Life, Material, Travel

Sea Kayaking with Everyday California (SD Bucket List #9)

Save the time I called 911 to report that our family cat was missing, I like to think I can handle high-pressure situations pretty well. Apparently in the Amanda Book of Life, high-pressure situations do not include being surrounded by dolphins… which is exactly what happened last weekend during our Everyday California Whale Watching Tour.

First let’s address what Everyday California is… Formerly OEX, it is based out of La Jolla, CA and run by ridiculously good-looking ex-Abercrombie models. (Really – every employee was beautiful.). These are the cool kids, and they want to take you on the water and show you their world. Our guides were Sam and Draper. They were both high-energy, excited, and gave thunderous high-fives. The check-in process for our tour was a bit chaotic, but somehow we all ended up exactly where we were meant to be. There were about 17 of us (8 pairs and my girlfriend Taylor), lots of different familial pairings. We headed down to the beach at about a quarter to 2 PM (our tour time), to get situated in our kayaks before heading out into The Great Unknown. Charlie and I were in a kayak, and Taylor rocked the single. We were given the opportunity to rent wet suits, but I was in full Lulu, and we figured being Midwesterners, we would be fine.

My immediate thought when we were pushed into the water, was “I’m so glad I don’t have my phone/camera/tablet/any electronics.” You get wet on this adventure. Soaking. Kudos to Lulu for making unintentionally amphibious workout gear. (For reference I was in the Run Inspire Crop, Run Swiftly Tech Crew, and the Forme Jacket.) We started paddling out to Sea (about 2 Nautical Miles!) from La Jolla Cove, and I just couldn’t believe this was the first time we were doing something like this since moving to SD. The ocean was breathtaking and peaceful. On our way out to the “Whale Zone” we ran into some friendly seals and sea lions who stopped by to say hello. We also ate kelp, because apparently that is what the cool kids do.

After arriving at the “Whale Zone” we parked for a bit, waiting for some social whales to stop on by. We spotted a dolphin coming in from the distance – and I got so excited! A dolphin! A wild dolphin! Well apparently this dolphin was a scout for its pod, because soon after its arrival about fifteen dolphins showed up. They were jumping in the air, swimming together, flying under the water. It was absolutely unbelievable. At one point they zeroed in on our kayak and there were six swimming underneath and jumping in front of and to the side of our kayak. This is apparently where I lost my cool and just kept saying “THIS IS AMAZING!” over and over again. And asking Charlie if he saw the dolphins, to which he replied “I’m right here! Of course I see them!” Truly one of the few times I wished we had a GoPro, other than to strap it on to Tucker’s head. But I honestly don’t even think I could have worked a camera at that point. I was so awe-struck at the beauty of NATURE.

After some time with our dolphin friends, we headed back into the cove. To be honest, the only time I felt cold was getting OUT of the water, and walking back to EC. Other than that I was fine in my garments. But I can see why you may want a wetsuit if you’re not from Northern Michigan.

Another bonus of Everyday California is their merchandise! I am not one for buying “tourist-y” things – but their logo is just too cute to pass up. Trust me on this. I ended up buying a sweatshirt and leaving with it on. Because I was freezing.

Charlie and I are definitely planning to do a trip with Everyday California again – in fact we’ve already booked a Sea Cave and Snorkeling Tour when Charlie’s brother is here!

Tips for Everyday California:

  1. Call for great pricing. They do have Groupons pretty often, but if you call they give you a pretty comparable price. Plus it feels good to be directly supporting a local business.
  2. Parking can be tricky – arrive 45 minutes ahead of time to give yourself parking AND check-in time. They like to be on the water at your scheduled time. (There is also a super cute restaurant next door we want to check out next time – Shorehouse Kitchen)
  3. Bring CASH for tips – This is your Guide’s livelihood. We didn’t realize that and only had minimal cash on hand. We’ll plan better next time.
  4. Bring any waterproof cameras you may have – we plan on buying these before our next adventure.
  5. Equipment is included – except for a wetsuit. If you get cold easily, plan on renting one. (They’re not expensive to rent – maybe $10.)
  6. Be prepared to wear a helmet and life vest. This is for your safety, and the safety of people around you. Deal with it and prepare your hair ahead of time.
  7. Try not to black out when you see nature. You may think you’re better than that – but you’re not.

Since we also have surfing lessons planned for March, we decided to invest in some Rash Guards and Swim Pants/Trunks. Here is what we ended up with. Try not to be blinded by our stylishness. (All via Lands’ End)

Water Gear

Happy Swimming!

XX

Amanda

P.S. Since I failed to provide any cool live-dolphin photos, please accept this Lisa Frank Dolphin as a substitute.

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Life, The Manimals

Fiesta Island (SD Bucket List #19)

Charlie and I often say that we wish we loved anything as much as Tucker loves everything. And we mean it. There is not a happier dog in the world, and his ultra-extreme-happiness mode can be found at a HIGH LEVEL at Fiesta Island. For those non-San Diegans, Fiesta Island is a man-made island (read – technically trash) on Mission Bay. Part of the island is a fenced off dog-park that has 2-3 beaches and SO MANY BIRDS. If you haven’t caught on via Instagram, we have a Brittany… and Brittanies LOVE birds. They literally cannot handle their own love for birds. Our dear friend refers to the island as “Dog Island” and we couldn’t agree more.

Our favorite part about the island is that there is enough space for all types of dogs. Dogs like Tucker who need to run-run-run, water dogs, fetching dogs, playing dogs, really ALL dogs. It is amazing. We try to bring Tucker there twice a week to give him his bird fix.

We got a new fancy camera for the honeymoon, so far I’m just using it for food and animal pictures…

(Click for bigger viewing.)

xx

A

Life, Travel

Honeymoon Planning

I genuinely enjoy planning. Whether I am planning a meal, a day, or a three week vacation, I am almost always thriving off of the “Thrill of the Plan.” (Do you not experience that? Is that just me? Someone please reassure me it isn’t just me.)

While it is traditional to have the Groom plan the Honeymoon, I was more than happy to volunteer to start the planning process. Charlie and I had discussed before that we wanted to go to Europe for our honeymoon. Charlie studied abroad in Germany, and has traveled around, whereas I did a European trip in college as well as an Italian trip with my beloved Aunt Sue as a high school graduation present. (No, my Aunt Sue is not interested in adopting you.)

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I chose Germany as my destination country, because I love beer and Germans. Charlie chose Italy, because wine and food, obviously. We figured while we were abroad we may as well hit another country or two. Our first inclination was to do a little country square dance and hit Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and then Italy. I really had my heart set on seeing Switzerland, as it was one of the countries I did not make it to in college. Charlie wasn’t necessarily that pumped, but I had high hopes!

Because beer is delicious, and there needs not be another explanation, we decided to start off our adventure in Munich. We had both been there before and had our favored spots (A – Augustiner, C – Spaten) and wanted to spend a few nights in the city. After that we were between Salzburg and Vienna, however Vienna had WAY more convenient train routes to Switzerland, so we settled into Vienna. Then we got a call from Aunt Sue that we just had to go to Salzburg, and if we did she would put us up in The Hotel Bristol. Haven’t heard of it? It is where Christopher Plummer stayed in the Sound of Music. Clearly, we said yes and adjusted our travel plans. We still had the issue of somehow getting to Zurich, and entertained the idea of one night in Salzburg, one night in Vienna, and then one night in Zurich before heading to Italy. That seemed like a lot of travel, and trains, and Charlie carrying our bags around… so I started to do some research into Zurich. I knew we would be in a city with Munich and also Pisa, and realized the “Swiss Experience” I was really after was hiking. After some ill-fated attempts to find easy access hiking trail from Zurich, I gave up. (Sidenote: I am sure they exist – I just couldn’t find them.)

I started to do some further research into both Austrian and Swiss hiking towns and came across Innsbruck. Not only does it look absolutely gorgeous, but there are hiking trails EVERYWHERE! So we booked an AirBNB and are going to be staying two nights. Conveniently, there is an overnight train from Innsbruck to Italy, so that will make our travel to the villa much much easier.

The villa! We found the most magical beautiful villa in the world while on AirBNB. It is right outside of Camaiore, near Lucca and Viareggio. We rented a car, and Charlie is learning how to drive stick. His darling instructor’s (our dear dear friend Whitney) motto is “When in doubt, peel out.” During one of their “lessons” the people from PetSmart came out to reprimand them for doing donuts in their parking lot. But Charlie’s teacher rolled down the window and yelled “First timer!” The employees gave Charlie a hearty thumbs up, laughed, and went on their merry way.

Anyway we hope to explore lots of towns while in Italy, and also drink a lot. The villa has a full kitchen (or appears to on AirBNB) so we want to get to know the local butcher and live off of Prosciutto. At least, that is my plan.

After a week in the Villa we are heading to Pisa – a town neither of us has been to. We were originally just going to do one night there, but I kept running into trouble booking our car – it appeared that almost every car rental agency was closed on June 2nd. After some research I realized – it is a national holiday! Festa della Repubblica! Thank goodness we hadn’t made reservations for that day – we could have been stranded!! Our favorite local café is owned by a family originally from Pisa, so we plan on picking their brain for where to stay and eat etc…

I am just SO excited to go on this adventure, particularly with Charlie, because I love traveling with him. I have, however, learned some hard lessons during this travel process. So here are some “P&C Honeymoon/Travel Tips!”

P&C Travel Tips

  1. Check the country you’re going to for National Holidays.
  2. Hotwire makes no sense. (If you’re doing a ‘Secret Rate’ bid, note that the star rating on the ‘Secret Rate’ page will most likely differ than the ‘Standard Rate’ star rating – even on Hotwires page. This infuriated me, as we bid for a four star in Munich and ended up with a 3 ½ star. I called customer service and after an hour and five minutes they actually hung up on me. It was unbelievable.)
  3. If you find an AirBNB/Hotel/Apartment you like BOOK IT! We missed out on some great deals and places because we couldn’t firm up our plans fast enough.
  4. Look into Eurail Passes. (We’re in that process now.)
  5. Look at bargain airfare. We ended up booking through Norwegian Air. You literally pay for everything, but the base rate is so low it ended up being a great steal. Hopefully all will go smoothly on our actual travel days.
  6. Don’t buy anything in Euros. Request that it be priced in USD or use a Capital One card (no foreign transaction fees). You’ll save yourself confusion, and also $30.

I am sure there will be MANY more to come, especially once we actually FINISH the trip. Seriously cannot wait to give million page recaps.

xx

A

Food, Life, Travel

San Diego Bucket List

We recently hit our 2-Year Anniversary of living in SoCal. I can’t believe it! We arrived via Subaru Forrester, boyfriend and girlfriend, with an ornery cat, and not a couch to our name. Two years, one puppy, a marriage, and a lot of Ikea trips later we are starting to build our “home” in San Diego.

I think one of the biggest mistakes one can make is not being a tourist in your own backyard. So Charlie and I have decided to start a San Diego Bucket List/Repeat List! You must tell us if you can think of anything we’re missing from the list… For those who think we are missing the zoo, we went a TON pre-puppy, so we aren’t including it on the list. (But we agree, baby pandas are awesome.)

So far we have:

  1. Surfing (scheduled!!!)
  2. Camping
  3. Coronado (The day in…)
  4. Catalina Island
  5. Paddle Boarding
  6. Potato Chip (The hike… We eat enough potato chips on our own.)
  7. A Brewery Tour
  8. George’s at the Cove/Day in La Jolla
  9. Sea Kayaking
  10. Del Mar (Again, the day in…)
  11. Sunset at La Jolla Cove/Torrey Pines (We’ve already done this… but it is too beautiful to not do again!)
  12. Shady Taco Place (I can’t remember for the life of me the name of it – but it apparently has the BEST tacos in SD. Which is a big deal.)
  13. Man v. Food Locations
    1. Lucha Libre
    2. Phil’s BBQ
    3. Broken Yolk
  14. Balboa Park and Museums (Again)
  15. The Pearl “Dive-In”
  16. Little Italy Farmer’s Market (Our obsession…)
  17. Bluewater (The BEST food in San Diego. At least we think so…)
  18. Fish Market
  19. Fiesta Island/Dog Island (Again…)
  20. Hillcrest Farmer’s Market

I cannot wait to get going on this list… and adding more items to it!

xx

Home, Life

San Diego!

After a month of living the vacation-life in sunny San Diego, I figured it was only fair to reflect on our journey out here and all of the things I love about my new So-Cal existence.

We left Chicago on a VERY cold and slightly snowy December morning. (After of course hitting up Ann Sathers for the last resident brunch).

Our first stop was in St. Louis (5 hrs) where we got to catch up with some of Charlie’s college friends. The car was LOADED with stuff, so we were a little nervous about street parking, but we got a spot right in front of the apartment. The next morning we headed to Oklahoma City! (7 hrs) Walter started getting the hang of travel…

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However, he did NOT like getting left in the car during our lunch stops…

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But he really liked hotel wall mirrors…

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After OKC we headed to Albuquerque (8 hrs). I had fond memories of Albuquerque from a conference my Dad went to when we were little chillins’. Mostly the Ihop. But Charlie wasn’t as excited about a Chocolate Chip Pancake platter, so we found breakfast elsewhere. We did however stumble upon a Prix Fixe winery for New Years Eve! We thought we were going to end up in some sort of Applebees of sorts. But the meal ended up being really nice. (And Walter slept some more).

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After Albuquerque we headed to Tucson (6.5 hrs) where we stayed with Charlie’s wonderful cousins. We were definitely getting a little restless – and even more excited to get into our apartment and sleep in the same bed for more than one night! Charlie was the man and drove the ENTIRE time. I’ve been cursed with the Johnson-woman-snooze, which means if a motor is on… I get sleepy. After Tucson we began our final descent into San Diego (6 hrs). Charlie insisted that we doing something So-Cal, so we had In & Out for lunch!

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Yeah, it’s worth the hype. Also, there is a secret menu!! You can also ask for your fries extra crispy, which I haven’t tried yet – but I’m looking for any excuse to visit again.

After our delicious lunch we drove a couple more hours and arrived in San Diego!! We met with our apartment manager (we did the entire rental online!!) and saw our apartment for the first time. We were so relieved to see that 1) it was a real apartment and 2) it was really nice! It’s about a third the size of our Chicago apartment, but luckily we like each other a lot.

Charlie and I then set out to Ikea to furnish our apartment. We sold almost all of our furniture in Chicago, so we had some cash to spend at Ikea. We had visited Ikea in Chicago to plan out what we wanted, and I had used this nifty floor plan tool on Pottery Barn’s website to plan it.

floor plan

The only trick was that our apartment was the opposite way. But we managed and besides feeling like everything was backwards at first, it turned out perfectly. (More pictures to come once I finally find the right pillows and buy shams.)

We were at Ikea for a fantastic three hours, and loaded everything up to be delivered! They didn’t have our couch in stock so we had to go back a few days later to re-order it. Here is how happy Charlie was to be at Ikea at 9 pm after driving almost six hours…

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We then got home and collapsed onto our oh-so-comfy floor, and slept.

The trip to San Diego was absolutely amazing, I am so happy that Charlie drove most of the time (okay the whole time). It was really fun to see the scenery, especially between Tucson and San Diego. The only thing I didn’t expect was that it was so cold down south!! I packed for San Diego weather, but it was snowing and cold the whole time. Luckily, Charlie plans better than I do – so I got dibs on his winter jacket.

Things I love about San Diego!!

  1. The weather is amazing. Like so amazing. People apologize when its colder than 67 degrees.
  2. Our apartment is really nice, and is in an amazing location. We have three grocery stores and running trails all within a mile.
  3. There is always something to do! In Chicago there was always something to do as well, but it was cold 70% of the time. Here, even when it’s “cold” it is still a perfect day for the zoo, the park, or the USS Midway museum.
  4. Everyone has dogs. And I want to play with all of them. A puppy is definitely on my summer wish list.
  5. The farmer’s market downtown. And it is year round (see #1).
  6. My sweet high school friend Whitney is also a recent transplant, so we’ve been navigating the San Diego neighborhoods together!
  7. My parents were kind enough to help out and buy my Aunt’s amazing car. (It’s a ’95 Audi convertible, and I feel like Barbie’s best friend Skipper). It has been a blast to enjoy #1 with the top down!

Things I could live without…

  1. The gas is over $4.00… and that’s the cheapest gas in a ten mile radius.
  2. It is far from my Mommy and Daddy, and I miss them. (Though my mom came and visited for a week at the end of January!)
  3. I miss my friends! I’ve made some friends here, and I know that when I start work I will meet even more people… but I miss being able to call up my girlfriends for a quick drink or coffee. Luckily we have gchat and FaceTime.

More posts on beautiful San Diego to come!

Home, Life

Office Style

Okay, before I start this – I have a huge confession. We don’t have cable (we’re poor), so we have to rely on Netflix and my big monthly splurge – Hulu Plus. Anyway, ever since I passed the Bar (yay!) and started my part-time job I have not had anything to do when I get home! I went right from College to Law School – so I have had homework basically for the past 24 years. It has been a bit of an adjustment. But there has been a lot of baking, a lot of cleaning – and here is where my confession comes – a whole lot of Whitney Port. Seriously, why did they ever cancel The City? So much dramz. I love it. But really – I don’t get the Jay thing – Gretchen Weiner said it right “That’s why her hair so big… It’s full of secrets.”

At work I share an office with three other wonderful ladies, but our desks themselves are very drab. And they needed some funky additions. I was on C. Wonder looking for a gift for Natalie and I found this…

I don’t actually like orange very much. But for some reason I think this looks really sophisticated. I think it might be intended to be a drink tray or food tray. But I’m practical, therefore, it is a folder tray! Even better – it was $24.99 (+25% off!) what a steal!

I also have been craving a new pencil holder. Currently my pencil holder at work is a snowman pail. Needless to say, I needed an upgrade. I found Lime Tree Gifts. I am pretty sure Jill is my Etsy soul mate. She is absolutely amazing – and was willing to work with my big order. (My co-worker joined in on the upgrade parade). This is what we ended up with…

Everything looks SO nice – and it was very reasonably priced. The pencil holder was only $10 (including monogram!), the tray (which is actually a really nice larger size) was $14 and the little mini tray was $8!! Such a steal for something that looks so nice and put-together. So here is what my new ensemble looks like…

I love it! And I think it also kind of goes with the whole color-blocking style that is going on this summer, and also purple and orange look great! But back to Lime Tree Gifts… I already have a LONG wish list of things I will order if (hopefully when!) I get a full time job… (click on the picture to link back to their shop!)

1. 20 oz Insulated Acrylic Tumbler – $16.50, I drink more water than anyone I know (save Martha) I am currently sipping out of a normal water bottle… which is not nearly as cool as a personalized tumbler. 🙂

2. Acrylic Candy Jar – $12.50, One of the ladies at work always has candy in her office. So whenever I am having a bad day I will head to her office, grab a Starburst and chat – I am sure it doesn’t do wonders for her productivity, but it is appreciated on my end!

3. Acrylic Soap Dispenser – $10.00, Germs freak the heck out of me. ‘Nuff said.

4. Napkin Holder – $10.00, So I may not have napkins at work… but I think this could be a really nice letter holder! From the stuff I have received from Lime Tree the acrylic is super sturdy and I think it would look beautiful!

5. Recipe Box – $32.00, I don’t even need to explain why this is awesome.

6. Divided Catch All – $15.00, Paperclips? Check. Pushpins? Check. Binder clips? Check. Places for all = a happy OCD Amanda.

So this basically turned out as an ode to Lime Tree Gifts… but I love them! Go shop at their store and contact Jill if you want to do a bulk order – she has an incredibly fast response. Basically she’s awesome.

Happy Office-ing!

Amanda

Life

Chevron: A Love Story

I’ve joked with my friend who is six months pregnant that I have caught her nesting bug. I have been searching Pinterest, Michael’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Marshall’s,  Home Goods – ANYWHERE looking for a gray chevron pillow… and this is why…

I absolutely LOVE chevron. And it has nothing to do with some childhood attachment to Peanuts and Charlie Brown. I just love the slightly preppy-zany style it adds to a room. My bedroom is currently all dark wood furniture…

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…with dark purple curtains.

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I have a white comforter as well as white pillows and a beautiful purple pillow that matches my curtains. I was also sporting this funky gray rug from Ikea. (Yes, it’s $20!!!)

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But something was missing – something zany if you will. So I started searching Pinterest for some inspiration… and I came across this chair… oh my heavens. I needed it, I wanted it, and most likely I couldn’t afford it…

…So I headed to where all people go when they can’t afford something, dearly beloved Etsy. There I found my pillow soul mates – The Pillow People. I literally favorited about thirty gray chevron pillows before deciding to purchase from “The Pillow People,” – and I am SO glad I did!

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The pillows came this weekend and are made of the most amazing quality fabric. The print itself is absolutely beautiful, and I am so happy with my order! Now I am starting to settle and the infectious nesting bug has begun to subside. I am including some of my favorite chevron Pinterest finds, for your viewing pleasure…

Happy Chevron!

Amanda