The Pacific Surfliner

Sometimes I think the best way to travel is by train. Since we were moving a few weeks ago, my grandmother offered us the use of her pickup truck, Molly. (It’s always nice to know that other people in your family name their cars.) Of course, the truck was with my grandmother in Santa Barbara, which meant we had to go get it. Enter Amtrak!  

And seriously, it’s the best way to go. Four hours of smooth sailing up the coast. Beautiful views, no traffic… the ability to start working on the seating chart for your wedding…  

 We left early on Saturday, and were in Santa Barbara by 11:30 AM. Stopped at Mac’s Fish and Chips for Light Lunch, Part 1:  


…and then we walked a few miles up to our real lunch destination: La Super-Rica Taqueria.  


Before we get into the food-talk, I just want to mention that Santa Barbara is so much smaller than it seems. Given enough willpower and time, pretty much any place is walkable. 

Back to tacos. This place is a legend. Julia Child gave it her stamp of approval, and lines continue to form out the door to this day.  


The food is simple and delicious. The tacos al pastor are particularly good, though none of the options are to be sneezed at. 

The thing that puts La Super-Rica over the top, though, is the homemade tortilla that the taco is built on. It’s so light and fluffy – entirely different from the standard dry and dense store bought corn tortilla – and it doesn’t weight down on the stomach. And of course, the various salsas add a tasty finishing touch.  


After tacos, we walked back downtown (our feet had logged about seven miles by this time), and with some extra time before my grandmother picked us up, we stopped at a small upstairs tasting room for a local winery.  


Cebada Vineyard is part of Forbidden Fruit Farms, which primarily grows blueberries. Reports from the wine specialist at the tasting room say the blueberries are off the hook delicious, and the grapes must be pretty amazing too, because the wine is fantastic. We picked up a bottle of 2012 Chardonnay, and a blueberry dessert wine that, unlike many fruit wines, wasn’t over sweet, but maintained a warm spiced flavor. 

My grandmother picked us up, and after hanging out at her home for a few hours, she took us to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, Zaytoon. It was too tasty to photograph, but we’ll go back to it someday. We loaded ourselves into Molly and drove back to Orange County.  

ALSO: A big thank you goes out to my grandma Jan, who also gave us a chair for our new apartment! 

SoCal Adventures: The SoCo Collection

With all the changes going on in our lives these days, we’ve still managed to have some time to explore the nifty places around Irvine, Costa Mesa, and Tustin.  This particular trip was a date-night in the vein of those we used to take in Oak Park, restaurant hopping around.

The only problem is that restaurant hopping in Oak Park meant walking a block.  Here, it usually involves miles of travel.  Luckily, we’ve seen some gallery-type markets (with multiple stalls, cafes, and shops in a single warehouse-style building) popping up here and there, and so we headed to one – SoCo Collection – for the evening.

Stop number one – in a nod to our evenings at Fish Bar in Chicago – was Shuck Oyster Bar.  Delicious oysters with freshly grated horseradish, in a crisply decorated space.

2015-04-17 18.14.27

2015-04-17 18.12.24
Horseradish, chili sauce, and house mignonette.

Stop number two was a special treat for Anna, with special focus on one of her favorite things: waffles.  The Iron Press has local craft beers along with its waffle sandwiches (both sweet and savory).

2015-04-17 19.02.26
That’s fried chicken with a spicy jalapeño jam and slaw on a waffle sandwich. Mmhm.
2015-04-17 18.59.32
And, just in case you didn’t get that it’s a WAFFLE restaurant, those are waffle fries. And housemade buttermilk ranch.
2015-04-17 18.53.54
Did you know that Laguna Beach had a brewing company? Because I did not know that.

Other things not to be missed at SoCo include Portola Coffee Roasters, which has some phenomenally interesting treatments of coffee (if you haven’t tried Kyoto Cold Brew, it’s worth the $7 at least once), and The Mixing Glass, which sells a curated selection of liquors, as well as three shelves of various bitters.

More information and a complete shop directory here: SoCo Collection

Our New Digs: Another Mood Board!

Oh hai, there!

Notice anything different? Yeah, we revamped our little blog. What do you think of our new look?

Planning for far too many things and changes continues as normal. Christopher was accepted into his grad program (hip hip hooray!) and will start mid-June, the wedding is 35 days away (cue reminders not to panic), and our move is just two and a half weeks away. THUNDER CATS ARE GOOOOOOOO. Also, I sent out fourteen job applications today.

It’s all incredibly overwhelming, but at the same time, really exciting. But I’d be lying if I said Christopher and I aren’t anxiously waiting to settle in to life as newlyweds with nothing major to plan for. We are ready to CHILL OUT in our new digs.

Christopher got an app to make this.  He likes his apps.
That’s the floorplan! Christopher got an app to make this. He likes his apps.

Oh and speaking of our new digs, you’ll remember about a week and a half ago, we disclosed that we’d be moving and even included a little mood board of our design ideas for our bedroom.

Well, check out the one we made for our dining room!DiningMoodBoard

We’re going for oranges and blues! We’re so excited. I am especially excited for that giraffe wall decal.

Alright, guys. Wish us luck. We have SO MANY projects lined up for the next few weeks.


The Things My Grandmother Gave Me

Hi, readers. We’re steering our blog in a different direction today. We’ve been wanting to tell you something for a while now. On January 20th, I lost my grandmother very suddenly and unexpectedly. So surreal, in fact, that I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it. My grandmother, Leyla DeToledo Morrell, was a renowned neuroscientist and a pioneer in Alzheimer’s research. Please, google her. She leaves behind an incredible scientific legacy. But she was more than a scientist. She was a friend, a mentor, and most importantly-she was my grandmother. I just wanted to tell you a little bit about her.

Leyla was many things in her life, but I think it is safe to say that her favorite role was that of being our grandmother. At the visitation, the Sunday after she passed, everybody who came through her door knew who I was. “And you must be the red headed, theater major who is getting married in May,” I heard over and over.  It was evident that she talked about her grandchildren all of the time and was so very proud of each and every one of us. I was always very close to Leyla, but the past five years or so I really got to know her as an adult and our bond grew even deeper. I experienced her as a grandmother, travel companion, and as my opera buddy.

Leyla gave me many things, and I want to tell you about them.

The first is adventure. My brother, Danny, and I were lucky enough to be her travel companions to Hawaii and Moorea, a Tahitian island. And she loved to reminisce about these trips. Her favorite story to tell about our trip to Hawaii was how everyone at the hotel was so taken with our adventurous eating habits. It was a point of pride for her that she could take us (especially my then ten year old brother) to any fancy restaurant and I would order the seared ahi over wasabi rice and Danny would order the pumpkin seed crusted halibut. The waiters would look at her as if to say, “is he serious?!” and she would tell them, “Bring it. He will eat it.”

Leyla was no stranger to adventure. In her 73 years, she travelled all over the world, soaking up all of the food, clothes, languages, and cultures she encountered on her journeys. In the past two years alone, she travelled to Curacao and took a cruise along the Elbe River in Germany. She was thoroughly enjoying her retirement and had so many trips planned for the upcoming months. She was going to see it all.10391818_196591026605_6621540_n

But I think the greatest adventure was our trip to Turkey in 2010. There was a family wedding in Istanbul and Leyla took me along as her date. We spent ten amazing days in the country, and split our time between Istanbul and Ephesus. As an art history buff and Romanophile, I was in awe of the history and wonder of these ancient cities. She took me to her old school and showed me secret spots she and her friends would go to when she was a young girl.  She introduced me to new foods, put up with me as I insisted on feeding every stray animal I saw, stood next to me in the amphitheater in Ephesus for twenty minutes as I was too overwhelmed and awe-struck to move. We zig-zagged across the Bosporous (and saw Dolphins), dined in a restaurant over looking the Hagia Sofia, saw the Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus, and toured a harem. What a gift it was to learn this part of her that the rest of my family hadn’t. She was totally at home, at ease, and carefree. When Christopher and I were at LAX security, getting ready to come to Chicago for the memorial service, a grandmother and her two grandchildren were in front of us in line. They were on their way to Disney World and I just wanted to tell the kids to cherish every moment of their trip because your grandmother is going to take you on the greatest adventures. You will always remember those times. Always. 10391818_196591041605_6501607_n

So, she gave me adventure and a glimpse of herself that few else have seen and for that I am ever grateful. She gave me opera. Since graduating high school the majority of our time together was spent in an opera box. It was in box 9 that many laughs were shared. Tears too; these were operas after all and I challenge any of you to not weep for Madama Butterfly.

It’s hard for me to explain just how much our time at the opera meant to me. Often, we’d meet for dinner and drinks before curtain and we would talk about everything. From family drama, to her troubles at work, to my troubles at work, travel plans, retirement plans, goals, hopes, fears, my wedding. I could tell her anything- and I did- and she would support me, and lift me up. And once we took our seats we would bask in the grandeur of the Lyric Opera.

I moved to California at the end of August, and really missed our opera dates this season. Now, and even before she passed away, my car radio has been stuck on either the classical station or the Met Opera station. Sometimes I’ll even take the long way home to get in a few extra minutes of Puccini and to pretend that I’m back in box 9 with my grandmother.

Leyla gave me Woods Hole. I can’t talk about Leyla, without talking about Cape Cod and 16 Brooks Road. It was her favorite place in the world, and is mine. Arguably, it is the source of all that is good and holy and scientific and whimsical. There are too many memories here. This place is so engrained in me and I carry it in my very bones. How can a place that I only spend a few weeks every summer be so important? It was important to Leyla, too. She loved the peace and quiet, the lobster bashes, and walking down to Gansett beach. She taught me and my cousin about dipping tomatoes into the ocean for a salty, yet refreshing snack. Leyla cherished the Sunday picnics with her friends at the beach. She loved her garden, and if you are her grandchild you have lost count of the many hours you’ve spent watching the Baltimore orioles with her. She loved to sit in the living room and read during a rainstorm, and she was comforted by my grandfather’s ashes in the garden. I have grown to love Woods Hole independently of Leyla, but she is still so wrapped up in this place that I can’t imagine her not being there in May for my wedding. What will we do?

Leyla was so full of life and love for life. She was fun, classy, intelligent, and inspiring. Because of her, we’ve been given opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have. It is so disappointing to know that she won’t be here for the big moments to come.

So moving forward, let us take a page out of her book.May we go forward fully embracing our hobbies and passions. Let us live our lives full of adventure, kindness, inspiration, generosity, and love.


Wedding Wednesday (on Thursday)

Hey ya’ll!

We were away last week in Chicago celebrating our upcoming nuptials. Our bachelor/bachelorette parties were a super awesome success.

My AMAZING cousins and MOH Wendy arranged for an in-home painting party. Tons of food, booze (old fashioned cocktails, anyone?) Sam, our new best friend and art teacher, came over with paint and canvases and taught us how to paint a beautiful forest, step by step.

...go ahead and pretend there aren't four drinks inside of me at the time this one was snapped.
…go ahead and pretend there aren’t four drinks inside of me at the time this one was snapped.

After we painted our sunset forests, I posed for the lovely ladies while they each painted a little portrait of yours truly. I am SUPER impressed with all of them.

For the record, the one I'm holding is the one painted by Sam--our new best friend and art teacher.
For the record, the one I’m holding is the one painted by Sam–our new best friend and art teacher.

Other lady shenanigans of the evening:


Believe it or not, we didn’t actually coordinate our tops beforehand.

Meanwhile, the boys were off at Haymarket Brewpub. My brother arranged for a limo to pick them all up and after dinner and drinks, Christopher was whisked to a cocktail lounge called The Betty and then to a bowling extravaganza. But because they’re boys, no one thought to take a picture. Silly boys.

The next day, my aunts threw me a bridal shower. It was a lovely time and I got to spend even more time with my favorite family (can’t beat those Irish ladies). The best part? Christopher’s mom and sister came in to Chicago for the event! So THEY got to meet my super awesome family. And my super awesome family got to meet my NEW super awesome family. Alright, you get it. And it was awesome.

Miriam, Becca, and I
Miriam, Becca, and I

And lastly:


Christopher spent the day watching Daredevil with the other boys and had a great time. It was a wonderful week home and the perfect way to get PUMPED for the wedding!

44 days to go…

Wedding Wednesday: It’s ALIIIIIIVE!

Despite the recent absence of posts, we are in fact still getting married.  In fact, with 59 days left, all the contracts are signed, deposits are in, and centerpieces are being made.

Anna’s primary centerpiece job is to make a zillion candles.  We have the supplies, and we’re just a few short steps from lemon-verbena-scented fun.IMG_3997

Don't worry, we aren't using this microwave for anything but soy wax!
Don’t worry, we aren’t using this microwave for anything but soy wax!
Burlap and lace add a finishing touch to our lovely candles.
Burlap and lace add a finishing touch to our lovely candles.

As for me, I’m on the tedious (but ultimately rewarding) task of making the pomanders for the tabletops.  We have a fun little paper-punch, a variety of yellow scrapbook papers, white buttons, and pearl-tipped pins.

Tedious, rough, but nice looking stuff.
Tedious, rough, but nice looking stuff.

The final part of the centerpieces are glass vases filled with lemons, but thankfully, that’s something we don’t have to deal with.

The paper flowers of the pomanders go with the paper flowers of Anna’s bridal bouquet (which looks awesome, but we’re probably not going to post a picture of that for a while); and there will be plenty of bright lemon-yellow on the dining tables.  We’re very excited, and our preparations are kicking into high gear!

We’re headed back to Chicago this weekend for a a whole week of family fun and bachelor/bachelorette parties. Can’t wait to tell you guys all about it!

In other news, yesterday marked one year since I proposed to Anna. And what a year it has been! Just 59 days to go.

Our New Digs

Hey ya’ll!

As promised, I’m back to discuss our new apartment that we’ll be moving into on May 6th!

We’re moving into a one bedroom, that’s just under 700 square feet and has a front porch. For your amusement, I’ve drawn a ridiculous excuse for a floor plan.

Gorgeous, right?
Gorgeous, right?

Yep. You can see I learned a lot about floor plans from my year as a Realtor.

I am elated to point out that we have an in-unit washer/dryer. Now I can do my favorite chore ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I LOVE doing laundry.

The only down side I see so far is that the stove is electric, but Chris has lived with an electric stove before and assures me I’ll figure it out.

So anyhoozle, we’re spending the next five weeks planning the basic design of our new home. An design issue I’m struggling with is designing a space that is completely carpeted (except bathroom and kitchen, duh). A rug can really tie a room and design together, but with carpet comes no rug. Christopher says differently…that a rug over carpet can work. Well, I have yet to see an example of this on Pinterest, but if any of you have done this successfully, please send photos. We’ve come up with a few basic ideas, though, that make good use of the space we will have.

I mentioned yesterday that there might even be a mood board to share with you. WELL, cut me some slack because it was the first mood board I have EVER made. I used power point, took a screen shot, and added a few text boxes. Not at all the cute, sophisticated photo-shopped mood boards you’d see from the pros Sherry and John at Young House Love (please come back, by the way, I miss you!). But I figured I should give it a shot anyway. Maybe I’ll get really good at them someday.

Alright, alright, alright. Here’s our bedroom mood board!

Dark browns, light linens, and pops of sage green. How adult of us, right?
Dark browns, light linens, and pops of sage green. How adult of us, right? 

I guess it isn’t so bad for a first try, huh?

I’ll be back next week with a living room mood board and we’ll see if I improve. And we’ll definitely be back for a Wedding Wednesday. Stay tuned!