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Barton Springs Pool Austin, Texas
Travel

48 Hours in Austin, Texas: The 7 Best Things I Did in Town

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a chronic sufferer of FOMO. (In fact, I characterized it as the most debilitating of my pregnancy symptoms last summer, which was really saying a lot.)

But I just came back from a perfect weekend getaway with the hubs — less than 48 hours — in which I somehow managed to feel like I had both soaked up a ton of local culture, and also scored some much-needed rest and rejuvenation. And despite the shortness of the trip, I didn’t come home feeling any FOMO.

Our weekender was in Austin, Texas. And although neither hubby nor I had ever before been there, we found it a perfectly paced town where there is plenty to do and see, but not an air of pressure that you must see everything on a list or else you have somehow blown a major opportunity. (I hate that feeling.)

In fact, before we left on this trip, I solicited some advice from travel blogger friends, as well as a pal who lived in Austin during graduate school. Here’s what the latter said about it in an email: “The good thing about Austin is that you can just soak up the vibe and not feel like you have to do any one, or 10, particular things. If you have some good food, margaritas, and hear a little music, then you’ve gotten a good slice of the city.”

And, after my visit, I found that description of the Southern city just exactly right: Austin is a place where you can find what your particular personality seeks — food, music, sun, culture, shopping, whatever — and come home enriched and restored. I loved that.

It also helped that we were so well located when we visited, thanks to our gracious host hotel, the W Austin. It’s right downtown in the Second Street District (literally right next door to the famous Austin City Limits music venue), and allowed us to walk (even in 100-degree heat) or take a few-dollar Uber ride easily around town to see a ton of great stuff without much effort or advanced planning.

That said, here are my absolute favorite things we did with our 48 hours in Austin, Texas: a little weekend getaway that felt like so much more.  Continue Reading

Riviera Palm Springs pool
Los Angeles Living, Travel

24 Hours in Palm Springs: A Perfectly Rounded Vacation in Just a Day

These days — with the demands of infant twins plus career plus being a grownup — at any given moment, I’d say I deserve a vacation more than ever before.

One (of the infinity) great things about living in Los Angeles is we have easy access to the desert, and 24 hours in Palm Springs can make a person feel totally refreshed, rejuvenated, and… tan.

So last weekend, hubs and I headed out for an overnighter at the Riviera Palm Springs that we sorely needed and enjoyed. We were going to take the babes, but decided it was better to leave them instead in the care of their grandparents when the weather forecast said (wait for it) 115. Fortunately, I can’t get enough of the heat myself.

Here’s what our mini-break looked like. Continue Reading

St. Regis Punta Mita beach at sunset
Travel

Luxury Romantic Travel: Bidding Adiós to Bebés for a Punta Mita Getaway

When is a vacation more than a vacation?

I’m going to tell you straight up. It’s when you have seven-month-old twins, and you’re getting on a plane for a getaway without them for the first time since they were born. It’s when you watched with major FOMO other people’s travels on Instagram during the summer your babies were born and you were post-op and in the weeds with two newborns and in love with the new cuties, but also in WTF-is-going-on mode. It’s when you’ve never in your entire life needed or deserved another vacation as badly.

Those were the circumstances behind our trip to Punta Mita, Mexico, such that I was literally skipping through LAX on the way out of town. Of course, we were going to miss our sweet babes madly, but they would be safely in the care of four deeply doting grandparents.

So on this trip, we were off to the St. Regis Punta Mita, a getaway planned for pure luxury — no camping, no remote locations, no crazy string of planes, trains, and automobiles this time for obvious reasons. Just the most luxurious beach-and-pool vacation we have taken since our honeymoon in French Polynesia. Just sheer luxury romantic travel this time, thank you very much. Continue Reading

after pregnancy body
Family Life, General, This & That

After Pregnancy Body Shocker (Or: Beware the Korean Spa)

Hey Pregnant Ladies:

I hope very much that you, like a celebrity, look Us Weekly-cover ready a month after you deliver. Looking and feeling hot and sexy as a new mom would make for a few less things to worry about during that emotional, exhausted, insane first few weeks. And I want that for you.

And maybe that will happen. But just in case it doesn’t, I’m here to tell you a couple of personal tales that I hope can prepare you, in the event that you find yourself still looking pregnant for a really long time after you deliver. (If this is news to you, sorry I’m the one to—ahem—deliver it!)

Here’s the real deal: You’re probably going to look pregnant for a while, even a long while, after delivery. Here are stories from my first three months postpartum, after delivering my full-term twins, that still make me cringe deep in my soul — the trauma may never fully fade, in fact. But now that I’ve lost all my pregnancy weight (50-plus pounds through hard, protracted work — no magic involved), I have the necessary distance (and confidence) to tell two tales from the trenches. Continue Reading

Hilton Waikoloa Village Big Island Hawaii
Travel

Big Island Babymoon! A Last Hurrah (for Real This Time) and a Glimpse Into our Family-Travel Future

At this point in my pregnancy — just about 26 weeks — I’m getting a lot of, shall we say, feedback, from strangers. Feedback like, “You’re about to pop!” (No, I’m not, but thanks, person who was obviously raised in a barn!) And, “Shouldn’t you be at home knitting booties quietly in your already-set-up nursery plastered in hokey decals, with your hospital bag dutifully packed?” OK, well, not quite in those words, but there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that pregnant ladies are fragile patients who ought to retire to rocking chairs and wait obediently until delivery day.

But if you know me, you know that slowing down doesn’t come naturally — there’s so much fun to be had in the world! Beyond that, we couldn’t even be peacefully nesting in our house while in the midst of a dusty, disruptive remodel anyway. And everyone knows that baby names are best chosen over a mid-air brainstorm, jotted on airplane napkins (so says years of peer-reviewed scientific research). So surely I was in no position to say no to a generous offer from the Hawaii Big Island Visitors Bureau to take one last babymoon (this time, I mean it) on its spectacular shores. Continue Reading

Viceroy_Bali_-_Deluxe_Terrace11
Travel

Hotel Review: Viceroy Bali (a.k.a. Heaven on Earth)

When I married my husband in 2010, we agreed that travel would be one of our very top priorities over the first couple of years. With only two blank pages left in my passport since then, I’m proud — and totally thrilled — at how many incredible places we’ve seen. And in the process of travel, we’ve been privileged to stay in some of the most jaw-dropping hotels in the world. That said, it takes kind of a lot to blow our minds these days.

Tuesday night (after a fatiguing day of travel that began in Nha Trang, then Saigon, Kuala Lampur, and finally Denpasar in Bali followed by a 90-minute airport transfer), we were introduced to the Viceroy Bali — and I was promptly rendered speechless. Continue Reading

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Travel

Nha Trang, Vietnam: Spa, Sand, Simpsons-esque Starfish, and the Deeply Satisfying Resolution to my Search for Veggie Pho

A short, hourlong flight from Saigon landed us in the southeastern town of Nha Trang for the beach portion of our trip (pause to note I hardly find a trip worth taking if I don’t find a beach on some part of it. You can take the girl out of California, but…)

Quick backgrounder on Nha Trang: it’s a vacation destination populated by tons of international tourists, largely Russian (on account of the communist connection? Not totally sure). It’s also a huge draw for backpackers, and though we are beyond our backpacking years (no, wait, I was born past my backpacking years), it has a fun, youthful, lively energy. You will also find at night a healthy (“”) selection of bars offering “buckets,” basically copious amounts of cheap alcohol designed to inspire bad decisions among 22 year olds for under $1 US.

Also, remember those zillions of motorbikes that threatened our demise in Saigon? Oh man, did Nha Trang also have its share. Cross the street at your peril. Think more Vietnmese Miami than sleepy beach town. Totally alive. Continue Reading

Paris 1 Nails on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood
Los Angeles Living

The Best $25 Mani/Pedi Places in Los Angeles: 3 Neighborhoods, 3 Salons

This is a very personal and potentially contentious topic that could (ahem) get the claws to come out. People who are salon loyal will have other opinions and will think mine are lame, and will quietly roll their eyes (mentally) and pity me.

But I characterize myself as 1) committed to nice nails, 2) having rather high expectations for salons, 3) not interested in paying more than I have to, and 4) selectively lazy as hell and willing to go to great lengths to avoid a schlep or parking drama. That said, here are my picks for three amazing places to get a great mani/pedi in the three neighborhoods I know well: Westwood (where I used to live), Beverly Hills (near our new home in Carthay Square), and West Hollywood (walking distance from Equinox, where I work out). Without ado:  Continue Reading