Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Mini Vacation on Catalina Island

Last week, in the early hours of the morning, my mom, sister, and I drove to catch our boat to Catalina Island for a too-short family vacation.

This trip was my mom's idea. It had been way too long since the three of us had REAL, work-free vacation time.

I also felt extremely lucky to be on this adventure, as silly as it sounds. Growing up my mom worked 3 jobs while in nursing school to take care of us. Finances were always tight and disposable income was rare, so fun trips were put on the back burner. I was super appreciative that the three of us were able to make this happen with our busy schedules.

Excited faces as we waited for our boat to arrive!

Oops, ignore the glass reflection. We took off at 7:45 in the morning and sped off toward the island, which would take about an hour to reach. 

I was afraid of getting seasick but luckily the waters were tame.

Finally Catalina came into sight!

A friend greeted us as our boat headed for the docks. 

Catalina is a very nautical sight. Lucky for us, the day was cloudless and gorgeous.

We dropped our stuff off at our hotel, changed into our swimsuits, and headed for Casino Point. I'd somehow managed to talk my mom and sister into snorkeling--something we'd never done before. (And something that's on my 30 before 30 list!) They were a little hesitant, but I was excited.

Our wetsuits and snorkeling tour team awaited us as we walked over to the old casino.

We pulled on our wetsuits and got a rundown of snorkeling tips before we slipped on our fins and headed to the water.

A little further down is a staircase that leads down to the water. It was a little overwhelming because once you got to the last stair you basically had to jump into the water. Since it was so hot outside it was a little refreshing to get right in.

The water in Catalina is so clear compared to the south bay shores. Our visibility in the Casino Point waters was 60 feet deep! 

Afterwards we walked around the island and explored the little shops. Then my mom decided we should find a happy hour for some drinks with a view. We found a great place to enjoy an appetizer and drinks right on the water, and we were even able to spot some bright orange fishes swimming by. It was all really gorgeous.

After our happy hour, we headed to the "beach" area. Catalina technically doesn't have beaches and I'm pretty sure the ones that exist are man-made (the sand felt really weird) but it was still a nice place to enjoy the views. 

I convinced my sister to go on a swim with me. We had to find the stairs that led to the water and ended up swimming a really long distance before we realized we could touch the bottom. It was so crazy to be swimming in water so clear!

I'm pretty sure this is us laughing about how far we swam before we figured out we could actually touch the bottom.


After enjoying sun, we explored the island some more and then headed back to our hotel to shower and get ready for the evening. My mom had told us pack dresses because she wanted to treat us to a real seafood dinner. 

We wanted to sit outside by the water to see sunset, and we didn't have too long of a wait!

There are a few Bluewater Grills on the west coast (I think) but I'd never been to one before. This one had tons of outside seating areas.

We talked and wined while the sun set.

(^My I've-been-up-since-5-am-face) We enjoyed some REALLY delicious seafood as well as a delectable artichoke/crab dip with crusty bread. (For dinner I had the ahi-tuna, which I've never had before. It was divine!)

We walked around the casino after dinner and admired the artwork on the walls. It was beautiful--this picture definitely doesn't do it justice.

The next day was a bit more overcast than the day before, but we still set out to explore more of the island.

I'm convinced there is not one spot in Catalina that isn't breathtaking. 

We met a friend during our explorations

I had to be a creep and zoom in on this woman paddle boarding with her pup. He's wearing a life jacket and everything! <3

I loved these pastel houses. It reminded me of San Francisco. Also, everyone on the island drives around on those golf carts.

After walking around, we decided to hit up the pier for some lunch

My mom is always insistent about having fish tacos when she's in CA. These didn't disappoint!

After roaming the pier, we had to go back to the docks and catch our boat back to the mainland. 

We took our boat home and had one last dinner together before my sister and mom headed back to TX the next day 

I miss my family sooooo much, but I'm thankful that we got to spend that time together. <3

If you ever decide to go to Catalina, I suggest planning things to do! There's snorkeling, scuba, parasailing, biking, glass bottom boat tours, etc. We were only there for two full days which gave us time to snorkel while exploring the island, but the island *is* pretty small and there are so many fun things to do!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

South Bay Shenanigans

I've been looking forward to my family and our London friend coming out for a MONTHS. The time is finally here!

My sister and mom got in last week and while my mom had a sister vacation with my aunts who live around here, I got to spent time with my younger (more fabulous) sister.

Friday I had a half day and we went to the beach!

That makes my legs sore just admiring her splits, lol.

It was a perfect beach day. We brought sandwiches down to the water napped, listened to music, and chatted before heading back in for the day.

That weekend my cousins and our London friend and our other friends came to hang out, so we first took them to our spot on the pier!

We had Mai Tais to kick off the weekend. 

Then we headed back to our part of town for some deeeeeelicious Mexican food!

Ortega 120 is my FAVORITE South Bay Mexican joint because a) $2 super delicious tacos and b) margaritas made with only fresh squeezed juices (none of that nasty sweet and sour that's unforgivable with hangovers) 

Plus it's day of the dead themed and there is something cool to look at in every corner!

It was a good place for our group of 10

 Another favorite of mine is their fresh and pressed handmade tortillas. They are divine! I could eat 20.

When you first walk in you get to watch them making them right in front of you.

 We finally sat down and ordered our meals. I ended up splitting a burrito with my cousin, and good thing too...

This thing was a monster! A delectable, smoothered monster. 

 It was so, so good and the giant portion was perfect enough to split between two!

The next day we burgered out at The Standing Room to treat our London friend to some great burgers. 

And ended the night with a fully American Irish car bomb. 

It was an eclectic mix of food and fun and over WAY too fast :(

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Day on the Water

On a clear, sunny Sunday a few friends and I wandered down to the pier to try out paddle boarding. We'd been talking about wanting to do this ALL summer, so it was fun to get a group of us together!

Paddle boarding is something on my 30 before 30 list that I made this year. 30 things in 5 years shouldn't be too terribly hard to accomplish, and I was excited to check this one off!

We stayed in the harbor for our first round. I don't know if I'd ever try it out in the ocean. Too many waves and your paddle board isn't attached to you like a surf board is.


On the dock getting ready to jump aboard!

My friend was smart/brave enough to bring along her fanny pack with her iPhone in a sealed plastic baggie so she could take pictures. I was too afraid I'd be the first person to fall off my board. 

Although I didn't fall, I did crash into some rocks trying to turn around (to everyone's amusement.)

It's way easier than I thought it would be! Steering can be difficult though. 

We were able to paddle past some seals, too! They were mainly chillin on those rocks behind me. One swam between me and my friend's board as we screamed in excitement because it was so cute. 

We were out in the water for about an hour. We paddled all over the harbor and then came back to the dock to return our boards.

Of course we were hungry by that time.

So we headed down to the restaurant part of Tony's for some fantastic views of the water while we browsed our menus.

We all ordered Mai Tai's in celebration of our successful paddle boarding experience.

I ordered a hearty bowl of clam chowder and chowed down. :)

I would definitely go paddle boarding again, especially with friends! I love love love trying new things.