Out and About: Alyssa Explores Sequoia National Park

This year has been a weird one in terms of vacations — rather than one week in one particular place, Matt and I have ended up going on lots of mini trips this year. One of those mini trips was to celebrate Matt’s 30th birthday. His request was for trees – lots of ‘em. We ended up booking a cozy cabin on Air B n’ B and headed up north to Sequoia National Park, about 3.5 hours from where we live in Los Angeles. The first picture below is when you’re about an hour outside of Sequoia. The last hour of the drive is very curvy and into the woods.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.55.33 PM

Here’s the inside of our cabin. Note the VHS player, which enabled us to indulge in film classics like the Birdcage and Mrs. Doubtfire (We’re still missing you, Robin Williams.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.56.15 PM

We woke up the next morning after our arrival and headed to the Trail of 100 Giants. It was an easy three mile loop through a gorgeous… well, trail of giants. Giant trees, that is! The first picture shown below is of two trees, each over 240 feet long, that fell after a storm. Insanity!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.57.51 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.36.08 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.46.31 PM

After a few hours exploring the Trail of Giants, we headed off to Dome Rock, a secret little vista that overlooked all over the Sequoia Canyon, recommended to us by the park ranger. This place was incredibly stunning, and we showed up at just the right time, when a storm was rolling in and the clouds were dramatic and gray. The only slightly freaky thing about this place is there are no stairs, no guard rails (and a 5,000 foot drop, as warned by the ranger), and no civilization – so if you see a hungry bear or happen to take a tumble down the rock face, well, you’re on your own. Matt and I were the only people at this place, so when he was scurrying over rocks and up into trees I was lecturing him about how if he fell, we’d be up Shit Creek without a paddle (and without cell service!). We hung out for about 30 minutes and then had to hightail it down the mountain when hail starting hurling down on us.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.49.43 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.51.30 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.52.32 PM

How amazing is that view, right? There ended up being so many parts of Sequoia we didn’t even see, like the General Sherman Tree, but now I know for next time that we need much longer than two days. This part of California usually gets all the buzz for Yosemite, but now I know that if you stay just an hour or so south, you’re in for some incredible scenic viewpoints and a quieter, more mellow vibe; with no cell phone reception or wi-fi. (Sometimes that’s paradise, as long as you don’t fall off a mountain.)

Have you ever been to this part of California?

What’s up, Wednesday?

Hey guys! How is it Wednesday already? Time is just flying by over here lately. I had a really awesome busy weekend — saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on Friday night, saw my two wonderful friends get married on Saturday, and then went and saw New Order and La Roux on Sunday night. I also get to see Tori Amos next Wednesday! I used to be a band nerd, did you guys know that? I played the flute, and then eventually learned how to play the guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and dabbled in the french horn and cello. I really miss music in my life; I think I should get back into it — it was an awesome creative release!

We have a winner for the Sweet Leaf Cola Drops giveaway! Congratulations to Stephanie! If you didn’t win, don’t worry; we have a giveaway coming soon for some delicious Organic India stress relieving tea.

My California Avocado prizes arrived today! Once I have everything unpacked I’ll show you some photos and also share what I’m planning to purchase from Williams Sonoma. I’m so grateful to them and Fitbloggin for hosting the contest… it’s been such a bright spot this summer! Last week, my shipment of beautiful, ripe avocados arrived, and I’ve been eating a TON of avocado. Avocado caprese salad, avocado toast, guacamole, and my favorite — avocado egg sandwiches. Look at this beauty! (I know that to some people it may not look yummy, especially if you don’t like dippy eggs, but I think it’s darn good, so there.) I also made avocado fudgsicles with honey, coconut milk, vanilla, and avocado, and they’re SO good. I’ll share a picture next time I have my camera handy in the kitchen.

I’ve been feeling a little bit sluggish this week as my stomach has been acting up, so I haven’t been as active as I like, I’m hoping I start feeling better tomorrow so I can get back into my walk training schedule. This weekend I’ll be traveling up to Northern California and I’m hoping I might also be able to squeeze in a nice long walk while I’m up there. How are your weeks going so far?

Girls’ Weekend – Camping in Ojai and Santa Barbara Day Trip

Hi Everyone! I hope you had an awesome weekend and the first day of the work week is treating you ok. I had an amazing weekend, because it was my 2nd annual Grad School Girls Camping Trip! Remember last year we went to Big Bear? Well, this year, we headed up the coast to Ojai, a sleepy little town known for its citrus and hilly retreats. We camped at Wheeler Gorge, a beautiful campground with a chapparal type feeling, covered with big river rocks and low grassy scrub.

Here’s our campsite before we set up our tent.

Wheeler_gorge_CampgroundWe arrived at the camp site on Friday around 5 pm, so we had some work to do before we could settle down with some hard ciders and s’mores. With only minimal frustration (aka one hour of “wtf?!” type exclamations), we set up our tent and got the “mess hall” (aka the picnic table) all prepared. Once that was done, it was time to cook dinner, and I’m proud that I was the official “chef”, serving up very gourmet all-beef hot dogs. Don’t mind my stylish camping apparel.

Alyssa gets grillin'

Alyssa gets grillin’

After dinner it was time for S’MORES! I love me some marshmallows, in fact, they’re probably one of my favorite sweet things. I had previously seen Jumbo Marshmallows and was enamored by the size, so we had to get them. Unfortunately, I can say they’re almost too much for a s’more — and at a whopping 90 calories each, I’ll stick with the normal s’mores size. However, they were super yum despite their monstrous size.

Expert Marshmallow Roasters

Expert Marshmallow Roasters

See how huge they are?!?! Massive Mushmellows! After a couple drinks, we hit the hay… only to be awake all night thanks to our rude campsite neighbors, who decided playing their guitar loudly to crappy Bieber music was the best thing to do from midnight through 5 AM. I can definitely tell I’m getting older, because as a teenager, sleeping on the hard ground was never an issue. Now, I feel all creaky and like a 90-year-old as I lament the dirt beneath me instead of my posh pillowtop. The next day, we got up early and headed to the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you pay a visit to the town of Santa Barbara. It’s a gorgeous coastal town nestled up into beautiful mountains. The Santa Barbara mission is only $6 to get in and you can take a self guided tour through lush rose gardens, see the Friar’s old living quarters, read about the history of the people who lived (and died) there  in a beautiful cemetery, and check out the chapel.

Missiongirls

This mission is also the site of the famous I Madonnari Italian Street Painting festival, so you could see the remnants of highly detailed chalk paintings around the missions grounds. I also caught a glimpse of this Monarch butterfly in the gardens, isn’t he pretty?

monarch_butterfly_

One very important thing I realized about this weekend is how nice it is to be out and about and STAY HYDRATED! I took my hubby’s CamelBak and was able to suck down water anywhere we went. With long days in the hot sun, it felt really good to not feel parched and chapped.

Stayin' Hydrated!

Stayin’ Hydrated!

 

In terms of camping while on the Double Chin Diet, this weekend was way better than last year’s trip in that I really didn’t go overboard on anything. I ate until I was full, enjoyed s’mores, salt water taffy and pasta when we went out to dinner, but I ate without remorse and just tried to remember the trip wasn’t going to be “good or bad” based on the food I ate, but what memories I made. It’s nice to have a healthy attitude towards food!

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara Beach

 

We ended our trip with a beautiful evening at the beach. I basked in the sun and read magazines, and then later, we all walked down the Santa Barbara pier and had a sunset dinner at a seafood restaurant. This weekend made me so grateful for the amazing state I live in (Thanks for dragging us here 19 years ago, Dad!), my awesome friends, and also, the ability to disconnect for awhile. I had decided the day before I left that my phone would be OFF all weekend, and other than a quick phone call to the husband, I didn’t check Facebook, Twitter or instagram once. Especially because my career depends on constant connectivity and monitoring of social sites, brand pages, accounts, e-mails, etc, I wanted a break. As a freelancer, you’re essentially on call 24/7 — meaning if something breaks online, you’re the person to handle fixing it. It was really nice to enjoy the sights and sounds of Ojai without hearing the “ding ding” of an incoming text. It may sound scary, but if you’re going away for a quick weekend and can get away with being unplugged, do it! You just might find out how nice it actually is.

So that was my weekend, in a nutshell! What did you do this weekend????

 

 

 

Random Thursday Thoughts

Hi guys! Um – Tomorrow I’m going to THAILAND! I am so excited it’s not even funny. The past week has been a flurry of packing, cleaning, getting travel shots and little errands here and there. It will be so nice to just relax for two weeks with no thoughts of thesis or work or chores or any of that! That said, I have a line up of amazing guest bloggers for you guys, so please be sure to come back and keep reading the Double Chin Diary while I’m gone. Show them some comment love! I’ll also check in once or twice with some pictures!

So, after a 1 pound gain, my total for the goal of Thailand Twenty is that I lost a total of 10.6 pounds! I’m disappointed it’s not twenty, but realistically, 10 pounds is great! 10 pounds is a lot! I’m not going to “give up” on my trip, but ease up a little bit on what I’m eating – because everybody deserves a vacation. Plus, Matt and I have a lot of activity planned – like hiking ancient temples in Chiang Mai, snorkelling in the crystal waters of Krabi and strolling through the streets of Bangkok. I’ll actually probably be a lot more active on this trip than I am during my usual 8-5.

Here’s a couple random thoughts I had this week:

photo 2[1]I struggled this week with Holiday eating. When I saw this giant ice cream cone, I had to take a picture because I feel like this week I’ve been a bottomless pit. I saw this and the first thing I thought was “YES. ROCKY ROAD.” I used to be obsessed with icecream, but now I’ll buy a tub and it sits in our freezer for weeks until it’s so freezerburned I have to throw it out. But my sugar cravings this week were through the roof – probably from doing low-carb for a few weeks.

 

Rocking a doggy dalmation print.

Rocking a doggy dalmation print.

I feel like despite my struggles with my weight, I’ve gotten more bold about clothing choices thanks to people like The Curvy Fashionista. Remember a couple months ago I blogged about how I’d love to own this dalmation sweater? Well, I was at Old Navy with pal Sally and I thought, why the heck not?! Here I am rockin’ it, and feeling good. It’s funny that I felt “wild” in something as simple as a dalmation print sweater, but I felt confident in it and was proud I took a step out of my fashion comfort zone.A couple of years ago I would have never worn skinny jeans, calf boots OR a dalmation print sweater. So yes, woohoo for fashion risks!

 

Balance Ball Chair!

Balance Ball Chair!

Santa came early this year because of our trip, and look what Santa (Matt) brought me! Since I work from home I can be a little more unique with my workspace, and I was dying to try one of these balance balls. I feel like I have a weak core, and I know this chair will help make me strong like a tree trunk. Plus, who doesn’t want their very own bouncy ball?! When I get back I’ll give a full report on how my new bubble-butt chair is treating me.

 

Showing off my chike and purple manicure!

Showing off my chike and purple manicure!

And lastly… when I get back, I have a great giveaway coming up from Chike! I recently tried Chike’s chocolate meal replacement shake, and dang, this stuff was good. You know how most powdered drinks have that chalky kind of grainy thing going on? Not this one. I mixed it with some cold milk and it was almost like drinking a milk shake. Works for me! So stay tuned and at the new year we’ll have a great giveaway package from them!

Well guys – I’m out! Thanks so much for reading! It means a lot to me and April to know that we’re not alone on our journey and that you’re out there cheering us on. I hope you have an amazing holiday season!

xoxoxoxox

 

 

I can be a mean girl.

Greetings, friends! I can be a mean girl. Who, me? Yes, me! Read to find out why.

Y’all know I can be a little bit blunt. Sometimes, I lack a filter. It’s one of those traits of mine that’s either endearing or obnoxious, but as Lady Gaga says, I was born this way! Yesterday, my delightful friend Kelly came over for dinner. We were discussing Victoria’s Secret, and I complained that their bras don’t fit “fat-asses like me.”. “That is SO mean!”, she said. “What? That they don’t make my size?”, I asked, chewing my meatloaf nonchalantly. “No, that you would call yourself a fat ass! Even if you think it’s funny, how would you feel if I called you a fat ass?” I told her I’d kick her butt, and then I realized she’s right. It gave me some food for thought for a minute, until today when I blurted out that among the land of petite people (Asia), I would probably be a “large commodity”. My husband again pointed out that I was being mean to myself, and I thought, “Shucks! I AM being mean to myself.” Mean is not a trait I’d say I embody. I’m always the person who makes an effort to talk to the shy, to hold the door open, to compliment a new outfit. Sometimes I’m so nice it makes me angry with myself. But… Kelly pointed out that I’m a mean girl. To myself.

I am confident and pretty and usually feel attractive. So why am I calling myself mean names?

I usually consider myself extraordinarily positive with my self esteem. I know I’m attractive, beautiful even, and usually when I look in the mirror I feel good about myself – about my natural blonde curls, or my milky skin, or even the fine fringe of eyelashes that line my baby blues. Sadly, the negative thoughts I do have are always about my body. I’m always too big, or too fat, or thinking I’ll stand out because of my size. I’m a little bit early for New Year’s resolutions, but here’s one of the first for 2013 – Curb the negative self talk. It doesn’t help anybody and it certainly doesn’t make anyone laugh like I had hoped it would (ok, maybe my brother and sister laugh, but that’s only because we’ve made a national pastime about joking about our weight). Kelly and Matt are totally right – even if I make fun of myself in “humor”, somewhere, that message resonates with my brain and makes me feel even worse about it.

Rubens painted all of his ladies as full-figured and curvaceous. I was born in the wrong era!

So, the next time I complain about my rubenesque stature, I need to use words that are kinder. Not fat, not fat ass, not fatty, not huge, not gargantuan. More like, voluptuous, curvy, plus-sized, rubenesque, full-figured. Because even though my body may not fit into the ideal of what looks “pretty”, my body is pretty. I know this in my heart, and I need to make my thoughts match my mouth in the most positive way possible.

So let’s discuss – I’m sure I’m not the only female out there who has shamefully caught herself in negative self-talk. Do you ever find yourself dissing your body? Men, how about you?

My Fitness Evaluation

So remember how I blogged about my upcoming fitness evaluation? The few days before, I was legit nervous. Like, “ERMAHGERD I’M GONNA HAVE TO FACE THE FACT THAT I’M GROSSLY OUT OF SHAPE.”. Even though I already knew that, there was some sort of like… impact of being told it by a fitness professional. (I’m sure to some extent that will happen at Fitbloggin’ anyways,  but still – YAY! Only 2 more days!)

So, I was being my usual self, day dreaming about maybe I should re-schedule it, because you know, I was flying to San Francisco for work Monday morning, and I really had a lot to do over the weekend… or maybe I should wait a couple days so my bloating goes away… I’m the mayor of excuses village. But, every time I came up with one of these crazy excuses, I reminded myself that denial aint just a river in Egypt, and I needed to just face my fear and do it. So I was all set. I went to my Fitness Evaluation the next day. Right?

I saw Fiona Apple on Friday night (she was fantastic! I love her because she’s a total koo-koo-roo and did push ups against her piano randomly and sang like a female Tom Waits). I wasn’t feeling great, but I figured it was my allergies acting up. I got home, popped an allergy pill, and got into bed where I had the dizzy spins, kind of like that time in highschool I decided it would be a good idea to mix a cup of goldschlager with chocolate milk. (Good idea? Worst idea ever.) I fell asleep, woke up at 2:30 AM with the chills, ran to the bathroom – and my body purged every single little thing I had ingested in the last 24 hours.

I’m not going to get into details, but let’s just say it was NOT pretty, and I spent the remainder of the night sleeping next to an industrial sized bucket. The next day I woke up kind of shaky and run down, but thankfully, barf-free. I decided to reschedule my fitness evaluation. Don’t worry – I’m going to do it as soon as I get home from working on site this week and Baltimore. I just thought it was ironic that my brain was so intent on finding a way to put it off that I got food poisoning. HOWEVER, I’m not owning up to this one, because there’s no way in hell I’d pick food poisoning over a fitness evaluation. Body, you got pwned.

Have your best laid plans ever been foiled by the evil, evil food poisoning? What was the culprit? (I’m blaming a vanilla cupcake from Aroma Cafe. It was good but I could tell it wasn’t super fresh. Of course I ate it anyways. Sigh.)