Life, Travel

Surfing (SD Bucket List #1)

It goes to say that one of the first questions people ask after finding out we live in San Diego is “Do you surf!?” Well before last week the answer was “Nope!” and now after last week the answer is still “Nope!”


Not because we didn’t have an excellent instructor – we truly did. Doug at Surf Sessions was the absolute bomb diggity. 

Our lesson started by getting fitted in our wetsuits. Heads up – if you go with Surf Sessions, they are operated out of a tent on the beach across from the beach’s paid parking. The tent is green and to the left when you reach the beach, right underneath the grassy part. That took us a while to figure out. After we got into our suits we grabbed some boards and headed down to the beach.

All I could think of was this scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. One of my favorite movies of ALL time. Doug went over our “footing” (spoiler alert: Jason Segel is NOT doing his footing correctly) and a little soon for my taste – we were out on the water! 

My first impression was that the waves were much MUCH bigger than I anticipated. I think I envisioned kiddie pool waves. But these things were mammoth. At least to me. Doug would assist by holding onto the board as a wave approached in order to steady during our jump up. Not shocking at all was that Charlie was better than me. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and graduated from Doug’s assistance. I, on the other hand, insisted on jumping into warrior position – as opposed to surfing position. I blame yoga.

Doug kept yelling “YOU’RE A SURFER! NOT A WARRIOR!” as I would topple into the water. My best “ride” or “wave” I almost hit some children. That was exciting. 

I wouldn’t say surfing is addicting – the taste of saltwater remained in my mouth for a bit longer than I liked – but I definitely want to try again.

Now we're official. We're throwing signs. We belong.
Now we’re official. We’re throwing signs. We belong.

Afterwards, Charlie immediately claimed soreness – I said “Oh! I’m not sore at all, I’m totally fine!” After a ten minute nap I woke up and could barely move – surfing is HARD work. Though I think in my case the soreness was more related to falling than surfing.

We finished our evening with TOSTADAS of course.

I’m so glad we finally checked this off of our SD Bucket List – and I truly can’t wait to get out on the water again!


Bluewater Grille (SD Bucket List #17)

Even though we had this on our “Bucket List” it was really just a front to go there again. Because it is The Happiest Place on Earth. Bluewater is a Fish Market and Grille. Meaning that you can either buy fresh fish to go, or order fish to eat there.


The menu is pretty simple, you get to choose from many different types of fish, but your options are Taco, Sandwich, Salad, and Plate. You then pick a marinade (Lemon Butter, Lemon-Garlic Butter, Teriyaki, Blackened, Chipotle, Bourbon Butter, or Bronzed) and then order Waffle Fries. Because they are delicious.

I am not a huge cabbage fan, so I’ve never loved Tacos. But Charlie says they are THE BEST IN THE WORLD. And our dear friend who actually grew up in San Diego, but had never been to Bluewater, said they were the best she had had as well. So that proves it. #science

The Sandwich (my choice) comes on this freshly baked delicious bread, with a delicious tartar sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and the fish of your choice. I always 86 the onion, and add avocado. Because it is California and avocados should be on everything. I do have to add the disclaimer that I usually am a huge tartar sauce hater, but this is the most delicious sandwich sauce that has ever existed.

The Salad and Plate are both larger portions, and kind of self-explanatory on their menu. Honestly the fish serving sizes in the Taco and the Sandwich are WAY more than enough for us – so we usually stick to those. The appetizers Charlie loves are the Ceviche and Cioppino. We actually just recently started getting the calamari. I swear they look like chicken nuggets, and they are so freaking delicious it almost hurts my mouth.

The only downside about Bluewater is that you have to wait in line. For a long time. But it is really fun people watching, and as long as you anticipate the wait, it won’t seem that bad. If you’re really impatient, or just don’t feel like cooking, you can order To-Go and skip the line and eat it at home. But don’t try and be sneaky and eat a To-Go order in the restaurant. They don’t tolerate those kinds of shenanigans.


If we do move from San Diego, this will be one of the places we miss the most. I hope if you’re in town you’ll stop by. It is really close to the airport, so you basically have no excuse, whether you are coming or going… or live here already!




Taco Tuesday!

Okay so this recipe is not for an actual taco. It’s better. Because it is less messy, and literally takes a blink and wink to make. Once again we rely on our trusty Penzey’s stockpile to produce a delicious meal with minimal effort. We really didn’t change much in this recipe except for shaking up the seasoning a bit!

There are all sorts of different textures in this Taco Soup, there are the crunchy chips, the melty cheese, the yummy veggies. Everything! Ugh, mouth watering now.

Taco Soup

  • Servings: 5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 lb ground Turkey
  • 2 15 oz. cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can Corn Kernels, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes, NOT drained (I prefer unsalted as well)
  • 1 16 oz jar of Salsa (Pick your own heat level)
  • 1 ½-2 tsp Penzey’s Bold Taco Seasoning
  • Salt
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Shredded Cheese (We used the “Mexican” mixture)
  • Sour Cream


  1. In a large pot, cook Turkey until well done
  2. Drain fat from pot
  3. Add Black Beans, Corn, Tomatoes (with juice), Salsa, and Taco Seasoning
  4. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently
  5. Add approximately 16 oz of Water (conveniently the size of your Salsa jar)
  6. Add Salt to taste
  7. Cook for 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat
  8. Serve with crumbled Chips, Cheese, and Sour Cream

Torrey Pines

Along with the weather, San Diego has some of the most beautiful views in the world. Disclaimer being that I have only seen a small percentage of the world, but there really does seem to be a consensus that San Diego is ridiculously beautiful.

One of the benefits of this “beautifulness” is the opportunity to easily view it – such as Torrey Pines. You may know Torrey Pines from the famous (public) golf course, I (duh) haven’t golfed it, but I hear it is a great course! Torrey Pines is also an amazing State Park with free access (as long as you are not parking in the park). Pre-Tucker we hiked it probably every other weekend, but since it isn’t dog friendly we haven’t been going nearly as much.

A tip on parking – park on S21/N Torrey Pines Road. There is always street parking! It adds a little bit on to your hike, but aren’t you there to do something good for your body anyway?? Or show off where you live. Either way…


Whenever anyone visits from out of town, we insist on bringing them here. It is an easy hike and the views outweigh any minor physical discomfort getting to the top of the mountain/hill. Last weekend my girlfriend Taylor came in from Chicago, she left -13 degree wind chill, which is a nice reminder that San Diego really is better than Chicago… at least in terms of weather! We did the “Broken Hill” trail. It is a little longer, but not necessarily harder. One time I was hiking with my Mom and someone had just seen a rattlesnake on the trail! (We have those in San Diego… point Chicago).

Anyway, I got to play a little bit with our fancy new camera. Clearly still have a lot to learn – but in the meantime… enjoy!!! (Click for larger views!)



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!



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


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.)




Spicy Sweet Potato Burrito

Do you know the difference between a Sweet Potato and a Yam? That’s great. California doesn’t. Among other things California does… oddly, they mess up Sweet Potatoes and Yams. I know this because in a hurry for an impromptu belated Thanksgiving Dinner I grabbed a Yam, instead of a Sweet Potato. Thinking it was a “silly old me” moment, I brushed it off. Until I went back to the grocer a few months later and my horrors were confirmed – they have Yams and Sweet Potatoes mixed up. This is consistent with almost all grocers in San Diego, save Target and Trader Joe’s. I feel like I am living in The Truman Show and everyone is laughing while I hold a Yam to the sky and yell “Why, God?! Why!” I even tried talking to the Produce Manager at the grocer and she said “No, Yams are orange on the inside and sweet. Sweet Potatoes, are white on the inside.” I wanted to grab a knife and slice open that tater, cook it in the deli, and make her do a taste test between a Yam and a frozen Sweet Potato fry. But I didn’t, because at that point I thought they might tackle me if I wielded a knife.

Yam Controversy aside, I love Sweet Potatoes. So much. I also love a company called Penzey’s Spices. It originated in C’s hometown, but now there are franchises everywhere. INCLUDING SAN DIEGO. Add that to the list of things I like about SD. Penzey’s sends out a catalog each month, we get two – I’m not sure why, and not only does it include a coupon it also includes lots of fun recipes that include Penzey’s Spices! One of these recipes was for a Sweet Potato Burrito, so I thought I would give it a shot.

Spicy Sweet Potato Burrito

  • Servings: 6 Burritos
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 3 Medium-Large Sweet Potatoes
  • A dash of Salt
  • ¾ tsp Vindaloo Penzey’s Seasoning
  • ¼ tsp Sweet Curry Penzey’s Seasoning
  • Juice of ½ a Lemon
  • 1 ½ cups Sharp White Cheddar Cheese – grated
  • 1 15 oz can of Black Beans – unsalted or reduced salt
  • 1 15 oz can of Corn Kernels – unsalted or reduced salt
  • 6 Whole Wheat Tortillas


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pierce Sweet Potatoes with a fork and roast until soft. (Around 40-60 Minutes)
  3. Remove Sweet Potatoes from oven and let them cool.
  4. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
  5. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  6. Combine Spices, Black Beans, Corn Kernels and Salt in a large bowl.
  7. When Sweet Potato has cooled slightly; puree, rice, or smash the insides in a separate bowl.
  8. When Sweet Potato is smooth to your liking, combine with other ingredients.
  9. Add 1 cup of Cheese to the mixture.
  10. Spoon mixture into Tortillas and top with remaining Cheese.
  11. Wrap Burrito tightly and lay fold-side down on baking sheet.
  12. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until heated through.

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!


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…


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


But he really liked hotel wall mirrors…


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).


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!


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…


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!