Thursday, March 26, 2015

Outdoor Plans 2015


photo pinned here

Last year we did some very beginning stages of backyard transformation along with a pretty major overhaul on our back deck (see the Home Depot Style Challenge here). This year I think we are going to pull the trigger on fencing in the back yard and getting rid of the chain link fence (why????). Here are a few inspiration photos. The plans are as follows: rip out existing chain link fence, tear down witchy trees and erroneous jungle, potentially expand driveway to accommodate more cars, build an outdoor shed and drumroll design the garden in the backyard. No sweat, right? The goal is to get the fence done this year and slowly chip away at the rest. Rome wasn't built in a day! I'm also excited to be participating in the style challenge again this year!

I love, LOVE this shed design that we could use for storing tools, garden supplies, hand me downs(?), etc. We have like zero storage so we need something. Pea gravel is something I just adore too and I want to incorporate it heavily in the garden as well. We can't grow grass in the back so why try and I just love the look.

This is still the main fence inspiration photo - I love the clean lines, it matches the style of our home and the height is so great for privacy. I want to be able to have complete privacy in our backyard. It does look labor intensive and we are planning on building most of it ourselves. Trying to talk Sam out of that because pretty sure it will take us the rest of the year. Little kids + projects = quadruple as long as projects should take. Amiright?

A mini-project that I'd love to knock-out for instant gratification is to add a portico over our kitchen side door and paint it the same color as our front door. I took this photo in Alys Beach which is one of my favorite places ever. I also want to switch out the outdoor fixture to something like this.

Another instant gratification was scoring this simple and inexpensive hose reel for my new mint green hose (it's the little things!).

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Essence of Big Sur Bath Salts


So, funny story. When I was planning our recent trip I booked a spa appointment to surprise Sam. I booked our very first couples massage and was super excited about it. When we got to the spa we had a completely lovely two hour massage but there was some miscommunication (probably on my end!) and we ended up with a wee bit of sticker shock (#worthit) but ever since we've come home I've tried to re-create the "essence of Big Sur" chez Graham. I picked up these gorgeous Heath Ceramic bowls at the Ferry Building in San Francisco as a souvenir and knew they would work so great to hold salts (of all kinds!).

There was so much about Big Sur that we loved that I can't even sum it up in a short blog post. Sam and I have talked in length about the difference in attitude and stress levels on the California coast. We want that here! I've been trying really hard to do a great job of unwinding at the end of the day with salt baths and/or yoga. Not only are salt baths detoxing, but they are so great for relaxing. The gardens in Big Sur were in full bloom so I was inspired by the jasmine and lavender and all of the amazing cacti and succulents!! Garden heaven!! Ylang Ylang is more affordable than Jasmine and offers those same gorgeous floral notes. It's a new favorite.

There were so many adorable campers while we were out there so I had to include this darling tea towel that I picked up from 200 Mill this weekend. Perfect, huh? Those rocks came from the ocean at Pfieffer Beach and they work amazing well as diffusers, too. Put a few drops of oils and rub in the stone and the scent lasts for days!

The Essence of Big Sur Bath Salts

You will need:

+ Dried lavender
+ 4 drops Ylang Ylang Oil (smells incredible!!)
+ 4 drops Lavender Oil

Place ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and run under hot bath water. Bliss.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Session with Katie Oblinger Photography


top: here | jeans: here | boots: here | rug: here 

It's no secret that I love working with Katie Oblinger (see here and here). Her work blows me away every time and I just like hanging out with her and she laughs at my OCD and we just click. These photos she took of my sweet family literally melted my heart. So thankful for this precious gift of having these moments frozen in time. Thank you Katie, for being you and for allowing us to be us.

We were just wanting something really natural and spring-y and fresh. Matilda and I love snapping the beans together which I have the fondest memories of doing as a child, barefoot on the front porch.



Phoebe was not going to just use the carrot as a prop... CHOMP. Love this photo so much because it is totally authentic. Best kind of family photo in my opinion.



I treasure this of me and my girl.




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San Francisco to Big Sur Trip Guide Part Three | Big Sur


Oh, Big Sur. We love you. This is the third part of our California road trip guide (see part one here and part two here) and this was hands down the highlight of our trip. Everything from where we stayed, to the scenery, to the food... heaven (the company wasn't bad either ;)).

We got some really amazing recommendations from a few different friends and ended up staying at Glen Oaks Motor Lodge, which were these really cool and gorgeously landscaped cabins (smell of jasmine everywhere!) with really cool and modern interiors. We stayed in the King Adobe Motor Lodge which had its own private patio with double-sided fireplace that worked inside and outside, heated stone floors in the bathroom and a yoga deck and zen water tablet and three bottles of wine to purchase. I was sooo happy here!

We loved, loved the Big Sur Roadhouse across the street. They serve free coffee to guests at Glen Oaks every morning from 7-9 and you can take your coffee and walk down by the river where you can see their free standing cabins and the redwoods! Their food is also outstanding. I wish we could have had dinner here because we heard great things but they have a killer brunch on the weekends. Yum!


Basically all we did in Big Sur was eat and drive and look at the views as well as see a few of the gorgeous parks. We also visited a few "clothing optional" spas. More on that later!

Breakfast:

Deetjens was as good as everyone said it was. Huge portions, the coffee is flowing, the fireplaces were lit when we were there and it was super cozy and charming. This is a Big Sur institution.

The Big Sur Bakery is supposed to really fantastic for dinner as well but we popped in for their famous pastries and a killer latte. The gardens outside of the Big Sur Bakery which are attached to another Inn were so gorgeous and whimsical.



Big Sur Roadhouse (see above - pictured above)


Lunch:

We had a really fancy lunch at Post Ranch Inn which is one of the higher end places to stay. You wind up to the top of the hill to an entrance and another set of 70+ stairs to get to the restaurant which is perched on the side of a cliff. Great real estate! The blue glasses restaurant was stunning with plenty of ocean views but we decided to take advantage of the stunning weather by sitting outside on the small patio. The fare here is of the "foodie" variety, think molecular gastronomy, edible flowers, smaller portions and a big price tag. It was honestly very good but not one of our favorite meals there.

We really fell in love with the Ventana Inn, we ate dinner there for our anniversary and loved it (we did the chef's tasting menu and while I couldn't breathe after it was heavenly) but the lunch was even better. I had the brisket sandwich and it was honestly one of the best meals I've ever had. Oh, to have it right now! The patio is breathtaking with equally gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.



Dinner:

Fernwood Inn is where the locals hang out. This place looks frozen in time. I felt like we were stepping on to the set of dazed and confused. Think local surfers and bar food. They have everything from pizza to wraps and it's completely unfussy. A great inexpensive place to grab a beer and people watch.

Ventana Inn (see above)

Nepenthe for sunsets. This is another Big Sur institution and situated right on top of a cliff with a tiered outdoor seating space which packs out quickly. Make sure to come well in advance to see the sunsets, have drinks and grab dinner. Dinner can be expensive but we got apps and sandwiches and it wasn't crazy at all. One of my most favorite evenings for sure.



Don't Miss:
Esalen Public Night Hotsprings (their image above). Ok, so this was definitely something that I never thought I would actually experience but basically there is this world famous Esalen Institute in Big Sur that hosts retreats, workshops, etc. They have these incredible natural sulphur hot springs that hang over the ocean and from 1 am to 3 am they offer "a service to the public" where you can take a night bath in the springs. You have to call in the off season the day of to make a reservation and we weren't able to get in the first day but were the second and holy moly, incredible experience! I was pretty much one of the only non-naked attendees but nonetheless it was completely magical. Don't want to say too much in hopes you'll go and experience it for yourself.

McWay Falls is one of the most photographed spots at Big Sur. Stunning nature at its finest. You can't help but feel the mark of our Creator while you are here. The park was actually donated by a couple who built "the waterfall house" on the property, which you can still see the ruins of the stairs to the house to this day. The wife donated the land to California and named it after her dear friend. Just incredible.

Pfeiffer Beach was Sam's favorite. He's a coastal boy through and through. You wind down a road forever until you get to the gate and pay $10 for access. The locals parked up the hill and walked. There are these incredible rock formations and purple sand. Need we say more?


There are so many spa options but we went with a very extravagant couple's massage at Ventana Inn (make sure to nail down specifics before spending ALL the money! ha!) which was lovely and then afterwards spa guests have access to the bathhouse and pool where once again... clothing optional. See below. HAHA!!


The last installment will be San Simeon and San Francisco <3

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

San Francisco to Big Sur Trip Guide Part Two | Carmel

This is part two of our California road trip for our ten year anniversary (you can read the first part here). After we spent the morning in Monterey walking along the coast and taking it easy we packed up to head south to Carmel. I had heard so many great things about Carmel and really wish we could have maybe spent one night in this cute little beach town but we were able to have an amazing lunch at Le Bicyclette.

We had the most amazing meal at this adorable french-inspired restaurant. I had a killer burger (ok, so I love a hamburger people) and Sam had a really amazing margarita pizza from their pizza oven (this is what they are known for) and then we split their chocolate mousse (bless!). I loved all the quirky touches throughout the restaurant like this wall of chairs and I drank rose all the live long day. I loved this local one so much they we bought a bottle to take back to my mama.

Afterwards I was really obsessed with finding the fairytale cottages which I thought were all together but they are actually scattered about. We finally found Hansel and Gretel on Torres. SO adorable, huh?

Afterwards we tried to catch a peek of Clint Eastwood at his Mission Ranch. Sam is a HUGE fan and while we didn't see him we did see all of his sheep. So precious and such a gorgeous part of town.


From there we headed to Point Lobos which was recommended by a friend and just around the corner. This was one of the very most beautiful views and parks. Not a strenuous hike at all. *Tip: most of the parks are $10 but each time you go to a park you get a ticket which gives you access to all of the Monterey Peninsula parks until sunset.

Coming up is all things Big Sur which we completely fell in love with and I have so much to share about.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

San Francisco to Big Sur Trip Guide Part One | Half Moon Bay and Monterey

We are wrapping up the most epic trip that we just took to California for our ten year anniversary. I really struggled to find some solid advice on making the trek from San Fran to Big Sur so I thought it would be fun to create my own travel guide with some tips and tricks we picked up along the way. I seriously have never had a more amazing experience, especially in the states. The California coast is completely magical. If you've been following along on instagram you've seen a taste of the beauty but there is no way to truly capture the breathtaking views, although I tried!

We flew in to San Francisco International airport. You can also fly into San Jose but we wanted a little taste of SF. Instead of going into SF for lunch we headed south. We passed through some cute little surf towns and took the scenic route of Highway 1. You HAVE to take this route. We were struggling to stay on the road with all of the gorgeous vistas along the way. We also passed through tons and tons of organic farm land. We were staying the night in Monterey so we decided to stop at Half Moon Bay for lunch. We ate at the Ritz (seen above) which was a total splurge for lunch but the views inside and outside the restaurant were to die for. I had the burger and Sam had a salmon sandwich, two drinks and we were at the $100... just to give you an idea. :) It was our anniversary! Ha! We walked along the hotel grounds afterwards which were completely gorgeous.

image from hotels.com

The drive from Half Moon Bay to Monterey was so lovely. So many oohs and ahhs came from our convertible (which is a must btw!). You'll pass through a ton more farms with fabulous prices on produce if you wanted to stop for some fresh fruit or avocados. Literally saw a sign, "10 grapefruits for $1." WHAT. We stayed at the Monterey Plaza for the night which was recommended to us by the concierge at our hotel in Big Sur.

The Plaza is completely gorgeous with balcony rooms overlooking the harbor (photo below taken from our balcony), amazing outdoor seating, sea otters, whale sightings and plenty of seals. :) We had dinner at Schooners which is their on-site restaurant. It was an older crowd for sure but the view was lovely, dinner was great and the hotel was so gracious to give us $20 off our meal for our anniversary along with some chocolate covered strawberries which were delivered to our room. We were really wiped out so the convenient location was great; however you may want to poke around for some hipper dinner accommodations if that's what you are going for.

The next morning we were cracking up because we left the window open to hear the waves and were awoken by the loudest seal noises. I woke up at the crack of dawn and just watched the sunrise. So amazing. We ordered absolutely perfect almond milk lattes to-go (why the heck do we not have those in the south?!) from the adjacent Cafe La Strada and headed down the "rec trail" which is a trail for bikes, walkers, runners that goes along the ocean. The weather was perfect and the trail was pretty quiet during the week.



Here you will see the Monterey Bay Aquarium (really famous aquarium), Harbor Seals, gorgeous wildflowers, sweeping cliffs and ocean views and Lover's Point in Pacific Grove. There are so many great benches to take it all in along the bath. It's all flat so it's a super easy walk.

We had breakfast at First Awakenings (shown above) which was recommended by the cafe girls and totally on point. Super amazing "bacada" omelette (bacon + avocado - yes please) and a class egg and sausage plate for Sam. Huge portions, happy bellies. After breakfast we headed towards Carmel to do the 17-mile drive at Pebble Beach. You pay $10 to see the Pebble Beach golf course, a few iconic views like "the lone cypress" and whoa-baby mansions. I told a couple that we met on our trip that I didn't think this was a "can't miss" situation. If you have time or love golf, then you'll enjoy it for sure but it wasn't my favorite part of the trip by any means. If we had had another night in Monterey we would have gone to see the bag piper at sunset which would make the drive really magical.

What to pack: comfortable walking clothes + shoes, there is so much ground to cover on foot. The California vibe is relaxed so I was a bit overdressed and hindered by my wardrobe choices. Definitely bring layers too, warm in the sun and cool as soon as the sun starts setting.


Stay tuned for part two: Carmel

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