A year in California.

Exactly a year ago today my mom and I drove the last seven hours of our epic cross-country road trip - from the Stockmen's Casino in Elko NV, where you cash your chips at the same counter where you check in, to San Francisco.

We celebrated our Bay Area arrival with cocktails at the Palo Alto Anthropologie (of course), I ruined a wall in my bathroom trying to hang a towel hook, and cried my eyes out with excitement and relief and apprehension about what was coming next. Part of it was shell shock, I think - driving 33 hours in two and a half days would do a number on anyone. Part of it was the sense of being truly unmoored, the finality of arriving at a destination that, for months, had felt like a hazy, surreal leap of faith. And part of it was a delirious sense of awakening, of starting to open this gift I hadn't even known I needed to give myself. 

Hackneyed clichés aside, that arrival in California 365 days ago started a period of my life that has marked a true sea change in me. I spent two weeks settling in before I started work - the first chasing around wine country and the city and the peninsula with my mom, stifling a bit of panic every time I got behind the wheel of my car, making more trips to Target than any self-respecting person has a right to make. Watching the Tonys in our hotel room over Sprinkles cupcakes with face masks on. Eating Stacks for breakfast twice. Losing our minds over Chandon's American Summer display of Em's designs. Laughing and freaking out, sometimes at the same time, and relying so much on her to keep me steady.

That week ended, of course, with me sobbing silently and uncontrollably as I drove her to SFO to say goodbye. I spent that next week waiting - waiting for my movers to show up, waiting in lines at the DMV, waiting for blistering migraines to abate as I adjusted to lower elevation and air that felt different than home. Waiting for my job at Stanford to start, waiting for Dave to arrive, waiting to make friends, waiting for this new place I lived to feel like home. 

A year later, it does, and for that I am constantly grateful. California has held so many surprises for me, and has changed me so much in ways I really needed to change. Stanford has forced me out of the complacent professional comfort zone where I had lingered for so long, challenging me most days with its sheer scope and breadth and complexity. Dave has become one of my best friends, and has opened up his world of friends to me with a generosity and complete lack of selfishness I've rarely seen in others (a generosity I don't thank him for often enough). Together with Drew and Laura, our madcap little apartment has been home to laughter and tears, parties and puking, messes and houseguests and hangovers and heartache; these experiences have made it a home for me in ways that pictures on the walls and monogrammed towels never could. 

I have found favorite restaurants, and wineries, and coffee places. I have learned to just never go to the Redwood City Safeway between the hours of 4:30 and 7, and have figured out that the 101 is faster to go to work in the mornings but to always take 280 home. I can drive to Napa without needing Google Maps (this says quite a bit about my priorities, given I still need it to get around campus from time to time). I have taken classes in opera, museums, Shakespeare, wine, and jazz, fallen for the San Francisco Ballet, experienced a deep-house club, and cultivated a burgeoning obsession with IPAs. 

I still get shivers every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (although, secretly, the Bay Bridge is my favorite), but I've discovered that I actually think a lot of San Francisco is really gross. I struggle with the disparity between privilege and need here, which is so much wider and far more dramatically apparent than in Minnesota. I have gone out with a tech bro, a sommelier, and a guy who works for a venture capital firm, among others - and all three have absolutely lived up to the assumptions and stereotypes the Bay perpetuates about their respective breeds. My circle of friends ranges widely - doctors and data scientists, consultants and professors, architects and wine marketers and innovation strategists - and the conversations I find myself having are similarly diverse and challenging and eye-opening. 

I am asked, perhaps not quite as constantly as in my first few months, but still regularly - "Why did you move here? How long do you see yourself staying here?" For the first time in my existence, I am operating without a long-term plan, and I am comfortable with that. Rather than benchmarking myself against my peers in the Twin Cities - job, promotion, serious relationship, engagement, dog/house, wedding, baby - I find myself focused on a new project at work, weekend day trips, a bucket list that grows by two line every time I check off one. I know that this place will not be my home forever, but that's about all I know for sure. Whether I'm here for another three years, five, ten - I'm okay with being unsure about that. As for why I moved here, though, I think the experiences and people and adventures of the last year speak for themselves, and I hope that the next year only brings more of the same. 

...that said, I'm really glad I never have to go back to the Stockmen's Casino and Lodge. Leaving that in the last year is completely fine by me. 

remember these things

A few random moments of pure happiness in the last few days: 

- a hallway conversation with our VP of finance, with a heartfelt thank you for illustrating a concept in a way she found revolutionary enough to share with several non-profits she works with...that feeling of total satisfaction in knowing that something I did is still resonating. 

- the half-hour heart-to-heart with Mom en route to work this morning - princess documentaries, Anthropologie, love, fear, and being bold enough to take risks and seek happiness. Continually thankful to have been raised by this woman. 

- leaving Alpha Acid last night with Dave and the bartender, Alex, asking us "see you tomorrow?!" The ultimate moment of feeling like the insiders we're striving to be at our favorite brewery - so frivolously satisfying. 

- nerding out with a new friend about the Met Gala, couture wedding dresses, celebrity idols, and the impending royal wedding. So nice to be developing genuine relationships here. 

- realizing that a year ago yesterday was they day I got my initial Stanford job offer, and taking a moment to truly appreciate the multitude of blessings (there's no other word) I've been granted in the last year of my life. 


How nice is it to be happy, and to be consciously, gratefully, intentionally aware that you're happy? 

a California bedroom

A few weeks ago, I posted this photo on Instagram: 

And it was crazy - I got more direct messages, Facebook chats and texts from friends than I had in a LONG time on a blog post, gushing over and asking about my bedroom here in Cali. I realized that I had never showed my pretty little room here, and so here you have it - a California bedroom by yours truly!

I started this post from the comfort of my childhood bed, and let me tell you, there are few things I love more than that bed. My sister and I got to redecorate our bedrooms when we turned 14, and I've always adored my sunny yellow walls and bright espadrille-striped bedding. 

That said, I feel like as an adult I've redecorated my bedroom every couple years or so, for various reasons. My first grown-up room at the age of 22 was replaced by king-size, "couple-appropriate" Pottery Barn for cohabiting, then replaced again with girly, bohemian Anthropologie in the Chateau de Liz (RIP). As soon as I decided to relocate to California, I decided it was time for another change - and, being v. basic in all things, launched myself straight into the oh-so-Instagrammable all-white bedding world. 

For context, here's how I spent the time after my mom left and before my things arrived in California, and the near-finished product, a few days later: 

A few of my friends have all-white bedding - notably Kelsie, whose room I have ALWAYS envied - and I had found myself browsing Anthropologie's gorgeous offerings on more than one occasion. Given my penchant for lots of colorful decor, there was something so serene about the thought of an all-white bed...almost like waking up in a cloud every day. I pulled the trigger on Anthro's Bertilia duvet and standard shams, their gorgeous Georgina euro shams, and a Moroccan wedding dream of a lumbar pillow. Because the bedding mixed white and cream, I, too, mixed the two tones - it adds a really pretty depth to the bed and is a bit less stark than it could be otherwise in a white bedroom. 

Let's be real though - it wouldn't be me without a bit of color, and I was talked into the two throw pillows by my mom and the bedding consultant at the Palo Alto Anthropologie. (Because, naturally, the Palo Alto Anthropologie has a dedicated BEDDING consultant, right?!) I was doubtful at first, and leaned toward the idea of a totally monochromatic bed, but the second I saw the way the watercolor flowers matched my mural, I was sold. 

As for that is, without a doubt, my favorite thing I have ever had in a bedroom, bar none. It is actually wallpaper from, you guessed it, Anthropologie...but the story of how I fell in love with it makes me happy and SO I am going to tell you all. 

Anyone who has read this blog for a period longer than this move knows that my favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities is Spoon and Stable, the brainchild of culinary wunderkind Gavin Kaysen. His second restaurant, Bellecour, opened in March - right around when I actually committed to moving - and features this stunner in their "Garden Room:" 

Look familiar? I thought it was just the most gorgeous thing I had seen in a long time, and had actual heart flutters when I saw it pop up in Anthropologie's new products less than a week after Bellecour opened. I HAD to have it. Only problem? Renters of apartments tend not to be allowed to wallpaper, and, even had we been, our walls here are slightly textured. 

Naturally, my MacGyver of a father had a solution - 1/8" thick 3x9 plywood, reinforced from behind, whitewashed and turned, effectively, into mobile art installation panels. We spent one of my last afternoons in Minnesota together doing projects, and it was the coziest, most lovely way to spend a put me in mind of school days building boats for the 3rd grade regatta, or putting together science fair experiments. So much gratitude to him for being the kind of papa bear who will drop everything and try anything to make his child's dreams come true, even when said child is fast approaching 30 and, really, didn't need a 9x9 wallpaper installation. 

To this day, I get comments from everyone who sees the panels in their place of glory - our leasing agent lives across the hall, and had seen them through my window and asked about them, even! - and I'm utterly smitten with them. They make such a statement in a very standard, white, square box of a room, and are the perfect foil to my chill, neutral, girly bed. 

The view from said bed is, of course, of a gallery wall, because it is me and my magpie tendencies with art will never fade or die. I'm enchanted with my new pieces, framed (as always) by the experts at Posters on Board.

The central piece is a purchase from Shakespeare and Company in Paris, featuring Alice in Wonderland quotes. My actual fave, though, is the Golden Gate Bridge sketch I legit stole out of Emily's portfolio (with her permission!) over Easter. Seeing all my carefully selected art, from warm-fuzzy quotes to gifts from loved ones to travel souvenirs and thoughtful, intentional purchases, is such a great anchor point for me. I'll always love it. 


Other dresser-top features: a new jewelry box and necklace tree to make up for my absurd lack of good storage here, my budding collection of Waterford pieces, culled with love from my Grandma Lo's treasured keepsakes, and a new capiz lamp and, of course, Mark Succerberg holding court. It's really just very pretty and feminine and me, which is always my goal and always makes me smile. 

My curtains are Anthropologie (duh) and hide very necessary blackout curtains...and let me tell you, hanging them was an ORDEAL with all capital letters necessary. See evidence: 

Yeah, I did that. I actually broke down and called my parents in tears (very mature over here, yes) and bawled for a solid five minutes about what a mistake it had been moving here and how much I hated everything. My reactions are generally scaled appropriately to the situation, clearly. Anyway, the curtains are gorgeous and the glass tie-backs are so elegant, and I can't wait to get the matching finials. I'm also pleased that my cork pinboard yardstick thing reassembled as well as it did after the hot glue completely melted off on the cross-country road trip out here...I love displaying the notes and cards from my sweetest, most beloved friends there. 


On a not-so-glamorous note, look at that bitty closet! It's my first-ever not-walk-in closet and, friends, I was NERVOUS. After getting rid of pretty much half my wardrobe (details to come, soon!), everything fits, and it's been a great exercise in consumption reduction and keeping what I love. My favorite feature over here, though? The framed vintage puzzle pieces from Chicago's FourSided, featuring my beloved home state and new home. 

And there you have it! A thousand words on an 11x10 bedroom because I am NOTHING if not excessive, given the opportunity for verbosity. Come visit me sometime and admire it in person, hmm?! 

"You are building the most fabulous life."

Happy Thanksgiving, campers! Today, I'm grateful for all of you. 

I am, as always, thankful for my fantastic friends and above all the love and support of my family. This year, however, I'm ruminating on something a little bigger than in years past. 

2017 has brought enormous change for me, and I am beyond thankful that it has been so positive across the board. Had you asked me last Thanksgiving where I would be this year, I would have probably shrugged and assumed it would be living in downtown Minneapolis, working at Travelers, hanging out with the same people, maybe dating, maybe not. Instead, I live in California with two of my best friends, working for one of the most renowned academic institutions in the world. I wake up every morning to palm trees, never wear a coat, and weekend in wine country. And I am happy - incandescently so. 

A friend of mine once commented on an Instagram photo, "You are building the most fabulous life!" The phrase has tuck with me for the last few years - especially in light of my 2017 resolution to be intentional in all things. It's been a mantra, at times when my life hasn't felt so fabulous. I'm thankful, though, that choosing to be intentional, to step out of my comfort zone, and to keep building that fabulous life has led me to where I am today. I am grateful that taking a huge leap has been as easy as it has been, and that I can truly say today that I'm this happy and fulfilled by my life. 

So on this Thanksgiving, here's to the friends I've made and lost, the family that has had my back through everything, the roommates who make me smile every day, the abundance of delicious California wine waiting for us on tonight's Thanksgiving table, and to you - today, may your hearts be as full as your plates!

the shakes

One of the weirdest things about my move to California is that it’s actually changed my dreams. Lately I’ve been having the most bizarrely realistic dreams about earthquakes – almost as if I’m having one of those dreams where I feel like I’m falling and actually wake up, but instead the world is shaking under my feet and I wake up feeling like I’m trembling. We haven’t had any real earthquakes – at least not strong enough to feel – but a coworker of mine told me that the easiest way to tell if there’s been a tremor is if the frames get crooked. I’ve noticed my gallery wall is off-kilter a couple times, and am choosing to attribute that to tremors (rather than to Dave’s/my tendency to slam our bedroom doors!).

The newest one, though, is about the hills. I’ve driven a fair amount in San Francisco over the past few weeks, and some of the hills are so steep that, at the bottom, all I can do is look up incredulously, laugh, and hope to God my Civic doesn’t crap out halfway up. The visual of houses going straight as we all tilt up is a complete mind-bender, one I don’t know that I’ll ever grow accustomed to.

For the last several nights, I've dreamed I was driving us (not sure who, but there are others in the car, of course) up one such hill, so tall and so unbroken by cross-streets that the top wasn’t visible from the bottom. We were going up and tilting at a more and more dramatic angle, and all of a sudden it was like the angle had gotten too steep for the car to handle. In the dream, we flipped straight backward and started just free-falling back down the hill, as if the earth itself had fallen away from us. I woke up actually shouting in panic last night and had to get out of bed for a solid twenty minutes in the middle of the night to calm myself down.

It’d be nice to be able to dream about, I don’t know, wineries and fresh-squeezed orange juice or something. I guess my insane subconscious has to remind me it’s not all sunshine and 75 degrees here, or something.

Ending on a funny note…

A few weeks ago when Jonathan was in town, we were discussing earthquakes on the way up to Napa with Tyler. Jonny was curious, so I explained it the way the aforementioned coworker had – that the regular quakes are seldom more than a 3 on the Richter scale, and that it takes about a 5 before people really feel it. From there, it exponentially increases – a 7 will “really rock things,” as she put it.

Jonathan, being Jonathan, immediately goes, “IT’S LIKE A DICK. You don’t feel 3 inches, but you notice it at 5 and a 7 will rock your world!” Tyler chimed in with the absolute mot juste: “It’s like the Dickter Scale!” I died laughing, and every time I think about that little exchange, nightmares about hills and quakes seem a lot less traumatic after all.