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?


Lessons From an Escape TO Alcatraz

Michelle Chahine Sinno Alcatraz Bay Area San Francisco
On Alcatraz Island.

Last Thursday, we travelled to San Francisco for a long summer weekend getaway. The trip was about two things. Well three, really.

  1. It was about doing some of our favorite things back from when Nadim lived in the Bay Area and I visited frequently.
  2. It was about doing some of the things that were on our list at the time, that we never got around to doing before moving to L.A.
  3. And of course, it was about being proactive about planning fun weekend getaways, which is one of my goals this year as I seek work-life balance.

While there, it was great to reminisce about and visit some of our favorite spots, and reflect on that stage in my life in general. I spent the summer there during grad school interning with the San Francisco Chronicle, and that summer was all about possibility: the possibility of what I could do, write, be.. and where I could live. I was planning to move to San Francisco after finishing school, and I did for about 2 weeks–before moving to the Los Angeles area.

It’s been nearly four years since moving to Santa Monica. I thought a lot this past weekend about the importance of going back to places that are important to you. Certainly, visiting new places is key to a happy, balanced life. But, I do think, so is visiting “old” places once in a while. It helps connect you to a certain phase in your life and how you thought about things, reminding you of perspectives you may forget in the present.

While sitting in a sunny Biergarten last weekend, the main thing I remembered about my time in the Bay Area in 2011-2012 was just how much I was waiting. Waiting to become the person I wanted to be. Waiting to do all the things on my adventure list. Waiting until I wrote all the things I wanted to write. Waiting…

This is something I felt starkly last year too. I kept waiting for a busy period at work to finish. Waiting for my inbox to clear. Waiting to finish doing just that one more thing before I could relax…  and that’s when I realized: It doesn’t end. It never ends. If I keep waiting for the right time to find my work-life balance, I never would. So I started this blog.

Sometimes, waiting is meaningful. Sometimes, you have to wait in line (and NOT look at your phone, but be OK with the empty time, which can be a great break from the bustle of a day). I’ve been waiting a lot these days for replies from agents as I query my work, and that’s a key part of the process. Sometimes, you have to wait to see results from a fitness routine. You have to wait to save up money for something special… The list goes on. But the thing about this kind of waiting, is that it’s more of patience–because you are already in the midst of doing.

Last Friday, I finally visited Alcatraz, a simple 12-minute boat ride from Pier 33 in San Francisco. I so wanted to visited it in both 2011 and 2012. Why did I wait? Why didn’t I act? As I stood on the island looking across at crisp San Francisco on an exceptionally beautiful day, I felt something a lot like closure.

San Francisco from Alcatraz Michelle Chahine Sinno

I had finally done it, and in making the short trip, I had come a far way. It was a lesson on what a waste of time waiting to act–waiting to become who you want to become–can be.

Though I haven’t managed to get my books published, and I am still patiently plugging along when it comes to several of my life goals, I know I’m not waiting anymore.

What are you waiting for, today?