Dear DiaryI'll Follow You Anywhere

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As expected, almost every conversation I have right now is shaped by the same question: “How was LA? It looked AMAZING!” Every time I wish I had some sort of Eat Pray Love-esque story to share, an all consuming tale of triumph and growth and figuring out exactly where I’m supposed to be. But amongst the many tough things I’ve learned as of late, life is not like the movies (or romanticized novels loaded with privilege for that matter).

Anyone who follows me knows how tightly I cling to the fairytales I grew up with, from the aged stories of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara to Snow White singing “Someday my Prince Will Come”, but I’m starting to doubt I’ve been on the right track. Somewhere, something has gone awry. I worked so hard to build my life into the dream I’d always imagined – I climbed so quickly to such great heights and when I reached the top I guess I looked around and realized how alone I was up there.

This past three months I truly lived my life to the fullest. I did so much in such a short time, more than many people do over a decade, from learning how to shuck oysters on an oyster farm, to crashing into a patch of rocks on a rented surfboard (oops). I rode horses on the beach, went snowboarding through a forest of fresh powder, walked for hours on end through mysterious neighbourhoods and forced myself to be brave and make new friends whenever the opportunity arose. I learned how to eat dinner alone at a restaurant with only a book to keep me company. I fully quit smoking, switched to a 100% plant-based diet without looking back, and mastered new ways to deal with my anxiety and depression without the help of medication.

I also learned that no matter where you are or who you surround yourself with, your issues don’t just stay behind when you hop a plane. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one that I’ve failed to accept so many times, but something about being on the other side of the continent and still facing a lot of the same problems made me question where the root of the issue was actually growing. It’s no surprise I found the root close to home – it was always within me.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with me, just the way I go about my existence. I’ve always believed in the good, that doing the right thing pays off and loving those around you will only build more love in this confusing and messy world. What I failed to notice was the shortcoming of basic human nature: for the most part if someone is given too much too soon, they’ll question how far they can run with it. I’ve done a terrible job of protecting myself, of valuing myself and of keeping in touch with reality – even if it isn’t as sparkly as I’d like to imagine, there’s value to having one foot on the ground, even if you’re a dreamer.

In conclusion, my trip was absolutely amazing, beautiful, extraordinary, and more than I ever could’ve hoped. It was also painful, raw, riddled with tears and struggle – more than I ever could’ve planned for. I think I left on this trip thinking it would just be a fun adventure, an escape from the cold of winter and the cold in my heart, but the most valuable thing about my time away turned out to be learning to actually work on myself, by myself, without any of the crutches, comforts, or support systems at home. Instead of staying so busy with events and friends that I buried my heartache and shortcomings, I spent days making lists of how I can improve myself and build off of the mistakes I’ve made. I sent letters of forgiveness to break down old anger. I made some big, hard, life changing decisions based not on my fairytale mentality, but on real tangible happiness and mistakes.

I’m going to cut this off here, because if I don’t I may NEVER stop, and no one loads this page for a full on novel. More coming, a LOT more, but for now this is the best trip summary I’ve got. If you’re somehow still hungry for more, there’s a fun roundup of some of my favourite LA learnings below, and of course a list of new favourite spots to see:

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A few takeaways before I go on and on for DAYS //

Care About Self Care // I’m really bad at taking care of myself. I forget to eat, to sleep, and some days I actually have to remind myself to breathe. California was a slightly different pace, where slowing down is celebrated and long lunches are best served on the patio with fresh squeezed local juices. I was constantly training myself to STOP WORKING and enjoy the scenery, to take a walk in the sunshine or take the afternoon off to visit a museum. In and around Valentine’s Day I went the whole nine yards, with a massage at The Now Massage, and honestly this place deserves an entire post of its own. The team is AMAZING, the massage so life changing, and the space is pure bliss. Don’t think, just go – you won’t regret it (and warning, you’ll likely come home with one of their gorgeous signature candles.)

More isn’t More // a major point of stress for me while travelling was everything I had lingering back home. For those of you who don’t know, I’m downsizing to a shiny new condo in response to our ceiling at #thepastelpalace COLLAPSING while I was away, and living out of a suitcase really made me realize how little I actually need in my space to live a happy life. Now that I’m home I’m shedding like crazy for Spring, leaving the extra weight behind and only bringing forward the bits and pieces in my life that truly bring me joy.

Scent Therapy // Scents can be totally transportive, so when I get lost in my mind or overwhelmed by the bitter winter cold I spray Le Labo Santal 33. Well known just about everywhere, I found Santal was particularly beloved in Venice Beach, in fact it was basically inescapable, so the two almost immediately became intertwined in my mind. A whiff of this stuff and I’m instantly back with my toes in the sand, sipping wine and watching surfers. Some might call it wearing perfume, but I prefer “scent therapy”.

Take a Moment to Meditate // All over California, especially in and around LA, folks kept reminding me to just ~chill~ and it wasn’t till I arrived back in Toronto that I started to listen. Sometimes the best things can’t be forced, and taking time to slow down and just be in a moment has had a really positive impact on daily existence. I’ve been using Headspace since I got back, and I’m loving their little lessons (“Not everything is about achieving! Just be present!”) plus simple guided meditation sessions that made it easy even for someone who never sits still (aka me).

Appreciate What you Have // I found myself complaining about Toronto a whole lot while I was away, and finally someone pointed out “you know, I’ve never met someone who has something negative to say about that city.” It struck me that maybe my issue wasn’t with Toronto itself, but with the version of it that I found myself living in. I started to restructure my thoughts, analyzing the negativity and taking into consideration what I might be able to change. By the time I got home I was shocked to find I wasn’t riddled with anxiety and sadness shivering in the cold – I was stupidly excited to get my life going here! So far it’s been nothing but good, even if I’ve had to shelve my summer dresses for the time being.

Van Leeuwen ice cream
Flowerboy Project
The Social Type
Twig and Twine
Moonlight Rollerway
by chloe
Donut friend
Flounce Vintage
Sokerbit
Kettle Black
The Springs LA
The Broad Museum
Galcos Old World Grocery
Block Party
Ysabel
The Row
Honeycut
SQIRL
Fonuts

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I’d instantly grow a nose like Pinocchio if I was to say my sister and I have always been close. With four years and a lot of personality differences between us, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but I’m pleased to report that we seem to grow closer the older we get. Maybe we should blame it on the alcohol…

My sister, a talented restaurant employee, loves her drinks, and wine is right at the top of her list. She always has something to teach me about this Chardonnay or that Estate blend, and once I realized how close to Napa I’d be while staying in San Francisco, I invited her down for a couple days of sister bonding and sipping.

As expected, she said “Yes way Rosé!”

Personally I’m not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. I like my trashy strawberry margaritas, simple whisky sours, and when I have to purchase wine it’s almost always ENTIRELY based on great label design. My sister Sierra couldn’t be more different, so we both weren’t really sure what a trip from Napa to the Sonoma Coast and back would look like for the two of us. Luckily, California wine country is a seriously magical place, and like a field of mixed grape vines turned picked and processed into a delicious blended wine, we too gained body and depth under the right conditions. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as close to my little sister as I did those days chatting about tasting notes (she made fun of me for using “Sandalwood” as a descriptor) and nights giggling in the hot tub with a bottle of bubbly.

I guess just like a good vintage Merlot, we only get better with age.

Scroll down for our California Wine Country must-see stops

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Where we stayed //

White House Inn:
Located just around the corner from downtown Napa, you’d never guess this massive white Victorian mansion is open to the public, never mind a place you can stay over! It was love at first sight when we walked in and saw the crystal chandeliers, polka dot carpets, lush plant life covering the grounds, and of course the swoon-worthy pool and hot tub nested among lemon trees. The complimentary breakfast was divine, the service spectacular, and the sheet sets so soft it was actually impossible to get yourself out of bed. Top it all off with in-room fire places and eclectic furnishings, and you have the boutique hotel of every blogger’s dreams. Why would you stay anywhere else?

Timber Cove Resort:
I have a theory that whether you survive the breathtaking and TERRIFYING drive up the Sonoma Coast past Jenner or not, you’ll always end up at Timber Cove Resort, because it quite possible might be heaven on earth. I don’t have enough words to explain how deeply I adored this place. Record players in the room and bedside ocean views, sunsets like you’ve never seen and a massive fire pit on the cliffs by the sea. Everything from the forest green fabric on the couches to the minimalist copper light fixtures was any design-lovers dream, and the staff was so friendly it was like being home (a new, improved version of home that is). Don’t miss the in-hotel restaurant Coast Kitchen, or the awesome horse riding down the coast (more on those below).

Where we ate //

Archetype This spot is serious blogger dreams, and I can assure you once you cozy up in the sun room by the fireplace you’ll never ever want to leave!
Oxbow Public Market A plethora of cute local goods and delicious flavours, don’t miss this adorable building just outside of downtown Napa. Our favourite stall was the Napa Distillery!
Hog Island Oysters Get a tray of oysters and learn to shuck them yourselves! It’s one of my favourite new skills, best practiced beachside of course.
Coast Kitchen Though it was technically the hotel restaurant at Timber Cove, it was so much more. This delicious fare is worth the drive even if you can’t stay the night at the resort!

Where we sipped //

Tank Garage Winery By far the most youthful, design-forward winery on our route, we couldn’t get enough of the creative labels and limited-edition blends at this gas station-turned wine shop

Domaine Carneros Classic Napa beauty in all it’s glory, we highly recommend the sparkling tasting menu, best served with a side of sunset views.

Cru at the Annex Brand new to the Napa scene, this space was incredibly beautiful (complete with faux stuffed white peacock and love locks to sign) and the artisan popcorn pairings are a must!

Stag’s Leap Winery The history at this place was truly overwhelming, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so enchanted by a tour of any space like I was Stag’s Leap. Originally purchased as a wedding gift from husband to wife in the 1890s’ this property had Northern California’s first outdoor tennis court, swimming pool, an underground speakeasy during prohibition times, and a “moon garden” filled only with flowers that bloom white to reflect the moonlight. Even more special yet, a corner of the winery is still filled with original vines of all varieties, and every year the wine maker blends the entire corner of the vineyard into a limited edition red that honestly tastes like heaven. Definitely a must-see!

Extra fun //

Horse n’ Around trail rides There is nothing I adore more than exploring a new place from the back of a horse, and Horse n’ Around really made our riding dreams come true. The staff was incredibly friendly, the horses so well-behaved and lovely, and riding along the beach with the waves crashing beside us is a memory I’ll never ever forget. Make sure you check them out when their new ranch opens shortly!

Patrick’s Taffy A sweet colourful stop if you’re heading down the coast back to SF!

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Things we want to try next time //

Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Rides (our ride was cancelled due to wind)
Boonfly Cafe
Domaine Chandon
Nickel Nickel
Gott’s Roadside Diner

A special thanks to the Visit Napa Valley and Timber Cove Resort