Category Archives: enjoy the journey


24 Hours in Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is the perfect Southern California weekend escape.  It’s a short-drive away from most SoCal cities, has over 300 days of sunshine each year, and has countless glamorous hotels, restaurants, art galleries, and shops, as well as beautiful hikes, bike trails, and outdoor activities.  It has something for everyone.

Where to Stay

Parker Palm Springs 2

The Parker Palm Springs is classic Palm Springs post-modern glam.  Designed by Jonathan Adler, the hotel is colorful, bright, and incredibly chic.  It also has incredible grounds.  Set on 13 acres, the complex features restaurants, three pools, tennis courts, a spa and fitness center, and fun lawn games.  That being said, the rooms were a bit worn and outdated, and if we were to do it over again, we’d love to try out the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, which just opened in 2014.

What to Do

Cable Car

Palm Springs is the perfect place to relax.  Lay by the pool.  Book those couples’ massages.  Read a good book on the lawn at the Parker.

If you’re more adventurous, we loved the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  The tram takes you two and a half miles over the gorgeous wilderness in the Mt. San Jacinto State Park.  At the peak, there are several restaurants, an observatory, and great hiking trails – all with a view of the desert from 8,516 feet!

Take a stroll down Palm Canyon Drive – there is great window shopping!

We also ventured over to El Paseo in Palm Desert for plenty of high-end stores (we spent some time in Williams Sonoma – our favorite!) and great restaurants (we can’t pass up Tommy Bahamas’ world famous coconut shrimp!).

Where to Eat

We loved Spencer’s Restaurant for dinner!  The restaurant is gorgeous, high-end, and romantic, and the outdoor patio is incredible.  We sat outside under the stars with lit lanterns hanging from the trees and a fire pit adjacent to our table.  The menu had a wide variety of items – mostly of American cuisine with steak, chicken, and plenty of fish options.



24 Hours in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, just an hour and a half drive north of Los Angeles, is a picturesque beach town with incredible character, history, and old-world charm.  It is glamorous, quaint, classic, quirky, and everything in between…and did I mention beautiful?  Even though the city is just a few hours away from home, it took me twenty-five years to really experience it, and I am so glad that I did!

Getting There

Our weekend started with an easy train ride from San Diego to Santa Barbara – a 4-hour journey.  It was a stress-free way of traveling without worrying about traffic or weather.

Santa Barbara Train

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Four Seasons Resort at the Biltmore and loved it.  It is beautiful, grand, luxurious, and has an air of old-Hollywood charm about it.  It is across the street from Butterfly beach, and as such has incredible ocean views, with beautifully landscaped grounds.

Four Seasons Santa Barbara

If we were to do it over again, we would have preferred to stay at the Belmond El Encanto.  The Four Seasons is located on the south side of town, about a 15 minute drive away from the shopping streets, great restaurants, and main activities that Santa Barbara has to offer.  It is relaxing and pleasant in part because it feels a bit more isolated – but it is not quite as convenient when you don’t have a car!  Belmond El Encanto is a short walk away from shopping, restaurants, and the Santa Barbara Mission – but interesting enough feels much more remote given its location on the hill overlooking the city.  The hotel itself is “Spanish Colonial Revival meets Craftsman” – and is absolutely breathtaking.

Where to Eat

For breakfast, a trip to Backyard Bowls is a must.  Backyard Bowls is a healthy breakfast chain serving a variety of Acai and Pitaya bowls, and they do not disappoint!  The restaurant itself does not have the best ambiance – it reminds me of a Jamba Juice – but it is just a short walk away from the beach (and Stearns Wharf), a great place to take your food to go with a blanket for a picnic!  Another great breakfast spot is Belmond El Encanto.  Eat on the outdoor patio overlooking the coast for one of the most beautiful breakfasts in the city (photo below)!

El Encanto

For lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed Bella Vista at the Four Seasons.  It’s pricey – but a beautiful venue overlooking Butterfly Beach with a fantastic appetizer menu.  A must-try is the sweet potato fries – they were incredible!  C’est Cheese is another great lunch option.  Part cheese shop, part restaurant, you will find every type of comfort food here!  Be wary of the cheese and charcuterie platter though – we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t pick which cheeses we wanted to try (their board is a pre-set board) when there were so many that looked delicious!

For dinner, we highly recommend Bouchon on West Victoria Street.  It’s a cozy, cute restaurant – and has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the country!  There are plenty of great menu options – from fish to steak to yummy salads.

No vacation review would be complete without a thorough directory of the city’s best sweets and treats!  If you are a coffee lover, then Handlebar Coffee is a must try.

McConnell’s Ice Cream is headquartered in Santa Barbara – and their ice cream shop on State Street does not disappoint!

McConnells

Ice Cream

Lastly, the Patisserie, also on State Street, is a gluten-free treat sanctuary.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of delicious options on display here – from gluten free cookie dough cheesecake to lemon bars and more!

Patisserie

What to Do

During our short time in Santa Barbara, we loved exploring the great shops and restaurants on State Street.  It’s a high-end shopping area with GREAT window shopping and is incredibly pedestrian-friendly!  We also loved the “Red Tile Walking Tour” (link here) as it gave us the opportunity to see some of Santa Barbara’s historically significant sites.  The Santa Barbara Mission is a must-see – and in large part because of the incredible views, walking paths, and trails surrounding it!  We enjoyed walking from State Street to the Mission and to Belmond El Encanto.  It was a challenging hike (largely uphill) but with gorgeous views and quiet streets.

Red Tile Walking Tour

If you are looking for souvenirs, check out the Santa Barbara Souvenir Company!  It’s a little way off the beaten path from the center of town – but well worth it for unique gifts, cards, ornaments, etc.

And last but not least, you cannot miss Butterfly Beach.  It is a beautiful snapshot of the California coast – and was the perfect way of ending our weekend trip in Santa Barbara.

Beach



Holidays on a Budget: The Working Woman’s Guide to Gifting, Dining and Memory-Making without Over-Spending

Holidays-on-a-Budget

The holidays are already just around the corner: parties, gift exchanges, and dinners with friends you’ve been meaning to see all year mark your calendar, making for a busy — and fulfilling — time!  But it can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re on a budget (or like me, in the throes of a home remodel!).  However, regardless of how lean your disposable income may be during this time of year, you can still have a great time – so here’s how to survive the coming holiday weeks, without breaking the bank.

Continue reading at SharpHeels.com!

 



Three Books Every Woman Must Read This Month

As the temperature cools down and the days get shorter, there are few things that sound more appealing to me than curling up by the fire in my comfiest sweat pants with a good book in hand. Fortunately, there has been a surplus of fun, interesting, and inspiring books to satisfy my cozy dreams! This month’s must-read books are:

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?

I love Mindy Kaling. I love her style, her sense of humor, her sass, and everything that she’s created. Her newest book, Why Not Me?, is as hilarious as her hit TV show, The Mindy Project, and as inspiring as her incredible rise to success in one of the toughest industries out there. Mindy shares her life with the readers through a series of short stories, funny experiences that you can only classify as “learning moments,” and great life lessons presented in a relatable, heartfelt, and honest tone. It couldn’t be more refreshing. Be prepared to hear about her dating history, tips for confidence, and the day-to-day life of one of Hollywood’s funniest ladies!

Note: If you listen to the audio book, you’re in for a treat! Mindy herself narrates it.

The Confidence Code By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Confidence Code

The Confidence Code is what I would describe as the scientific version of Mindy Kaling’s Why Note Me?. It takes confidence a step further by analyzing why women think the way they do – and how to change patterns in the brain that inhibit confidence. There are a few parts of the book that involve technical neuroscience, which I’ll admit didn’t particularly speak to me. My favorite parts of the book were the wonderful interviews with highly respected women in all different industries, from professional basketball players to scientists.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing By Marie Kondo

Magic of Tidying Up

I’ll admit, I first bought this book after seeing it on Jessica Alba’s Instagram account. A passionate organizer myself, I was immediately drawn to the title. Magic? Decluttering? Organizing? Sign me up. I have always been a fan of simplifying and tidying my life – but this book was more than I could have hoped for in terms of step-by-step instructions for doing so. This book describes the process of decluttering and organizing, and Marie offers her tips for letting go of items that either do not bring joy to your life or are not functional. My favorite part of the book involves detailed instructions for organizing the closet – sorting clothes by type, by occasion, by color, etc. It is a must-read!

Enjoy the cooler weather – and these fun reads!



Grateful Sundays

A friend, best-selling author, and motivational speaker, Mike Robbins, once told me to write down, reflect upon, and share just a few things that I am grateful for each day – big or small. He calls it the “Power of Gratitude” – and believes it is one of the most important secrets to a happy and fulfilling life. Thank you, Mike, for the reminder. And here are a few things that I am grateful for this week!

 Taylor Swift

We had the amazing opportunity to watch Taylor Swift in concert last weekend in our very own backyard, at Petco Park in Downtown San Diego.  It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen – and partly because it was so much more than a concert.  It was a show.  From the lighting show (every guest was given a light-up bracelet that changed colors and designs along with the music), to the 30+ semi-trucks carrying the equipment for the show, to the surprise guests (OMI and Avril Lavigne, anyone?), to Taylor’s incredible energy and charisma on stage, I was grateful to see someone so talented and amazing do her job at the very highest level that night.  Bravo, Taylor!

Taylor Swift

Beautiful Office Space

One thing that many of us take for granted is where we work, and the careful thought that company owners, facilities managers, architects, contractors, furniture vendors, designers, and more put into an office space design and layout.  It’s not something that they take lightly – and I know it to be true from my role as a broker.  I feel incredibly lucky to play a small part in this process, and also to work in such a beautiful office of my own!

Hughes-Marino-1450-Front-Street

Amazing Doctors

One of my family members had a bit of a health scare this week – and I couldn’t be more grateful for the doctors who knew what they were doing and took such good care of her (and all of their patients).  It’s an incredibly challenging job – but so appreciated by patients and loved ones of patients alike.

Happy Sunday!



Two of Rancho Santa Fe’s Best-Kept Secrets

Chino Family Farm

Even after spending the bulk of my childhood in Rancho Santa Fe, I never really realized how special it is to have such high quality produce right in my own backyard…that is, until today after my first visit to Chino Family Farm!

Chino Farms Sign

When you pull off of Calzada Del Bosque into a small dirt parking lot, you’d never expect to see such a display of vibrant color and fresh fruits and veggies…and the most perfect heirloom tomatoes might I mention.  We can’t wait to make a yummy caprese salad with them tonight!

Chino Family Farms

Be sure to visit their website for hours and their seasonal specials.  Today, we chose heirloom tomatoes and a rainbow watermelon (I had never heard of it…but spoiler alert, it’s not rainbow!  It’s yellow.).  We will certainly be back for more in the coming weeks!

San Elijo Lagoon Trails

For years, I’ve driven by the trail head to San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve off of El Camino Real and La Orilla – but for some reason or another had never explored it!  The lure of an oceanfront walk at Torrey Pines had always prevailed.  The La Orilla trail was prettier than I had ever imagined!  Nestled into the lagoon, the trail is one of the quieter and more peaceful places I’ve been in quite some time.

San Elijo Lagoon 2

At times we were walking on a narrow trail nestled in a forest of hundred year-old trees, and at other points in the trail we were over looking a huge expanse of a marshy swampland (or at least the California-version of it).

San Elijo Lagoon

Happy Sunday!

 



The Millennials’ Guide to Charitable Giving

volunteer

Every year we make that list. We resolve to do something new, something different, or something better in the New Year than we did in the last. But as we get further and further away from the Madison Square ball dropping, many of us often drop the ball on our own resolutions. This year, if one of your resolutions included giving more time, money or resources to charity, these are some easy ways to make sure you stay on track.

1. Research

It’s important to take the time to fully understand a charity’s mission, vision, long-term plans, and balance sheet. How does the charity plan on using your donation? Is it going to the area you were hoping for? Many organizations have several areas of focus – research, support for families affected, awareness, etc.

2. Pick More Than One Charity or Cause

There is no reason that you have to bind yourself to one particular charity or cause. I like picking one general category each year or every few years to support. For example, you may decide that in 2015 you’d really like to focus on children’s organizations. In 2016, maybe you’ll decide to support the arts, or medical research.

3. Have Passion for the Purpose

The most valuable asset a charity can have going for it is a passionate volunteer and donor. Passionate volunteers are invaluable to charitable organizations in large part because they help to spread awareness of the cause and the charity – and ultimately garner passion from other volunteers and donors that can continue to further the cause.

4. Get Involved

Even if your budget doesn’t allow for large donations, you can still generate money for causes close to your heart by getting involved in charity walks, runs, urban obstacle courses, cycling/spinning events, etc. where you can raise donations through sponsorship. Likewise, charities often need your time as much as they need your money, so consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, a local hospital, an animal rescue, or working with homeless children through mentorship or tutoring programs. Your time can make all of the difference in the world to someone who needs it.

5. Track Your Donations and/or Set up a Charitable Trust

If you’re donating money to charity regularly, make sure you have an organized system to track your donations. Specific a specific email folder and save all receipts in one place. This will help you when it comes time to pay your taxes. You may also consider setting up a Charitable Trust, which you can learn more about here.

If you haven’t started working towards your goal of giving back this year, there’s still plenty of time. If you’re looking to donate time, money or resources, but aren’t sure what causes appeal to you, I recommend checking out VolunteerMatch.org. This site groups charities by region and cause, and may just inspire you to find an organization you can’t wait to help, and that would love your help too.

Star Hughes is a director at Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate firm specializing in tenant representation and building purchases. Based in Southern California, Star is a key member of Hughes Marino’s Downtown San Diego brokerage team, where she has worked on more than one million square feet of lease negotiations. She makes frequent media appearances to speak on business issues from a millennial perspective, and blogs about life as a woman in a male-dominated industry at starhughes.com. Contact Star at 1-844-NO-CONFLICT, or star@hughesmarino.com.



The Millennial’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

valentines-day

As the generation of innovators, Millennials are known for thinking outside of the box. So why shouldn’t we apply our inherent creativity to Valentine’s Day as well? We all love flowers and chocolates – but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up.

My advice for my fellow Millennials: Go for experiences, rather than “stuff” this year. Here are three easy ways to have a fun, memorable and unique Valentine’s Day – whether you are spending the day with your loved one, a group of best friends, with your dog, or treating yourself!

Plan a quick getaway.
If your budget is limited, try checking out last minute deals on places like Hotels.com, or via coupon sites like Living Social or Groupon. You can find deals to places you may have never even heard of into the holiday weekend.

Pack a picnic.
Plan an easy picnic dinner to a pretty sunset spot that others recommend. With a cheese board, sparkling water, and a few sweets, you can relax and enjoy both the sunset and the stars in the evening.

Have fun with humor.
Laughing is good for the soul, so no matter who you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, make sure to make them chuckle with a funny card. Whether homemade or store bought, love is by nature a bit silly, so have fun with it. Some of my favorite cards can be found here.

If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, remember that you’re in good company, with amazing, talented and beautiful fellow Millennials, including the inimitable Taylor Swift, who has some incredibly profound thoughts on love including:

“I haven’t had that one great love, which is good. I don’t want that to be in the past, I want it to be in the future.”

Wishing you a day full of love,

Xo

Star

Photo



Top 10 Holiday Hostess Party Gifts This Season

‘Tis the season for holiday parties – and hostess party gifts!  I’ve compiled a list of my favorite hostess party gifts for the season that are affordable, fun, and practical, too.

Any hostess would love this Anthropologie holiday apron.

Holiday Apron

Give the gift of an experience with a Sur La Table cooking class gift card.

Sur La Table Cooking Class

Some cooking inspiration from Ina Garten‘s new cookbook, Make It Ahead.

Ina Garten

Delicious Williams-Sonoma peppermint cremes.

Peppermint Cremes

And to further satisfy your sweet tooth, this box of homemade caramels from Big Picture Farm.

Caramels

On a healthier note, any hostess will love a gift box from Harry & David.

Harry & David

These cute gold confetti tumblers from Paper Source.

Glitter glasses

An adorable gold polka dot journal from Sugar Paper.

Notebook

Some fun coasters from Kate Spade.

Kate Spade Holiday Coasters

A great guest book from JCrew to remember the memories of your holiday party!

Hellos Goodbyes Guestbook

 



Star’s Holiday Reading List

One of my favorite things about the holiday season – aside from delicious food, amazing bonding with family, and cozy sweaters – is having the time to sit down by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book!

A few books I am loving right now are:

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Thrive

I love Ariana’s message in this book – though I’ll admit it is much harder to put into practice than it is to read about!  Thrive is about the importance of balance and personal fulfillment…and the realization that that is the true secret to success.

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Give and Take

This was one of my favorite books of the year – it describes people as either a giver, a taker, or a matcher.  Takers take as much as they can, givers give as much as their resources allow, and matchers try to “trade even” – never giving away too much, but never gaining much either. What is amazing is that the most successful people – and the least successful people (at least according to studies) – are givers.  The difference is how you give.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

5 Love Languages

I am only a few chapters in to The Five Love Languages – and after hearing such high praise for this book for the past few years, I had very high expectations. Two words. Love. It. The lessons taught in this book can positively change even the best relationships.  It’s a great reminder to listen to others – and appreciate that every person has his or her own way of communicating, appreciating, and showing/receiving love.



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