Cavatappi with Shrimp & Creamy Tomato Sauce

July 11, 2016

We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled travelog programming (our ladies trip to Los Angeles) for a recipe post!

I’ve always loved (loooooved. LOOOOOVED!) seafood, but I have been a bit of a cautious cook when it comes to all things meat, poultry, or crustacean.

I’m alright with salmon, and I feel pretty comfortable frying up some swordfish in a pan, but anything else makes me a bit nervous as to the proper cooking methods to not get a weird, uncomfortable, under-cooked-food disease.

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Until this summer, that is. Suddenly it’s like I’ve become completely food fearless: ground beef in everything, please! Shrimp up my lifestyle! Let’s add paprika and pink peppercorns and some balsamic reduction!

This particular dish is a mix of my two favorite things: seafood and comfort food. Yes, I realize those are like apples and pomegranates – seemingly related, but two entirely different categories.

But that’s the beauty of this recipe! The cream adds a warm, satisfying finish to the rest of the meal, while the shrimp makes you feel like a top tier chef in your own respectable-yet-appropriately-small-for-your-age-range kitchen.

(Hint: shrimp is the easiest fake-fancy seafood to start with. I’m planning to tackle mussels sometime later this summer.)

Come on in for the rest of the post! Read More

Going nuts for Sqirl: Los Angeles, day 2

July 5, 2016

Have you ever heard of a restaurant so trendy and stylized and cool, with so many unfamiliar, innovative (and sometimes bizarre) combinations of foods, that you don’t think there’s any way that someone with relatively mainstream tastes (the manfriend jokes that I think an artichoke is a meal) and who wears jeans and the same Sam Edelman flats to work could possibly fit in or, daresay, enjoy it?

Enter: Sqirl.

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Now, most of you probably know that I enjoy myself a cup of fancy coffee. And, embarrassingly enough, you’ve probably deduced as well that I love visiting new foodie spots and reporting back, instagramming a pic or two (or ten), and humble-brag-ing a bit about the general atmosphere in which I drank my $6 latte (or ate my fancy pizza, or falafel, etc etc.)

That said, I am usually still comfortable even when I know I am the most stereotypical white girl in that spot. I readily admit my love of pumpkin spice lattes and I don’t know what any member of Mumford & Sons looks like beyond “beardy.”

However, there occasionally arises a time when I feel oh so very “unhip,” and it helps a great deal to have additional support to ensure any judgment from the locals is limited and goes relatively unnoticed.

…What am I talking about, you ask? I’m talking about my silly friends who make any excursion fun and lighthearted, even if we’re not the coolest kids around:

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Thanks F!

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Be forewarned: the wait at Sqirl is not prohibitive, but you will probably want to wear comfortable shoes. We were luckier than all get out that we found 6 seats inside, together, as there is very limited seating including the small outdoor patio.

We waited some time to order at the cashier and took our numbers to our seats to await the cadre of delicacies ordered…

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I, typically, paparazzied the wait.

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Our dishes came out several at a time, and we happily shared with one another as we tried to determine exactly what it was we were eating.

I believe the below is some kind of berry cake, topped with strawberries and raspberries. It was so good we couldn’t wait to begin picking it apart…

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I got the (amazing) (delicious) (inimitable) Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl with poached egg, feta, and watermelon radish shown above, as did many of our group.

Freyan ordered the Crispy Rice Salad Bowl with avocado…

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…and we made extra sure (like, several people reminding others who were ordering, several times) to get one of the Famed Ricotta Toast. Yes, famed is in the name.

This luxurious toast may not be the most instagrammable item (it’s mushiness causes some lighting problems) but damn is it delicious. Rich ricotta (my favorite cheese!) slathered on a thick cut piece of beautiful brioche, and topped with tart berry jam for an extra kick – could breakfast get any better?

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We also ordered the poppy seed loaf, seen way way above, and many variants of caffeine. We had a big day planned!

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After finishing up at Sqirl, and satisfyingly sashaying past the line of people still waiting outside, we headed to Intelligentsia Coffee in Silverlake.

Yes, we just had coffee. But a) you can never have too much coffee, please repeat that to yourselves until it sinks in, and b) it was a convenient (and super-chic) meeting spot for our mini-tour of Silverlake.

Intelligentsia is perched right next to several adorable shops, including Clementine Floral Works (where we saw these stupendous succulents!) and Cheese Store of Silverlake, which I still regret not exploring further.

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We also ventured out for some window-shopping, like at Mohawk General Store

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…where everything was amazingly stylized and a wee bit out of my price range.

(Freyan, I still think you should have bought that one dress!)

We walked a ways down Sunset Boulevard, past the Farmer’s Market, eventually stopping in at Dream Collective and Clare V. to further lust after some LA style.

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When our tootsies had had enough, we made our way back to the cars at Intelligentsia and agreed to reconvene later at the hotel for pre-dinner drinks and preparations. Read: girl time.

But before that, Freyan, Rachel and I decided to have some swim time at the pool!

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Unfortunately, we were obviously not the only geniuses with this game plan for a sunny Saturday afternoon on Memorial Day.

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The pool area, while just as small as any rooftop pool in a metropolitan area, was packed with a total scene of twenty-somethings. From the girl in a one piece wearing a large gold necklace, to the man in a speedo with gold-emblazoned eyeglasses, to the twin-like ladies in bikinis covered just as heavily in tattoos, to the bros taking over an entire lounge-couch in their matching swim trunks, there was nary a section of the rooftop that wasn’t primed for people watching.

We perched on the near side of the pool (seen above) until a couple of lounges opened up for us to conquer. Rachel returned to the room for some sketching, while Freyan and I caught up on family, relationships, work, and matters of state.

Just kidding on that last part.

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We also ordered a mid-afternoon snack to tide us over until our late dinner at L&E Oyster Bar. Freyan, Sherri, and I shared the tuna tartare and the grilled cheese with an afternoon glass of vino.

Eventually, as the sun set behind our lounge chairs, we made our way back to the room to begin primping for our Big Night Out.

We popped another bottle of champagne, consulted on outfits, and danced along to all the top 40s in our iPhone-possession until it was time to cram ourselves in an Uber for the ride across town to dinner. They say that traveling with someone is a great way to get to know them, and it’s even truer for traveling with dear old friends.

On the next episode? Dinner at L&E Oyster Bar and dancing at The Satellite

Drinks all around: Los Angeles, night 1

June 13, 2016

Now, where were we? Oh yes! The champagne…

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While Freyan — capable hostess that she is — has opened many a bottle of celebratory bubbly without problem, this weekend the champagne gods were determined to mock us a bit. Two bottles in a row popped on their own immediately after the wire wrap was loosened, much to our surprise! And, likely, to the surprise of our hotel neighbors above…

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However, we eventually got the job done and poured enough for each of us to toast to the weekend as we began getting ready for dinner.

Having four girls (six once Natalia and Lily joined us from their respective LA apartments) in one hotel room doing makeup and picking out clothes for the night was exactly as you’d imagine: a bit crowded, but completely reminiscent of the best parts of college evenings going out.

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As can be expected, we all packed several looks for each possible Los Angeles event, and everyone modeled her selections for input prior to settling on a particular outfit for dinner.

While this process paid homage in large part to the opening scene of Clueless (wherein Cher browses her entire closet before school), there were also moments harkening back to the silliest of sitcom episodes. Remember those plot lines where someone was planning a surprise party, and everything that could go wrong to spoil the surprise, did?

Nico, Freyan’s fiancé, was intent on sending something to the room to kick off the weekend. Easy enough, right?

As it turns out, it is much harder to send drinks to a room than one would expect. Nico was frantically texting Sherri, Freyan’s sister, who continually had to work around the rest of us calling the concierge to ask for any variety of items: first, to fix the radio; second, for additional glasses for the champagne; then, we needed more towels. It was endless!

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Each knock on the door sent Sherri into a slight panic, as the rest of us non-Freyan ladies were vaguely aware of the general plan for Nico to send something, but didn’t know he was trying to do so in that specific time span, and there was no easy way for Sherri to tell us that with Freyan smack dab in the middle of the celebrations.

Of course, the minute Sherri popped into the shower, room service arrived with Nico’s surprise, and none other than Freyan was closest to the door. The best laid plans, amirite?

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It turns out he needed to provide no fewer than thirteen forms of identification to send these four cocktails, but I’m glad he went through the effort, for my own selfish sake. This drink was delicious! A negroni with a splash of champagne added to lighten it up – I’ll have to remember that one.

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We toasted, again (I can’t tell you how many glass clinks there were that weekend!) and sped up our primping process.

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As the post title may have indicated, we indulged in a full-on flurry of fancy cocktails on this trip. We decided to check out the rooftop “pool” (I use that term loosely…) and the bar (aptly titled “Upstairs“) before making our reservation at Ledlow.

While the Upstairs menu had more options than I could keep track of, with a slightly-confusing-yet-still-somewhat-helpful system of categorizing drinks as fruity, light & refreshing, boozy & spirited, herbaceous, complex, or tart & sour (or some combination thereof), it provided the perfect backdrop for our foray into Los Angeles for this ladies weekend.

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I will admit, the views from the pool top were a bit marred by the myriad cranes (no fewer than three) immediately surrounding the hotel. However, it is a sign of the recent growth in the downtown area of Los Angeles – something I wish had taken place years ago when I attended USC! I can’t hate on growth, and cute bars, and new restaurants to try on my next visit.

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I even caught some other people taking a snap or two…

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We finished up our pre-dinner drinks and eventually made our way to Ledlow for one of the most delicious, and most easily shared, meals I’ve had recently. While I believe the menu is seasonal, so some options may have changed, the slow-roasted meatballs were especially satisfying. I could also recommend basically any salad on the menu, as well as the chicken schnitzel – which is also very fun to order!

After dinner, we walked (at the time I would have called it traipsing, especially with the new wedges I was wearing – note to self, don’t do that in new shoes. And by “that” I mean walk.) about fifteen minutes for a round of drinks at The Stockingframe. Full of rustic decor, including half a canoe with a tree planted firmly in the middle of it next to our picnic-table-seats, and delicious comfort food options, this was a lively spot only a couple of blocks away from the hotel. I would recommend it even if it wasn’t within walking distance.

If you go, try the Faux Fur – the peppercorns get in the way a bit but they and the Thai basil add a special kick to an otherwise everyday drink of vodka and grapefruit. It was almost enough to combat my growing road-trip-lag, but not quite, and we soon made our way back to the Ace for a bit of rest before the next day’s litany of food goals.

 

Up next time: Sqirl and more pictures of the pool… 

An Ace in the hole: Los Angeles, day 1

June 6, 2016

One week ago today, I was driving north up the 5 highway, scrolling through myriad snapshots on my phone and making sure to press “repeat” on that one A$AP Rocky song that cannot be typed on a family-friendly blog (my mom gets wary when I talk about personal grooming on here, she’d likely pass out if I dropped a full curse word!) that became our dance party anthem of the weekend.

What was the occasion, you ask? My dear high school friend of 16 years (how insane is that? Our friendship can get a driver’s license!) is getting married this fall, and decided to have a Ladies Weekend in Los Angeles over Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. Largely planned by her sister and co. via an overly-packed Google doc, the weekend was meant for eating, laughing, dancing, and champagne-ing. And champagne we did!

While what little “tan” I got has since faded, I’ve only just started reliving (and reorganizing) the memories of that weekend for blog format. Since my travel log has been a bit light lately, I’ll be linking to all the adorable places we went (and some we didn’t have time to visit) over the next few posts.

One thing is for sure: I would stay in the Ace Hotel again in a heartbeat!

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I made my way down south from San Francisco with Sherri (the bride-to-be’s younger sister) and Rachel (another bff from high school) at the primo driving hour of 5am. Though we gave Rachel a bit of grief for this plan initially, I have to admit, it was perfect – we cruised down the freeway with time to spare before picking Freyan up at LAX only 20 minutes after her plane had landed.

We made our way downtown and, after several three-point-turns involving some confusing valet signs, dropped off the car and unloaded our luggage.

Upon entry, the entire hotel is exactly what you’d imagine from a renovated theater-and-studio-office-space: seventies chic, hipster, very cool and minimalist and a bit imperfect. The checkered marble flooring contrasts the high ceiling in the foyer. The hallways are dark and moody, but only in comparison to the natural lighting in the elevator lobbies and the sun-filled rooftop. The interior rooms are a mix of Hollywood glamour, black wood and leather fixtures, with the naturalistic feel of colorful blankets and white marble countertops.

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But, that’s the aesthetic! The Ace Hotel line is based on revisiting the vintage style of each hotel’s location: Palm Springs harkens back to days in the sun lounging with a drink and a tanning reflector, full of desert earth tones and textured decor; the New York spot, deep in Midtown Manhattan, belies moody colors and rich, dark leather; the Seattle locale sports airy light and crisp green plants amongst the original hardwood floors. And on and on.

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The mini bar, which none of us touched for fear of automatic debt incursion in the triple digits (and, more realistically, because there are so many amazing restos and bars in LA that we had to get to), was stocked for Hollywood royalty. You can almost envision a rowdy leather-clad band returning from a show at the theater downstairs and coming back up, needing a beverage, some candy, or maybe a shave before doing an impromptu interview.

Alright, I’m making that up – but anyone who wanted to stay in the room the entire weekend would be well tended with this stockpile alone.

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The beds reminded me of futons in someone’s summer house – but that’s not a criticism. Shockingly comfortable, and conveniently low to the ground, they played centerpiece to our room happenings without the typical feeling of a hotel bed, constantly getting in your way as you maneuver around a small space.

Please note the sinks-in-room aspect. While, at first, this seemed peculiar, we quickly realized the genius of it — especially for four women staying in one room. While any one person showers or uses the restroom, at least 2 others can use the mirrors and sinks to get ready. There was also another mirror in the entryway, on the sliding door closet hiding the hangers and mini-bar.

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The bolsters behind our pillows were actually removable and supremely comfortable (or so says one of our larger entourage who crashed in the hotel on Saturday night with us. All names removed to protect the intoxicated.)

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We arrived in our room to find that one of our high school crew, unable to make it out to California for the weekend, had sent ahead chocolates, flowers, and champagne. So thoughtful, and so fun! It almost felt like a celebration for all of us (as we all reaped the bounty of good wishes from Freyan’s special event… more friends get engaged, please!)

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The room was sparse, but pristine. And really, what else do you need in a hotel room? The point is that you bring all of your possessions with you.

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I will say this: though the Rudy’s Barbershop shampoo/conditioner/bodywash trio looked like an upgraded version of the gym shower set, I deeply regret only trying them on my last day. The “gift shop” in the lobby sell all three, and had I not just refilled my favorite products prior to this trip, I would have snapped up the complete set. I still fully intend to do so when my current supplies run out!

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After taking some time to settle in to our new digs and recuperate from the hours-long drive, we decided to venture out for some food and drink to perk up before our evening out.

Several of us had heard that Verve Coffee Roasters, just two blocks away from the hotel, was a gorgeous spot to relax. We headed off in search of caffeine and found the place in no time.

I was too busy admiring to fully capture the spot in film, but suffice it to say whoever is responsible for the decor should be given a bonus. The interior was monochrome and clean, while still bustling with patrons, the perfect mix of zen and modern style without intimidating customers with silence or coldness.

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We sat outside near the wall garden, which continued up to the ceiling and over the entire exterior patio.

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Rachel and I took this selfie just as a skateboarding man asked us if we were using the table. I replied that we only needed it for the picture and he said, “Alright, cool” and waited while we posed. A perfect LA moment.

Newly rejuvenated with our coffees, we set off in search of afternoon sustenance. Freyan had heard of a spot within walking distance that housed dozens of food and drink vendors: Grand Central Market.

I have to admit, whilst journeying there in the LA heat, I wasn’t entirely sure it would be worth the additional trek when there was a taco spot right next to our hotel.

Boy, was I wrong.

The minute you walk through the door, your eyes are flooded with signs floating above each stall. Bel Campo meat (there are locations in Larkspur and SF!), multiple Mexican food vendors, Japanese cuisine like Bento Ya, Eggslut sandwiches, Horse Thief barbeque, oysters, coffee, hand-crafted beers and candies, the list is endless. I honestly can’t read the list of vendors right now or I’ll start salivating on my keyboard and booking a flight I can’t currently afford.

We settled on Ana Maria tacos. I got the carnitas, loaded to the brim of each tortilla (they give you extra, those kind gentlemen) for only $3.50 a pop. I’d say, for the amount of roasted meat you get, that’s a serious steal.

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We took our haul and sat at the tables near G&B Coffee. Munching on salsa-laden carnitas and debating the names of the various coffee drinks (macadamia nut/almond milk espresso drinks, kombuchas, teas sounding more like Game of Thrones characters), we surveyed the gorgeous lofted ceilings and people watched for a while.

Eventually, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with our two Los Angeles locals for dinner preparations and to enjoy the bottle of champagne Kate sent.

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After opening a couple of surprisingly quick-popping (there’s a joke in there somewhere…) champagne bottles, we toasted to the weekend and started jostling for space in front of the mirror.

Up next? Dinner at Ledlow and drinks at The Stocking Frame. More Los Angeles posts to come!

Thank you, Thirty

May 6, 2016

You may not know this, but today is my birthday! I turn 30 years old today.

This birthday, typically, is met with some degree of trepidation. The media makes it appear as though women are meant to fear the aging process, and the year thirty in particular – so much so that a good friend of mine created a hashtag for the month leading up to her thirtieth birthday to remind herself to find joy in the everyday moments (#hellothreeoh was a great success, in my opinion!)

Sure, around this time in life there is a bit of a sense of needing to keep up with everyone else. There can also be a freedom in getting older, in moving away from your childhood, in realizing how many individuals are in the world and that you aren’t meant to match everyone else.

As I realize how short life is, and how much I still wish to accomplish in my time on this green earth, I am also growing more thankful for what I do have.

If I am being honest, I looked forward to turning thirty! I wanted my age to match the adult transitions I’ve been undergoing since finishing graduate school several years ago. Feeling more in control of my decisions, as if I am on the path to a lasting career, that I have surrounded myself with friends and family who support and understand me – these are all feelings that make being thirty comforting, not frightening. I’ve been telling people I was thirty for the past six months, because I was ready to be so. I’m ready to enter this new stage of life.

I feel my age…in the best way possible.

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Since thirty-year-old me is so wise, she wanted to remind twenty-nine-year-old her just how far she’s come.

#1: It’s ok to want to look nice. It doesn’t mean you are vain, or conceited, or shallow. Liking the way you appear to others makes you feel more confident in how you relate to the world, and that is something that should not be overlooked.

#2: But, you are not just your appearance. You have qualities to offer the world – smarts, friendship, laughter, sometimes wit – that are composed of nothing but your personality and your brain. Do not let your looks, which will ebb and flow over time, comprise your self-worth.

#3: It is not totally humiliating to be seen walking up Pine Street carrying a big packet of toilet paper and a bottle of detergent. It just means you’re an adult.

#4: Please try to stop spending so much money at Starbucks in your thirties! You have a french press and coffee at work. This is just embarrassing.

#5: You are exactly where you are supposed to be. I know it sounds cliché and, frankly, fake when people say this – but it’s the truth. You have had many experiences leading you here, and you have many experiences yet to go through. Don’t rush it.

#6: You know who you are now. Maybe not perfectly, and maybe not entirely, but for the most part, you know Who You Are. And you’re allowed to remove people, and ideas, and practices from your life that don’t fit into that.

#7: You still don’t floss enough, because no one flosses enough. Keep at it.

#8: Don’t forget that what you see on Instagram is a highly curated life. Real life is more varied, more complex, more turbulent. Social media is like the best-lit version of a professional product shoot for Vogue; real life is like one of those paper towel commercials about constantly spilling red juice on the carpet.

#9: Always bring your phone charger.

#10: You will probably not regret spending money on something classic, and sure, you might regret forking over your hard earned dough for that sequined skirt you’ve been wanting. Trust your instincts – get the skirt.

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There have been a few awkward moments, several life lessons, a bit of crying, and many snarky comments in the past 10,950 days, all leading up to feeling just that much more…myself. Thirty will be wonderful, as will the years to follow, because I will be even more me.

At least, I hope so. Ask me again when I’m turning forty – this confidence could all have gone to h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

For now, I celebrate!

A Movie-able Feast

May 2, 2016

In today’s world, inspiration can come from just about anywhere. With the advent of social media, sharing images and ideas has become an every-minute occurrence. With the development of the internet, new skills can be learned to implement this inspiration with the click of a mouse and a trip to Home Depot. With the increase of disposable income (for some, at least), people now have the time and inclination available to learn new tricks and DIY their entire life.

As I am constantly learning how to balance my day job with my more creative aims, I find I have to take my inspiration where I can get it. It has to fit in to my normal day-to-day activities; I don’t regularly have the time to scroll through Pinterest or to peruse food blogs to find new recipes to try.

Sometimes, it’s enough to browse Instagram on my coffee break. Other times, I want to be immersed into a world completely unlike my own.

Lately, I have had a big thing for culinary films. Not reality shows, where stressed contestants grapple for the best ingredients on a table full of bizarre edibles. And not documentaries, which highlight both the positives and negatives of the real restaurant world.

But rather, fictionalized movies that show the idealized version of the food world: the passion behind developing new recipes, the excitement of accomplishing a perfectly-executed dish, the hard-work-montage that indicates hours of preparation in a satisfying two minute span.

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As I am a generous woman, I wanted to recommend three of my favorite food films for your enjoyment!

The Hundred-Foot Journey

This movie combines the best parts of the visually stunning contrast of cultures that made Eat Pray Love and Under the Tuscan Sun so enjoyable for me, with the wit and heart of any Nancy Meyers romantic comedy. Following the story of Hassan Kadam and his family, the film starts in India and makes its way to a quaint town in France that is (somehow) home to a Michelin-starred restaurant. Through a sad-beautiful-tragic series of events, the Kadam family opens an Indian restaurant right across the street, and hijinks ensue. Part drama, part comedy, and full of a passion for food, this movie is worth a watch.

Chef

I don’t know if there are words for how much I love this movie. Jon Favreau’s acting is flawless as Carl Casper, a Miami chef who loses his cool one night after receiving a biting restaurant review from a famous food blogger and unintentionally takes the fight viral on social media. When he’s later fired, Chef Carl has to figure out how to reinvent himself, and reinvigorate his passion for cooking, while also including his (adorable) (hilarious) (you’ll love him) young son in the process. One cup snark, one cup adorable father-son road trip moments, and a whole lot of food envy make up this delicious flick.

(There’s a scene involving garlic pasta that I have tried time and again to recreate, to limited sucess. I will never stop trying!)

Julie & Julia

Last, but certainly not least, comes the tale of two women who share a taste (har har) for good cooking to fill their otherwise less-than-enviable days. One (Julia Child), a now-renowned chef who brought French cooking to the everyday housewife, feels like an awkward American in an unfamiliar land. The other (Julia Powell), a Brooklyn-turned-Bronx transplant who spends her days fielding customer service calls and listening to her friends’ successes, needs to find a purpose. Separated by decades but alike in their commitment to true French cuisine, this movie will encourage anyone to stop by the market on the way home and find their own Joy of Cooking.

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Whether you prefer to watch the Food Network or a fictional recounting of your favorite foodie, there’s always inspiration to be found in the stories of others.

 

These are just a few of my favorites – what are yours?

 

10 Ways to Invest in Yourself This Week

April 15, 2016

A friend and I were talking yesterday — one of those conversations that you can’t plan, can’t recreate, it all just comes naturally from a place of semi-exhaustion and stress and forced introspection and a good dose of afternoon ice cream — about where we “are” in our lives. Physically, emotionally, career-ily, all of the things.

Sitting on my increasingly-appearing-used couch in my (may I say) adorable apartment that eats half of my income, drinking yerba mate tea and sparkling water with chips and ice cream, there were many dichotomies from which we came in our perspectives. Are we young, growing, learning ladies? Still getting our footing in an increasingly fast-paced world? Or are we mature, capable, intelligent women who can and should be able to do anything to which we put our minds? Are we young or old, fresh faced or experienced?

Spoiler alert: it’s both. We’re always growing, always learning. I’ve read several quotes lately that are all along the same lines of, if you’re not learning something everyday, you’re doing something wrong. You should surround yourself with people who can aid you in this process, and keep striving for your best self. Even if this includes editing your lifestyle, and learning that “growing up” sometimes, indeed, means acting like a grown up!

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Though we rehashed several topics (it had been a few weeks since we’d gotten together!), one of the main takeaways from our conversation was the idea of investing in yourself: putting energy into your own well being, growing your spirit and your value, and doing things that are positive for your mental and physical health even if it takes away from other areas of your life for a little while.

For example, my friend recently began meeting with an executive coach. She thought this would be a great way to get personalized feedback on her next steps to help further her career goals. This is not free – not by a long shot – but it is something that adds great value to her as an entrepreneur, and something that has demonstrated immediate payoff in her interactions with a business partner. It’s worth the literal financial investment to do something that creates more value in herself for her lifelong career. And, she’s investing in herself emotionally as a young woman in the San Francisco business world by giving herself a mentor to go to when she has questions about how to navigate this male-dominated arena. It’s a real thing, guys!

Also, for example, I’m justifying going to a really nice salon for hair removal rather than buying a Groupon to a smaller place. It doesn’t happen that often, and it’s an adult errand (like getting haircuts or taking your shoes to the cobbler), and if it’s done wrong it really, really hurts. So I’m coughing up the dough ($$$) to go to a place with great reviews and a woman about whom people raaaaved on Yelp. Does it mean I’ll have to stop splurging on so many coffees this month? Yes. But I’m prioritizing this other item on my To Do list rather than giving in to my exhaustion-induced purchasing at the Starbucks on my way to work. I’m investing in myself.

10 Ways to Invest in Yourself

Now, you all know I didn’t write this post just to brag about how mature we are (that comes later) – here are 10 ways you can invest in yourself this week, small changes, that will help make you feel a lot better about your life in the long run.

1. Making coffee 2x a week

I know, I know – you’ve heard this before. But truly being financial stable is an investment that has no value. It is priceless to walk into a store, or an event, or even to see something online, and know that you have the money in your account to handle whatever pops up. Sometimes, this means stocking away those extra pennies for that “someday” occurrence by giving up the routine trips to Starbucks and making your own coffee at home or at work. At least, a few times a week.

2. Join Digit

I joined Digit about a month ago at a friend’s urging, and I have to admit, I was apprehensive at first. Digit “analyzes” (uh oh) your spending habits, and supposedly only takes money out of your account (and into an FDIC insured Digit savings account) when you can “afford” it. If there’s ever an overdraft, Digit will handle it. Well, I’m a convert – so far Digit has saved me a little over $30 without my even noticing by taking small amounts when my account is flush, and taking nothing when it’s under a certain level. I highly recommend signing up for a passive savings account program like this.

3. Do your dishes

I just broke two glasses because they toppled over in my somewhat crowded sink. Do your dishes on a regular basis, and save your poor dishware from a similar fate.

4. Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier

This one’s easy – there are countless articles ruminating on whether sleep is necessary (it is) and how much is necessary (a lot more than we usually get per night.) This week, just this week, try and go to sleep 30 minutes earlier. Even if you spend those 30 minutes in bed staring at your phone, like I sometimes do, you will still be ahead of the game and can get some real rest earlier than you otherwise would.

5. Get to work 15 minutes earlier and leave 15 minutes later

This may seem like small potatoes, so insignificant as to not even matter, but just try it! I’m going to. I haven’t done it yet. It’s like the blind leading the blind over here.

6. Join the library

Now, don’t fall into the same trap I sometimes do – watch out for being overly enthusiastic about your check out privileges, checking out too many books, and incurring $45 of late fees three months later having read only two of twelve books. Yeah, don’t do that. But you may be surprised by how accessible most city libraries are these days! You can save books online, select which branch to pick them up at, browse their catalogue and search by interest or category pretty easily, the whole nine yards. I’ve started making a habit of putting holds on newer books that I want to read once they’ve come out. Usually there are 70 or so people ahead of me on the list, but that just gives me time to finish my other books before picking that one up. And best of all? If you do it right, it’s free! If you do it right.

7. Prioritize your personal grooming

Please see above anecdote. Sometimes you just need to say yes to the…salon.

8. Buy yourself flowers

Another easy way to perk up your week! Support a great local florist (I love Farm Girl Flowers) or, if you’re on a budget, head over to Trader Joe’s and pick up a bunch for only a few dollars. There’s something about being close to nature, even if nature is dyed sunflowers, that brightens your spirits.

9. Find a mentor

If you’re in that place where you know you want to keep moving forward in your career or some goal in your life, but you’re not sure how to take that leap, maybe it’s worth the time and energy to find a mentor who can help guide you further than you can take yourself. Google around a bit, ask your old college career office if they have lists of local alumni, see if any of your friends are in professional groups similar to your chosen field, etc etc. There are tons of ways to find someone you can glean new information from if you have the will to look!

10. Delete Facebook from your phone

This is an idea I’m crediting to Meghan, but maybe not an idea I’ll enact myself just yet: delete Facebook from your phone and see how much free time you have when you don’t get sucked into aimless scrolling. Or, even if you don’t add hours to your day, see what ideas percolate when your brain is left to its own devices for a few minutes here and there!

—–

You are the only you that you will ever be. You know? But that doesn’t mean you are the you that you have always been. We are constantly changing, learning, and growing as humans – but that is a direct result of the energy we put in to developing and bettering ourselves. As they say, you only get out what you put in.

(Or, insert another financial analogy if it helps.)

What’s one way you feel you invest in yourself? Share in the comments below!

Photo of the Week 2: Foggy Day Foods

March 11, 2016

Hey, that whole photo thing was fun while it lasted, right? *insert eyeroll emoji*

I have to be honest, I love blogging. I love creating, I love styling, I love getting the photos just right, and I love seeing the reactions. It is, in fact, a bit of an ego boost mixed with a creative outlet wrapped in a side project.

But, alas, alack, it is not my fulltime job. So I’m trying my best to keep this space new and updated, but sometimes it will fall behind. Thems the breaks.

…And sometimes, the photos of the week are going to revolve around my home life. I’m not dead but I’m not hitting up a new spot each weekend like I used to. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, actually – I don’t have to spend a ton of money to peruse the city a bit more and share some San Francisco-specific snaps. Would that be fun?

Just something I’m thinking about.

In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of food. And the links! Check out the fun weekly links below.

(I’ve missed y’all. It’s good to be back.)

Photo A.

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I have a Cheez-It problem, guys. I need Cheez-It rehab.

Photo B.

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Even on a rainy day, I’ll spring for the Gingersnap iced coffee. It’s an easy way to pretend it’s still wintertime!

Photo C.

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I made amazing (if I do say so myself) chili a week or so ago per my mother’s recipe. I threw in some of these gorgeous sweet peppers and it made allllll the difference.

Links of the Week

  • Did you love Buffy as dearly as I did in high school? (and college… and law school… and last year.) The show turns 19 this week and SMG herself shared a cute throwback snap to honor the moment.
  • A train that takes you to the Grand Canyon? Yes please! My wanderlust is calling.
  • I know this may be controversial, but I actually agree with a lot of Kim Kardashian’s arguments in her response to nude-photo-gate this week.
  • Have you been watching House of Cards? I’m steadily making my way through Season 3 and am desperately avoiding Season 4 spoilers!
  • The newest beauty trend is one that is ages old – K Beauty is sweeping the nation (is it though?) and it turns out, it’s just what most women in Korea have been doing for years! That is, they take skincare seriously from almost literally day 1 on this planet. I’d say we should all follow suit.

Pick a photo, any photo… which is your favorite this week?

The Foggy Day Library

January 14, 2016

I have to say, this was not My Year when it came to reading.

I still attended my book club’s meetings every month, I still kept a running tally of every new recommendation I received, and I still browsed Amazon, aimlessly adding books to my Wish List with no real deadline to purchase.

(Alright, maybe I treated myself to one or two around the holidays. Or three.)

But, alas, alack, I did not reach my Goodreads Reading Challenge (hell yeah, I still sign up for that thing every year) of reading 50 books in 2015. C’est la vie.

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That doesn’t mean the year was without literature! Here are a few of the books I really enjoyed, and a few that I can’t wait to get my little hands (eyes?) on.

Books I Loved in 2015

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This one was recommended several times by a friend before I took her seriously, and I am so annoyed I waited so long. Set in an alternate world where virtual reality has taken over, but everything is based around the 80’s, this one is spunky and engaging. I can’t wait for the inevitable movie.
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear: Think 1900s British Nancy Drew.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This book blew me away. Set in the midst of World War II, it explores the parallel paths of a French girl and a German boy. You. Must. Read.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari: Self-explanatory. Especially for anyone who has tried online dating. Or regular dating.
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: I picked this 600+ page book up early in the year with my newfound library obsession, and finished it in about a day. Then I finished the other two books in the series in about as much time.
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: This was a book club pick and I’m so glad it was! I never would have picked it up by the name, but this book is epic. The writing style is crisp and image-laden, and the characters are equally believable and detestable.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: I read this in one flight from SF to DC and passed it along to my dad, who finished it on the return flight. Addicting.
  • Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner: Another book revolving around European life in World War II, it picks up with two sisters sent to live outside London during the war. Completely captivating, if not a tiny bit predictable.
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Alright, I haven’t entirely finished this one yet… but I can’t wait to! Beginning in the 1940s, it tells the progressive story of a female friendship amidst the backdrop of southern Italy. Also, there are two more books, and you know I love a series.

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On My List in 2016

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: This book my dad and I bought each other (without knowing) for Christmas a few years ago and I still haven’t touched it. It’s a really, really long book.
  • Moloka’i by Alan Brennert: Val recommended this book to me years and years ago, I bought a copy, and still have yet to crack it open.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I have bought this for several people as gifts after reading good reviews of it, but haven’t yet read it myself. For shame!
  • The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts: I read Shantaram, the book preceding this one by the same author, and loved it. What a completely spellbinding look at Indian culture.

These are only ten selections, and I set my goal at an auspicious 50 again, so hopefully I will have more books to add to this list over the next twelve months.

How about you? What have you been reading lately?

 

Photo of the Week 1: Knitting at Home

January 8, 2016

Greetings, humans! Isn’t there a show that began that way? The one with the cones? On the heads? I digress.

I’m starting something new around here, folks. I have realized that with my current job responsibilities (read: more than 8 hours a day, actual cases solely under my purview, billable hours requirements and whatnot), and with just, life, my blogging has taken a back seat in the past few weeks. I know, I know – the number one thing every article about blogging says is to never, ever, apologize for going MIA.

So, I guess, I’m not apologizing then! Merely acknowledging. You may have heard, but that whole “work-life balance” schtick is something that people the working world over struggle with on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. I, too, have begun this struggle.

I’ve realized I can either:

  • work enough and sleep enough
  • work enough, knit a little, and sleep a little
  • work enough, knit not at all, read a little, and sleep enough
  • or work not enough, knit a little, and sleep an okay amount.

That last one isn’t really an option, though, and none of those factors in any time for working out, socializing, or doing something besides working sleeping knitting or breathing. Huff.

So, here I am again! Trying something new to ensure that this blog doesn’t go by the wayside while I’m working the rest out (it’s something my favorite travel blogger, Alex Baackes of Alex in Wanderland, started, and I’ve loved following along with her adventures week by week.)

We’re doing… Photo of the Week!

Simple, effective, and still including a dose of your favorite links from the interwebs selected by Yours Truly.

This week’s ventures revolved mostly around knitting, cooking, and more knitting, as I’ve been obsessively watching Arrow on Netflix (a. that show is really really good, b. whats his face is very attractive, c. does anyone know where I can watch season 4?) and coming out of my holiday haze. Next week’s photos will hopefully be more… varied.

Then again, maybe they won’t be! This is a sampling of my actual week. With a little bit of photo editing.

Photo A.

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I’ve started finding random quotes that apply to my life bizarrely well lately…

Photo B.

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Knitting myself something cozy, finally.

Photo C.

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I made chilaquiles (alright, the lazy version) Sunday morning on my stovetop.

Links of the Week

  • Do you prefer reading a book before the movie comes out? If so, then here are a few you need to get started on (I’ve only read 4 of these myself.)
  • This is from a few weeks ago, but I absolutely love the sentiment. I completely agree that your attitude affects your own happiness.
  • And, if the above article fails, you can just buy yourself a blingy reminder.
  • Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? I’m not sure how it would work with billable hours, but I like the concept muchly.
  • Oh, also, I need this candle in my life. Like, stat.

 

So, which was your favorite photo? Toss a quick vote into the comments!

 

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