Sunday Stroll at Rancho Santa Margarita Lake

After a long work week and flipping through movies after another, Netflix finally got the best of me. I knew I had stayed home far too long as I was starting to feel a bit crazy. I had to get out of the house so, I drove to Rancho Santa Margarita Lake for a dose of sunshine and nature.

Rancho Santa Margarita Lake is probably one of the best lakes around in Orange County. It has an easy 1.1 mile loop trail with outdoor fitness stations, free parking, benches, a recreation center with a pool and is within walking distance to restaurants (yes, they have Starbucks too!). My favorite part of the lake is the backdrop view of the Santiago Peak or Saddleback Mountain while strolling through the paved pathways.

I mean, how gorgeous is that?!?

After my 2nd loop of the lake I sat down in one of the benches and watched the birds and turtles swim in the water. It was a much needed break from the daily routine.

Where to Find Christmas Lightings in O.C.?

From Christmas decorations to lighting displays, it feels to me like the holiday spirit is in full effect around here. Last night, I decided to see a few Christmas lightings near my neighborhood. It was something that I’ve never done before and I thought the one in Dana Point was done quite nicely.

If you’re interested in viewing a few neighborhoods that have lighting decorations up you can see a list on this map. Pls. keep in mind that I haven’t seen every single one on this map to vouch for how they look and all. Although, I can confirm for the Dana Point Harbor location. Happy Lighting Hunting!

Morning Hike at Las Ramblas

Today’s morning hike kicked my booty the rest of the day because I am beat! This was my first time hiking at Las Ramblas Trail located in San Juan Capistrano. Though worth it, I did not expect the trails to have very steep hills. The whole hike took about 5 miles where we took 2 different trails called “Las Ramblas” and “Patriot Hill”. Both had good views of Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano which made the hike worth it. One downside is the lack in shades so, if you decide to come here make sure to bring a good hat and plenty of water or go early in the morning when the weather is a bit cooler. Otherwise, be prepared for the heat beating down on you.

Top 5 Things To Do in Orange County, CA

castaways_park | astintabroad

Did you know the largest city in Orange County is Anaheim? Did you know it was founded by the Germans? At one point the Germans lived near the Santa Ana River and combined the name Ana with heim (it means home). The Germans got it right because Orange County is home to me. With so many things to see and do, it’s no wonder I keep coming back.

Here are the Top 5 Things To Do in Orange County in no particular order.

1. Hit the Beach
Without a doubt, going to the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Orange County. We have more than 100+ beaches to choose from on a 40 miles coastline. Just take a look while you drive down highway 1, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway. You’ll see through this highway the different cities how each one has its own character and as you go through, start counting the amount of beaches you see along the way. It’s almost impossible to count them all.
 
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2. Amusement & Water Parks
Besides the beaches, Orange County is home to the biggest attraction in the world and draws about 18.6 million visits (in 2018) known as Disneyland. It is a staple of Orange County that is a must-see. Another theme park worth noting, although not widely known in compare to Disneyland is Knott’s Berry Farm. Besides the price difference, read here to assess which option suits best for you or here. See other lists of theme parks here.

3. Shopping
For the amount of public beaches we have in Orange County, we also have a comparable amount of shopping centers around. One notable mall that you should know is South Coast Plaza. It is the largest shopping center on the West Coast of United States and is conveniently located near John Wayne airport. For those with long layovers or general shopaholics (like me), you can access this mall via 405 fwy in a mere of 8-10 minutes depending on traffic.

Other Malls:

4. Hiking/Cycling
Hiking and cycling is one of the most popular things to do here in O.C. We have numerous parks with trails around to choose from. The City of Irvine alone is nationally known for its “well-planned parks, greenbelts, open space and interconnected bike network.” Here are a few of my go to places to hike.

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5. Spas and Wellness
In O.C., we are health conscious mentally and physically. It’s quite common to see locals in their gym clothes while running errands which, brings me to Spas and Wellness Centers as one of the Top 5 Popular Things to do in O.C. When it comes to Spas and Wellness centers, you can find various options from moderate to luxurious places. There’s no right or wrong way to go on this one.

Links:
Spa Finder
Spas and Wellness in O.C.
Wellness Experiences

May Update: Stay at Home Order Lifted

sandiego skyline

Word around town is that today is the first day of the “Stay at Home” Order in California being lifted. We are entering Phase 2 which means a few businesses are allowed to re-open for curbside pickup such as retail. Certain guidelines are still in effect like wearing a mask when entering restaurants and social distancing. My employer also have started asking us to work in the office next Monday but, I’m still doubtful about the whole re-opening the economy considering that the virus is still around. I definitely don’t want to risk getting infected especially for someone with asthma which puts me in a “vulnerable” category.

On the contrary, a few other countries are also re-opening their economy. I thought it was nice to see people living their “new normal life” taking a walk outside, jogging, soaking in the sun and the likes. I guess time will tell how this whole thing will play out for all of us.

How do you feel about the economy re-opening at this point in time?

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The Reality of Meeting a Celebrity (video)

So, no one is ever prepared (I think) when you meet a celebrity for the first time. It just doesn’t happen. The initial greeting is always awkward because there’s nothing you can say or do that would make it less weird. Unless, you meet celebrities all the time in your line of work or you’re famous yourself then this doesn’t apply to you. I’m sure for the celebrities themselves, at one point or another they probably will hear the most ridiculous questions too. Therefore, on both ends the initial meet and greet is definitely awkward as a whole.

I had the privilege this weekend to meet grammy award winner and rapper Common. Long story short, my friend won VIP tickets that included sitting 2nd row to the front during the concert and a meet and greet afterwards with the celebrity. Since we also got VIP entry to free drinks and food, we took full advantage of everything and ended up slightly giddy.

The actual meet and greet with Common was a blur.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0abfSxA5y6/

I remembered after the photos were taken there was that awkward silence. My friend and I stood there staring at him. To mask out the awkwardness quickly I embarrassingly asked him his real name. A question (one of many questions we thought of), that my friend and I had prior to meeting him. I further explained to Common that we saw various names online and we weren’t completely sure. He responded that those sites are all fake and I said you mean Wikipedia? o – m – g (my dad was laughing when I told him this story.)

For the record, as I am writing this and if, Common happens to be reading this, I am truly sorry for the embarrassing question. But, really, what questions can we ask or should we have just walked off w/o asking anything?

In hindsight, Common was so nice to respond with his real name. However, the gentleman who had taken our photo had cut us off before Common could finish his sentence. That was clearly our cue to say goodbye. So there you have it, my first meet and greet with a celebrity. A bit awkward but, the whole experience from the concert leading up to meeting Common was a lot fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat just maybe prepare for a better question to ask or have a cool way of masking out the awkward silence.

‘Couture Beyond’ Fashion Exhibit at the Bower’s Museum

Coming from Milan, I’d like to say I know a thing or two about luxury fashion. Definitely, I’m no fashion connoisseur, though, I found ‘Couture Beyond’ exhibit happening now in Santa Ana quite fascinating.

The Bower’s Museum is an art museum located in Orange County, California. Its permanent collections highlights Native American Art, pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, Asian, African and Oceania art and special exhibits such as the ‘Couture Beyond’.

‘Couture Beyond’ exhibit drew me in because of its elaborate styles. All of the pieces I saw were feminine and girly with intricate detailing. Think Lady Gaga style; over the top, exaggerated and bold except with more colors.

These were some of my favorite pieces. The colors, cuts and embroidery were impeccable.
Those shoes though….
This is definitely not meant to sit down.
Look at how beautiful those embroideries are on the dress and shoes!
The hairpiece was also fun.
Another favorite of mine. I thought the clips on the tutu were a nice touch.
My favorite room with the sequins!
lol this one was very very ornate
This gown I can see people wear.
Thoughts?
I love this one!

Aside from seeing various pieces laid out they’ve also added a videos on the walls that showcase how these clothes were worn on the runway. I was beyond impressed how such complicated details worn on the runway looked effortless. Do you have a favorite piece?

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Take a cruise through the harbor in Newport Beach

Blessed with a stretch of coastline, a harbor cruise in Newport is a common water activity for many locals. It was late Friday afternoon, I had just arrived at the dock to meet my friends. We greeted each-other, hopped on our duffy and made ourselves comfortable. The sunset was glowing making the end of the day that much special.

As I looked around me, I noticed that our duffy was quite roomy. It fit all 4 of us comfortably and one of the girls mentioned that it can actually fit up to 8 people. I found it true as I saw other boats nearby that were packed with teenagers without much room in compare to ours. One thing I love about going on a duffy ride is that it can be a social activity or a personal one. There’s nothing more romantic or fun than casually drive around the harbor after a long day.

The view is also quite a scene. We awed and ah over some of the most expensive and beautiful homes around.

At some point, the sunset colors turned into pinkish tones. It was my absolute favorite time of the day.

Would you ever try cruising in Newport Beach harbor?

June Babies: Dual Birthday Brunch Celebration at Bluegold.

Time really does move quickly. I can still remember writing a post from my last year’s bday. My day was spent relaxing on a terrace, taking in the sun while having brunch overlooking the city of Orange County. This year, I made a joint birthday brunch with a friend who also celebrated her birthday this month.

Accompanied with our other friends, we spent our morning chomping over bread, Bagel w/ Lox and a Shakshouka plate. We shared the plates as they were rather hefty and large for 1 person alone.

Dish 1: Shakshouka
Dish 2: Bagel w/ Lox

Base on yelp reviews, the best view is the booth section. Luckily, I did my homework and found this very helpful. So, we made a reservation and requested for the booth. Our ocean view did not disappoint. I sat right by the window and could not help and take a snap.

View from our table, nooooot bad at all!
The other June baby celebrating her birthday with me.
Can you tell she’s hungry?

I’ve mentioned about the food being good. What I didn’t share is how good the milk rolls were as a starter. I highly recommend it. They come in 4 pieces, a bit tiny and pricey but, dangerously good. I think it’s the hazelnut honey ingredient is what made me want more. Mmmmm.

Also, not written anywhere on yelp but, the portions here are large. We ordered a plate of Bagel with Lox and we still had a lot leftover for the 4 of us. Sharing 3 different plates with the 4 of us was the perfect choice.

How many of you prefer to share different plates vs. getting your own?

Restaurant: Bluegold
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
https://www.dinebluegold.com/menu

Ocean Fusion Wake Up Call – Retreat Day 2

The 2nd day of our retreat started exactly at 8am. It was a cool morning and we started our company group bonding with a game at the Laguna Beach park overlooking the Pacific Coast ocean.

Laguna Beach has one of the best views in Orange County that I’ve seen. Really, it truly is one of those where it makes you want to stop and take it all in. A view like this is what makes California a dream.

Our puzzle game involved us running around all over the downtown area trying to solve various puzzles from paintings, murals to statues. Eventually, the game ended and we finally had time to sit down to have brunch at The Cliff Restaurant.

The Cliff Restaurant

My breakfast was not so simple croissant with cheese and ham paired with a bowl of fruits. It was one of my go to type of breakfast that I could not pass up once I saw the menu. I have to say, the view from my chair was also as good as my food (if not, better).

After brunch, we took a 2 hour break before heading to do a puzzle room game. If, you’ve never done a puzzle room before, I suggest trying it at least once. A puzzle room game is a timed game where you can sign up with your friends or teammates to go into a theme based room and you figure out (base on the theme of the room) how to get out of that room. It’s a great team building opportunity for anyone as you get to learn how to work with each other as a whole.

Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar

We ended our day with dinner at Hive & Honey rooftop bar. The panaramic view here was also as good as Laguna Beach. With the backdrop view of the sunset, it was a great way of ending a long day with wine and food while socializing with my team.

Have you participated a company retreat before? What was your experience like?

Lounging at the Marriott, Dinner at CUCINA & My First VR Experience.

Never ever, underestimate the importance of having fun.

Randy Pausch
  • Marriott
  • CUCINA Restaurant
  • SPACES 

This year our company held a 3-day Christmas Retreat locally in Orange County. We had a full schedule for the next few days to attend various all expense paid activities in Orange County. Who’s excited? ME! ME! ME!

On our first day, we started our team meeting at the Marriott hotel. A place that, I, am not a stranger to. Low key, convenient, simple with panoramic views of Irvine are among my favorite things about this hotel. It really is one of those places that has an “it” factor.

Keeping it upscale, this hotel is valet only for $10 per hour (not including tip). However, if you ask for a validation at the restaurant or bar, you can get the first hour free and $5 after that for the next 2 hours.

In the lobby, you will find a spacious lounge area, a Starbucks in the corner right when you walk in and for those wanting a little more food, Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen restaurant is highly recommended. 

Outside the restaurant near the pool, we gathered everyone for a quick hello & sat near a fire fit before we headed out for dinner at CUCINA Restaurant.

CUCINA Restaurant is an upscale Italian cuisine with a bohemian vibe located at Irvine Spectrum. They offer food selections from pasta, pizza to seafood and/or meat options for mid-priced range ($12-$35). I ordered the spaghetti with meatballs, pomodoro & grana padaro paired with Pinot Noir. It was very good. This place caters to everyone from families to intimate one-on-one meetings. They have room for just about every type of groups. Although, reservations ahead of time is highly recommended as they do fill up rather quickly.

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, MAN AND SUPERMAN

After dinner, we made our way to the SPACES a ‘Terminator’ themed virtual reality attraction. This was my first time ever participating in a VR Experience and I had a great time. For $30 per person, they start you off by logging in your information on an iPad, followed by taking a 3D scan of your face, then gearing up for the game with a 5-10 minute instruction verbally and on television (about the mission). 

Men in VR Gear
Here are some of the guys from work wearing the VR gear. Don’t they look excited?

Once you have your headsets on you become the terminator and you are in this game world where you can shoot at things that you see. Without giving away too much information (it defeats the purpose of the game if you decide to try it) it was really fun. I would try it again if, someone invited me. To be continued…