Grand Rapids

This last weekend I traveled with a few of my friends and coworkers to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a design conference. We were all surprised and excited to find that downtown Grand Rapids is actually pretty cool. We stayed just a few feet away from the BOB, a historic building turned into a group of restaurants and bars. We also ate at Stella’s, a bar that features classic arcade games and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. And to top it all off, the weather was a perfect non-humid 80 degrees. While I don’t anticipate visiting again anytime soon, I can confidently say it was a fun place to spend a few days.

Minnesota

Clay and I just got home after spending 5 days with his family in Minneapolis and Moose Lake, Minnesota. Fisher family visits always consist of great food, plenty of laughing, and loud, late-night games. This trip was no exception.

The weather was a nice break from the Arizona desert. We took full advantage by renting bicycles at Minnehaha Falls, pontooning on Sand Lake, tubing down the Cannon River Valley, and watching the Twins play at Target Field. We also took a little trip to look at some adorable shih tzu, poodle mix puppies. It was plenty difficult to not take one home.

We had a blast, but it’s great to be home in mosquito-free Phoenix with the pups.

Weekend in Lakeside

For Mother’s Day, we spent the weekend up north at my parents’ Pinetop-Lakeside home. They’ve been renovating it and it’s been several months since we’ve been there to see it. The weather was incredible and the backyard was a perfectly relaxing atmosphere.

On Saturday, my dad and I visited Little Log Cabin, a tiny antique shop nearby. It was packed to the brim with rustic curiosities and the owner’s dog Radar was so sweet. My dad ended up buying a charming little desk for Clay’s and my room at the house.

While we planned to do some hiking, we ended up being pretty lazy. We enjoyed a board game of Fact or Crap, watched a couple movies, a marathon of Toddlers and Tiaras, and of course, napped on the couch. And you can be sure we had plenty of beer and lambic for the evening.

For Mother’s Day we avoided the typical brunch restaurants and opted for the delicious wings at Moose Henri’s. Yum!

The drive to and from Lakeside isn’t actually that bad. We had fun with the pups in the car, texting back and forth with Steve and Vanessa, and watching the crazy smoke from a nearby fire. With the weather in Phoenix heating up, I’m sure we’ll be heading up there much more often.

San Francisco Trip

I spent the last four days in San Francisco with a few of my coworkers from meltmedia. We attended the design conference TYPO and also had some fun around the city. We visited Fisherman’s Wharf, the Japanese Tea Garden, rode the trolley, and ate plenty of delicious food. I also managed to fit in a viewing of Beach Blanket Babylon, the hilarious musical comedy show. While I gained plenty of inspiration and perspective, both professionally and personally, I am glad to be home with Clay and the two pups.

Arizona Turns 100

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Along with Valentine’s Day, today is Arizona’s 100th birthday. On Feb. 14th, 1912, Arizona received its statehood. While our great state has been getting a lot of negative press lately, I can confidently say that living here is absolutely wonderful. I’ve lived in the Phoenix area for almost 25 years and I’ve never questioned it.

The heat (and yes, it’s a dry heat) is comforting for me; summertime is my favorite time of year. The desert landscapes are beautiful and the sunsets are unbelievable. The art and design communities are blossoming, we have unique and tasty restaurants, and the broad range of terrain is surprising for many. Just two hours from the desert valley of Phoenix is the snowy mountain town of Flagstaff. I’ve traveled a lot in my short life and no place (even Paris) has felt quite as nice as Arizona. Plus, we have the Grand Canyon, Steve Nash, and plenty of scorpion lollipops.

Happy birthday, Arizona. Here’s to another 100.

5 Must-Haves When Exploring Paris

I’ve been thinking a lot about Paris lately. Not only am I always trying to justify going back, but a coworker of mine just booked two weeks in Paris for her honeymoon in May. While thinking of the Must-See spots in and around the city, I kept thinking about the Must-Haves that every Paris traveler should be carrying with them. I learned some of these the hard way, but these five things will make exploring Paris easier and more enjoyable.

Paris Pratique par Arrondissement
This little booklet includes the best map of Paris that I’ve encountered. It makes navigating the city almost effortless. Wandering the city streets was one of my favorite Paris activities and, with the Paris Pratique, I was never concerned about getting lost. It also includes a map of the Metro lines, an incredibly valuable map when traveling across the city. You can pick it up at any street news stand for only a few Euros.

Passe Navigo (formerly Carte Orange)
The Paris Metro is so convenient, easy to use, and the fastest way to travel around Paris. While you can purchase single-use tickets, I wouldn’t think twice about getting a Passe Navigo. The pass can be purchased for a week or a month and the price varies based on included zones. When I was there, I found myself using the Metro several times a day. It was great to not worry about purchasing tickets or about how much I was spending each time I boarded a train.

A small, travel umbrella
Several times while walking through the city, I found myself caught in an afternoon downpour. While it was great to wait out the rain in a cozy cafe, most days were booked with sightseeing and walking through the rain was unavoidable. I finally got wise and started carrying a small umbrella with me at all times. The ones shown here are Slimline travel umbrellas from the Container Store, weighing only 7 ounces.

A collapsable, reusable tote
Eating in Paris restaurants can get expensive. Most days, we purchased bread, cheese, and produce from specialty markets and had picnics in the park. Having a reusable bag to hold our groceries was incredibly helpful. Each component of our meal was often purchased at a different store, so we looked to avoid the collection of plastic bags. Many of our meals were also spontaneous, wandering upon a pop-up market and wanting to try new things.

Travel hand sanitizer
While Paris is exceptionally beautiful, it’s also exceptionally dirty. We spent the majority of the day away from our apartment, visiting places and touching things thousands of others were also touching. Jumping on and off the Metro promised convenience, but also plenty of germs. And since most of our meals were unplanned and outside, having hand sanitizer was a lifesaver. Public restrooms in Paris are hard to find and most shops charge money for you to use theirs. So this was key for in between hand washings.

A San Diego New Year’s Weekend

To celebrate Clay’s 30th birthday and the coming of the new year, we met Clay’s family out in San Diego. His brothers have been living there for the past few years and we are so happy to have finally made it out there to see them. While spending time with his family guarantees an abundance of delicious food, we also made sure to have several activities on the calendar this year.

We all stayed in a vacation rental in La Jolla with plenty of vintage charm. We especially had fun with the croquet set in the backyard.

On Saturday we went for a hike in Torrey Pines. The weather was absolutely perfect. While we didn’t make it into the ocean, we did get to feel plenty of ocean breeze.

Later that day, we headed to Point Loma to take some family photos. The fog was so thick we could barely see in front of us as we drove. Even though the weather wasn’t great, I’m sure the photos will be.

On Sunday we took a brunch cruise around San Diego Bay. We enjoyed tasty treats, champagne, and the beautiful shorelines of San Diego and Coronado Island. Two of my favorite sights were some sea lions lounging and the California, a Dutch clipper that gives tours of the Bay.

The trip was so much fun and it was great to see Clay’s family again. We all agreed San Diego was much better than Tahoe, where we spent New Year’s Eve last year. The weather was much nicer and the activities easier to get to. We’ll definitely have to make it out there this summer so we can hit the beach.

China Camp Village

This Christmas weekend was spent with extended family in the San Francisco Bay area. We’ve always talked about exploring new places instead of lounging on the couch stuffing our faces. Although there was plenty of the latter to speak of, we did find some time to sneak out and see something new. Clay, my dad, and I decided to visit the historic China Camp State Park, just a few miles from my aunt’s home.

The village was inhabited by Chinese shrimp fishermen during the 1800s. The village thrived until the early 1900s when bag nets were banned and, soon after, the export of dried shrimp was also banned. The village, now consisting of only a few buildings, a shrimp oven, and a boating dock, is quaint and feels like walking into another time. The drive there was beautiful, winding through swamplands, tree-lined hills, and a consistent view of the ocean. I’m so glad we were able to make it out to see it.