Greetings from Iceland

Blue Lagoon time-lapse shot on my iPhone 6s

Greetings from Iceland! It’s time for the My Life’s a Trip annual retreat, and this year Anastasia Chernykh, social media manager for this blog, and I decided to meet up in Iceland for photo tours and bonding.

I also really wanted to try IcelandAir‘s non-stop flight from Seattle’s SeaTac airport  to Reykjavik’s Keflavik’s International airport which got me here in a speedy 6 hours and 45 minutes. While reading the in-flight magazine, I learned that Greenland is the new Iceland. Maybe we’ll keep that in mind for our next retreat!

Greenland is the new Iceland

We’ll be spending the next few days exploring  Southern Iceland’s Golden Circle, including the Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park. Then we’ll check out Vatnajokull National park along with the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and two of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. I even packed my tripod in case we catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), which have been showing themselves in the area since August.

Until then, enjoy the time lapse we made during our visit to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon.

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Obligatory Blue Lagoon #selfie

If you want to follow our travels virtually, follow along on twitter and instagram.

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Visiting Oregon’s Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s 620 feet year round waterfall

Last week I went to Portland and got a chance to explore the Columbia Gorge. Among Portland’s many charms is how close it is to some spectacular nature, including Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall, and ranks as the second highest waterfall in the United states. Only Yosemite Falls is higher.

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Vista House in Corbett, Oregon

Located less than half hour’s drive outside of Portland along the historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon’s tallest year round waterfall is not only gorgeous, it’s extremely user friendly. Multnomah Falls is visible from the freeway and it’s an easy walk if you want to get up close and personal with the #1 tourist site in the Columbia Gorge.

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Overcast weather adds atmosphere to the Multnomah Falls hike

If you’re going to walk to the waterfall, wear appropriate footwear. Waterfall spray and the wet Pacific Northwest climate mean that hough paved, the trail does have pools of water and puddles that are unavoidable.


Reverse view of 69 foot drop of the second tier of Multnomah Falls from above Benson Bridge

The downside of being user friendly? Multnomah Falls is popular destination and often crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, nearby Wahkeena Falls can be reached by foot and is significantly less popular than Multnomah Falls.

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Looking up at the top tier of  Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls Lodge has a visitors center, gift shop, and restaurant and is nestled at the base of the falls.

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Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed exploring the trail to Multnomah Falls

The paved trails are also pet-friendly, so expect plenty of dogs to be enjoying the scenery as well. Dogs need to be kept on a leash at all times, but there was plenty to sniff and keep my two labs excited about on this nice day hike.


Benson Bridge over Multnomah Falls adds to the cliffside drama

If you’re planning on photographing the waterfall, bring a wide angle lens. I shot mostly using the 24-70 mm Canon zoom as well as my iPhone. I also got a few good shots with my Fuji X-30.

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Misty morning scenery in the Columbia Gorge

I tried a few shots using my Moment Lens wide angle 18 mm lens attachment, but had uneven results due to vignetting. My fingers are crossed my replacement Moment Lens Case corrects this issue.

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The view of the top tier of Multnomah Falls from above the Benson Bridge

I was wowed by Multnomah Falls. It’s not as powerful as Igauzu Falls but it’s steep drop and tree-lined cliffs are dramatic. Plus, it’s close to Stumptown Coffee, vegan cheese, and and the cajun tots that seem to be on every menu in Portland. It was a nice place to get in a little sightseeing, morning hiking and get some good photos.


Happy hikers at dog-friendly Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls Is easy to reach from Portland. Take I-84 eastbound for approximately 30 miles. Follow signs and take exit 31 (an unusual left-side exit ramp) off I-84 to a parking area. There is a path under the highway that leads to the falls viewing area. Lower trails are paved.


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Pet Friendly Pacific Northwest Road Trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon

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The sand on Cannon Beach is soft and white 

I recently took a road trip from Seattle, Washington to Cannon Beach, Oregon to spend a few days at the Oregon Coast.

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Some moody road trip scenery in Oregon

Since relocating to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve really enjoyed Washington’s beaches and how pet-friendly they are. Longtime Washingtonian friends of mine told me that Oregon’s beaches were even better, with the bonus of sweeps of soft white sand and gorgeous scenery.

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Adirondack chairs on the Oregon Coast

The drive from Seattle to Cannon Beach started on 5 and continued along the 101 took a little over four hours with stops. The scenery started getting pretty in Pacific County, driving through South Bend, Washington and heading into Astoria, Oregon.

Cannon Beach is lovely little Pacific Northwest vacation hamlet. With a population of less than 2,000 residents, the average home price is over $700,000. The town feels like the setting of a Spielberg film. Not shocking considering scenes from The Goonies were shot here and in nearby Astoria.

Pro tip: Skip the Goonies House in Astoria. The owners have closed it down to visitors in August 2015.

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Iconic Haystack Rock rises 235 feet above the Oregon Coastline

We booked a pet-friendly room at the Inn at Cannon Beach. The management knows if you’re taking your dog on vacation you are most likely going to have it up on the bed. They provided pet bowls, treats, and an additional top sheet to keep your linens free of pet hair.


The Inn at Cannon Beach has a great location, near Tolovana Beach

I liked that the Inn at Cannon Beach had breakfast included. During my stay I realized I enjoyed walking over to Sea Level Bakery  across the street for some killer Stumptown coffee and delicious baked goods in the mornings.

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Left: Fab beach houses on Cannon Beach Right: view of iconic Haystack Rock

The Inn has a great location near Tolvana Beach State Recreation Site and is a few minutes walk to the sand.


Random gorgeous Oregon Coast Scenery

It’s also a nice walk to the main stretch of Cannon Beach, near the pet-friendly Hallmark Resort and Spa Cannon Beach and shops, and restaurants.

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Dramatic Clouds on Cannon Beach

If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Cannon Beach, I’d advise checking out Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House. They had tasty cajun tots, good barbecue, and delicious Bloody Marys. There was also have an actual hardware section which came in handy when I needed to buy a new watch battery.

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Silver Point on Cannon Beach

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 Haystack rock and the Needles, famous images from Cannon Beach

The black and white image above was shot using my iPhone 6 and Moment Lens (the 18 mm) and Moment Lens case.

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Corgi on dog-friendly Cannon Beach (shot with my 18 mm Moment Lens)

Unfortunately, my Moment Lens Case has vignetting issues and I’m still awaiting a replacement case. Still, I like the additional drama the wide angle lens provided and am hopeful my replacement case will solve the issue.


Sunset on Cannon Beach near Haystack Rock

No clue if my replacement case will work with the iPhone 6s I’m expecting any day now, but a girl can dream!



 Left: Haystack Rock in Black and white. Right: Rush hour on Cannon Beach


Sand Castle on Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the distance

Dogs aren’t the only animals on Cannon Beach. The area had a bunch of rabbits hopping about. They definitely added to the charm of the coastal beach town, and there were several on the grounds of our hotel.


Rabbit hopping along near Cannon Beach 

My lab, Zeppelin, has a pronounced prey drive, and I kept him on a leash unless we were on the beach. There did not seem to be many rabbits on the sand.

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Bunny rabbit near Haystack Rock and the Needles

I shot this black and white image of a bunny rabbit using my iPhone 6 and 18 mm Moment Lens and case. You can see the vignetting issues in the lower corners of the frame. I think they work here so I did not crop around them.


 Rabbit enjoying killer views of Cannon Beach, Oregon

I was charmed by Cannon Beach and I’m sure I’ll go back. Perhaps next time I’ll stay at the oceanfront Hallmark Resort & Spa.

3116 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97103, United States
+1 503-436-4254
1235 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97110, United States
+1 503-436-4086
3215 S Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, OR 97110, United States
+1 503-436-9085
Worth a trip:
127 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130, United States
+1 503-368-5080
Dogs are allowed on the Patio.

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September in Paradise: a Photo Essay of Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington


Washington’s drought was evident in the water levels at Tipsoo Lake

I’ve lived in Seattle for over a year and finally got to Mt. Rainier National Park to meet Washington’s highest mountain IRL for the first time. I focused on visiting the areas near Paradise and the Chinook Pass. I entered the park from the southwestern Nisqually entrance. The fee to enter was $20 for my vehicle and valid for 7 consecutive days.


The stone bridge over  the lower tier of Christine Falls

My first mistake was assuming that visiting mid-week and mid-September meant the park wouldn’t be crowded. A teacher’s strike in Seattle and fantastic weather made the park fairly packed. This was an issue since I had no mobile phone service in the park, nor for about 30 miles outside of it. Wifi was non-existent.

The first photo op I passed was the picturesque Christine Falls, which are easy to access just off the road. Washington has been in a drought and water levels were visibly low at all the waterfalls and lakes.


Hiking in Paradise

If you are planning on staying at one of Mt. Rainier’s Inns, book ahead even in the fall.

I failed to do this and discovered both Paradise Inn and National Park Inn had filled up a few hours before my arrival.


Evergreens and fall colors

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Full frontal fall colors off a trail in Paradise


A creek and Mt. Rainier above Narada Falls

After two years of drought in the state of Washington, we’ve been told that this winter will be a record El Nino year, and I’m curious to see how this effects the snowpack and water levels at Mt. Rainier National Park next year.

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The bridge above Narada Falls

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 Rainier in stunning light

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 Evergreens and glaciers

You can spend a whole day hiking around Paradise. The Alta Vista trail loop is paved and leads through meadows filled with wildflowers. I was surprised by how vibrant the fall colors already were in mid-September.

Additional trails to the Skyline Trail and Reflection Lakes intersect with the Alta Vista loop.

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A pretty view of Mt. Rainier

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  A meadow on the Alta Vista trail in full Autumnal splendor

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 Wood in the forest near Christine Falls

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Fall colors out in full force on the Alta Vista trail in Paradise

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Driving through the park

Paradise Inn

Open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm PDT.
Send Email
Phone 360.569.2275 or 855.755.2275
Fax 360.569.2770

GPS Address to Nisqually Entrance
(not a mailing address)
39000 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA  98304
The National Park Inn is located 6 miles inside the Nisqually Entrance and the Paradise Inn is located 19 miles inside the entrance.

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A Stay at J.K. Place Roma, Italy

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Living La Dolce Vita in the library at JK Place Roma

The focus of my most recent trip to Italy was exploring the Tuscan wine country, but I wrapped up the trip with a couple of days in Rome. I spent one night at my new favorite hotel in Italy, the JK Place Roma.


The vibe at JK Place Roma is very Mad Men-chic

My stay at the JK Place Roma was brief, but it didn’t take long for this small, chic urban hotel tucked away on a side street near the Piazza Borghese and within walking distance to the Spanish Steps to win me over. We arrived before our room was ready, and the gracious concierge escorted us to the library and poured us a round of Aperol Spritz while we waited for our room.

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Left: cinema books at the JK Place Roma Right: I was very Happy flipping through Pharrell’s coffee table book 

We had no problem kicking back for a spritz (or three), enjoying the speedy wifi, and flipping through the fab collections of art books in the library. The Library at JK Place properties can put a Taschen book store to shame. They are like a thing.


Love this mid-century light fixture in the JK Place Cafe

The vibe is  very mid-century glamorous at JK Place properties and you feel like someone’s pampered house guest with impossibly chic friends. Just looking at the interior design was inspiring (and a welcome respite from the August heat).


Left: The glam cafe at JK Place Roma Right: Sunlight pours into the JK Place Cafe

Breakfast is included in the room rate and while my flight departed too early for me to check out the spread for myself, I have a close friend who also stayed at the hotel a month before me and asked her for her review.

She said, “They had many choices laid out for a buffet (all the usual stuff: baked goods, fruits, juices, yogurts, granolas, cheeses, charcuterie, smoked fish, etc.), plus they were eager to make you anything you wished for in the kitchen. We had a variety of eggs cooked to order. The service was very friendly and attentive.”


Fruit in my spritz

This is consistent with the JK brand (I’m still blown away when I remember the breakfast spread at the sister property, JK Place Capri).

This time, my stay was courtesy of a free night earned in the LHW Leaders Club Unlimited (my husband is a Leader’s Club Unlimited member, which seems especially useful in Italy).

When our room was ready, the concierge led us there. Even the elevator, which had velvet banquettes built right in, was fabulous. Our room, a JK Classic, was not huge, but it was big enough by Roman standards.

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Rule #1 of visiting Italy: skip the bread. I broke this rule and this bread was delicious.

More notable was the unusually large bathroom which was almost as big as the bedroom, with a huge shower stall, impressive vanity and dressing area.

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Salmon rilette served in the the J.K.  Cafe

A few notes about how they roll at JK Place: bar snacks are generous and tasty. You can make a meal out of the olives alone. There is also one choice that I’m sure was meant to be “quirky” that I find irksome: the music.

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The cozy but chic bedroom had some fabulous photography

While I am a bit of a music snob, I usually enjoy music. I also think it’s fun discovering interesting cover versions of songs (think Kawehi’s Heart Shaped Box).  Not so the soundtrack at J.K. Place. The hotel’s atmosphere music was straight up offensive to my ears.


The bathroom at JK Place Roma

The playlist that featured almost entirely all female cover songs, like Eliza Lacreda’s version of King of Pain or this awful version of Dani California. My friend who stayed there a month before me is also an audiophile, and she found the music choices amusing. So it’s a personal taste thing. Fortunately, I found Aperol spritz took the edge off my dislike for the soundtrack.

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Aperol spritz with a statue at the JK Place Roma

My biggest problem with JK Place Roma is that I didn’t stay nearly long enough to enjoy it fully. There is so much to see and do in Rome that I didn’t get to sleep in late in the crisp, cool sheets or sample the breakfast buffet for myself. Clearly I need to book another stay at J.K. Place Roma so I can check out the hotel in more detail.

J.K. Place Roma

Via di Monte D’Oro, 30,

00186 Roma, Italy

+39 06 982634

Rates from $609.00 USD

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