Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blog Find of the Year: Smitten Kitchen

This year I moved to Phoenix. Because it is where my husband is, and because home is where the heart is and he's my heart, it's now my home. It flows like a romantic logic problem, but it makes sense, right? Now that I'm out here, I seem to have more time on my hands. I am still working east coast hours, which means I start very early and end fairly early, too. More time is a beautiful thing. But in a new city (especially one that sometimes traps its residents indoors with 115+ heat), it can feel a little bit lonely.

And when I get lonely, I like to eat. So while my husband is toiling away at grad school and I'm holed up in our teensy apartment, I'll cook elaborate meals that I never would have had the time to make a year ago. Smitten Kitchen is my go-to for what's for dinner. Deb, the genius behind the blog, writes in a casual, hilarious way that makes me feel like I've been talking to a good friend about mushroom bourguinon or pumpkin butter. It takes the intimidation right out of serious cookery. She's not super rigid about instructions or measurements. In fact, she makes me feel like even though I have a tendency to forget whether I've already put in 2 tsp or sugar or 3, or added baking soda instead of baking powder, whatever I'm making is going to turn out ok. It always does.

Deb's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Heaven.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Best Workshop 2009

My feet have really been dragging on this post. I think I was scared off by the word "conference," which to me represents long hours on aching feet. Work stuff.

So, instead, let's discuss the drawing class I took back in January, as it was a workshop of sorts. The class took place over the course of four Monday evenings in an ill-heated art studio in Charleston. They were a gift to myself. A gentle nudge to keep myself inspired.

There were four of us in the class. Two wildly talented kids and a mother with children my age. I struggled at first to realize that, while the others had more refined skills than me (and probably just more skills in the art department, period), there was nothing wrong with my drawings. They were just mine.

It was intensely relaxing and perspective-altering to sit down for 90 whole minutes and focus on trying to capture what I saw on paper. After each class I felt like I'd just finished a yoga practice. Calmer. More focused. Like I was interpreting the world a little bit differently. Just thinking about it makes me want to go home and sketch...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best Night Out 2009 - Everyone I Love in One Room

One of the greatest things about weddings--aside from marrying your best friend--is the bringing together of friends and family. Everyone you love in one room. My best friend from elementary school with whom I used to prank phone call my fifth grade teachers involved in a deep conversation with my World War II fighter pilot grandfather. My nine year old twin cousins dancing with the man that introduced my husband and I nearly six years ago in Costa Rica. Just thinking about it I get teary eyed. It makes you want to bar the doors and keep everyone in the reception hall forever.

After our reception the party got rowdier. It shifted one block down the street to our neighborhood bar, a dark, somewhat stinky, incredible dive. My husband and I were exhausted, in every sense of the word. Our getaway car took us to a hotel and we began peeling off the wedding garb. We lay on the bed, and in any other circumstance, there's no way we would have gotten up. But we looked at each other and the thought of our best friends at our favorite bar was enough to propel us out of the hotel room and to the curb to hail a taxi.

When we arrived, there was a five second silence as the doors swung open and then everyone started to cheer. The bar was packed with familiar faces from all the eras of our lives. It was magic.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best Article 2009 (aka my exact thoughts, better-articulated)

Back in October, Jonathan Safran Foer wrote an article entitled "Against Meat" for the New York Times. Reading this piece felt like partaking in one of those late night conversations with someone you've just met, where they're explaining their philosophy on music or pizza or gun control...and you can't seem to speak because everything that comes out of their mouth is your exact thought. It's a kind of magical feeling, where no matter how insignificant the topic at hand, you feel like you've found a kindred spirit.

Becoming a vegetarian was a personal choice for me, and I don't bring it up much. The last thing I want to do is force my opinions on anyone else, or make them feel judged. Heck, I ate meat for 25 years. Mr. Foer better-articulated the reasons that I decided to stop eating meat, and gave me a resource...a beautifully written article that I could point people towards when trying to explain my point of view.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best Restaurant Moment of 2009: An Ode to Pho

Anniversary noodles at Pho Thanh

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would crave hot Vietnamese soup during hot as hell Phoenix August. But the craving did strike, and I thank God that it did.

Pho is a magical thing. The soothing, rich, flavorful broth. The tangled mess of thin rice noodles. The plate heaped with bean sprouts, fresh herbs and limes to mix in. The arsenal of sauces; some spicy, some savory. I could go on and on.

The diamond in the rough that stole my heart this year is a restaurant called Pho Thanh. From the outside, it doesn't look promising--it's set in a dingy little strip mall in north Phoenix. I've fallen in love with their incredible vegetarian pork entrees, savory soups and perfectly seasoned vegetables, and we find ourselves coming back more and more as the weather turns cold and soup seems to be the only thing to satisfy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best Trip of 2009

The old suitcase has gotten a really good workout this year. My ability to add or subtract 2-3 hours from the time displayed on my Blackberry depending on where I am on any given day has become uncanny. Delta employees in the Charleston airport have started to recognize me and ask me when I'll be back through. Work has put me in many cities over the last 11 months, and while I hate being away from home and husband, along with the dreaded exhaustion that comes with work-related travel,  I love my mini-adventures on the road. The friends I've made over the last 27 years have scattered far and wide, and I can usually manage to meet up with a good one for beer or coffee in every town. Seeking out good local spots is an obsession of mine that I get to indulge whilst out of town--local breweries, eateries, specialties. But that's work stuff.

El Alcazar, Sevilla.

La Giralda and touristy trinkets.

I have two Best Trips this year. The first was my honeymoon in glorious Spain. After a semester in Sevilla during college, I fell deeply in love with Spanish culture and Spanish language. Making it back to Spain was on my "To Do Before I Die" list--and there was no better time. Twinkling lights in Spanish squares on hot summer nights with pitchers of sangria and my new husband. It doesn't get much better than that in my book.

Late night in our old stomping grounds. (Seattle)

The other Best Trip was to Seattle for our west coast wedding reception. There was a lot of love in K's parents' backyard, and a lot less stress than there was on the big day. We did all of the important Seattle things--drank Mac N Jacks, ate Thai food, visited the old neighborhood, danced at the Little Red Hen...and all with the best of friends.

The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

Only recently did I stumble across the blog of one Ms. Gwen Bell, but she has already inspired me to make big changes, follow my dreams, and try my hand at asskicking (in a non-violent way). And so, I will be participating in her Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. I'm pretty excited about it to be honest, as I look forward to ruminating on the year as its end draws near and blogging about things that I maybe wouldn't have thought to blog about otherwise.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

So thankful.

Hello, three blog readers. :)
I'm back from a weekend in the mountains and three days in the home office.
Things I'm excited about:
Starting my online Christmas shopping on my days off.
Testing out as many of these recipes as humanly possible.
Thanksgiving dinner at Green Vegetarian. Five years ago I could not have imagined looking forward to faux turkey this much.
Spreading the few Christmas decorations that I smuggled onboard the flight out across our wee apartment.
A nice cuddle with a handsome grad student.

Thankful to be home, for my family, sweet husband and incredible friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mountain Getaway

Montreat image via Flickr

We're headed for Montreat, NC to see two wonderful people get married this weekend. There's a group hike scheduled and the rehearsal dinner is in a barn. I'll be thinking lots of warm thoughts and grinning ear to ear. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

something different

Phew. Yesterday was a rough day at work.
Like all the balls I've dropped in the last six weeks came crashing down at exactly the same time.
I've been a space cadet. I haven't been showing up [mentally].
After work I walked into the house and burst into tears.
My job is wonderful. The people I work with are phenomenal.
But I don't love it, and have been struggling to get work done these last few months.
Doing half hearted work makes me feel like a real asshole.
There's a serious reevaluation of my life taking place.
The difficulty is in finding the courage to take that leap.
In the meantime, I'll be doing lots of long walks and channeling my confusion into a series of questionably crafted scarves for loved ones.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


It's so critical that I clear the cobwebs out of the old noggins every once in a while and let some fresh air in...both for my mental health, and to keep myself moving forward, not just trudging along with my shoulders hunched to the world.

Today I'm feeling extremely inspired. Gwen Bell has just convinced me of how critical it is to have a personal manifesto, and I'm itching to get started.

Another inspirational, if not completely awe-inspiring, bit that I came across on the interwebs today:

Found via The Year in Pictures....did this video not make your hands sweat, too?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Over the Weekend...

My weekend consisted of:
Fabulous Jamaican dinner with K (followed by too much yummy microbrew and a zombie Saturday)
Tons of time on the lightrail spent knitting
Turkish coffee with a new friend
Baking cookies for an old friend
A trip to the library and a new stack of books to dive into

Intoxicatingly fragrant flowers at the lightrail stop.

Lightrail stop art installation. The length of coils that went into the hands is astounding.

Glowing cacti.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Have a Lovely Weekend

Hope your weekend is lovely.
Ours is stacking up to be fairly loungy (for me, anyhow, K is deep in the throes of his final studio project for the semester, but can hopefully pencil in a lounge or two).
Snuggles under warm down comforters in a chilly room, quiet time over hot tea, and some work on holiday gift lists are what's up my sleeve.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sunshine on My Ceiling

As I flopped on my bed last night, exhausted after work, I looked up and saw this:
The light in our wall sconce was refracting onto the ceiling in the shape of the sun.
Does this make me one of those kooky 'I saw the Virgin Mary in my goat cheese omelette people?'
Meh, I don't care.
Sometimes you find beauty in the most unexpected places...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hurt Feelings

Sometimes I'm a little too sensitive and get my feelings hurt when no harm was meant. There are days when it takes the tiniest comment (or non-comment) to put me in tears.
Even on the luckiest day of the year.
This video helps me giggle my way out of it. Or try to, anyway.

Oh, Lucky Day!

image via weheartit

I might be the only person over the age of 12 to have a lucky number, but I do.
It's 11.
November the eleventh = 11.11. Which makes today very lucky indeed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Fruit of My Fruit

A pumpkin is a fruit. I just double fact checked that one, folks.
And the above is a family portrait of the pumpkin butter I made out of our sweet little pumpkins yesterday.
I know that yesterday I said that pumpkin roasting/chopping/pureeing was not worth the effort, but I think I've already changed my mind. You see, whipping up a batch of buttermilk biscuits (lawd am I southern, Nana would be so happy) and slathering them with my own homemade pumpkin butter made me feel a little bit proud. Kind of like a prairie woman.

The pumpkin butter recipe was another of Deb's from the Smitten Kitchen. She pretty much hits the ball out of the park every single time I cook one of her meals. If my husband ever goes missing, I'll just assume that he's left me for Deb.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On My Wish List

Holy Moley. I didn't know they still made these.
I'm not sure that I can fit on it, but that doesn't keeping me from wanting one.
Big time.

Over the Weekend...

Oh, Phoenix. Remember when we weren't on speaking terms?
When you were all like: I don't care if you don't have AC in your car, I'm going to be 120*. 
And I was all like: Fine, I hate you, giant sprawling metropolis.
And you were like: FINE. got insanely gorgeous outside again and I got over it.

This weekend was a festival weekend. Phoenix saves them up for when the weather is delicious and then we pack as much in as we can. Saturday we hit up the Local Fall First Festival (yay, local!) and sampled some tasty foods. Also, thrilled to recall that these beauties are printed in my neck of the woods:

Cards by seesaw.
(There is nothing better than checking the mailbox and finding a beautiful card with a thoughtful note inside.)

Afterwards we headed for Armenia Fest 2009. We ate platefuls of Armenian home cooking and enjoyed Armenian music and dancing. And beer.

This weekend was also filled with:
Belgian waffles and the Farmer's Market.
My first Zumba class.
Pitchers on patios with excellent people and weather.
Slicing, roasting, and pureeing our Halloween pumpkins to make another stellar Smitten Kitchen recipe.
(By the way, canned pumpkin is a gift from the gods. I gave myself a minor knife wound on Sunday and vow to never dismantle pumpkins again without a designated chopper. Canned is the way to go.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good morning, Denver.

Sunrise, from my hotel room.

Working from a cozy warm bed.

Breakfast and (too much) coffee in an adorable Denver coffeehouse.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Over the Weekend

Caught up a little on sleep, made these heavenly cupcakes for a Halloween party, and now I find myself in Denver for the majority of the week.
Fortunately I have incredible friends in town. Incredible friends who bought me a ticket to see a sold out David Gray show so that I could sing along and bawl over the beauty of the lyrics and his voice.

(My photos all turned out a little blurry.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pretend Shopping

As I mentioned, I've been logging some long hours lately. Sometimes when my mind starts to wander, I'll head over to etsy and window shop until I can focus again. These are some of my new etsy favorites:

This purse. Or any of the purses that Hoakon/Helga makes out of vintage leather jackets.

I love love the pattern on this dress.

Getting a note on this gorgeous stationary in my mailbox would make my week.

Love the color and shape of this kettle.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October Almost Over?

Time feels like it's set on warp speed right now.
I'm a week into my Charleston stay, and while I love getting to see family and friends, I'm so ready to get back to my husband.
It's been about a week as well since I last posted.
Here's a smidge of the goings on that I've squeezed in amongst an ungodly amount of work:

Pumpkin decorating whilst drinking pumpkin beer.
This is an annual Halloween tradition that I staunchly enforce.
(How cute is my husband's pumpkin? He's a like a little mustachioed Frenchman.)

Driving to work with the sun rising over the water.
It doesn't get much more magical.
I only wish I could slow down end enjoy it more.

Bloody Mary's at my favorite little French bistro in Charleston.
This was our go-to brunch spot when we lived here.
Sunday I was lucky enough to go for a bike ride with a good friend and pit stop here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cold Weather Craving

I'm in Charleston for the next little while and it is freezing outside. (In a very wimpy sort of way.)
The weather in Phoenix was topping the 100's this weekend, so anything below 70 is a shock to my system and I've been craving warm, cozy comfort food.

Mushroom bourguignon in particular. We made this recipe a week or so back. It was rich, delicious, and surprisingly healthy. The perfect remedy for a chill.
Happy Monday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vegetarian in the South

Picture from here.

Living in the south, I was often asked why I am a vegetarian. In my company's southeastern home office, I'm a bit of a tofu-eating oddity. My sweet southern father and I actually got into an argument on Christmas morning several years ago because I would not eat the turkey bacon my mom had so lovingly prepared for me--him arguing all the while that turkey is, in fact, not meat.

My turn to vegetarianism was gradual. It took years and years for me to finally realize that giving up meat was a viable option. I don't talk about it much, because I consider it to be a personal decision. Everyone needs to come to their own conclusions and do what makes sense for them. I'm very lucky to have a supportive husband who eats my vegetarian meals (even when my homemade seitan cutlets turn out like bouncy balls), never pushes me to taste just-a-little-tiny-bit-of-this-bacon-gosh-its-so-good, and never complains that our spaghetti is sans meatballs.

From now on, I will simply refer to this beautiful article when questioned about my dietary choices. Man, I wish I had Jonathan Safran Foer to better-articulate everything that I believe in. His writing makes me want to read extremely slowly, savoring every word.

As for my father, he has developed a sizeable list of Tofurky-related jokes and still offers up a steak on the grill everytime I come home. But, he is really starting to get the knack of marinating and grilling up a mean portabello mushroom.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Heaven is an International Food Court

Home from San Francisco today.
If I lived there I would have an enormous food filled belly and buns of steel from trekking the hills.
Enjoyed discovering French, Argentine, Afghan and Vietnamese eateries.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eye Candy

Made it through the weekend, with a little help from Theraflu and a lot of help from my husband, who brought me spicy soups and refilled my water glass every 12 seconds.

Presently in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite cities. On my way back from dinner I spent a solid five minutes drooling over these in fresh's window:

 Aren't they gorgeous? I'm especially into the Fig Apricot. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Regina Spektor's Goals (as a human person)

This Regina Spektor interview that Naomi did made me love Regina all the more.
I was especially inspired by her response when Naomi asked about her goals outside of performing and song writing. It's so beautifully worded. I strive to live my life this way as well.

REGINA: Like, as a human person? Goals? Oh, a lot.

I guess just all the things that everybody wants:

To feel like they’re actually doing something and not just reenacting the same thing over and over, and not getting stuck.

Just opening your mind and seeing more of the world and trying to understand how people live and what they think.

All that stuff that will sound really fluffy and disgusting if you write it down. Just be part of the world. Really really live. You know?

One of my big goals is to just not do things out of fear but [to] be really open, which is hard I think. It’s a full time job for people to stay really open. It’s like a second job.

But also - I don’t think it’s good to just do one thing. I don’t think if you’re a musician you should not just be immersed in music. I think it’s really important that if you’re a musician [to] try writing a play or something. Things need to complete other things.

Sick as a dog.

Sweet-faced little pug dog found here.

I'm down for the count.
Luckily my husband is on his way home with soup and Nyquil in tow.
Crossing my fingers for a speedy recovery--headed to SF for work on Sunday.
And I looove SF.
Happy weekend, you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Warm Fuzzy

Big kudos to Jason's coach for giving him the opportunity to get involved with the team, and letting him live out his dream of playing.

Happy Humpday.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pretend Shopping

I pretend shop quite a lot. When it gets down to me actually needing something, I drive myself insane with the possibilities of what I should buy; endless comparison of price, quality, ethics... It's much easier to just browse, non-commitally. Here are a few things I've fallen in love with of late.

I love the lattice-work on the back of this shirt.

I love this gocco print. My mom used to sing me this song before bed.

I could see myself in this dress + beat up boots.

Love the color, love the peeptoe, love the wedge.

I'm dying to find the perfect pair of cone-heeled shoes. These come with a delicate ankle strap.

Need a pair of booties for fall. Love the color of this pair.

RIP, Pela.

Oh my. This afternoon I learned Pela broke up a couple of weeks ago. Pela is one of my all time favorite bands. There is so much heart and talent and ROCK in their music.

They've sung me through days when all I could do was sob, and played the soundtrack of my life on sunshine-filled drives with the windows down.

The saddest part of all is that they had a killer, killer live show. And they broke up before I ever got to see them play.

In honor of Pela...(sigh)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Over the Weekend

Watching cotton candy sunsets and Cadillac Records.
Listening to lots of the blues. Loud.
Eating lazy, long brunch.
Riding bikes around in the near-perfect weather.
Starting new projects.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Adventures in Babysitting Architectural Tour of Chicago

Photo found here.

Chicago was beau-ti-ful. After dinner one night we strolled through Millenium park to check out the Bean. Very, very cool. And look, you can see the Adventures in Babysitting building just to the left of center....this made my night. Obviously.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


view from my hotel window

In Chicago for a few days for the first time ever. I'm struck by how friendly people have been. I could see us here...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Over the Weekend...

Sweet treats + iced coffee

The last of the seemingly unending date harvest.

Quality time spent with my oven.

Came home Friday to a surprise plate of sweets. Perfect end to an extended work day.
Went bowling for the first time in ages, did a couple of little projects, watched some 30 Rock.
Harvested the last of our dates (Thankfully. I don't know what we'd do with more). Baked some date bread, made a date spread, and improvised a delicious date chutney.
Oh yes, and we cleaned. Lots. It feels fantastic to have a nice, tidy apartment.