Inland Empire

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Last month I spent a beautiful long weekend visiting a friend who lives in California. I had never spent any time East of LA, let alone heard of any Inland Empire, so I was blown away by the beautiful vistas and desert scenery it had to offer.

I was originally traveling for a work trip which ended up getting canceled, so I was happy to enjoy some spare free time drawing and listening to my audiobooks (I am about 3 decades behind but a friend in publishing has got me sucked into the Garth Nix series Sabriel...any other fans out there? First book was incredible.)

These photos are actually out of order since I visited Joshua Tree National Park on my last day, but the rock formations really are something to see... I only went to the park on a whim and at my friend's suggestion, as she had to work a shift my last day. I hadn't realized until I got there that it's one of the more instagrammed national parks and a popular day trip as it's a short drive from LA and Palm Springs (it was tragically never on our radar when we planned our 2011 road trip, though looking back it definitely should have been.) There's only a handful of places I've visited that made me feel transported to an alien planet and this was one of them (in a good way, haha.) I'd love to come back and camp at some point, and maybe take some time to explore the nearby town of Joshua Tree.

Having grown up in one of the flattest parts of the country (we called my neighbors' mound of landscaped dirt a 'hill' and the steeper streets of Athens 'mountains'...nope not kidding!) we Floridians tend to get excited by anything that remotely resembles a mountain. These beauties were no different.

The three above photos emphasize how truly terrible I am at blogging- when I was in towns/cities (including one of the most photogenic little spots, Palm Springs of all places!!) I really didn't bother to take photos! I guess I was a bit more self-conscious? I don't know. What I will say about Palm Springs is that it was gorgeous but I really only walked up and down the main drag and visited a couple restaurants/coffee shops in the ABM guide. If you'd like to dedicate a weekend to Palm Springs I'd definitely recommend checking out the post, their team members seem to visit quite a lot, haha.

Living in a big city the past 6 months has truly been a blast, but after weekends like this one I tend to realize that in the long run I need green, open spaces, woods, trees, mountains... either way this under the radar part of California was definitely worth a visit. More time hiking and camping (and maybe a first ever backpacking trip??) will definitely be on my bucket list this New Years'. How about you?

Hope everyone's having a fantastic weekend!

Home Again

Monday, December 24, 2018

Gosh it is so nice to be home. Especially when home = sunny Florida :) I used to make endless fun of the snowbirds as a year-round resident, but after enduring a few winters up North I kind of get it now, haha. We've been spending our days

  • short and long runs through the neighborhood
  • seeing the Byrds live in concert (a rare classic rock band that actually still sound amazing.)
  • kayaking at Riverbend State Park  (highly recommend. It was so. beautiful. Scary baby alligators and all!)
  • enjoying a bonfire in our freezing (read: very reasonable 53 degree) weather
  • exploring Fairchild Botanical Gardens, visiting their gorgeous rainforest butterfly garden and seeing our fifth Chihuly piece...we keep stumbling on his works in the most random corners of the states and I'm really not mad about. This one's another definite must-see if you're in the area
  • trying face masks, making terrible cocktails (like...truly awful, LOL) and watching too much House Hunters International
I have to say I really do love spending time with my family, especially down where it's warm. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. What are your plans for the holiday?

The Wedding- Part III

Monday, December 3, 2018

After taking some photos in beautiful Arkadi Monastery, Anna Roussos took us to a beautiful empty field to do a few more portraits...not pictures is my sister lovingly hoisting up my dress while I awkwardly hopped over a wire fence through some weeds and mud in high heels, but hey, that's what Maids of Honor are for, right?

I think one of my (small) wedding regrets was not springing for either a second shooter or videographer. At the time we were planning the wedding we had no idea how we'd be able to stay within our very modest budget, and since my parents were paying for the wedding I was fine with a few compromises. We ended up under budget and used the last of the wedding funding to make a donation to someone in need, but the result of having only one photographer is we don't have many photos of the venue, table decor, and scenery at our reception. Which is a shame because it was truly a stunning place.

It's hard to get the full panorama from these photographs, but Panakron Estates is surrounded by rolling hills and fields and in the distance, Crete's beautiful mountains, including Psiloritis, its highest peak and the one we hiked to a few days before for my bachelorette party. Peter and I had stumbled on it when we took two of my great Aunts on a volta, or walkabout, through the village where my family is from and where we eventually married. It was such a beautiful, sunny day and we chatted about what it was like for my Theia Alexandra and Theia Hara to be little girls in this place where time seemed to stand still. How they'd sip the nectar from this flower, or turn this one inside out to make it into a fairy doll. It turned out to be one of the last times I saw Alexandra before she passed away, and is a memory I'll forever be grateful for.

That afternoon we stopped at Panakron on the drive back to Rethymnon. We had a lovely meal looking out over their lawn and the breathtaking mountains behind it. I remember turning to Peter (we'd only be seeing each other a few months) and saying, "wouldn't this be such a nice place to get married?" Probably a little premature, but he agreed and was nice enough not to point out that such statements at that stage in our relationship probably sounded a little bit nuts.

Fast forward to a few months after our engagement. We had decided to marry on Crete, but had no idea how to go about finding this beautiful place again. My Aunt does not use email well, nor does she drive, and at the time there was no website, nor any sites pinned on google maps. Luckily, my husband is bit of a nerd and had used a GPS watch that day we spent with my Aunts in the mountains. He pulled up the data, crossmatched it with google's street view and (insert heart eye emojis here) found the place nestled on the road between our village and Arkadi.

They were a bit baffled by some of our requests (unclothed tables, taking our meal outside under the stars- bistro lights??) but regardless complied with our strange American requests. The result was everything we'd hoped for.

We kept some American traditions (like father-daughter and mother-son dances, above) an a few Greek ones (being serenaded by my aunts with an old Greek song, and traditional Greek and Cretan dances, below...)

We somehow managed to keep everyone on the dance floor, even without a DJ (we went for an incredible live Cretan band fronted by a friend of a friend)

One of my favorite parts of the wedding was seeing friends and family from every part of my life interweave with friends and family from every part of Peter's life.

All in all, an incredible day. All photos are by Anna Roussos, who did an incredible job.