Red Red Wine.

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Every time I take a trip to the central coast (of California) something inside me sets back to zero. I mean this in a good way. Like my internal compass re-aligns and I suddenly feel balanced and grounded.

This year is the first year I ventured north during the autumn and I was happily surprised by the colors of the changing trees. Mustards, chartreuse, and vibrant oranges brilliantly complimented the clear blue sky, mottled only by the sporadic cloud. The air up there is crisp now, and clean. At least I assume its clean because my deaf nose was able to smell again (the smog in LA has taken a bit of a toll on my sinuses).

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I am reminded of a time when driving meant uncomplicated moments to gather thoughts, a time to reflect and dream of new endeavors.

Our final destination for some needed Thanksgiving RnR was in San Luis Obispo, but, as per usual, we took a pit stop in the quaint town of Santa Barbara. We both adore SB. Its just fun. The people are friendly and the shops are unique. The beach is gorgeous as well.

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I just got this sweater by Rag and Bone from Danielle. Its so soft and cozy and reminds me of something Diane Keaton would have worn in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. I love how its casual but still sophisticated. 
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The Sand Bar in Santa Barbara makes a damn good Bloody Mary. I’ve been searching for the best Bloody Mary’s on earth and this one is definitely ranking towards the top of the list. 

The drive from Santa Barbara to SLO is breathtaking. There are two routes- a coastal route, and a just as pretty “inland” route that I’ve named the painted landscape route, or the PLR. The latter is the road less traveled. I actually prefer the PLR because it feels like an escape into a different time-space continuum. The PLR somehow acts as a reminder to leave my stress behind, to take a deep breath and enjoy some time to replenish the soul.

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This exemplary photo was captured while exploring the hikes and beach paths around our hotel. Notice the copious amounts of color. The whole area reminded me of a European countryside. Doesn’t it bare resemblance to the house in The Holiday (such a great film!)? So peaceful and down to earth. A perfect respite for a tired elan vital.

Where to stay? The Sycamore Hotel:

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A town home at the Sycamore. These were spotted all around the property. I think Bob Ross would have named them “Happy yellow houses”.

MSM found this AMAZING little (ok not that little) hotel called The Sycamore. The hotel property is divided into three areas, town homes, cabins, and an area of natural hot spring hot tubs that can be rented. Each town home and cabin has a unique name, like “joy” or “serenity” We stayed in “fulfillment”.

The suites here are nothing short of amazing.  High ceilings and happy yellow walls will make anyone smile. Each town home suite boasts king sized beds (ahhhhh), a fireplace (ahhhh), and, lucky us,  a private natural hot spring hot tub! With hiking trails abound and a centrally located yoga center, there is enough to do here for a week! It kind of reminded me of a lavish summer camp. I was in heaven.

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In contrast to our tiny cozy abode back in LA, I adored having a king sized bed and vaulted ceilings. Ahhhhh. Breathing space!! However, my sister is convinced Queen beds are better for relationships.They are so small they make it virtually impossible for a couple to go to bed angry. 

We arrived early in the evening on Thanksgiving, just in time to rest before partaking in the magnificent hotel-prepared feast. A feast deserving of a write-up in Town&Country. Our palates were prepped with a heart warming potato leak soup followed by a traditional Turkey Day dinner; roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans (with home made crispy onions – not the nasty canned ones), and a choice of pumpkin or apple pie for desert. All this paired with our choice of local wine.

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What is it about this that makes me feel like it should be in Town&Country magazine? Our Thanksgiving dinner was so upscale yet cozy. It was wonderful.

After our meal MSM and I decided to snoop around the hotel’s property. This adventure lead us to a gated chef’s garden that was (probably mistakenly) unlocked. It was fun to see the origin of the herbs and vegetables that made up our prior meal. After exploring we retreated back to the room where we did absolutely nothing but relax and plot out our activities for the next day. It was perfect.

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It was so much fun exploring the Chef’s Garden. We discovered different varieties of squash, legumes, and herbs. And oddly, we also found some interesting old chandeliers. 

A day of wine tasting:

First of all, if you decide to stay at the Sycamore, you MUST set your alarm for an early wake up to hike the crest trail. The reasons this is so awesome are threefold. 1. you will burn off the meal from the night before 2. THE VEIW!!! And 3. The dogs! So many cute pups to pet and friendly people to meet. Its amazing how nice everyone is here. I can see why SLO was voted the happiest place in the US. Interesting fact- its ALSO in the top three areas of the world for the most centenarians with outstanding quality of life.

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This is the gorgeous view of Shell Beach from the Avila Cliffs hike. We could almost see my sister’s beach house from here! I wonder if binoculars would have helped. hee hee. 
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We met this adorable little guy named Luke on our hike. Luke looks just like Harry- the dog from one of my favorite childhood books, “Harry by the Sea”. Love!

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After a challenging but invigorating hike, the perfect denouement is wine tasting. San Luis Opispo and its neighbor, Paso Robles, host a plethora (I want to say 600 but I’m sure that can’t be right) of vineyards. Knowing how much I love learning about local wines and going wine tasting, MSM had planned to take us for a special birthday picnic at the vineyard where my favorite wine is made- Justin.

On the way to the vineyard we stopped in the heart of SLO to pick up some picnic sandwiches at the adorable High Street Market and Deli. OMG possibly the best sandwich and in-house made pickles I’ve ever had!

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The quaint High Street Deli is world famous. Ok maybe not WORLD famous, but it should be. BEST SANDWICHES EVER! Yum!
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The decor inside the High Street Deli is fun vintage art and posters. 

It took forever to get to Justin. An hour, to be exact. If you go to Justin you should know its actually in Paso Robles, NOT SLO! But it was well worth the wait. Besides, driving through rolling hills painted with autumn trees and cute cows and deer is relaxing. By the time we arrived at Justin, I felt at ease, and ten years younger.

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Seriously, no words are needed here. The views at Justin were just incredible. 

JustinGardenAfter getting our buzz on at Justin we decided to do a wine and cheese tasting at Jada. I had never done a pairing before. Wine, Cheese, Wine, that is the order. The wine here paled in comparison to Justin. But the cheese was amazing! Especially the Irish Porter Beer Cheese. Who says you can’t mix wine and beer?

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My first time experiencing wine and cheese pairing was at Jada. That odd looking chunk of brown to the left is Irish Porter Beer Cheese. SO good! I need to look into ordering some of this. I feel like it could potentially make great mac and cheese!

Novo:

Our day of wine tasting ended with a wonderful dinner at the romantic Novo in San Luis Obispo, where we partook in a fabulous seafood linguine. We are always happy with the food at Novo. This restaurant is truly worthy of its own review – so thats all I’m going to say about it for now.

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If your wondering where to eat in San Luis Obispo, I can’t say enough about Novo. Great for a girls night out, a family reunion, or a romantic dinner for two, you just can’t go wrong here. For more info, click here: Eat at Novo  Photo: from Novo Website

After a delicious dinner we enjoyed the hot tub one last time before settling down in bed to marathon watch “Younger”. Have you ever watched that show? Its me in a nut shell. I read somewhere recently that its actually healthy to lie about your age. So I decided that I am reclaiming the last ten years. I am no longer blankety blank. Instead, I just turned ten years younger!

What the heck to wear in Wine Country California:

Central Coast California in the fall has a wide range of temperatures. Even within a day the weather can swing from 80 degrees in the afternoon to 45 at night. I’m feeling redundant, but…..layering is essential. I packed for this trip with no help from Danielle, and I’m not truly confident in my pairings. But I’ll post them anyways:

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In the Chefs garden under a sky full of vintage chandeliers. Jacket: Sandro  Sweater: Rag and Bone  Jeans: Rag and Bone  Boots: Stuart Weitzman Bag: (Old) from Gilt.com/pre Danielle
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Warming by the fireplace before our Thanksgiving dinner. Dress: Thakoon Addition  Boots: Stuart Weitzman  Necklace: Tiffany (a gift from MSM)
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Sassy after one too many. haha. Sweater: Helmut Lang  Black V Tee: J. Crew  Jeans: Mother  Scarf: Splendid  Boots: Stuart Weitzman  Tote: Givenchy
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Bundled up for our al fresco dining at Novo. Jacket: Sandro  Denim Jacket: Current Elliott  Scarf: Made by  my mom (literally)  Sweater: Chloe  Jeans: Mother  Boots: Stuart Weitzman Bag: (Old) from Gilt.com. Slouchy beanie: H&M Paris

With replenished souls and a new lease on life, we headed back to Los Angeles. I had a wonderful birthday/Thanksgiving weekend, with a newly attained knowledge of so many things for which to be thankful.

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Blowing kisses to MSM after our tasting at Justin. What a fun weekend we had!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories?

xoxo

QJ

QJ

Coco.

Season 7 of my show has wrapped, and season 8 does not start for a minute so I’m currently technically off work. This doesn’t happen often so in attempt to embrace every moment of my freedom of time (a hot and rare commodity) I proactively wrote a list of local things I would LOVE to do, but am always too busy to enjoy. For the first ten days of my break I signed up for a morning ballet intensive. I left the afternoons to peruse the list and either imbibe in an adventure or relax on the sofa/at the beach/at a cafe and dive into a book.

Its day#4 of the ballet intensive and it has been rigorous, challenging, and FANTASTIC. I’ve already noticed improvement and I still have six more days to go! That being said,  the four hours of dance, resistance training, and cardio definitely takes a lot out of us dancers, so I’ve mostly been relaxing after “camp”. Oddly I was less tired today than the previous three days (my body is adapting?) so I decided to begin my Los Angeles Adventure. What better way to get one’s mind off an achy body than a visit to the Chanel Boutique? Especially if your a lover of fashion!

The Adventure:

I’ve lived in Southern California for 15 years and Los Angeles for something like 5 and I’ve never been to Rodeo Drive, let alone Chanel (a blessing from above for my wallet, I’m sure). As I drove the convoluted Mulholland Drive to my destination, I turned up the tunes and rolled down the window to feel the wind in my hair. I began to truly celebrate my new found freedom from schedules and deadlines.

Relaxed and happy, I pulled into the Chanel driveway. There is valet and no charge! Happy day because a. I hate finding parking in LA and b. do I ever carry cash? (answer: no). Upon walking in the store I was pleasantly greeted but no pushiness. Also, surprisingly, no attitude. I say this because I have been to other high end boutiques inside department stores (I wont mention names), and the sales people have been not so friendly/a bit uppity. Not true of Chanel. It was welcoming, light, and perfectly decorated with their own bags. Every bag is gorgeous and, as we know, well made. How one can make a choice I have no idea. Honestly, I can see why if you can afford it, you’d own one of each style and then some fashion bags and clutches. Downstairs was bags, jewelry, and makeup. Upstairs; clothes and shoes.

The luxurious Chanel Boutique on Rodeo Drive.  Photo from google images.
The luxurious Chanel Boutique on Rodeo Drive. Photo from google images.

I first spent time with a sales associate named Gabby. I explained to her that I have a big birthday coming up, and I would like to invest in a Chanel handbag. Gabby was such a dear; at my request she took the time to explain the differences between and the history of each bag category.

Fashion bags are released every season and are a variation of the classics. Today I saw this charming pink velvet one that reflected the light oh so beautifully….it was really hard to walk away…..

The Boy Bag, fairly recently designed by Karl Lagerfeld, is considered a more “edgy” piece for the modern woman. This bag is square in shape and has chunky hardware.

I die for this bag. Its even better in person. Photo from google images.
I seriously die for this bag, an example of a fashion boy bag. Its even better in person. Photo from google images.

The Classic, designed by Karl Lagerfeld in the 1980’s, is an updated version of Coco Chanel’s original handbag. Its intertwined chain and leather strap and famous CC lock and closures are indicative to this piece.

The Classic comes in various types of leather and sizes.
The Classic comes in various types of leather and sizes. Photo from Google images. 

The 2.55  is Coco’s original design. This piece, first released in February 1955 (hence the 2.55) is deeply quilted with history. The interior burgundy flap  represents the catholic school uniforms that Coco wore in the orphanage. The strap is made from the same metal the chains on which the nuns at her orphanage carried their keys. Coco was an avid tipper and preferred to have cash handy, so she designed a pocket on the back for tip money. There’s also a special pocket to hold lipstick (love!) and a “secret” pocket where Coco hid her love letters.The 2.55 dons a simple square clasp with the name Chanel embossed at the bottom. During an era when small hand-held bags were in fashion, Chanel’s design was the first handbag ever produced that could also be carried on the shoulder.  The creation of Coco’s original was monumental to her. Each piece of history rooted into the bag was her way of saying “I’ve made it, but I will never forget from where I’ve come”. I hope that when purchased, the modern woman carrying her new Chanel also remembers from where she’s come. That the bag represents to her, and solely her, that she’s “made it” to a point that she can afford one of these beauties!

A fantastic photo of Coco with her original design, the 2.55. Photo from
A fantastic photo of Coco with her original design, the 2.55. Photo taken from Vintage District. This blog article is extremely interesting as it further discusses the history and differences between these bags- confirming much of what Gabby told me earlier today.

After learning the history of the bags, and trying many on in order to narrow down my birthday bag selection (wasn’t purchased yet, but, like a few of us- and you know who you are :), I’ve been saving up), I visited the second floor.

The Second Floor:

Here, I kid you not, I felt I died and went to heaven. The Shoe section! A square room with sliding mirrors and the most beautiful babies you’ve ever seen. There was a pair of grey textured booties that were beyond! And a pair of velvet oxfords I actually liked, and the classic black tipped nude with a chunk heel which was all over the runway and I’m currently obsessing over! I’m simultaneously surprised and relieved that I left empty handed!

The other two thirds of the top floor was dedicated to clothing. All gorgeous, as expected. I fell for a jacket and this amazing grey sweater. Something to dream about :).

Love.
Love. Photo taken from Chanel website.

I adore what I know about Coco. She was brave, non-abdicating, wise, and ambitious, and she seemed to treat everyone with respect and equality (Why didn’t I include her in my life&style role models???!) When I finally buy my bag, I will not only use it as a reminder regarding where I’m from, but I’ll carry it with pride to keep Coco’s spirit alive.

What to Wear:

In case your wondering what the heck to wear on Rodeo Drive, the following ensamble is what I put together for my visit. I felt comfortable and I think Danielle would be proud.

Top: T by Alexander Wang Skirt: Alexa Chung for AG Bag: Givenchy Booties: Prada
Top: T by Alexander Wang Skirt: Alexa Chung for AG Bag: Givenchy Booties: Prada

The love of my boots helped me feel good about leaving the lovely Chanel beauties behind. Success!

xo

QJ

QJ