Los Angeles // May 2017

It's cold guys. Like reeeaaally cold. And the only thing getting me through it is looking back through pictures from my trip to Los Angeles last May. Me and my main babes booked some super cheap tickets to SoCal last winter ($130 round trip?! Thanks google flights!). And I'm finally getting around to blogging our adventure and I'm filling you in on all the best shiz we did! I'm pretty go with the flow when traveling and luckily Hannah and Emily were on the same page. We really didn't have anything planned before we left but thanks to instagram, pinterest, google, and our charming personalities we found a bunch of cheap, fun stuff and made lots of friends. 
We stayed at the most wonderful airbnb in Inglewood. It was close to the airport, super spacious, comfortable, and clean. We were also really close to a Trader Joe's. Score. Our hosts were absolute angels. They were super flexible with our check in/check out times and they had lots of suggestions on things to do. We rented a car while we were there which I'd definitely recommend. Traffic can be a little messy but it wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined and parking was honestly a breeze 90% of the time. 

pacific coast highway free things to do in los angeles

Since we rented a car, we took a day to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Laguna Beach. We walked by the ocean every time we had the chance and stopped for coffee and drinks in a bunch of the towns. The Boy and the Bear in Redondo Beach had some of the best cold brew I've ever had and Emily got a pretty stellar drink that was a mix between a mocha and a chai latte and it was magic.

free Things to do in Los Angeles on a budget travel tips LA Chloe Ann Photography_0003.jpg
free things to do in los angeles pacific coast highway
Things to do in Los Angeles on a budget travel tips LA Chloe Ann Photography_0004.jpg

After driving south to Laguna, we decided we should probably head north too. We spent a day driving up into the Santa Monica Mountains and hiking around. Honestly, I couldn't tell you where exactly we were. We ended up asking some guys working in their driveway to point us in the direction of a trailhead and that was that. And yes. We were terrified of rattlesnakes but that view...

Things to do in Los Angeles on a budget travel tips LA Chloe Ann Photography_0007.jpg
verdugo bar bars in los angeles outdoor patio

Los Angeles's night scene is just slightly better than Central Wisconsin's... Even if the drinks are three times as expensive. Our favorite place, hands down, was Verdugo Bar. Outdoor patio, free stand-up (aka Friendship Buddies) on Sundays, good drinks.  Footsie's is another bar in the same neighborhood as Verdugo. It felt very Madison-esque hipsters, $4 PBR's, and a porch off the back where everyone was smoking cigarettes. Lucky for us they were also celebrating Steven Patrick Morrissey's birthday with all the Smiths tunes you could dream of. And we got some mean burritos from a food truck down the road soooooo...

Venice Beach was a pretty quick drive from our place so we usually ended up there for drinks in the evening. Larry's was a favorite with some pretty good beers on tap and pizza with ten pounds of arugula. Another favorite of ours was Bank of Venice where we accidentally pissed off Lori Petty... whoops. She's a regular so if you unknowingly end up sitting at a table next to her just keep your obnoxious laughing to a minimum. We stopped in Animal House about 5 minutes before they closed which was probably a good thing. Because if we had had more time I probably would have spent all my savings on bad ass vintage clothing. Seriously. It was like heaven in that place.

grand central market where to do eat in downtown los angeles

Grand Central Market might be one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world. If you're ever there hit up Valerie for a bomb breakfast sammie or a salted caramel croissant and then call me and thank me. Then go right back and get some beer and deep fried avocado from Golden Road Brewing. You're welcome.

grand central market where to do eat in downtown los angeles

Just walking around downtown LA with iced coffee was pretty phenomenal. If you look closely at the photos below you'll spy a Fin Dac mural in the background. Be still my heart!

And apparently since we needed to spend about 98.75% of this trip eating and drinking we swung into Spread. Please please please, whoever was in charge of the decor at this place, come to Wisconsin, take all my money, and transform my apartment. K thanks. I devoured some of the best falafel ever and sipped on a fig infused rye old fashioned that still haunts my dreams.

spread mediterranean food downtown los angeles foodie travel tips
the last bookstore free things to do in downtown los angeles

And then I died and went to heaven aka The Last Bookstore. Sculptures made from paper and tunnels made from books and old vaults and a huge record selection and galleries and artwork and everything good. Amen.

the last bookstore free things to do in downtown los angeles

And this. The whole reason we went on this trip. To spend Mother's Day pampering the women of Skid Row. For the past 11 years Justin Mayo and Red Eye Inc have been throwing crazy awesome amazing makeovers for Mother's Day. I worked with Red Eye in 2015 and always knew I'd go back. Justin and his team have this passion and love and empathy that is contagious. They are the real deal. The first time I met Justin I asked him "Why?" and without missing a beat he said "Because this is home. This is my family." If you aren't familiar with Red Eye you need to check them out, follow the story, donate, and if you're ever in LA volunteer. They have youth mentoring in Watts every single Saturday. And it's definitely the most fun you'll have. 

We forget so quickly that we are all people and we all just want to be treated with some freaking dignity. The stories these women told me could very easily have been my own. A bad relationship, job loss, health issues, depression. The only difference is that I've had people to lend me a hand. So let's all remember to look at each other and really see one another. Because there isn't a person you wouldn't love if you could read their story.
I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate Mother's Day any other way. Seeing women feel beautiful and important and loved and empowered is my absolute favorite thing. And I got to watch my friends use their gifts and talents to help make that happen. Which is why they're my best friends. Because I said "Let's do this." And they jumped in without hesitation or any questions asked. And then we danced in the street. 

Stay Golden // What I've Learned in 27 Years

wisconsin wedding photographer central wisconsin

But guyyys! It's my golden birthday tomorrow! And I love my birthday. Not in the sense that I want surprises or gifts or attention but because it gives me the chance to do WHATEVER I want. Go out of town for no reason at all? Yup! Eat an entire Portesi's cheese fry in one sitting? No shame in my game! But I also love it because it gives me a chance to look at my life, celebrate what I've accomplished, and evaluate what I want to work on for my future. 
This year I've really been working on loving myself, learning more about myself and what I want, and being unapologetically myself. I really thought that getting closer to 30 would leave me with a sense of dread. But I've been feeling the exact opposite. I'm becoming more myself every day, crushing goals, and most days I honestly feel like I am flourishing. I might not know everything but I have learned a couple things in the past 27 years. 

wisconsin wedding photographer central wisconsin

1. Not having a flat stomach doesn't make you any less loveable. 
This might seem silly but let's be honest I spent waaaay too much of my life having an unhealthy relationship with my body. And it's completely ridiculous because it's not even the part of me I want people to love. Also my body has climbed through mountains, swam in oceans, carried me all over the world, and made another human being. So I'm gonna stop being so critical of it.

2. Gray hair isn't as scary as I thought it would be.
I legit just do not care! Besides silver hair is in right now right?

3. Be careful who you surround yourself with.
It took me a long time to figure this one out. I'm glad I have people in my life who support me and speak truth in my life. I have no room or time for unhealthy relationships. 

4. It really doesn't matter what other people think.
Once again, I legit just DO NOT CARE. People always say you stop caring the older you get and it's the most liberating feeling in the world. When it comes to my career, my relationships, my body, and my style I'm gonna do what makes me happy. 

5. You get what you give.
You work hard and you get results. You give love and you'll be loved. If you're a positive, happy, driven person you'll attract like minded people.

6. Don't settle.
When it comes to your career, your relationship, your friendships, your goals, your life in general, just don't settle for anything mediocre. 

wisconsin wedding photographer central wisconsin

Alright. Now I'm gonna spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with my favorite people, eating Mexican hot chocolate cake, sipping on bourbon, and sitting around a campfire. Happy birthday to me. Happy Memorial Day to you. Stay golden. (Bonus points if you can name that reference!)

Also shoutout to my main boo Hannah Mae Toldt for these awesome pictures and Emily Olson for that bomb makeup! 

The Most Boring Thing About You

It’s not your clothes, or your face, or your personality. It’s not your taste in music, movies, and books. It’s not your career or your hobbies. 
It’s your fear.

That thing that’s stopping you from chasing after your dreams. That thing that’s keeping you stuck in unhealthy relationships and situations. That thing that’s holding you back from being unapologetically yourself. That thing is called fear.

inspiration overcoming fear wisconsin photographer

You see fear is at the root of all our procrastination, our hesitation, our excuses for not using our gifts and reaching our potential. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear that we are inadequate. Fear of being unoriginal. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of loss. Fear of being alone. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, strong enough. And the list goes on.

And while those are all very legitimate fears, guess what. The result of listening to and refusing to act because of those fears is always the same. Nothing. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We don’t progress, move forward, or grow. And that is boring as hell.

Not only is fear boring, but it’s also a liar. You are original and adequate. You are enough. The world needs what you have to offer. The world needs you to be brave and bold and courageous. Because that’s what you were made for. You were made for more than a life of mediocrity. 

So it’s time to face those fears. Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, run right into it. Grab hold of it’s boring face, look it in the eyes, and say “You will not decide my future.” 

inspiration self help overcoming fear wisconsin photographer

Maya Mendoza said, “No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.”
Whoa. Go on and preach!!! Remember that when you feel doubt creeping in. Remember that fear is a liar. Remember that fear is boring. And no one wants to be boring. 

inspiration self help overcoming fear wisconsin photographer

If you want to read more about living beyond fear and what it can do for your creative life definitely check out Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic. She is much more intelligent and eloquent than I am on the subject.

Also because I wanna connect with you guys more I've got some rad little graphics for you to share on social media to remind yourself and others of the truth. So go on, sign up, get a little party going in your inbox, and don't forget to use the hashtag #wildishheart on instagram so I can come say hey!