I’m coming home…I’m coming home…Tell the World I’m coming home.

It is finally time. After waiting over a year, I’m finally returning to Europe to see family, friends, and to spend a full month back where everything feels right.  I was in Germany this past February for 10 days, however, when you haven’t seen loved ones for over 2 years it is a glorious feeling to finally go back. I leave this coming Monday – August 7th and will not be returning until September 4th. Sweden, Denmark, Germany.

Starting out in Sweden – spending a full 8 days in the Swedish capital Stockholm and surrounding areas (Mariefred and Uppsala). Traveling by train, we then head to Denmark and spend two days in Copenhagen. From Copenhagen we are off to Berlin via train/ferry; we spend four full days in Berlin and the Brandenburg area. Next it’s Munich and Bavaria – for two weeks. During this two weeks, we will take 3 days to visit my family in the neighboring state of Baden – Württemberg, we will take a day or two to visit family in Bavaria, and of course visit friends and family in Munich.

Looking forward to posting when I return – Have a great rest of August and beginning of September!

Weekend at Lake Tahoe

I just returned from a 5-day weekend getaway to Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border between California and Nevada. What can only be described as a breathtaking experience, is in itself an understatement.

Our journey started out last Thursday at 4:30am. We looked at the pros and cons of leaving at such an hour, it really wasn’t so bad in the end; knowing we wouldn’t hit any traffic in Los Angeles, and we would avoid most of the heat of the day from the Eastern Sierras. After a grueling 10 hours (driven entirely by yours truly), we made it to the pristine blue shores of Lake Tahoe at South Lake Tahoe, California. What lay before us is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest in the United States; it boasts clear blue waters tumbling over large smooth granite boulders, surrounded by pine forests and snow-capped mountains…heaven.

If you’ve never heard of Lake Tahoe, the pictures accompanied by this post should be taken with a grain of salt, as it would seem no photo is worthy of capturing the awe-inspiring beauty that one can only truly experience in person.

Over the course of the next few days we kayaked, hiked, swam, walked, and circumnavigated this lake region. Each town, cove, shore, park and peak offered something different for the senses – a mix of sights, sounds, and smells. My favorite activity I think was hunting down the giant Sugar Pine cones. The Sugar Pine is the tallest and most massive pine tree, and has the longest cones of any conifer – some even being quoted at 26 inches long! I was lucky enough to find one measuring in at just 12 inches in length (and might I add in perfect condition).

Ending our journey, we took an alternate route, following the I5 south from Sacramento back home. We have seen a large area of our new state; not surprisingly, we plan to do a “Californi-cation” every year. Whether it be HWY 1/101, Redwoods, Big Bear Lake, Los Angeles, etc. we will be traversing our great state in some form to discover all of her many facets.

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The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range – Eastern side.

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Lake Tahoe as seen from Logan Shoals Vista Point.

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Chimney Beach area of Lake Tahoe’s Eastern Shore.

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Sugar Pine cone measuring 12 inches in length. 

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Kayaking at Zephyr Cove. 

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Emerald Bay on the California side – southwest corner. 

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Vikingsholm Estate on Emerald Bay 

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Secret Cove / Beach – a naturist/nudist local with crystal blue waters. 

 

Black’s Beach

Most of you have heard of San Diego, California. I would guess that a majority would also have heard of La Jolla, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, etc. I would however bet that most have never heard of Black’s Beach. This stretch of beach north of La Jolla Shores, but south of Torrey Pines is one of Americas far and few between nude/clothing optional beaches.

Many Americans in general I would assume probably balk at the idea of being completely nude in public, much less at a beach. However, I think there is something to it; this idea that being on the beach, the expanse of the ocean in front of you, nothing but a towel between your bottom and the sand, an umbrella between you and the sun filled sky.  All of this opens your mind – you see people as equal – we all have the same parts albeit in a few different shapes, sizes and colors. Overall, I truly believe that these types of situations promote a healthy view of the body; often in our world where perfection is key and having a cookie cutter body is better. Many people develop a complex in which they see airbrushed beauties on magazines covers and can’t help but look in the mirror and see imperfection everywhere.

While I absolutely encourage everyone to live a healthy lifestyle; it is also our duty I think to respect boundaries and promote a healthy, positive body image society regardless of shape, size, color, etc.

Another aspect I enjoy about Black’s is this kind of solitude that I find there. I connect with myself and nature in a way that I’ve never really experienced before. I think it all starts at the top of the make-shift stairs; where one has a view down to the waters below, La Jolla off in the distance, paragliders soaring above. Once you hit the trail and you traverse the man-made steps and well beaten path you realize you aren’t the only one to make this journey today, yesterday or even decades before. You reach the bottom and begin the trek to whichever spot calls your name. It can be very relaxing just to walk the beaches length entirely; gazing up at the cliffs and the surf to your side. You eye up a spot just below the cliffs towards the back, remote and private. Umbrella and towel set up, stripped down to skin; one can now rest and feast their eyes to the waves, the wind in their hair and the sun bathing all in powerful rays.

It’s all very sensory and something that should be noticed in the deepest of details; inhaling and exhaling the breeze of the oceans waves; the fresh taste in the air, sand in your feet, the warmth of your skin, the beads of light and reflection from every surface. It is all to be absorbed.

Pictures below from a recent visit to Black’s. I did have one photo lined up with a very strategically placed beach ball… however I’m not sure how readers would feel. Let me know in the comments your thoughts on tasteful nudes where nothing is showing.

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California Heat, Sunburns & Summer Looks

With much of the American southwest experiencing sweltering temps (even to the point of grounding aircraft), San Diego (which has some of the best weather year-round) on the other hand hovers around the upper 70’s and into the 80’s. Coming from the upper Midwest, the sun to me isn’t something to be avoided in the summer; rather embraced after our long winters. Since coming to Southern California, I have so far fallen victim to the suns intense rays twice (both occasions burning my scalp – which I HIGHLY do not recommend).  It hadn’t set in yet that I am going to be in this type of weather for some time and I better learn to be more cautious and careful with my delicate northern skin. I love the beach and frequent it at least once a week if my schedule allows, however I have been under estimating all the factors around me (only applying SPF 4) and getting too crispy. As of yesterday, I have purchased for the first time in years an SPF 30 sunscreen. It is literally a wake-up call that an umbrella coupled with an SPF lower than 10 just won’t cut it anymore and I am setting myself up for the risk of skin cancer.

That being said, good times are ahead…now that I’m being more sensible with a higher SPF (and wearing a hat).

I hope to roll out a few summer looks within the next few weeks. I have a friend visiting me and so it will offer many opportunities for photos.

Until next time,

W

The House Hunt Begins…

As we round off our first year of living in California, it has become apparent that 1): Housing is expensive 2): We need to get a place of our own. I think this has become more apparent each month; starting out with the cost of our bills from day one, then progressing to our neighbor’s dogs barking at all hours of the day, lastly tenants below us grilling on their balcony (which forces us to close our balcony door). Normally these types of thing don’t get to me, however it just seems like it is becoming more and more intolerable.

My partner and I have concluded that we can only rent one more year before it is time to plant some real roots – ones that will hopefully grow deep over the next 30+ years. Here is where I introduce my good friend Zillow. The housing website has become a small addiction lately; looking at properties, neighborhoods, schools, etc. Luckily we agree for the most part about our top priorities and it’s a short list compared to I think to most couples who are engaging in a house hunt.

Our short list:

Distance: No more than 25 minutes to both of our places of work. This means central San Diego to North County San Diego

Price: With property taxes and insurance, etc. – at or below budget and possibility of some renovations if needed.

3+ Bedrooms / 2+ Bathrooms

Neighborhood / School Quality

2 Car Garage

Lawn (Small/manageable with push mower ideal)

Built 1960 to 1980 (I prefer the appearance of homes that are from the 1970s – but this is a good range for some character).

So far the prospects look good – which is surprising. After looking at Zillow, and scouring a few other realtor sites, I’ve concluded that this might be a straightforward home purchase. Having worked in finance for 10 years I know how hard purchasing a home from start to finish can be. This is coupled with all the stories we have heard from others about house hunting in this Southern California Mecca.

I think people often get discouraged as it is from the thought of house hunting, then again I think some love the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline of finding the place to call home. My partner and I obviously know that we won’t be able to check everything off our list (I for one love the idea of renovating – so I’m more open to ideas than he is), but we at least have a good basis to start.

All in all, there is a little bit of hope in Southern California

Downsizing…

This week I’d like to focus on the task of downsizing. I think we all go through a phase where we have too much stuff and not enough space (or perhaps have filled that space with meaningless items); and then we begin to purge. Lately I’ve been thinking more about downsizing and how I want to get back to what is important.

Last week I went through my closet – which I’m sure you all can picture is set up like a temple. Everything has its place, matching wooden hangers, shoe boxes stacked to the ceiling, drawers meticulously hold folded sweaters, accessories and miscellaneous all neatly arranged. I realized two things while looking at what to keep and what to sell.

First I realized life is too short to wear anything that doesn’t fit properly (that eliminated a good chunk as I am a very slim guy – 5ft 8 / 115 lbs. / 26-inch waist). I’d been buying clothes for years that were a little too big because nobody in the industry sold slim extra-small dress shirts/t-shirts. Pants/jeans were far and few between because again the 26-inch waist wasn’t a thing until recently (and even then, getting a 32-inch length inseam combined with that is impossible). Once I eliminated what I didn’t wear, I realized that I was basically wearing the same pieces repeatedly – why? – because they were all slim/extra small or within my waist size and fit properly (thus I looked better in them). I held onto so much stuff purely because I spent money on it (way to drink the total Consumer Kool-Aid).

The epiphany I had was that I also needed to shop differently. I can still get a new piece here or there – but going forward it must fit properly – otherwise it’s a no.

The second major thing I noticed as I decluttered my sanctuary to the fashion gods, was that I double up and don’t wear something for fear of ruining it. I have two jackets that are almost identical (but different price points; one cost double than the other) – which do you think I wear more? It’s something I need to acknowledge because going forward I need to be more aware of what I’m buying, and I need to lose the fear of wearing something just because it was more expensive.

After finally rummaging through my closet and reaching the back wall, I started looking around at the rest of my apartment. When you take the time, you notice everything you are not actually using and it begins to feel like you are empowered to change it. I had a stack of pillows that needed new shams – they are finally getting onto the couch.  Old laptops that needed to be recycled over a year ago – gone. So much that could be used or perhaps should have never been purchased in the first place – it was a relief to go through and re-evaluate everything.

Some items will be donated, some sold; and others recycled; in the end, life is going to hopefully get much simpler.

What is cluttering your life? What could you do without? Is your closet on the verge of exploding because it is packed to the walls?

Vacation Season

June is literally around the corner and I think to myself it is that time of year again; I call it the fifth season – Vacation Season. Some might say that it coincides with summer, however I define this fifth time of the year from the beginning of May until the end of September. We are currently in the upswing as students are finishing another year of school, and us adults are thinking of far away destinations, or perhaps a stay-cation. June is when it really picks up and people really have vacation on their mind. 

For me this time of year comes after what can be months of planning. Flights are booked, hotels picked, the research has been done; and now it is time to just do. This year for me can only be described as a bumper crop of travels. Starting in February I returned to Germany for 10 days. The ticket was too good to pass up; for a short trip to Europe it was a nice needed break. This however fell outside my normal traveling time and so I will focus on Vacation Season and my travels ahead.

Looking ahead to July, my partner and I have a 4 day stay in Lake Tahoe planned. An 8-hour drive north of us, straddling California and Nevada is North America’s largest Alpine lake. This is a very unplanned vacation for us, as all it requires is the car and a hotel which we’ve already taken care of. For once we are playing everything by ear, no set plans other than when we will arrive and depart the Lake Tahoe area. What we need is some real nature again – having lived in Wisconsin and now San Diego, we are missing the outdoors.

August on the other hand is completely different animal; one that has required the last 6 months of planning. Originally planned for May of 2016, my trip to Sweden and Denmark was cancelled a week before departure (a fact I am still a little sour about) due to our moving to San Diego. However, that trip has been resurrected and we will now be spending a full month in Europe – from Stockholm to Munich. What I can only describe as the longest journey I have yet to plan (and yes I plan/research everything down to the detail), this was a bigger undertaking than any trip prior.

Once we have crossed the fly-over states and wide ocean; 10 hours later we land in Stockholm, spending a full 7 days in the Swedish capital (including Mariefred and Uppsala). Crossing the Oresund via train, Copenhagen gets 1 ½ days of sightseeing before we are whisked away to Berlin for 4 ½ days. After Berlin, we board a train bound for Munich and southern Germany. The bulk of our time (13 full days) will be spent visiting family and friends besides sightseeing (mainly for my partner, as I have been to Munich/Bavaria many times).

This may all seem straightforward, however think about the journey times between these destinations, coordinating trains, etc. It is a bit daunting keeping it all organized, and with a less-flexible itinerary; it requires a lot of research as to when everything is open, how much it all costs, etc. Nonetheless I am beyond excited, as most of the work is already done; and now one can truly enjoy a very stress free getaway (with hopefully very few unwanted surprises).