Aerial view of Balboa Island

Sunshine and Swimsuits

Back in 2015, I traveled with my dear friend and coworker Heidi to the OC. I was working as the Buyer for Misses + Juniors Swimwear + Outerwear at Kohl’s Department Stores.

Part of my job was to see our vendors, shop the competition and come up with the office strategy + vision for seasons to come. Working in the merchant office was very diverse, complex and you had to move + groove with the business.

Apart from negotiating margin, assorting the floor and understanding the financials thoroughly, you were looked to as a leader, driving the direction of your area and empowering teams. I learned a TON from my ten years at Kohl’s!

Lost and Found

I wrote a post in 2015 about the trip to Orange County and unfortunately did not renew my domain hosting site in time and lost my blog contents. Fortunately, my friend Flo told me about the Wayback Machine, an internet archival of content, that could possibly have captured my posts.

He was right!

I hope you’ll enjoy this journey through Orange County. I’ve certainly been reliving some travels via my photos lately!

*This post is from 2015 from my lost blog – enjoy!

California Dreamin’

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Orange County for work in order to study the swim business, and it was a great learning experience. What a memorable trip with very useful professional takeaways! I wish I could write about all of the nitty gritty details and ins and outs of this market trip, but I can’t share the secrets! Hehe.

Instead, I want to take you on a journey through the beauty that is Orange County via palm trees, colors, waterfronts, alimentation, flowers and more. I couldn’t help myself and snapped quite a number of photos along the way.

One of the best parts was that the weather was in the 70s while it was still in the 30s back home. While it was hard to pack from a frozen tundra mentality to transform into a sunny haven, I couldn’t complain once I stepped foot into the warmth of the air, the ocean breezes and picturesque landscapes all around.

One of our vendors we met with in the OC apologized that the weather was not “as nice” as the week prior, which had been in the 80s and 90s! My, how things are relative, aren’t they?

I found that to be really funny and was brought back to this funny video from the Jimmy Kimmel Show about how LA dwellers overreacted to a cold front in the 50s. It just reminds me of how we truly are products of our environment and surroundings and I find that to be so intriguing. On Wisconsin! But not Wisconsin Winters!

Speaking of environments and surroundings and flying to a destination to partake in the local specialities, it’s time to share some pictures of my favorite moments from the OC! Join me in this exploration through photos that I’ve grouped into little vignettes. Below is what I am dubbing my Orange Country Table of Contents. Enjoy!

Christina’s Orange County Table of Contents

  1. Looking Down
  2. Shopping Obsessions
  3. Palm Trees Galore
  4. A Morning on Balboa Pier
  5. It’s a Sign
  6. Beach House Façades
  7. Wondrous Waterfronts
  8. Alimentary Awesomeness
  9. Flourishing Flora
  10. I’m on a Plane

1: Looking Down

Looking down but definitely not feeling down.  Sometimes all it takes is looking in a different direction to change your perspective.  In this case, I’m inspired by print and pattern while shopping.

I decided to bring my Swim Bag that I got at last year’s Miami Swim Market.  It was only appropriate since this was Swim Market in the OC.  I’m usually someone who likes to tie in what I am wearing to the scenery because I find a joy and affinity in the congruency of outfit to backdrop.  Do you like to match what you wear to where you are wearing it? 

Swim bag I used for work

My shadow on the ground was taken after I bought a white textured floppy hat on the very cute and adorable Balboa Island. There are a lot of fun, cute and quaint shopping boutiques on the island, which was man-made in the early 1900’s for its recreational potential.  

Shadow in the sunlight wearing a floppy hat

I loved imagining a lifestyle on the island for sun-loving beach bums and for the highly successful who can afford these locations (definitely not mutually exclusive)!  

What is amazing to me is that there are about 3,000 residents who live on 0.2 square miles and each lot is about 30 x 85 feet.  Thanks, Wikipedia. And they are pricey – in the millions.  

For now, I’ll just meander and stroll and be content with my $10 floppy hat.

Huntington Beach tiles

I think ground tiles are very pretty and these are no exception.  We did a little shopping at the surf shops at Huntington Beach and I saw a guy barefoot with his surfboard walking around.  What a life!  The blue hues of the ground mixed with the greenish-greys just spoke ocean to me. 

I also really love the multi-colored woven pattern of the chair in the last picture of this category.  The rainbow array is happy with a tribal craftsmanship.  

A vividly colored woven chair, just beautiful!

Next time, I encourage you to also “look down” and see what you end up seeing differently!  What direction do you like to look?

2. Shopping Obsessions

Some people like sports. Others enjoy watching movies. For me, I’m a shopaholic at heart. No shame. Prints, patterns, textures and colors inspire me. I’m happiest when I can imagine.

We made a stop at the outdoor shopping mall Fashion Island in Newport Beach and Heidi right away spotted the store Johnny Was and told me it was right up my alley.

“I knew you would like it!” Heidi exclaimed after I declared my love for its boho vibe and ease of style. Since Fashion Island is an outdoor mall, when we entered Johnny Was, the patterned silk scarves that were hanging from the ceiling moved around with the ebb and flow of the light breeze.

It was official. I knew I was in a fashion heaven.

Silk scarves hanging from Johnny Was.

I didn’t think I could experience fashion heaven twice within the same day, but when I saw the delicate, almost doily-like structures in shades of blues and greens at Free People, I knew it was possible.

Lights and crocheted doily decorations at Free People!

Bold colors and prints and pattern are also a favorite because they just tell a great story and are so intricate with depth. What are your favorite shopping inspirations?

Print and pattern in clothing while shopping.
Shopping at Fashion Island in the OC.

3. Palm Trees Galore

Look up towards the sky and dream forever…and ever. That’s how I feel when I see these tall, gorgeous limbs of poofs filling the skyline. Don’t be afraid to look up and bask in the rays of the sun. Let your mind be free to dream a lovely dream.

Palm trees and a white blaze of sun streak atop the hotel where I stayed.

How can you tell the difference between a Californian and a Wisconsinite?  

I asked myself this Jeopardy question that was really an answer after I observed my actions whenever I saw palm trees or grouping of palm trees.

Pacific Coast Highway sign with palm trees.

I freaked.

I freaked like a kid who got an allowance raise. I freaked like a teen whose crush glanced her way. I freaked like a collegiate who received 50 facebook likes on a status update post within 15 minutes.

I freaked like the Wisconsinite I am who was not accustomed to seeing this type of tree, not at this time of year, not ever. What a freak. But it makes for dream pictures, doesn’t it?

Palm trees in Orange County!

4: A morning on Balboa Pier

When innate night owls attempt to become morning birds, it’s a recipe for disaster. Battles with the alarm clocks always ensue, and the struggle is real. But for some reason, on travel mode, the struggle disappears!

Do you find that to be the case as well for you night owl birds out there who love to travel?

A morning on Balboa Pier.

I got up very early on this day to walk on Balboa Pier. It was not even a thang getting up on the very first alarm. Yes, I always set at least three alarms on my phone because I am so nervous I will turn them off and miss them one by one!

Balboa Pier in the OC with the sun shining early morning and palm trees lined up across the sky.

This view was so gorgeous and truly breathtaking. I decided I wanted to wear a hot pink palm tree top because, as aforementioned about my preferences, I love an outfit that matches the location!

Beautiful view from Balboa Pier with the waves crashing against the sand, the sun shining in the sky and palm trees reaching to the clouds!

At the end of this pier is Ruby’s Diner which is a restaurant that appeared in many episodes of the television series, the OC.

Doing a little twirl to see the beauty view on Balboa Pier.

When I walked the length of the pier, I heard the waves crashing softly against the sand, felt the sunrise rays warming up my hair, viewed the patient fishermen hankering for a morning catch and smelled the grease-pans at Ruby’s revving up for a day’s worth of serving customers.

It smelled like burgers and pancakes more and more the closer I walked towards the ocean and I have to admit, I wanted to sit there and gorge on greasy grub!

5. It’s a sign

What’s in a name? Everything. What’s in a sign? Everything. Words can be memorable and paired with the right aesthetic, they are everything. They are what gives significance to a place and space.

Ciao sign on Balboa Island.

On our last morning in the OC, we ventured back onto Balboa Island and had a yummy meal at Wilma’s Patio. There were many different places to sit in the restaurant but we opted to sit on the patio of Wilma’s Patio.

Yay! I really enjoyed the family comfort food feel and devoured the delicious cornbread with honey and butter.

Sign for Wilma's Patio on Balboa Island.
Side of a truck for the Crab Cooker in Orange County.

I spotted this sign as we were heading to check out some of the swim shops with our vendor. She was driving, and I didn’t want to stop to snap a picture while we were discussing business. But we happened to park right nearby so I was happy (not crabby!) to stop for a moment and snap a shot.

Sign on Balboa Island that reads Couture.

Couture. It’s one of my favorite French words so I had to pose for a picture next to the wall painted in black and white with this mot en français. Mais, bien sûr.

6: Beach house façades

The theme of this trip encapsulated into one question would be, “Who would want to live here?” Heidi would say it upon seeing each unique beach house, while driving in the sunshine, while dining and while walking together. Said in jest, of course. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to live here?

Beautiful beach front flora.

To be a beach bum. For some people who have the beach bum attitude ingrained in them, they only know one direction, and that’s west.

Beach house details.

As I walked around the Balboa neighborhood, I saw the rosy influences of a sunny and warm climate, fit for unique and dazzling flowers to reach their ultimate potential.

Beach house details - palm trees, old cars, colorful façades.

I really loved the many different walls and decorations of these cute beach dwellings.

More beach house fronts with a shrub and branches.

7: Wondrous waterfronts

Wellness. There’s something to be said about the feeling of swell and well when surrounded by or floating on a peaceful ripple. Soothing. Relaxing. Zen.

Waterfront in Orange County.

I get it. I get why people live here and never want to leave.

Taking the Balboa Island Ferry and seeing the water.

One of my favorite moments here in the OC was taking the Balboa Island Ferry.

Boats docked on the Balboa Peninsula waterfront.

It literally takes you 800 feet to get between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island. The ride was very fast but it was such a distinctive experience to sit in the car and float across the waters.

Balboa Island ferry.

8: Alimentary awesomeness

I will always ask myself the question: Why is food so damn good? I’m so thankful for the different flavors and textures and experiences that eating brings to the table. Gotta love a good meal!

Pictured here are some of our culinary experiences during this trip.

We sat down with one of our swimwear vendors for dinner. I just love the translucent green of the San Pellegrino bottle!

Eating at the Winery in Newport Beach.

This heirloom tomato and burrata salad from The Winery in Newport Beach was delicious! Melt-in-your-mouth burrata.

Delicious appetizer at The Winery in Newport Beach - tomato and burrata.
With my coworker Heidi, getting ready for dinner!

We enjoyed some bread + olive oil and the below seabass dish from Fig and Olive.

Fig and Olive bread and oil appetizer.
Seabags from Fig and Olive in the OC.

I loved this delicious brunch with Heidi. We’ve traveled so much together for market trips that we just know each other very well. And we knew we wanted to head back to Balboa Island !

Aerial breakfast pic of our omelettes and cornbread at Wilma's Patio on Balboa Island.

We enjoyed some omelettes and cornbread from Wilma’s Patio.

Enjoying cornbread with honey and butter at Wilma's Patio.

9: Flourishing flora

To me, flora is eye-catching. It’s head turning. It’s a showstopper. So I stopped…and snapped away.

Looking up to the sky with views of palm trees and flowers.
Succulents in a grid decorating the side of a building.
Flora, beach and sky.
Beautiful pink flowers in a tree above Heidi's head!

Blossoms. Succulents. Palms.

Never gets old. Nature is beautiful.

10: I’m on a plane

Fly and continue to soar. Spread your wings and allow yourself to grow and change, to see new things each day and to learn.

Travel does just that: It teaches us to think differently, to appreciate the nuances of culture and environment. I’m grateful for travel.

What have you learned from your favorite travels?

Grid-like view from the plane flying home from the OC to Milwaukee.

The pictures in this series were all taken while flying from West Coast back to the Midwest. This first image was about 20-30 minutes into the flight and I liked the grid-like landscape with astroturf-colored greens mixed with stark whites.

Caught this sunset over Chicago in the plane.

The sunset skyline was taken while flying over Chicago…we were almost home!

Clouds and ground from a plane's perspective looking like camo.

I really like the clouds that looked like cotton balls in the sky over the arid, mountainous terrains.

And this final picture was taken within the first five minutes of takeoff with a great aerial view of Balboa Island!

Gorgeous aerial view of Balboa Island from the plane.

Thank you, Orange County, for your incredible beauty and inspiration. Until next time!