natalie venuto

natalie venuto

New kicks + bling
Shoes from Birkenstock and Vans and Michigan State-inspired earrings from Kate Spade.
New kicks + bling
Shoes from Birkenstock and Vans and Michigan State-inspired earrings from Kate Spade.
New kicks + bling
Shoes from Birkenstock and Vans and Michigan State-inspired earrings from Kate Spade.

New kicks + bling

Shoes from Birkenstock and Vans and Michigan State-inspired earrings from Kate Spade.

I have a pretty sizable collection of unique desk toys: a Dala Horse from a coworker’s business trip to Sweden; a piñata or “donk” from my friend Monica’s birthday party; a green Buddha my boss found in downtown Mountain View – he gave it to me for Christmas before Michigan State played Stanford in the Rose Bowl, so it’s obviously good luck; a moose from my friend Ethan’s trip to Alaska to run the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Half Marathon; a flamingo, giraffe, hippo, and elephant from one of my favorite childhood toy stores, Leland Toy Company; an octopus my boyfriend bought me during a special date at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Each toy has special meaning and I’d love to continue this tradition of purchasing or being gifted a little trinket from a special trip, accomplishment or occasion.

I have a pretty sizable collection of unique desk toys: a Dala Horse from a coworker’s business trip to Sweden; a piñata or “donk” from my friend Monica’s birthday party; a green Buddha my boss found in downtown Mountain View – he gave it to me for Christmas before Michigan State played Stanford in the Rose Bowl, so it’s obviously good luck; a moose from my friend Ethan’s trip to Alaska to run the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Half Marathon; a flamingo, giraffe, hippo, and elephant from one of my favorite childhood toy stores, Leland Toy Company; an octopus my boyfriend bought me during a special date at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Each toy has special meaning and I’d love to continue this tradition of purchasing or being gifted a little trinket from a special trip, accomplishment or occasion.

Road Trip Nostalgia

It’s been exactly one year since my last cross-country (Michigan to California) road trip, and I’ll admit that I’m feeling a little bit nostalgic. There’s just something about being on the open road, with no plans for the day other than finding food and shelter at some point along your journey.

I’ve done two of these trips in the past 23 months: the first in September 2012 and I was moving from my advertising agency job in Royal Oak, Michigan to an in-house designer role at a tech startup in Silicon Valley. The second was moving my boyfriend from an advertising agency job in Metro Detroit to an advertising startup job in San Francisco.

He now works at Apple and I’m now a user experience designer at a cloud storage software startup, but that’s beside the point. We both came out here for the amazing opportunities, both personally (we love food and love to explore) and professionally (tech is booming, obviously), and we wouldn’t move to a new place any other way than via cross-country road trip, because that’s the best way to experience everything!

A few favorites from these trips…

imageExploring the salt flats in Utah after staying in Salt Lake City for the night / September 2012

imageA delicious restaurant in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska called Bread & Cup / September 2012

imageJumping for joy after finally arriving at Lake Tahoe in California, just in time for a beautiful sunset / September 2012

imageYou can’t drive through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas without stopping somewhere for BBQ. Iron Starr Urban BBQ in Oklahoma City was delicious / August 2013

imageThe Walter White, brewed for the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad by Marble Brewery in Albuquerque / August 2013

imageAnother Breaking Bad-themed treat in ABQ: Blue Sky donuts at Rebel Donut / August 2013

imageAfter all of that BBQ and beer and those Breaking Bad breakfast treats, we needed to get out of the car and get active. The Painted Dessert in Arizona is beautiful and was the perfect place to stop / August 2013

imageWe loved doing the Southwest to LA route so we could go up the coast to Palo Alto. Grant’s favorite is Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica, so we stopped and hung out there for a while before finally arriving home / August 2013

Best place to work out in Palo Alto: so many options!

Ever since I stopped taking ballet classes and rehearsing for performances most days of the week for hours on end, my fitness level has definitely suffered. I still keep up with regular walks/hikes, yoga and pilates and occasionally swimming, but I know I need to push myself more, especially since I love the feeling of being active as soon as I leave my desk job each day.

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Palo Alto has so many fitness options to choose from, which I love, so I decided to check out a few before my free Crunch membership started when Bitcasa moved to the new San Mateo office in July. So far, I’ve checked out Equinox (I was a member for most of 2013-2014); uforia studios, SoulCycle, The Dailey Method, Pure Barre, The Bar Method, and Core Studio.

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At Equinox, I loved that the $150/month (partially subsidized by work) included an amazing gym, unlimited fitness classes, a saline rooftop pool, a beautiful spa, impeccable locker rooms with cold eucalyptus towels, Kiehl’s products, and a eucalyptus steam room. I never regretted a trip to Equinox, but I found that, after a while, I wasn’t totally challenged by the workout classes anymore (my favorites were Danceation, TRX, Pilates, yoga) and wanted a change for a bit.

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I had to check out this workout that everyone was raving about. I decided to give it a shot and absolutely loved it! The only ‘downsides’ are prices, which are actually pretty comparable to most Bay Area fitness classes: $30/class + $3 shoe rental (a few dollars cheaper if you buy a 5 or 10 class package; $20 for your first class; includes free shoes your first time) and getting used to clipping in/out of the bike. After you get used to it, it’s the only way to spin. I recently took a spin class at Crunch wearing just Nike running shoes and I wished I’d had spin shoes. Everything else is wonderful.

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I’ve taken barre classes on and off for years, usually Pure Barre. The problem I was running into was similar to my problems with Equinox – after a while, I wanted to switch things up. I checked out The Bar Method, which wasn’t challenging enough – in the class I attended, I didn’t even break a sweat – and The Dailey Method. I liked The Dailey Method, but again, if I’m getting up for an intense 6am workout, I want to sweat along with my resistance training.

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Uforia Studios and Core Studio are both right down the street from my apartment in Palo Alto. Uforia is a cute boutique studio in an old church, and it’s beautiful! The prices are about the same as most exercise studios in the area – it averages out to between $18-24 per class, depending on your package. The staff is wonderful and the Grit and Revolutions (spin) classes are great. I’d go more often if I didn’t have a free Crunch membership through work now.

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Core Studios uses SPX machines and it’s hands down the best core workout I’ve ever done. My first class was $15, first month once a week package was $79, and they just offered me a $99 monthly unlimited class, so I’m looking forward to toning and strengthening in August.

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In addition to these classes, I’ve tried yoga, pilates, and spin at Crunch. I’m looking forward to checking out boxing, cardio kickboxing, pole dancing (!), and other weight/cardio/resistance training classes.

I also try to hike in the Bay Area (and beyond) as much as I can. It’s so beautiful here; the weather is always perfect and the hills make a killer (and free!) workout that’s fun to do with friends and visitors.

I’ll keep this blog updated as I try more fitness classes! I’ve even turned myself into a morning person – the way these classes work (booking online in advance) does not allow for cancellation without penalty, so when my alarm goes off at 5:20 (and 5:30… and 5:40), I’m out of bed and ready to go!

Summertime in Northern Michigan

I haven’t been great about documenting my travels this year. Here’s the quick overview: I got stuck in the polar vortex in Michigan in January, took a last-minute 36-hour Michigan adventure in February, ran a half marathon with my partner in crime Caitlin in DC in April, got to spend some time with my sister Melissa during a long weekend in Houston in May, met up with my best friend Ethan five days in Hawaii over Memorial Day Weekend, went on a rafting and camping trip near Sacramento and Folsom in June with some Bay Area friends, spent a day in Napa in June with my friend Stephanie who just moved to Hawaii, and spent the Fourth of July on Lake Tahoe. Next on my list is my favorite place: Northern Michigan! I’m flying to Traverse City tonight and spending the next ten days with family and friends in that glorious place.

There’s just something about summertime in Northern Michigan. It doesn’t quite feel like summer in the Bay Area – it’s always 70s and sunny, and at my new office in San Mateo, it’s always breezy and sometimes foggy. I love this weather, and I love that I get to experience it year-round, but there’s something to be said for enduring months-long winter, getting up in the darkness to scrape off your car, hoping your fingers won’t freeze as your breath fogs up your glasses, trekking to work or school on questionable roads, and then anxiously awaiting the first day of spring where even in 50-degree temperatures, everyone is acting like it’s already summer. That “thawing” period makes people realize why, exactly, they deal with the winters every year, even if most of them say THIS IS THE LAST YEAR. The months that aren’t winter (and even parts of winter!) are absolutely glorious, but especially summers.

Summers in Michigan are magical. Ask 99.9% of people who have spent time there in the summer will agree wholeheartedly. The people are so friendly and excited about everything. Traverse City has been named to so many “best of” lists by reputable travel, food/wine/beer and news sources that I’ve lost track. Lake Michigan is hands down the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, and I just cannot WAIT to get there.

Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto
Some recent events:
California Beer Festival
4th of July in Lake Tahoe
Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers
Park days in San Francisco
Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo
Brunch / walks in Palo Alto

Some recent events:

California Beer Festival

4th of July in Lake Tahoe

Rafting on the American River and camping near Folsom Lake + making an epic s’more out of rice krispie treats, Hershey’s, Nutella, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and Graham crackers

Park days in San Francisco

Bitcasa HQ moved to San Mateo

Brunch / walks in Palo Alto

What might happen if an American football coach coached soccer

"Ties and no playoffs? Why even do this?"

"That’s not a tackle… that’s just slidin’ around!"

"How many countries are in this country?"

Wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains / Saratoga yesterday with our friends Oliver and Rachel
Wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains / Saratoga yesterday with our friends Oliver and Rachel
Wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains / Saratoga yesterday with our friends Oliver and Rachel

Wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains / Saratoga yesterday with our friends Oliver and Rachel

I love Project Juice! The juicer Grant bought me for my birthday is pretty awesome, too.
I love Project Juice! The juicer Grant bought me for my birthday is pretty awesome, too.
I love Project Juice! The juicer Grant bought me for my birthday is pretty awesome, too.

I love Project Juice! The juicer Grant bought me for my birthday is pretty awesome, too.

New summer shoes I’m loving: Tieks, Toms and Rainbow sandals. I also love those Tieks in nude, but they only come in patent leather in that color – too shiny for my taste. Tieks has fantastic customer support, and they’re extremely well-made, versatile and comfortable shoes. I’m very excited to kick off summer with some great shoes.
New summer shoes I’m loving: Tieks, Toms and Rainbow sandals. I also love those Tieks in nude, but they only come in patent leather in that color – too shiny for my taste. Tieks has fantastic customer support, and they’re extremely well-made, versatile and comfortable shoes. I’m very excited to kick off summer with some great shoes.
New summer shoes I’m loving: Tieks, Toms and Rainbow sandals. I also love those Tieks in nude, but they only come in patent leather in that color – too shiny for my taste. Tieks has fantastic customer support, and they’re extremely well-made, versatile and comfortable shoes. I’m very excited to kick off summer with some great shoes.

New summer shoes I’m loving: Tieks, Toms and Rainbow sandals. I also love those Tieks in nude, but they only come in patent leather in that color – too shiny for my taste. Tieks has fantastic customer support, and they’re extremely well-made, versatile and comfortable shoes. I’m very excited to kick off summer with some great shoes.

What a great Monday! @kojakitchen @ #willowsmarket food truck night + a lovely hand-written note accompanying a #littlebluebox from @tieks! 💕 (at Food Truck Monday)

What a great Monday! @kojakitchen @ #willowsmarket food truck night + a lovely hand-written note accompanying a #littlebluebox from @tieks! 💕 (at Food Truck Monday)

#everydayisbikeday #biketoworkweek #startuplife @bitcasa 🚲 (at Bitcasa)

#everydayisbikeday #biketoworkweek #startuplife @bitcasa 🚲 (at Bitcasa)

Exploring #Houston with mah main b!tches

Exploring #Houston with mah main b!tches

@venutom’s dog Blue! 💙 #houston #puppy (at Houston Heights, Texas)

@venutom’s dog Blue! 💙 #houston #puppy (at Houston Heights, Texas)