Monday, December 30, 2013

Too soon to start over?

So this last year has facilitated a lot of change in my life; good changes. With that change my system got a little off kilter and I have decided it is time to get back on track. When I got back from Christmas vacation and got dressed for work this morning, well let's just say I was less than pleased with the way my skirt fit.

Although I have been staying strong with my belief in an edited wardrobe or what the internet refers to as a "Capsule Wardrobe", I would not mind being able to fit into a smaller size and update my wardrobe at that time.  Although 2013 is not quite over just yet, I cannot help but to reflect on the good things I did this year and a capsule wardrobe is up towards the top of my list.

So of course being a bit disgruntled at myself this morning, I decided it was time to get back on track and to add a bit more discipline to my life.

I am starting with bringing my lunch again to work.  Going out to eat is sociable and I love it.  I also love fitting into my clothes.  I have decided to be the inspiration and to bring my lunch again. Other people bring lunches occasionally and when they do I can sit and socialize with them at that time.  Today I held strong and my friends decided to grab a lunch from Starbucks and sit outside and to enjoy the sun.  When asked if I would come along I said gladly, but I was brining my own lunch. They were able to buy their lunch and I was able to still eat mine.  I have to say, they were a little jealous as mine looked a lot more fun to eat.

(Homemade Moroccan meatballs and hummus, blueberries, carrots, and broccoli)

Oh yes, and I am going back to my morning breakfast protein smoothies.  Having a good portion of protein in the morning really helps to stave off the hunger until lunch time.

Did I mention I did Jillian Michaels Shred tonight as well? Well, I did!

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to relax after a long day of work and about 28 things checked off my To-Do list.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Micro Apartments

So lately I have been obsessed with watching YouTube videos on micro apartments.  Ever since I was little I have dreamed of having a Murphy Bed to sleep on.  I loved the idea of having a bed fold up into the wall and having a whole separate room in the mean time.  I also love the idea of having dual-purpose furniture.  When I lived in my 300 sq. ft. apartment in Dana Point I had to utilize these concepts with a table that fold out to accommodate 6 people for dining as well as a coffee table that had hidden stools and could double as a storage bin.  So that was a few years ago but I have found a renewed vigor when it comes to this type of living.  Here are some of the videos I have found inspiring and I hope you will too.  Also, a great resource for dual-purpose furniture is which now has a LA store if you are in the area.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Shuck Oyster Bar (Costa Mesa)

I went on a hike this past week with some people from work and when a girl asked where I lived I told her Huntington Beach. She commented that I must eat seafood all the time as I live in a beach town.  I had to laugh.  No, I do not eat seafood all of the time and no I do not always hang out at the beach.  In fact, I have not gone to lay out on the sand for years!  (I do bike the beach trail but that is the most action the ocean has seen from me in years.)

That being said, I though how funny that she would think that I eat seafood all of the time and realized it had been a while since I had.  Anywhere in Orange County is an easy drive to a beach and we have a ton of great restaurants that serve some pretty stellar seafood.  On that note, only one raw bar has come to my notice and that is Shuck Oyster Bar located at the SoCo shopping center in Costa Mesa.

Again, this one has been on the list since before it even opened.  It was one of the restaurants that a bunch of us wanted to go to but were never available at the same time.  Limited seating and the place does fill up, but we got there a little earlier and all secured places at the bar in front of the oyster shuckers.  Above the bar hangs a large black chalkboard etched with names of different types of oysters.  An oyster shell is placed next to the names of the oysters currently available for tasting.  The oysters are organically farmed raised and are anywhere from 16 hours up to two days out of the water.  The oysters are sourced from Massachusetts to Canada to Oregon and Washington.  The guys behind the bar were very well versed in their oyster knowledge and made some great suggestions so do not be afraid to glean some information off of them while you are there.
Fried Oysters | Shuck Oyster Bar in Costa Mesa

Oysters are $3 a pop and totally worth it.  You can select which variety you want or you can ask for the chef to select for you and just tell them the number you want to try.  To start off, three of us split a dozen of the chefs specials.  The varieties sampled were Kusshi, Hurricane, Sunken Meadow, and Island Creek.  They were all excellent but I feel in love with the Island Meadow and in fact ended the evening by ordering two more to down before heading home.  Apparently this the variety served at the White House and to that I say, nice choice.  I could still taste the fresh salt water with each bite.  Shuck offers a few choices of “dressings” to place on top of your oyster should you so choose.  First, a chili sauce that reminds me of a mellow Sriracha.  Next a horse radish dish followed by my favorite, red wine vinegar concoction with onions and cucumber.  I placed a little bit of the vinegar dressing on my oysters which matched the clean and crisp flavor perfectly.

Wine and beer are served and I opted for a chardonnay to go with the oysters.  It was not quite noteworthy, but still a nice compliment to the meal.  Others sampled the beer and seemed to like it.  My oldest sister ordered the clams and sausage which I tried and loved.  We make a version of this with orange and chorizo, but this was a great flavor combination as well.  Middle sister ordered the Caesar salad sans anchovies and the grilled cheese.  She was pretty pleased with her choices.
As I sit here typing I am getting hungry just thinking of those Island Creek oysters and might just swing by on the way home if only for a little sample.
Vegetarian option of Grilled Cheese Sandwich | Shuck Oyster Bar in Costa Mesa

Also, the guys behind that bar were cracking us up all night and seemed to be having a lot of fun.  Whether you stop by for a romantic dinner or just to shoot some oysters with friends, you won’t be disappointed.  Thanks for the good times, food, and fun memories.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine Lab (Costa Mesa)

Wine Lab anyone?  I had the opportunity to finally go to Wine Lab located at The Camp in Costa Mesa with an old colleague of my.  She too took the plunge and decided to find a new job so we went there to celebrate.  I have passed by here so many times, it was beginning to be a joke that I had never gone.

One of the first things you will notice is their amazing happy hour deal.  Red or white wine flights for only $8.  Each pour is 2 ounces which is perfect for sampling so I decided to go with the red wine flight before I even had a chance to look over the rest of the menu.  We also ordered a few appetizers to pair with our wine.  We sat down at the bar and behind us they were projecting the movie Spaceballs.  Classic.  I grew up appreciating Mel Books films and I can say that Spaceballs is my favorite.  I took this as a good sign.

Now you will have to pardon me as I do not have all the detail of the wine tasted, but I did take a few notes.  When you order the flight our server informed us that it was preset for each day and the flights vary depending on the day and what is available.  They are served to you in test tubes vials so you can pour at your own leisure.  Being a math and science nerd, I loved the presentation!  I also loved the forethought that went into this idea as people drink at different paces and why not let them chose when they wanted the next pour.

The wines tasted were as described:
1 – 2012 Napa Organic Pinot Noir
2 – 2011 Argentinia Malbec
3 – 2009 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Now I have to say, I was expecting to really only like the Malbec as 2012 grapes have been inconsistent, in my opinion, as have organic wines.  Also, the Chilean wines I have had are usually chalked with sediment and has an off-putting flavor to me.  Those may have been the cases in the past, not so at the Wine Lab.  I enjoyed all of them.  Okay, I really enjoyed the Chilean wine.  In fact, I liked it so much I am going back to buy a bottle that they sell for only $15!  The wine was pretty good, but when I nibbled on the gouda from Holland I was sold.  Those two were a match made in Heaven.  Seriously, I am not sure I have ever had such a perfect pairing before in my life.  And believe me, I do the research. 

We laughed, talked, ate, and drank.  A really relaxed atmosphere with a bit of fun character.  Nothing pretentious about this place and yet they have ever reason to act so.  Again, a successful restaurant/bar tried.  In fact, by the time you read this post I will have gone again. 
Wine and cheese anyone?  Come on over!

Previous Restaurants:
* East-Borough (Costa Mesa)
* Side Care Doughnuts & Café (Costa Mesa)
* House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer (Laguna Beach)

Friday, July 26, 2013

House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer (Laguna Beach)

House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

So despite my lack of blogging, I have been busy.  I started a new job two weeks ago and am really enjoying the change.  I also found out that I got into graduate school and have been scrambling to get all of my documents together before the new semester starts.  Not to mention, I have been hitting up restaurants on my list.

As you remember, Pinterest had a lovely suggestion of making a list of restaurants in your area you have never gone to.  So when you are all sitting around trying to decide where to go for dinner your decision is seamless.

I have a good friend who lives down in San Clemente where I used to work.  We would get together at least once a week and have a picnic lunch or just hang out and discuss life, politics, and religion (my favorite topics).  Since I no longer work down there we are making an effort to meet half way for dinner and I suggested a restaurant off of my list, House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer.  I have actually wanted to go here for years and am so glad that I finally made it happen.

Warning: summer time in Laguna Beach means an influx of tourists not to mention Pageant of the Masters traffic so parking came be quite a....well you know.

House of Big Fish is located south of Broadway Street on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.  The exterior seating offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and is absolutely gorgeous at sunset.  The hostess was actually great and let us sit in the reserve section overlooking the water as a spot had just opened up so we lucked out.  Next, them menu.  My friend and I were so enamored with the menu choices that we decided to order a few things and sample each. 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops House of Big Fish Laguna Beach
I opted for the Bacon Wrapped Scallops that came on a bed of sweet corn & wild mushroom risotto.  She ordered the Lobster Risotto with mushroom, asparagus, and Parmesan.  Sides are sold separately so considering were had a lot of starch we ordered roasted brussel sprouts (sans gorgonzola) and a kale salad.  I immediately fell in love with the perfectly succulent scallops and the golden brown crisped bacon which was also perfectly cooked.  Then the risotto...I am not sure if it was because I had not had rice in quite a while or what, but I could have licked the pan to gather every morsel left.  She felt the same about the lobster risotto.  Our sides where just okay, but I have a feeling they would have been over shadowed by the entrées anyway.  brussel sprouts needed to be a bit more cooked and the salad needed a bit more texture.
Lobster Risotto at House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

No dessert here, we were quite full.  And yes, I know you are going to ask about the beer.  I did not have any.  I don't like beer.  I ordered a glass of the La Crema and called it a night.  By all means, if you head here, please do try their beers.
Kale Salad & Roasted Brussel Sprouts at House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

In conclusion, I am so glad I went.  Loved the atmosphere, the food, and the company.  I will be hitting this place up again soon.

Previous Restaurants:
* East-Borough (Costa Mesa)
* Side Care Doughnuts & Café (Costa Mesa)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee (Costa Mesa, CA)

I was shopping at Whole Foods this week getting the essentials.  You know, coffee and wine.  While checking out the cashier commented on my coffee and asked if I had ever tried Stumptown Coffee that Sidecar Doughnuts sold.  Excuse me!?  It was like this guy knew that doughnuts were my absolute kryptonite and what the heck was Sidecar Doughnuts?!?  He explained it was a new "doughnutery" that opened up in Costa Mesa and if I liked Intelligentsia Coffee I would like Stumptown Coffee.  Needless to say that Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee made my list of restaurants to try immediately.

I went home, told the family, and we made a Saturday morning breakfast date.

Sidecar Donuts is a new doughnut and coffee house located on 17th Street in East Side Costa Mesa.  Hours  of operation are 6:30a - 4:00p daily.  Unique flavors of doughnuts made fresh daily from only the best ingredients.

You walk in and to the little shop and are immediately confronted with amazing smells from their kitchen calling you to sample not just one, but maybe another doughnut as well.

And that people, is why you travel in packs (Insert wolf pack joke here).  We ordered a bunch of doughnuts and cut them up to share.  My top two I wanted to try turned out to be my favorite.
Maple Bacon Doughnut straight out the oven anyone?!?!  I have to say, I thought the maple bacon doughnut I had at the Orange County Fair last year was the best, but this rivaled that donut and it is much more convenient all year round and at a greatly reduced quantity than Fair-size food.  Yum.....yum.

My second favorite was the Monte Cristo Doughnut.

Sorry about the lack of pictures of the other ones sampled, but we were kind of eating Zombie Apocalypse style meaning everyman for himself as fast as you can!  Or, I was just in rapture from the heavenly tastes that I may have forgotten to take pictures.  You decide.  And yeah, you see that bacon?  It was cooked to perfection!

And of course after all of that I did order the Stumptown Coffee and have to agree, it is pretty darn good.  Thank you Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, you rock!  I will be coming back.

Another restaurant checked off the list.  I cannot wait to see where I end up next!

Previous Restaurant(s):

Thursday, July 4, 2013

East-Borough (Costa Mesa, CA)

It all started with Pinterest, as do a lot of things now.  I was scrolling through random images when I came across this pin which gave me a totally great idea.

It is basically a restaurant passport.  You make a list of 50 restaurants you have never gone to in your area but have always wanted to try.  Then you have a list going when you are headed out for the night and can check them off one at a time.  Let me tell you I hate the "where should we go tonight" back and forth discussion.  Conversation avoided with this handy list!

For me, the first 20 restaurants I wanted to try came to me in a flash.  The other 30 are going to be added when they cross my mind. Any suggestions?

On the top of my list was the restaurant East-Borough located at The Camp in Costa Mesa.  The restaurant is a combination of Vietnamese and French style cooking.  The seating is an open outdoor area with a great water feature in the center that cascades from a steel sheet boasting the restaurant's name.  When I first walked up to order I was greeted with the smell of Thai Basil and knew this was going to be good. The girl at the counter made a suggestion, including telling my the correct pronunciation on a few menu items, and I took a seat next to the calming water feature.

I ordered the Grilled Pork & Green Papaya salad and a side order of baguette.  The salad was a good size and very refreshing, especially with the warm weather we are having.  In my salad was also the basil I had smelled and what tasted like a hint of tarragon leaves.  Great flavor combinations and the texture of the meat and soft and crunching greens made the meal complete.  I also liked that the dressing was on the side and you could decide how much you wanted to add the your own salad.

Did I mention the prices were also pretty good?  Well they were.  Check out the menu HERE.  My sister ordered the Vermicelli Noodles which were served with a large salad made up of mixed lettuce and herbs accompanied with an egg roll.  She seemed pretty happy with her choice.

I am already planning on coming back and ordering a Bánh Mì (Vietnamese sandwiches on baguettes).

I am glad this was the first restaurant to kick off my 50 restaurants to try.  If you are in the LA / OC / SD area in Southern California I would love some suggestions!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Is it really June?

It is seriously June?  I cannot believe it is mid-year already but at the same time I feel like a lot has happened this year.  I have had a lot of personal goals and transitions in my life.  I was excited that I was able to go to Catalina and have such a great time.  And although I have been watching what I eat and still working out, I have not really lost any weight since January.  Now granted, the first four months of the year are extremely stressful with my job and I was waking up in the middle of the night thinking about clients and projects.  Despite the high level of stress I was able to maintain my weight during my busy season at work which is huge to me and a first.

The summer time always sparks new goals towards health and fitness.  After all, it is swimsuit season.  My sister and I decided to do Paleo June.  Not Whole 30 June, but Paleo and it has been interesting so far.

I actually started Paleo mid-March but had a day off for family dinner.  I also had a girls night planned at my house for June and knew I was not going to be full Paleo on that day.  For the most part, the meal was actually healthy and Paleo.  I did have some berry crumble for dessert and woke up the next morning feeling sick and my throat started to close.  It was weird.  I have never experienced that before and began to wonder if I was allergic to something.  Was it the sugar, the flour, what?  I actually even started to cut back on my fruit as after talking with a friend I began to wonder if I was substituting high-sugar fruits for other sugary foods I was no longer eating.  I had a piece of fruit yesterday for the first time in a week and loved it.  I found my craving for sugar has lessened significantly though so I want to be cognizant of my fruit/sugar intake.

Here is one of my breakfasts I had (before I gave up fruit).

Canadian bacon and egg cups with 1c. cherries (in season!)

Jamie Dean Radish Salad (less the cheese), carrots, and sausage, peppers, and onions

Green salad of romaine, scallions, and avocado with spice-rubbed brined chicken and sweet Italian peppers
I was thinking the other day about what has made me successful with losing weight and being healthier.  I would have to credit two things (not in order).  Number one, Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD.  A non-stop workout that kicks your butt, has levels for you to progress, and is only 30 minutes.  I find I am much more likely to workout if I know I just have to block out 30 minutes of my day as opposed to an hour.  I can get up 1/2 and hour earlier and be fine.  The idea of getting up an entire hour earlier is insane to me since I am already up pretty early and really value sleep.  If I do not work out in the morning I find that 30 minutes after I get home is doable as well.  Getting home and working out for an hour and then trying to make dinner gets to be too late.  I try not to eat after 7pm and working out that long would push me past that limit everyday.

Number two is grocery shopping, weekend cooking, and planning and packing meals ahead of time.  I am for the most part a creature of habit.  I find meals that I like and work for me I try to stick to those consistently.  I occasionally spice it up and try a new weekly meal, but knowing I have a meal that is healthy, tasty, and ready to go makes my day much less stressful and keeps me on the right track.  My food is all pre-packed in my refrigerator and easy to grab and go in the morning.  Also, if I know I am going to have a big meal with friends and/or family I make sure to do a much longer and intense workout to make up for the bigger meals, or scale down my other meals of the day to keep in balance.  

Anyway, thought I would share my June and one of my summer goals.  Hope you are kicking off summer in a positive light and attitude.  Just remember, you are important and your hard work is worth it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Camping on Catalina

Top of the hill at Two Harbors, Catalina Island

I have this mental list on my head of things I want to do and/or have never done.  Despite being born and raised in Southern California, I have never been over to Catalina Island.  (I have also never been to see or hike to the Hollywood sign but that is for another day.)  I was talking with a friend and shared how I had always wanted to go to Catalina and heard that camping there overnight was fun.  Fast forward a couple months and I get a text from her saying, "Still interested in camping on Catalina? May work for you?"  Don't you just love friends who listen to you and are up for an adventure? (Luckily I have two sisters like that too.)  So my friend Lindsey booked the ferry and campsite and I picked up some rental gear from REI.

Here is how our campout went...

Pick Lindsey up at the Santa Ana Train Station, drive over to the San Pedro station for the ferry to Two Harbors.  (We originally were going to take the ferry out of Dana Point Harbor but they only did drop offs at Avalon.  Make sure you check ahead before booking your trip otherwise you would have a nice 15 mile hike over to Two Harbors.)

The ferry was at 9am and GPS directions to get there took us to a dead-end   Luckily I had plugged into my phone that the ferry was at berth 95 so we were able to follows signs that lead us to the station.  We loaded up our bikes and gear and set sail for 26 miles across the sea to our destination   Getting there was a bit rough as we were "riding the troughs" but the waves settled down before we arrived so all ends well.  The boat arrived at Avalon and let off the first set of passengers and then scooted over to Two Harbors.  For the short trip the captain invited my friend and I to sit in the captains quarters for a better view.  It is the little things that make the trip better and pointed out caves along the way that would be fun to kayak to on the next trip.
Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

Arriving in Two Harbors we got off and immediately went to get our campsite permits.  (Book ahead as sites book out quickly especially during the summer.)  We had not been in the office but a mere 30 seconds before a huge black bird soared down and started going after a small baguette my friend had sticking out of her pack.  We rushed out and we able to save most of the baguette but not before cursing the bird.  I, not being a fan of birds, was ready to chalk it up to a stupid fat crow but were told there were no crows on the island, but instead there were Ravens.  Large, shinier  and more cunning than crows, I had to admire the birds especially given that my favorite poem in none other than The Raven written by Edgar Allan Poe.

After tucking away the remaining baguette we went and split a buffalo burger from the cafe across the way.  (We learned later in the trip that the island does not have buffalo but bison instead.  Most Americans call bison buffalo when in fact the buffalo is a water buffalo found in Africa.  The things you learn while traveling.)

With fuel in out belly we were ready to get started.  We mounted our bikes and headed off for the 7.5 mile bike ride to Parson's Landing on the North-West side of the island.  (Word of advice, you need a  bike permit to have a bike on the island and can get a permit at Avalon for about $5/day.  If you want to get a permit at Two Harbors it will run you $35-$65 as they only sell the annual passes.  You can always chance not having a pass, but that is your own call.)  We also picked up a locker key for about $14 which at our destination had 4 large pieces of firewood and a gallon of water.  Much better than carry that on our bikes.
Trans Catalina Trail turnoff for Parson's Landing

The ride was a really easy ride as you are on a fire road almost the entire way with slight inclines.  We took our time stopping to admire the view and to adjust our packs as riding with gear is different from just mountain biking.  I had not been able to find a bike rack for the back of my bike as I have 29" wheels and needed to special order the rack.  Lindsey was kind enough to carry my tent on her rack which pretty much makes her awesome as balancing with that weight is not easy.
Approaching Parson's Landing

We arrived a little after an hour (like I said, easy ride with stops).  Upon approaching the site we stopped to smell the copious bunches of fennel growing wild on the island.  There are 8 campsites at Parson's Landing and we booked site number 1 which I think was the best choice as it is a little more off the beach and protects a little better from the wind.  A couple was staying at the site next to ours and we spoke with them a bit about their trip.  They had done a 5-day camping trip taking the Trans-Catalina trail and were leaving the next day as this was the last stop on their trip.  They gave us advice on some places to hike and places that would take a little bit longer for some other time.  Don't you just love how friendly campers are?
Wild fennel by Parson's Landing
We headed over to our campsite and set up our tents.  We each wanted to have a tent and they were up in less than 5 minutes.  We walked back to the lockers and where the chemical toilets (outhouses) were located.  On our way back we say yet another raven flying away from our campsite with a Cliff Bar in his beak.  Not only did he take one Cliff Bar, but upon further investigation we found he beaked both Cliff Bars which were to be our lunch the next night.  After that the food was left in out tents. How that bird wrangled those bars out of Lindsey's bag will remain a mystery.  Again, such cunning birds.  After securing our backs and tents we headed off down the beach to explore.  We met a few more people who were also camping at Parson's including some teachers that lived on the island and taught at an Environmental School as well a a couple who kayaked over from Two Harbors.  As the day was winding up we sat on the beach and watched the sunset and let the care of our everyday lives melt away.  Nothing like going to an island with no cell service and just the backs on your backs to make you take inventory of your life.  
Sunset at Parson's Landing

Parson's Landing Campsite #1

Lindsey had brought dinner for us that night which was New York steaks and veggie kabobs.  Gourmet.  And of course smores for desert.  We talked and played cards by lantern light before calling it a night and turing in.  

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn, literally, and went for a walk down the beach.  I sat and watched the sunrise and waited for Lindsey to get up.  We had to clear out of the campsite by 11am but wanted to head off earlier to bike, hike, and explore.  We were packed and on our way by 10am.  Running into a bit of a snag on one of the trails we opted to abandon our bikes and packs and head out on foot to explore.  From a cliff we looked back at our packs and there was that lovely raven again checking them out.  We found a Cliff Bar wrapper coincidentally in the same flavor that we had packed that was nabbed the previous day by said raven so we picked up the wrapper as evidence of the crime.  When we returned to our packs saw that the bird had torn part of my pack to get at an orange I had intended to have for lunch.  This Machiavellian bird would not quit.  Being striped of all food now we decided to head back to Two Harbors, grab a bite to eat, and explore the town.  Needless to say when we got to Two Harbors we did not split a burger this time but instead each ate our own.  Hiking and biking can stir up a healthy appetite.
Bison at Two Harbors, Catalina Island

West side of Two Harbors

Two Harbors is the isthmus of the island and we walked over to the other side of the island to see the second harbor.  On our short jaunt to the other side I finally saw the bison that inhabit the island.  Not just one but three of them, traveling together down a hill over to a watering spot.  We gave them a wide berth and watched them dwarf a large picnic table and take command of the landscape.  They appeared majestic and were much larger than I expected.  I was just glad to check bison siting off my list.  

We headed back to Two Harbors and ended up meeting up with the couple that had camped next to us and talking with them the remainder of the evening until our 8pm ferry arrived.  

Looking back at the island I knew I was coming back.  My appetite was whetted and I wanted more.  Anther trip to Catalina is definitely in my future.
Avalon at night