Weekend Getaway in Big Bear Lake & Fall in Los Angeles

Since this is the first new post in the newly created section of my blog, “Flight Log,” I’d like to share the inspiration behind it. (Older posts in this section were categorized differently in the past, but I’ve included them here in this redesign as an archive).  

The “Flight Log” section of this blog is inspired by a beautiful book I recently read, and highly recommend, West with the Night by Beryl Markham, the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America.

The book begins with the name of a place from her flight log, which paints a picture of adventure, exploration, night flights alone over Africa in the 1930s (she was a solo freelance pilot transporting mail, medicine, and people), tents set up in remote areas, and wonder.

She refers to her log throughout the book, and that leads to romantic nostalgia for the reader, nostalgia for long-lost times and places and what might have been.

Though my adventure, travels, and exploration will likely be nowhere near the level of Markham’s, this is my flight log of sorts, a space to gather photography and notes from places I visit and events I attend, and who knows what else.

Here, my log starts with a weekend getaway to Big Bear Lake, two hours east of Los Angeles. The small mountain town (population 5,200) offered a perfect fall retreat, with foliage-lined roads and cooler temperatures. I’m grateful to friends who suggested and planned this getaway. A big group of us rented a cozy home with a great deck, yard, and kitchen (through Airbnb).

Morning in the yard.
Minjay enjoying the new smells.
Golden roads.
We did a short hike at Castle Rock Trail, which my friend recommended. Beautiful views (like the photo on the top of this post).
Loved the pine cones on the ground.
Twilight from the deck of the house we rented.

On Saturday night, I sat on a black wooden rocking chair on the porch, underneath a warm fleece blanket, and looked up at the stars, thousands more than I would normally see in the city. I stared at the shadow of the milky way and remembered stargazing on my balcony in Lebanon when I was fifteen. It brought to mind this sentence I love, written by Noah Hawley in his novel Before the Fall:

What if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?


Morning view.
Farewell walk around the neighborhood.

There’s nothing like being in nature and staring at the night sky that makes you want to live deliberately, to try to create more good, deep moments for your collection.

For me, one way to do that is to make the most of each season. I created a small list of to-dos for myself to appreciate fall in Los Angeles.

1. Fall weekend getaway. √

2. Seek out foliage on hikes and walks with Minjay. √

3. Bake and enjoy pumpkin treats. √

I can recommend Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice bread and muffin mix, pumpkin chocolate chip scones at The Trails Cafe if you’re in Los Angeles, and this great recipe for Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo.

4. Seek out different neighborhoods for morning walks with Minjay that have great Halloween decorations. √

5. Go to an event that celebrates all things fall. √

Ever since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve been wanting to go to a live taping, but didn’t get around to it. I finally reserved a spot for a taping on the Universal Studios lot of Home and Family, the morning show on the Hallmark Channel that really goes all in for the seasons. It was fun to watch the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a morning show and check out the decorated set in person.

Kimberly Williams- Paisley with the hosts Debbie Matenopoulos and Mark Steines.
DIY pumpkin goals.


What are some ways you make the most of fall where you live?


Happy Earth Day & National Park Week!

Yosemite Valley National Parks Michelle Chahine Sinno

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Yosemite Valley. Nadim and I drove from San Francisco, through a winding, uphill forest road, passed the park entrance, through a tunnel, and there it was. When we parked the car and stood out at the viewing point, I felt like I had left the planet earth I had known all my life (for twenty-three years) and arrived to a completely different planet. It was incredible to me that this all existed alongside our busy cities and house-filled suburbs, highways and urban parks. This wild land, protected for generations, is one of the greatest things about America.

Today is Earth Day, and it’s also the tail end of National Park week. I thought it would be the perfect time to write a post about visiting the national parks as a key contributor to work-life balance.

Michelle Chahine Sinno National Parks Yosemite Mariposa Grove

Beyond how important our connection with nature is, it’s an issue of perspective. We need to remember our size (& age) relative to places like Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, and things like the Big Trees in California, Oregon and Washington.

Michelle Chahine Sinno Big Trees California National Parks Yosemite

This goes back to the importance of planning weekend getaways, but it’s beyond that. It’s planning wild nature getaways. (Keyword = wild). Most of us can’t always make it out to a national park on a weekly basis, but there are so many of them across all the states, that we can challenge ourselves to go to one once a season, or at least twice a year.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~John Muir 

My bucket list is to go to all of the national parks in the United States of America. However, in 2015 I failed to plan a single trip. And I live in California! (California ties with Alaska for being the states with the most national parks, 8) All it would have taken is a little bit of forethought, planning and a two-hour drive. The same rings true for when I was a student in Boston and was so caught up in my life there that I didn’t take the time to plan trips to Acadia National Park. Or when I lived in Manhattan and missed out on all the beauty in upstate New York. Looking back, it wasn’t an issue of time– because we always seem to find time for what’s important. It was an issue of making it a priority.

On this website, you can find all the national parks in your area based on state. Here’s a list of all the parks in the U.S. And I’ve always thought National Geographic does an excellent job with writing, photography, travel itineraries, history and more.

With so many wonders driving-distance to where most of us live, be it national parks here in the U.S., or other places around the world, we are missing out on a key component of life if we don’t explore them.

And preserve them. That is today’s theme after all.

So on that note, Happy Earth Day!

What’s your favorite national park?


Photos taken November 2011.