A Train Ride Along the Beach

Yes, you heard right.  If you have never taken the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego, up the west coast (or vice versa), I highly suggest you do so because it’s ADDICTING.

On Tuesday, I decided a 3 1/2 hour train ride was far more enjoyable than driving in stop-and-go traffic up to North Hollywood.  With incredibly reasonable prices (Business Class $50 each way* and Coach $32 each way), it made it even more attractive.

* Note: Business class offers a snack bag, a free drink (wine included!), extremely roomy seats, outlets, wi-fi and a reserved seat

So, I chose a window seat on the right side (the side you want to be on to get uninterrupted views of the coastline) and because it was late afternoon, I was able to enjoy an incredible sunset.  Check out the pics and video below:

God’s Canvas – San Diego Sunrises, Moonrises and Sunsets

One of the (free) things in life I can never get enough of, are the spectacular sunrises, moonrises and sunsets that San Diego puts on.  Each evening, you can find groups of people, in complete silence, watching the 1 1/2 minute sunset “show” along any cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Each evening, I also get my own private moonrise show, over the Jamul mountains (almost giving me reason enough to buy a professional camera).  Also, (if I’m up early enough), I am blessed with a private sunrise of my own, over the same mountain range – each day and night just as breathtaking. Taking time out to appreciate these little things in life, goes a long way…

Portion Control – Two Words That Make Me Cringe

I grew up Greek and Sicilian.  Of course, with this DNA, comes the need to feed and be fed.  I love throwing dinner parties, experimenting with different foods, spices and sauces.  I love for people to be my guinea pigs, and to see their reactions after the first bite.  I love the sense of family that comes with a home cooked meal. And while this all evokes feelings of warmth and happiness, it also brings about a sense of guilt of over-eating.

I have been on the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet and the Dukan Diet – all of which worked the first time but fizzled out every time thereafter.  Being allergic to soy and wheat severely limited my diet to begin with and then to have to be down to a piece of chicken and a leaf of lettuce, wasn’t something I was interested in – it’s no way to live!

So, I signed up for Weight Watchers two weeks ago.  In the first week, I lost 4 of the remaining 9 pounds I’d like to lose and just like every spokesperson says, I didn’t have to give up a thing.  The trick?  Portion control through points management.

It made me super nervous to start this program, as “Portion Control” are two words I don’t like.  It’s like telling me I can’t do something.  But, this entire online program is so great that it has absolutely changed the way I look at food.  My husband loves it because he’s getting way better meals :-)

As an example, tonight, we’re having gluten-free spaghetti pomodoro with berry pavlovas.  The difference is that I measure out my portion on a salad plate, while he eats the rest :-)

If you are already on Weight Watchers, let me know – I’d love to swap recipes with you!  For those not on it, even if you’re diet is in check, it never hurts to have on-the-go tools to monitor it.  If it isn’t for you, I’ll do my best to post my recipes for you to try (see below).

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The Beauty and Wonder of Barcelona

For a (very) long Labor Day weekend, my husband and I went over to Barcelona to meet his family, plan our (Catholic) wedding and do some sight seeing.  It’s a lot to pack into five days, in a city you’ve never been before.

I once took one of those online quizzes, “Which city should you be living in?” and my result came up with Barcelona.  Definitely not surprising, since it literally has everything I would ever look for in a city to live in: energy, culture, history, beauty and hip people.  While there are so many things I could share about the trip, here is a piece of my itinerary and some tips along the way:

Click on any of the links below to get full information on times, tickets, discounts, etc.  Note that it’s best to buy your tickets online at least two days before, to avoid waiting in long lines or not being able to get in at all!  Also, take a look at some of my notes next to each (in italics)!

Museums & Monuments 

Sagrada FamiliaI recommend booking the Passion Tower tour.  You get some incredible views of the city and of the Mediterranean.  Also consider going in the evening between 6-9pm.  Gaudi is buried in the basement, in an incredible shrine!
Address : Sicilia, 286 / Phone : 00 34 932073031

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La Pedrera: An impressive Gaudi building at the Passeig de Gracia.  I suggest the Secret Pedrera Tour.  It’s an evening tour and a lot more magical (plus it comes with Cava).
Address : C. Provença, 261-265. / Phone : 00 34 93 484 59 00

Park Guell: (Gracia Area) I HIGHLY recommend visiting this, as it is home to some of his most famous sculptures – this makes for a fun day trip!  Make sure to purchase tickets for the Park.  If you want to see Gaudi’s home, it will be a separate ticket.

Address : Carrer D’Olot / Phone :  34 934 091 831

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Tibidabo: Overlooking the entire city of Barcelona and the Mediterranean on one side and endless Pyrenees mountain ranges on the other.  The church is at the highest point and the views from there are breath-taking.  But that’s not the only thing to see – there’s a whole amusement park there too!

Areas to Walk Through

Gothic Quarter: This is where Antonio and I took our engagement pictures.  The entire section of the city is incredibly magnificent – including Temple d’ August – behind the Cathedral of Barcelona, is a hidden doorway to Roman columns, dating back to 1 B.C.!!  

Las RamblasAlthough not my favorite area, as it is more touristy, there are plenty of things to experience – including La Boqueria – a huge outdoor food market and the opera house.  Just be extra careful of our belongings!  

Cocktail Bars/Restaurants

Makamaka – We were there on our first night in Spain.  Great drinks and food by the beach!!

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7 Portes – – Has been open, since the 1800s!  A great traditional Spanish restaurant!

Ohla Boutique Bar:  Two of Spain’s best bartenders work here (Giuseppe and Giacomo), and it’s an incredible experience.  Ask for “The Mediterranean Treasure” and “Barcelona Kiss”.

Address : Via Laietana, 49 / Phone :  34 933 415 050

San Diego Spirits Festival – Bartenders Battle

I am SO PROUD of my hubby for coming in second place in his first battle!  With his prize winnings, he now is the proud new owner of a mobile bar, so he can get to being the Mixologist he loves to be!  Check out the pics below.  To see the video of him competing, click here.  If you wish to follow him on Facebook, to see where he will be next, and for some great recipes, click here.  (Hint, if you live in the San Diego area, you can catch him at Polite Provisions.)

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The (Second) Best Birthday Present I’ve Ever Received

On August 1st, my husband surprised me with the (second) best birthday present of all time. (Don’t know what the first is? Click here to find out.)  His name is Leonardo (Leo) Oriol and although I’m partial, he is about darn-near the cutest pup (and maltipoo) on the planet! We’re kind of proud of the little guy.  In his first month-and-a-half of living with us, he’s wee pad trained, can sit, shake and give paw. And he brings immense joy to everyone who sees him (including the barristas at the Starbucks drive-thru window, who have to hold him when we come by.) He’s gone from a 1.5 pound wee little thing to 5.5 pounds of “all boy”!

Do-It-Yourself – Small Bedroom, Chic Storage

We live in a really nice apartment however, the bedrooms are kind of small.  The master is so small, in fact, that we don’t have room for nightstands on either side of the bed.  It took a couple of months to figure out what I was going to do – I needed my cell phone (alarm) and my book within reach.  Just like so many other people, I turned to Pinterest to get inspired.

I decided that shelving was the way to go, and would have to be above the bed.  But, the ceiling is shorter there so I needed to create height, as to not crowd the space.  Below is what we came up with.

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For height, we bought an inexpensive curtain rod ($20, Bed Bath and Beyond) and found sturdy gold curtains ($15, Home Goods) that matched our gray and gold motif.

For the shelves, I wanted art – something that still created that elongated effect, while being useful.  Below are the materials and how to make it:

  • For each frame, we needed  two 24-inch and two 12-inch pine pieces about 5 1/2 inches width ($6, Home Depot)
  • A white tint-based stain in slate ($19, Home Depot)
  • Sandpaper
  • Antique gold nail heads ($10, Joann Fabrics)
  • Wall decals ($10, Target)
  • 8 wood screws
  • Triangular hanging plates (small joint braces with holes for screws)
  • Drill with the tiniest bit
  • Hammer

Building the Frame

  1. Sand out all the rough edges of each piece
  2. Line up your pieces with the 12-inch pieces being on the inside of the 24-inch pieces
  3. Mark where you want the screws to go
  4. Drill tiny holes to the length of the screw (not all the way through), so that the pine will not split when screwing in the wood screws

Making the Frames “Art

Stain the wood to your desired color (will take at least over night for them to dry)

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Mark out pending nail head placement with a pencil, measuring 1-inch apart for each nail head.

Push in/hammer in nail heads onto each mark

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Hang the shelf by inserting wall mounts for at least one of the two holes on each side of the frame, and then screwing it in (we only used one hole on each side).

 

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Apply the decals and you’re done!

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Comic Con MTV Fan Fest Awards

There are so many cool things about San Diego (and call me the nerd that I am) but Comic Con makes it even cooler.  It’s the one weekend a parade of celebrities and die-hard comic/sci-fi fans come together in throngs, to celebrate nerd-dom to the “nth” degree.  Walking around downtown, for even an hour, was more entertaining than any Halloween party I’ve been to (and trust me, I’ve been to some crazy ones).  HOWEVER, a random stumble onto an MTV awards event was somehow, someway satisfying something on my bucket list.  Although not the Grammys or the Emmys (both of which are still on my list), it was still chalk-full of actors like Channing Tatum and Megan Fox, as well as musicians, such as G-Eazy and Linkin Park.  Below are some quick clips and photos from the show.  A HUGE thank you goes out to my friend who lives in the condo complex, overlooking that event.  If it weren’t for him and his rooftop, we would have never gotten to “experience” the three-ring circus it was.

 

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Free Fall Attraction/People Watching Before the Show

G-Eazy 

(To see more clips from G-Eazy, click here.)

Linkin Park