Friday, May 31, 2013

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

I was super excited to be back in San Francisco after my first visit last year. After checking into our hostel near Union Square, we took a bus to the eclectic Haight-Ashbury district for the afternoon. Haight Street has a very boho/hippy vibe to it (we may have been high from secondary marijuana inhalation by the time we left) but there are a lot of cute boutique and vintage shops and the suburban streets nearby are lined with gorgeous Victorian style houses.

That night it was pretty chilly (in fact it was chilly the whole time we were there) so we decided to stay in and order some food to be delivered. My brother found a Chicago style pizza joint online (we just couldn't wait until we actually got to Chicago) that also had some vegan options. By the time the pizza arrived it was about 10pm and boy were we in for a treat. We definitely over-ordered as the deep dish pizzas were absolutely massive and we ended up sharing the left-overs with other hostel guests. Eating that pizza was an experience I doubt any of us will forget. Thick pastry followed by a layer of toppings and cheese and the most generous amount of sauce (on top) I've ever seen. Shortly after we all collapsed into a food coma and slept soundly while dreaming about the experience we had just had. More deep dish pizza stories to come when I actually get to the Chicago part.
The next morning, while nursing our pizza hangovers, we headed to the Mission District, a neighbourhood originally inhabited by native American Indians and then later a large Spanish population. There is definitely a strong Spanish and Mexican influence today with multiple Tacquerias to choose from, alongside other cute stores selling books, retro furniture and gifts and some trendy bars. Next time I'd love to visit on a weekend evening.

Ben had done a bit of research on where to get the best Mexican while we were in the neighbourhood and he stumbled upon Tacqueria La Cumbre which was featured on the show Man vs Food. I believe Adam Richman tackled a 1kg burrito or something equally horrendous (and by that I mean delicious). I was pretty stoked with my choice which was a falafel burrito. Two amazing things rolled (literally) into one! After lunch and browsing the shops for a few hours we made a quick pitstop at Mission Delores Park to soak up some sun and rest our feet. The park is on a hill that overlooks the city and is a great spot for a bit of people watching.
That evening we rugged up and made our way to Fisherman's Wharf to catch the ferry to Alcatraz Island. I did the day-time tour on my last visit but was pretty excited to see it all at night. The night-time tour also includes some extras such as access to the old hospital (spooky) and a few different talks to choose from. It was a freezing windy night on the island and with less people around it was definitely a bit scary at times. We joined a talk on the one and only successful escape from Alcatraz which was really interesting. I always wonder what happened to those inmates as they were never found! 
The next day we took a tram back down to the water and made a quick stop at the Ferry Building for lunch. The Ferry Building contains a heap of market stores selling artisan foods and a couple of cafes. We found our favourite coffee in America, Blue Bottle Coffee, which was a welcome surprise. We later discovered them in NYC too. We then picked up our transportation for the day - bikes - and tackled the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a very windy day and quite a challenge - especially those hills. This was one of my favourite things I did last time and it was just as fun second time around, even if at times I just wanted to get off my bike and sit on the ground out of sheer exhaustion. The only disappointment was the fog but by the time we got to the other side it had cleared.

Upon reaching the beautiful village of Sausilito on the other side of the bridge we were quite ravished and found a burger joint where I had one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. By this stage it was nice and sunny and we spent an hour or two laying in a park by the water while we waited for the ferry back to San Francisco.
We spent our final day in San Fran checking out some of the shops along Market Street, visiting a Ghiradelli cafe and taking another walk along the water and past AT&T Park where a baseball game was in full swing. This got Benny pretty excited to see the Yankees in NYC!

San Fran, you are wonderful (and I don't even mind your hills and cold weather that much)! Next - NYC :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

City of Angels

The first stop on our American adventure was that funny old place from the movies we know as Los Angeles. We spent three nights there, basing ourselves at the colourful Venice Beach. We arrived early on a Sunday and spent a gruelling few hours waiting for our hotel room to be available. Five very grumpy, very tired young adults took themselves for a walk down to the beach to kill some time. Being so early, the place was a ghost town (apart from a large homeless community) and at that stage all we really wanted was a bed and a shower. We decided the hotel courtyard was a more appropriate place to be a zombie at that point in time. Lucky it was a cute courtyard. We stayed at The Inn at Venice Beach and I would definitely recommend it.
We finally checked in and showered and before long all three of our male companions were asleep (it was about 2pm). My sister and I decided to man up and take ourselves for a walk and I'm so glad we did! We walked down to Abbott Kinney Boulevard which is a trendy street lined with boutique shops and cafes. After exiting one shop we saw someone we recognised. We looked at the woman, then at each other, then at the woman again. It was Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood etc). Very exciting! We had a nice stroll and a good proper coffee from Intellegentsia (go there if you're ever in the area and in need of proper coffee!). We also visited the nearby Venice Canals (below). The day we arrived was Cinco de Mayo and we happened to be staying next to a mexican restaurant/bar. They had a huuuge party with loud music all day and night. Unfortunately we were too tired to join in the festivities; in fact we slept soundly despite the live music blaring until late. I kinda wish we had have joined in, but 14 hour flights do funny things to you.
The next day we hired a car and I was tasked with the job of chief driver as I was the only one who had driven in the US before. Driving in LA is at a whole new level of crazy! As an Aussie you have to concentrate extra hard on driving on the right (or wrong) side while also tackling the seven lane freeways and insane amounts of traffic. It's surprisingly fun. We drove to Beverley Hills and did a bit of shopping before heading up the Hollywood Hills to see the sign. Back down we went and had a bit of a wander through the Walk of Fame and then back closer to 'home' to Santa Monica Beach and dinner at Venice.
My siblings and I spent our last day in LA at Disneyland! None of us had been before so we were pretty excited. In hindsight I would have gone to California Adventure World instead (more rides) but it was still a lot of fun. We went on a few rides, including the teacups (picture of my sister and I above) and stayed to watch the parade at the end of the day which was super cool and a fun way to end our short trip to LA.

To be honest I'm not sure if I would plan another visit to Los Angeles, unless it was a short stop over. This was my second visit and I feel like I've pretty much seen all there is now. It's definitely worth a visit though and you can't help but feel that Hollywood excitement, turning every corner and wondering if you've just seen a movie star. Lucky for me I did :) Next stop - San Francisco!

Photos taken on both my iphone and camera and a few stolen from my dear brother.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I'm Baaack

Howdy friends! I'm back from my three week adventure around America. In fact we landed early this morning so I'm currently at home on the couch in a bit of a fog trying to keep myself awake until it's deemed somewhat acceptable to go to bed. 

I had such a fun trip! It's hard to believe we did so much in such a short space of time. It felt like we were there for much longer than three weeks. Not complaining about that! Traveling with Ben and my siblings (sister's boyfriend Al also counts as a sibling) was the best. Love those people to bits.

I'll be sharing photos and stories from each place we visited in the coming week or so, but I just wanted  to pop in and say g'day. Unfortunately I'm going straight back to work tomorrow which is a bit of a bummer. Excited to see the girls at work, though! All the emails waiting for me? Not so much.

Hope everyone has been swell. xoxo

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guest Post | Fruit & Nut Quinoa Salad

Today I have a guest post from fellow vegetarian and all round lovely lady, Liz from I Spy Plum Pie. Liz is a Melbourne based blogger who writes about all things ethical and sustainable. She always has lots of delicious vegetarian recipes to share so I asked her to do a guest post for me.
I never used to use nuts in my cooking very often – I just wasn’t a huge fan and so avoided them unless they were an integral part of something I was making. Now, I throw nuts in pretty anything I can, and it is rare for me to make a salad that doesn’t involve at least one type of nut, I just love the crunch factor. Just don’t try and make me eat peanut butter, it’s not happening.

When Hannah asked if I’d like to share a recipe with her readers I decided to make the nuttiest, fruitiest quinoa salad I could come up with – so here’s the recipe!

Ingredients List:

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup pistachios 
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
large handful basil leaves
large handful mint leaves
feta cheese
juice of half a lemon
2 tbs olive oil


1. Rinse quinoa then cook as per packet directions
2. Roughly cut all the nuts
3. Dry roast the nuts until fragrant, then leave to cool
4. Chop the apricot into small pieces
5. Roughly chop the mint and tear the basil leaves
6. Once quinoa is cooked, leave to cool slightly
7. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil in a jar with salt and pepper
8. Mix the fruit and nuts through the quinoa, followed by the herbs, feta and then drizzle through the lemon juice
9. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Guest Post | Two DIY Projects by Bec of My Bloggable Day

Hello readers! Han is currently somewhere fabulous in the States and in her absence she has left me the keys to her blog. So naturally I'm going to rifle through the bathroom cabinets, eat all the good food and leave the ice trays empty. 

Let me introduce myself, I'm Bec from My Bloggable Day. I live in WA and work in media. Hannah and I first bonded over the interwebs through our mutual love for NYC. We have since bonded over other things and have plans to start an internet book club! (watch this space)

I thought I would leave you with some of my favourite DIY projects from recent times, let me know what you think! 

1. DIY Neon Rope Belt
This is the easiest DIY ever. All you need is rope (about double the length of your waist), a carabiner and a hot glue gun (all of which I got from Bunnings Warehouse).

1. First loop the middle of the rope around one end of the carabiner, leaving the ends free.
2. Then form the same loop with the loose ends, leaving enough rope to glue the ends together.
3. Glue the ends together. I also added a knot because the belt was a tiny bit long.

Voila! You’re done. Perfect for a spontaneous spot of rock climbing as well.

2. DIY Silver Rope and Coupling Necklace
The hardware store is a treasure trove for DIY jewellery. Just head to the plumbing section and you will find copper bits in all shapes and sizes. 

For this necklace I used:
  • Silver/Blue curtain cord (just over 1 metre) from a craft store
  • Copper Capillary Couplings (straight 15mm) from Bunnings Warehouse
  • Masking tape & a hot glue gun, also from Bunnings

A super cheap and easy DIY!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recipe | Breakfast Burritos

Mexican food and breakfast are two of my favourite things, so if I'm given the chance to combine them I'm definitely gonna go for it. I made these breakfasts burritos two weekends in a row in an attempt to use up some of the fresh food in the fridge before we went away. You can basically use any veggies you like but here's how I did it. (Makes two burritos).

1 onion
2 tomatoes
Handful of mushrooms
2 tbs red capsicum
4 eggs
2 small red chillis diced (I used jalapenos the first time and I think I prefer those)
Sprinkling of onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and paprika (I used taco seasoning the first time which was awesome)
Olive oil
Handful of grated cheese
Baby spinach leaves
Tortilla wraps
Sour cream and avocado to serve
1. Dice all your vegetables.
2. Fry together in olive oil until soft.
3. Sprinkle on the seasonings and mix through.
4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl until combined.
5. Pour the eggs into the fry pan with the vegetables and scramble it all together until cooked. It doesn't look too pretty but trust me, it tastes great.
6. Serve on tortilla wraps with sour cream, mashed avocado and spinach leaves. Top with cheese!
A very easy and tasty weekend breakfast (or any day, really)!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Essential Carry On

Is there a name for someone who's always ridiculously organised? Because that's me. It's Saturday afternoon and we leave tomorrow morning. I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs because my bags are all packed and I have nothing to do. I'm also waiting for my brother, sister and sister's boyfriend to arrive on the train so that we can all head off for our flight in the morning. Feeling a little impatient!

This is the first time I've taken a backpack on an overseas trip. I used to think they were kinda dorky, but I guess I just hadn't found one I liked. Now I realise how fickle I was being because this Herschel bag has been my best investment in a long time. No more sore shoulders from carrying super heavy hand bags and it also fits SO much stuff.

Here are a few things I'll be taking on the plane tomorrow. What's funny is that I have this huge backpack full of stuff and Ben doesn't even have a carry on. He says all he needs is his wallet, phone and headphones so that's all he's taking (I'm the official passport minder). Meanwhile, here I am with a bathroom cabinet full of drugs (panadol, melatonin, hay-fever and de-gas tablets - hey, flights make me bloat! TMI?), snacks for the airport and a whole packet of ear plugs to name just a few items. I'll also have my camera and extra lens, face wipes and a pair of comfy socks!

Can't wait to finally get on the plane and settle in with my book and a few movies I've been wanting to see for a while (I've already sussed them out - see, too organised). Have a great weekend xo

Friday, May 3, 2013

Big and Little

Woah momma it's been a big one! Wasn't quite sure how I was gonna get through this week, my last week at work before holidays, but somehow I made it in one piece.

Here's a summary:
  • Another farewell for a dear work colleague. Complete with cupcakes and lots of hugs.
  • A full day strategic planning day for work, held in the city. I gave a presentation to my team and was very nervous about it before hand but managed to do a good job! Glad that's over.
  • We had a really nice team lunch at Cook and Archies in Surry Hills (my haloumi salad above was ah-mazing).
  • I dropped my all time favourite mug (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and it smashed into pieces. So sad! Going to have to hunt for a new favourite in America.
  • A visit to the pet store where I fell in love with some Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies. My childhood pup Nellie (of my blog name fame) was a Cavalier. Ben pretty much had to drag me from the store so I would stop talking to the puppies through the glass.
  • Made homemade pizzas three times - so good! Much healthier than takeaway too. In fact I have one in the oven right now!
  • Looong days at work and restless nights.
  • Packing!
  • Cold weather arrived in Sydney.
We head off on Sunday and I'll have a couple of guest posts scheduled from some blogging friends while I'm gone. I was hoping to schedule a lot more but just haven't had time! Will try and prepare one or two tomorrow but in the meantime you can follow me on Instragram where I'm bound to be updating regularly! Hope you had a marvellous week. x