Category: Travel

November 15 2016

Our First Family Road Trip, Destination: Monterey

A few weekends ago, Sam and I took a few days off. We scooped up the kids and decided to embark on a road trip to Monterey. It was our first road trip as a family, the farthest we had ever traveled with the kids, before that was to Santa Barbara. Loaded with snacks and drinks, we hit the road. Why Monterey? The boys love aquariums (like the one in Long Beach) so we thought we’d show them one of the best we’d ever experienced. On a side note, Monterey was the first trip Sam and I went on as an official couple, back in college. Going in, I knew it would stir up some good memories we had shared there.

Now, let me show how we experienced the trip in pictures.


Parker and Logan seemed content with their chips and movies on the long ride up.


On our way up, we decided to take a break and explore the Santa Barbara Zoo. It’s not too big (like the San Diego Zoo) and not too small. The best thing about it is that you can get up pretty close to the animals. (I like the way Logan is adoringly looking at his older brother.)


We decided to stay at the Intercontinental, The Clement Monterey. It’s walking distance to the aquarium and all the shops and restaurants. I wanted something contemporary and clean. I literally had no complaints. We joined the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) Rewards Club, for free, which gave us a good discount on the room. (Here the boys are cozied up together playing with their iPads.)

After we checked in, we walked around the city and picked up a few toys for the kids which included a small, soft ball. When we got back to the room, the boys threw it around and played catch with it. It was the best three bucks we had ever spent.


We started off the next morning with breakfast at the C restaurant, which is located inside the hotel. It’s a family friendly place with good food and excellent service. After breakfast, we headed right outside our hotel to a walkway where you can see the ocean. Here, Parker is giving me his biggest smile.


Logan thought the sound of the crashing waves was much too loud.


We walked over to the aquarium the next morning and took this sign at the entrance. Clearly Parker was excited. (Cue sarcastic tone.)


We got inside the aquarium and immediately came face to face with scuba divers who were cleaning the inside of a tank. Parker and Logan were fascinated.


Sammy is pointing out all the sardines swimming round and round in this tank.


Each exhibition was mesmerizing. Just watching fish and other sea creatures going about their day is fascinating.


Of course, the boys liked touching the sea animals like the starfish and sea urchins. I was proud of my Logan that he was so brave.


Parker was, of course, ecstatic to touch sea creatures. He loved learning about them.


Of course, what’s a family trip without a total meltdown. After the aquarium, Parker was tired. He wasn’t listening to us and instead wanted to do his own thing. We had to give him a moment to compose himself.


On our way back down from the trip, we hit up this very modern park called Uptown Family Park. The kids loved it! It had this cool climbing wall that Parker enjoyed.

In conclusion, we had a great time though we don’t think we’ll drive THAT far next time. Because we took the pretty coastal drive on the way up, it took us about 10 hours to get there. (This includes time at the zoo, lunch, dinner and a fill up at a gas station). Perhaps we’ll do Palm Springs next or maybe even Vegas. At least we survived this one!

September 7 2016

Fun Labor Day Weekend at Terranea, L.A.’s Oceanfront Resort

This past weekend, my extended family all packed our bags and headed to Palos Verdes. We stayed one night at Terranea, a Mediterranean-style, oceanfront resort. It was my first time staying there. My sister, Grace, recommended the place, she had come a few weeks earlier for a staycation of her own with just her family. We had an amazing time, the kids loved playing in the pool (they have four) and hiking to the beach. At one of the pools, there was a fast slide, for the older kids, and a splash pad for the younger ones. When we first got there, the husbands all changed into their swimsuits and headed to the adult only pool and spa. My favorite part? On Monday morning, I enjoyed a (free!) morning yoga session with my sisters.

We were suppose to stay in three separate rooms, one for each family, but at check-in Grace asked for an upgrade. Luckily, they obliged and we got placed in a three bedroom villa. (Score!) The villa had a huge kitchen, three big bedrooms and three bathrooms. The best part was that the kids got to maximize their time with each other.

The only bad thing about this place was that the main pool was packed. Apparently lots of people had the same idea as us, staying at a resort on Labor Day weekend. Otherwise, it was the perfect trip! Compared to Pelican Hill in OC, Terranea’s villa was about 25% bigger and the grounds at Terranea are huge. Unfortunately, the “beach” is too rocky, you can’t really play in the waves. You walk there just to enjoy the view or check out the large sea cave.

This place is great if you’re looking for a beachfront staycation in Los Angeles. You have a lot of options in south OC (Montage, Pelican Hill, Ritz Carlton), this is one of the only ones in Los Angeles.

Now here are some pictures.

As we were waiting to check-in, I gathered some of the kids together. Hunter, my niece’s dog, came along, too! (They are a pet friendly property, you just have to pay a fee.)

Palos Verdes is a full 1 and 1/2 hour drive from our place. Logan slept all the way so was a little drowsy when we got there.

The best thing about the resort is that it’s oceanfront. The views are spectacular.

Check-in is at 4pm but our villa was already by the time we finished lunch. We ate at Nelson’s, one of the restaurants on the hotel’s grounds. It was a bit pricey but everything was tasty.

After lunch, we hung out on the grounds. These are the two oldest kids, Evan and Berry, checking out the view. It’s cute how they stick together.

Sam couldn’t help but sneak some bunny ears on my nephew, Evan.

We checked into our villa and my sister, Grace, relaxed with Hunter on the couch.

My poor nephew, Riverton, was sick. He was a trooper to still come along.

The hotel’s grounds are really beautiful. There’s a lot of walking from place to place, or you can take one of the hotel’s shuttles. Here, Parker was excited to go to the pool.

These are my three nephews warming up by the fireplace after taking a dip in the pool. Some of the kids were roasting marshmallows. Nearby, they were playing Big Hero 6 on an inflatable outdoor screen. We didn’t watch but I thought it was a nice touch.

After the pool, we hiked to a really cool cove.

My kids were a little too young to hike into the sea cave but the older kids did. That’s my nephew, Bobby, coming out of the cave.

Sammy took Logan down to touch the water.

My brother-in-law, Keith, sweetly held Parker and took him down, too.

This is one of my favorite pictures. My nephew, Evan, loves horsing around with Parker. It’s cute how they play.

Who needs toys? We put the living room couches together and Parker would jump from one of the ledges into his cousins’ arms.

Our friends, Kat and Kevin, also came along. Here’s Kat next to my sister, Grace, and their dog Hunter.

Kat and Kevin let me take a picture of them kissing. I love how the cabana perfectly frames them.

The boys loved the fast slide! Check out the expression on my nephew, Grayson’s, face.

At the pool, Berry, my niece, gave Hunter a sweet kiss on the head.

After we put the kids to bed, the adults stayed up all night chatting away. It was a little hard for Sam to get up the next morning. Here’s Logan giving him a wake-up cuddle.

July 28 2016

Soar Into the Clouds on Hawaii’s Daredevil Swing

My heart is racing just looking at these pictures. Thrillseekers, unfortunately you can’t ride this anymore. This amateur swing, which was set 2,820 thousands of feet atop a mountain, was recently taken down. Even the hike to it, called Haiku Stairs (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven) is illegal. Haiku Stairs has been closed to the public since 1987, though many people seem to ignore this fact and still hike it. You can check out their pictures over on Instagram. Think you could stomach that swing?



last one #stairwaytoheaven #haikustairs #stairwaytoheavenhike #kaneohe

A photo posted by whitnaywiles (@whitnaywiles) on

First photo: KHON2

May 26 2016

Our Family Trip to Disneyland (Really, California Adventure)

With the fair being on a Saturday, Sam and I decided to take a day off on Monday to relax with the kids. The fair went well, by the way, there were thousands of people and Parker got to hang out and talk to the community’s policemen, firemen and ambulance drivers. Moms, you know how much that means.

We called our brother-in-law, Burt, to ask him if he wanted to meet us up at Disneyland. We spent about three hours eating and playing at the California Adventure side of the park. I lugged my big DSLR to Disneyland for the very first time. (I’d always just take pictures using my iPhone but I wanted to practice shooting with a higher quality camera). For the most part, it wasn’t too hard balancing two kids and a huge camera. I had to sneak in my pictures where I could. I kept thinking – Line, Light, Moment. I actually want to go back to Disneyland, sans kids, and take pictures of patterns or symmetry at the park.

Alas, here are my pictures from Monday.


Logan and Parker in Downtown Disney taking a break before we entered the park.


My nephew Riverton wanted to hold hands with Parker. It was so sweet.


Parker didn’t want to ride on Little Mermaid with the rest of the group, so we just hung out at one of the benches.


My brother-in-law, Burt, and his son, Riverton, watching the Toy Story green army parade.


The three kids hanging around, checking out the big lake and the large ferris wheel.


Logan and Parker love playing the fishing game. It’s a guaranteed winner every time. We end up with lots of stuffed animals but we give them away to random strangers just because.


Sam bought a lot of credits so the kids went fishing for quite some time.


Riverton won two medium size prizes which came out to two Mickey Mouses! He was over the moon.


We rode the carousel next. Parker’s a big boy now so he can ride all by himself. Logan, not so much. He started kicking and screaming. (I had flashbacks to the tram ride at the Wild Animal Park.) Poor Sam almost had to take him off but luckily Logan calmed down.


Logan’s sweet spot. (Over Sammy’s left shoulder.)


He quickly fell asleep and stayed in that position for at least an hour. (Poor Sam’s arms.)


We bought Riverton and Parker each a new car. Damn that store, Ridemakerz, on the way out! The car version of Build-A-Bear is kind of genius, though. Parker got his remote control-style Lightning McQueen car. The kids had a blast playing with it once we got back to Burt’s house.

May 12 2016

Enjoying Sunset at Our Favorite Family Beach

A few days ago, Sam and I took the boys to one of the beaches we frequent the most, San Clemente Beach. The beach is unique because a train runs right next to it, so every so often, we’ll all stop and watch as it passes by. Of course, the boys get ecstatic at the sight of any train, let alone one that’s in full motion. I brought out our colorful beach blankets though no one really sat on them except for Parker to take the picture above. At this age, the kids really don’t like swimming in the water, so mostly, we visit to play in the sand and watch the sunset.


We brought a bunch of toys from the house, Parker gravitated toward the dump trucks.


Logan didn’t care much for the toys, he just wanted to climb on top of the big rocks.


Speaking of rocks, Sammy was channeling his inner Michael Grab to make this balancing stack.


We brought take-out, nachos and tacos from a Hapa J’s, and enjoyed dinner while watching the sunset. The nachos at Hapa J’s are huge, they’re topped with Kahlua pulled pork which made for a mighty big dish. (We couldn’t finish it.)


Here’s the three boys waving to the train as it passed by.


Logan was a busy little man, running around on the beach.


Overall, it was a fun evening. The beach is just gorgeous at sunset.

For those in Southern California, I’d highly recommend this beach because it’s never that crowded (like Newport Beach) and, if you have kids, they really get a kick out of the train. (Maybe next time we’ll even try walking on the San Clemente Beach Trail.) I like what one Yelper wrote about the beach, “Though it may suffer from erosion, the sand is half large rocks, and the public restrooms aren’t as well maintained as some other locales, this place has serious character. Take a moment to drink in the view from the public parking deck, which is pretty cheap. Breathtaking. This beach always has a refreshing breeze. The break is solid. The town is chill. Not as gritty as Venice, not as uptight as Manhattan, not as pristine teen dream as Laguna, the perfect sweet spot right in the middle.”

May 2 2016

The Minimalist Hotel of My Dreams

Book me a ticket to Mexico! This has got to be the most minimalist hotel I’ve ever seen. Called Mar Adento Hotel, in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico it was designed by Mexican architect Miguel Ángel Aragonés and features 205 rooms that are equipped with a special tablet that lets you customize every detail of your stay, from the lighting and curtains to the room service. You can tell that the hotel was made with simplicity and elegance in mind, given their unapologetic use of the color white and floor to ceiling glass.

Here’s how one visitor explained his experience: “The design of this structure is completely breathtaking. Every visual detail is thoughtfully considered in both daylight and night. A mentally relaxing monochromatic space by day and a vibrant colorful mosaic once night falls. The bodies of water pumped in throughout the property are remarkable and pristinely cleaned daily. You will honestly feel like you’re in the future.”

Sam and I debating on whether we should take a trip to London or Cabo this year. After seeing this hotel, guess which one I’m leaning towards?









via [Contemporist]
Photos by Joe Fletcher

May 2 2016

New House Swapping Site for Art and Design Lovers

Relatively new to the home-exchange scene is this site called Behomm (pronounced “be home”) Tired of sifting through tens of thousands entries on other house swapping sites like HomeExchange, Eva Culduch and Agust Juste, both graphic designers, decided to find a niche. Behomm, with 2,100 members, is an invite only home exchange community built just for creatives. (I’m looking at you designers and visual artists.) The home exchange is different than VRBO or Airbnb because it’s a non-commercial transaction where two parties agree to exchange homes for free for a specific amount of time. VRBO, Airbnb, Kid require money to be exchanged.

The catch is that Behomm is invitation only. You can register to be invited either by a friend who’s already on Behomm or by filling out an application. You’ll be asked everything from what kind of creative you are (It’s quite an extensive list, photographers are included as well as design lovers), your work website, the URL of your Linkedin, a description of your professional work. You’ll then be prompted to provide a minimum of six photo of your home’s interior.

Looking through the pictures on Behomm you can’t help dream of living in one of these well-designed abodes. While some are quite minimalist with furniture in all black and white, still others are quirky and colorful, full of life.

One day I’d love to redo the inside of my house. I imagine staying in one of these homes will give me the inspiration to start a new home improvement project.

Though the sign-up process may sound like a lot of trouble, if selected, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with your pick of some spectacular homes. Once you’re accepted, you can try Behomm for one year free. Full membership requires paying either 95 euros for one year (a little over $109) or 170 euros ($196) for two years. (On a side note, for those parents with children, Kid & Coe recently launched their own exchange program.







More information can be found on NY Times.

March 23 2016

Celebrating Birthdays at Pelican Hill

This past weekend, my family and my sisters’ families went to Pelican Hill to celebrate Parker and my niece Berry’s birthdays. It’s become a sort of a tradition, this is our second year doing it. We rented one three bedroom villa, which accommodated us all. The villas are perfect because they’re near one of the resort’s main pools and they have a full kitchen so you can cook.

Can you believe the pool and jacuzzi are open 24 hours? We did a bit of night swimming, ate Sprinkles cupcakes (in lieu of a cake) and then, when the kids went to bed, enjoyed wine and ’80s music. We danced in our robes, playing “old school” jams like those from Erasure, Depeche Mode, Cure, OMD, Pet Shop Boys and even PM Dawn. (Who doesn’t love Set Adrift On Memory Bliss or I’d Die Without You?) We winded down the night with some Mariah and Whitney.

Overall, the kids had a blast, the adults lived it up and we swore we’d do this again next year. Heck, we had such a good time that we’re even thinking about making this a bi-yearly thing. Love this place.


We came in a few hours before check-in time and went to the magic show at the clubhouse. This is Hector the Magician, he was amazing! That’s Parker in the red and white sweater, raising his hand to be picked to come up. Love how that kid’s so brave.


Parker was such a trooper. Here he is getting his hat on to help Hector with one of his acts.


My niece Berry was loving the magic show. I love her beautiful laugh.


This is my nephew Bobby, my brother-in-law Linker, Sammy and Logan hanging out at the balcony of the clubhouse. Bobby looks like he’s hovering in mid-air.


After lunch, the kids played with the bocce balls, throwing them around.


We asked for an early 3pm check-in (it’s usually 5pm) but we still had a few hours to kill before we got our villa. The cool thing about Pelican Hill is that you can use all of their amenities on the same day, before checkin-in. We decided to hit the pool for a few hours. Carol’s family hadn’t showed up yet.


This photo of my older sister Grace was taken on the balcony of our villa. We had a spectacular view of the ocean.


My sister Carol, her husband Burt, and her three boys arrived and they prepared a Korean dinner which consisted of bulgogi, chadolbaegi (two different types of meats) and green onion salad. Here’s Parker happily hanging onto his cousin Evan.


I love how, in this photo, it looks like the three boys are huddling. In actuality, they’re trying to see if they can all do the “kimchi squat.”


We all headed to the pool for a late afternoon, evening swim. Here’s the outside of our villa.


By the time everyone got in the pool, the sun was setting and the sky gave off a beautiful purple light. No one else was in the pool, just my family. Logan’s the one in the center.


I was experimenting with symmetry and perspective here. Love how everyone is pictured as silhouettes.


Sam holding Logan in the middle of the pool.


I caught My nephew Grayson mid-air jumping onto a pool float. Love the colors in this shot.


After our evening trip to the pool, we all went back to the villa to sing happy birthday and eat cupcakes. Here, the family has gathered around the two birthday kids, Berry and Parker.


I’m glad I caught this photo of the two kids blowing out the candles.


After the cupcakes it was time for movie night. We brought an air mattress and set it up in the living room. All the kids piled on top of it to watch Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.


The next morning, we all took another dip in the pool. The adults donned comfy robes and sat poolside.


Sammy and Logan coming back from the pool and walking to our villa.


Here are my brother-in-law Burt and Sam with the babies. It had been a rough night.


The kids all got together for a group picture.


Here’s the whole clan. We’ll be back Pelican Hill!

March 11 2016

The Breathtaking Vernal Pools at Santa Rosa Plateau

Yesterday, Sam, our nanny Cindy and I took the boys to our favorite hiking spot, Santa Rosa Plateau. (See older post, here.) With all the rain that recently fell, we chose to hike to the vernal pools to see if they had any water in them. Because they’re usually dry, we don’t often see them teeming with life. Yesterday, however, there were ducks swimming and flying about, enjoying the pools that had now sprung to life. We all walked onto the boardwalk, bent down on our knees, and looked closely to see if we could see any fairy shrimp. According to Riverside County Parks, of the two species of fairy shrimp that live in these seasonal vernal pools, one is found only here and nowhere else on Earth.

For those unfamiliar with vernal pools, they’re shallow depressions in the soil which fill up with water during spring rains. Fairy shrimp and other minute crustaceans hatch during this time and lay eggs. These eggs remain dormant during the dry months until the next rainy season allows them to hatch.

Sam’s father, who used to own this land, told us that the water in the vernal pools could get as high as right under the boardwalk, completely covering the rocks all around us.

In addition to the waterfowl, on our hike, we spotted two coyotes. The kids were over-the-moon excited. While we were walking back to the car we experienced a beautiful sunset, all of us held our breath in amazement.

I got a chance to practice my photography a bit, capturing some photos I hope to add to my ongoing series “Appa.” I love how in the photo above all three of my boys are bent down and you can see a peek of Parker’s Ninja Turtles underwear and Logan’s diaper. Also, notice Sam’s tight grip on Logan. How much longer can they stay my babies? (That was a trick question. The answer is always.)














March 10 2016

Death Valley’s Rare “Super Bloom” in Photos and Video

A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law Burt told me he was interested in seeing the “super bloom” in Death Valley. I didn’t ask him more about it and, to be honest, I kind of forgot about it until I saw this article on Conde Nast Traveler. Maybe it’s because they showed some stunning photos of the once-in-a-decade event that grabbed my attention. The article led me to a great YouTube video that showed Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg saying, “If you get the chance to see a bloom in Death Valley, especially a super bloom, you should take the opportunity to see it because it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The bloom could last into April, which means we have about a month to see this in person.

So what is a “super bloom”? While wildflowers bloom every year at Death Valley, about once a decade an unusual series of storms trigger a massive covering of beautiful yellow, pink and purple wildflowers. See more photos of this amazing natural phenomeon at National Geographic. Oh, and watch the video below.




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