisher & Mark Hammill were also in attendance, among dozens more.

Mike gave me crap about my hand on the beam!

Mike gave me crap about my hand on the beam!

The atmosphere throughout the city of Anaheim, was insane. Between the bad ass cosplay, clever tee shirts & just the vibes were through the roof to celebrate these iconic films. People live, eat, sleep Star Wars. I admit, I am a casual fan, so, I felt a bit out of my element & was careful to choose any questions wisely I might have had for my boyfriend….think of myself at a Tori Amos convention & someone asks why is she a Cornflake Girl! 😉 (FYI, she’s a Raisin Girl, NOT a woman bashing Cornflake Girl).


As tempting as it was to participate in the photo opps with Fisher & Hammill, at $100 a pop, we decided to pass & instead had a blast as we people watched & checked out a good portion of the expo. The highlight, for me, but especially Michael, was being one of the few people to check out a sneak peek of the equally anticipated video game coming from LucasFilms & Dice Game this November 17th, Battlefront.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Battlefront will take players to all the universes we love & dream of going to, as well as to some we only have heard referred to in the films. Seeing this special preview got me extremely excited about it, & the response from the audience was amazing! Creating the game at both Skywalker Ranch & in Stockholm, the Dolby surround sound alone is enough to easily make this one of the best sounding games to come out EVER & it doesn’t stop there, when fans order this game, they will also get a free bonus game that will take them to the new, mysterious surroundings we saw in the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens. This is all BEFORE the film even drops!

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

After attending Star Wars Celebration, its clear to see that this could be one of the best years ever to be a Star Wars fan, or better yet, become one. I am so excited for Fall & can assure you that with my boyfriend around, I will have follow ups for you on Battlefront  & The Force Awakens! xo

(*Disclosure: I was provided media credentials to attend this convention. All opinions are my own.)

Meet 2 Companies I Love: Homejoy & Sesame Gift Sets

One of my favorite things about blogging are the connections that happen in a blink of an eye, especially via Twitter. Last week, a company I was not yet acquainted with, Homejoy, said hey to me on my page & next thing I know, a friendship was born & a beautiful package compliments of Homejoy & sent from Sesame Gift Sets was sent my way. All the goodies inside were complete Mary-esque & they are wonderful.

I absolutely love Homejoy’s story, from their web-site:

“Founded by sister and brother Adora and Aaron Cheung in July 2012, Homejoy started because the duo was unable to find a convenient and affordable cleaning service for their own home. Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Homejoy has now grown to over 30 cities across the US and Canada. Whether you are a parent or a college student Homejoy is an easy solution to help out with your household chores.

If you need a cleaning once a year, once a month, or twice a week, Homejoy will fit to your schedule.”

Rise & Shine Gift Set.

Rise & Shine Gift Set.

Along with the cleaning services, they also are offering nearly everyone you often will need for your home; from plumbing to handymen, they offer them, too, which is such a great reference as we’ve already dealt with so many scenarios since getting our own home & have met a fair share of mediocre repair crews.

They’ve also introduced me to the beautiful fine gifts web-site, Sesame Gift Sets. “Rise and Shine set is filled with our favorite baubles and accessories for the home that make our mornings extra sunny”, Homejoy explains. The adorable tags attached to each trinket brought to mind Alice in Wonderland for me; “Scribble Me”, “Munch Me”, too fun.

I am loving that our bathroom is filled with the scents from a Citrus Verbena soap from ElizabethW, while Good News Company granola is delicious & makes me want to stay in our bathroom all day long!

I did as it said.

I did as it said.

In the office, though, you can now find me taking my blogging notes & thoughts down on a chic notepad by Rifle Paper Company while sipping chamomile tea courtesy of Zhi Tea. This box provides seriously everything you need to get your morning off to a glorious spot. Which couldn’t be better for someone like myself, who is not a morning person. At. All.

These 2 companies are obviously perfect for one another & in great harmony. While I will definitely report back when I take advantage of Homejoy’s services, I hope you will join me as well in trying out all Homejoy has to offer, & order your next gift set from Sesame, too! xo

(*Disclosure: I received a Sesame Gift Set compliments of Homejoy. No money compensation was provided & all opinions are my own.)

Feature Fridays

A #WordlessWednesday Evening!

I had so much fun last month when I got together with Amanda Price for an impromptu photo shoot! Amanda has been snapping pictures & developing her craft for over 5 years now, & these pictures make it clear to see that she takes beautiful, striking pieces. Which is your favorite?

Gorgeous Cali.

Cali looking gorgeous.





Beautiful Echo.

Beautiful Echo.


Yours truly...

Yours truly…




Thank you, Amanda, for helping  me get some new pictures! 😉 xo

7 Things to do in Pasadena….

Being a Pasadena native (I spent my first ten years in that glorious city), I admit, I may be a bit biased to the LA suburb & its surrounding areas, but, guys? There is just so much to see, do & enjoy in a relatively small area. Along with Pasadena, you have Sierra Madre, San Marino, Arcadia & Alhambra, not to mention Glendale & Los Feliz is within whistling distance. And The Autry Museum. The Los Angeles Zoo. And Dodger Stadium. It’s just a great area & I think you would have to be crazy if you don’t find something to love within these parts of Los Angeles. I had such a blast working on the Belmont Shore post, that I thought I would round-up some of my favorite must-see spots to hit in the Pasadena region. Enjoy! xo

Paseo Colorado Mall
What was once a mall in need of some TLC has since turned into the perfect outdoor shopping arena in Pasadena loaded with boutiques & eateries. While you have that great line up of shops & restaurants, you’re also right at the beginning of the awesome Colorado Blvd, aka-Old Town Pasadena, which is home to loads of shops & sights to see. In the summer, 2 must-see’s are Make Music Pasadena & their chalk art festival.

Vroman’s Bookstore
Vroman’s has held a special place in my heart since I was a little girl. My Grandmother spent many years working next door at J. Herbert Hall’s Jewelers (which, sadly, closed down in 1998) & would come home nearly every day from work with a book or trinket for me from this famed book shop. She got to see & meet many a celebrity on her lunch hour while they held a book signing, too! From their web-site:

“Vroman’s Bookstore holds an important place in Southern California’s history. For many years, Vroman’s was the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi, and it continues to be the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California. In 2009, Vroman’s bought another beloved independent bookstore, Book Soup in West Hollywood, after its owner died and the store was in danger of closing.  

Vroman’s is also famous for its world-class author signings and events. The store hosts over 400 free community events a year including children’s storytimes, trivia nights, craft classes, bake-offs, and special launch parties, and has hosted such authors as President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, Irving Stone, Upton Sinclair, Ray Bradbury, David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, Walter Mosely, Joan Didion, Barbara Walters, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”

12 Angry Men at Pasadena Playhouse.

12 Angry Men at Pasadena Playhouse.

Pasadena Playhouse
Another gem, just down the street from Vroman’s, The Pasadena Playhouse has been where I have seen some of my favorite performances in theatre. While they have had the honor to host such amazing, elaborate productions with Broadway stars such as Ben Vereen &  Wayne Brady, I love that the vibes at The Playhouse remain very ‘at-home’, & their talk-back evenings with the stars of their shows give the chance to see just how down to earth & fun their casts & creative teams are. They offer a much more intimate, personal connection than other large theatres in LA often can.

The Gamble House
Of Procter & Gamble fame, this home is able to present its visitors architecture as a fine art, & I got to visit for the first time awhile back & I was taken aback at both it s beauty & calm surroundings.

Kids Space Museum
I admit, I have not been here since I was a kid myself. But, being that its right by The Gamble House, it would be the perfect spot to go with your little ones following a visit to the Gamble Home. Let me know if you can still “host the evening news” as I recall doing there afew years back 😉

The Gamble House

The Gamble House

The LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Where can you walk & stroll around where both Tarzan’s Johnny Weissmuller & Katy Perry have also stood? The Arboretum in Arcadia, of course! 😉 While they’re able to give off the African illusion in the old Tarzan films & Katy learned to ROAR in the, er, jungle, that was really all directly across the street from The Santa Anita Race Tracks (another great spot to check out!). This is another center I grew up at as a child, & it’s a wonderful outdoor experience for the entire family…psst…you might just spot a peacock, too.

Only Place Cafe
Head on over to the adorable small town of Sierra Madre, & treat yourself to a delicious meal at Only Place. I still see the local mechanic in Sierra Madre, & always enjoy a late breakfast here while I wait for my car. Dog friendly & breakfast til 2p daily,  It’s also directly across the street from The Sierra Madre Playhouse 😉

Have you been to any of these sights? Where do you recommend? xo




A Stay at Wine & Roses in Lodi.

I was extremely excited when I was approved for an overnight visit to Wine & Roses Spa Resort in Lodi, California. While I have heard of Lodi, I didn’t know what exactly to expect at a resort in the small farming & wine community, yet, they are known for wine….so, that must mean its great, right? Right!

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

As we drove into this spacious compound offering a hotel, restaurant, wine bar & full-service salon, I thought it was really cool that they also have a vineyard right there next to the resort. They waste no time at tempting you 😉 After an easy & fast check in, we headed to our room that was not only spacious, but boasting a fridge & mini-bar capable of having room service already there & ready for you with wines & snacks, as well as an extensive menu of goodies to order in. What I was most taken with was our patio; it was ample size with a table & chairs, overlooking the lovely gardens & event tent offered. It looked like an enchanted garden from our deck, which was perfect for chill-laxing after the ride down from Sacramento as well as for waking up with my morning coffee.




Speaking of coffee, I really enjoyed the small amenities they had in our room; organic, fair trade ground coffee, Numi Teas (How did they know Gunpowder Green Tea is my favorite?!) & in the bathroom, Aveda hair & bath products, which is what they proudly use in their salon as well. I will add, the water pressure in our shower was very hard, & anything we did in an attempt to change that, it stayed very hard, which did make it less comfortable to enjoy a nice, long shower (which is what I usually love after a great cup of coffee). The large bathroom, with plenty of counter room for us both to get ready for our drive home, was a plus, though.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

The entire grounds were gorgeous, & while Mike took a rest after check-in, I explored & the natural beauty that abounds this resort is well worth your stay. Theres a huge wine barrel, great for some silly photo-ops, small cottages with cages that looked like they are home to birds (maybe chickens?) & countless kinds of plants & flowers.


With an 11:30 check out time, we were hoping to cruise down to their Town House Restaurant for some breakfast, but, alas, they stop serving at 10:30 to prepare for lunch. While the menu looked delicious (Burgers, salads), we were hoping for a hearty eggs & potatoes kinda start to the day, so we passed but I would gladly return to try out all they have to offer.

With monthly cooking classes, & plenty of space to host an event, there’s so much to see & do within Wine & Roses of Lodi. Located at 2505 West Turner Road, check out their gorgeous web-site HERE to learn more! xo

(*Disclosure: I received an overnight stay at Wine & Roses for this feature. All opinions are my own.)