Sunday, June 30, 2013


We're settling into summer around here and the weekend brought all the simple pleasures of the season. My senses are heightened this time of year and recently I've found myself more tuned in to and appreciative of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of summer. This time of year reminds me of being a not-a-care-in-the-world kid on summer vacation. Though I don't have the 3 months of unbridled freedom I had then, I realize the staples of summer (picnics, outdoor concerts, the beach, etc.) haven't changed much, and this weekend brought all that goodness.

TASTES - We made this shrimp and orzo salad, paired with chilled wine for dinner on Friday night. Accompanied by our show, of course.

SMELLS - The smell of Jasmine on our neighbors' fence on our Friday evening walk; baking blueberry crumb bars Saturday morning made the house smell like heaven.

SOUNDS - The Rolling Stones' music under the stars and fireworks at Summer Pops in Embarcadero Park. (I managed to get through the fireworks show without covering my ears or cringing. Probably because I was tipsy. Which is also the reason I didn't get a pic of them.)

FEEL - Warm evening breezes; the sand between my toes and the sunscreen on my nose at the beach with Guiri and Oslo and parents on Sunday evening.

SIGHTS - The look on Guiri's face every morning - happiest dog ever; sunset, boats floating by, the sparkly blue ocean, crowds of people enjoying outdoor music, San Diego is gorgeous.
{my sunshine}

{sunset, Summer Pops}

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cupcakes and Karma

{star spangled red velvets w/ mascarpone icing}
I don't know if it was last Sunday's supermoon or what, but the stars seemed to be aligned in my favor this week. Each day brought good news, including the Supreme Court's decisions on marriage equality; a promotion for Flavio and a special dinner out and to celebrate; positive teaching evaluations from my students; a request from Flavio's coworkers to make cupcakes for a work party they're having (you know I love to make cupcakes); and even the news that my former boss, the woman who made my work life a living hell a few years ago, was finally fired. Probably for making so many peoples' lives hell. Is it wrong to celebrate that? If it is, I don't want to be right. Karma's a bitch.  Do good things. Be good to others. Make cupcakes. Celebrate.

Have a wonderful weekend!
{cupcake factory}
{flags, ready}

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CrossFit, 2 months in

I am not very good at CrossFit, but I am enthusiastic. I'm just home from a workout (we go to the 5:30 AM!!!! class), am buzzing on endorphins and thought I might take a few minutes to explore in writing why I actually like something I am so bad at.

I've always had a disconnect between my mental and physical confidence. I've been an "A" student my whole life, and am confident in most situations that require intellect, but I have always been keenly aware that pretty much anyone on the street, including most children, could kick my butt either in a fight or in a sport, and thus am totally timid when it comes to sharing my athletic abilities, or lack thereof.  Sure, I can Zumba or yoga or Pilates, but please don't ask me to do group sports.

I hate being bad at things, so it's been hard to willingly subject myself to being the worst crossfitter in the class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I sometimes dread going, and there are days when I really feel like I don't have the athletic skills to get through some of the workouts (pullups, double unders and rope climbs, I'm looking at you).

But, I'm starting to feel a change. Not necessarily in my physical appearance yet (I imbibe too much, eat too many desserts) or in my arm strength (my upper body strength still resembles that of a sea slug), but I am getting better. My muscle memory is improving, I'm getting more reps in at each workout, I'm lifting slightly heavier weights, running is a little easier and am gradually getting faster and stronger. My awesome CrossFit (Elysium on 30th) provides journals where you can keep a daily log of how much weight you lifted, how many reps of something you did, etc. so you can track your progress. Looking back at April, I can see definite improvements today. And as my fellow crossfitters remind me, it never gets easier, you just get faster, better and stronger. When I have a good class, I feel amazing and that makes the classes that aren't so good worth it.

I'm also starting to see the mental aspects to CrossFit. First, it's a challenge to be so far out of my comfort zone and to learn to embrace that feeling. I felt self-conscious and ridiculous at first, but now I'm comfortable in knowing I'm just going to do my best and push harder every time. I'm not going to be limited by my comfort zone. Plus, everyone in my class is awesome and supportive, and I realize that even though we're all at different levels, we're all in it together.  Second, the weight lifting and WODs (workouts of the day) require a willing suspension of disbelief; I finally learned to stop being intimidated and to start telling myself "I can."  CrossFit is about learning new skills, new abilities, and I love learning. Seeing the mental aspect helps me realize physical ability often has more to do with the mind than the muscles.

If you're thinking about trying something new, like CrossFit, or anything outside your comfort zone, go for it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dad's Berry Pie

You're either a cake person, a cookie person, or a pie person. My husband is cake, I am cookie, my dad is pie. For dad, Christmas means mincemeat, fall calls for apple, spring may require strawberry-rhubarb and summer signals oozing berry pie a la mode. Raised on my grandma Mary's lovingly made baked goods, my dad knows good pie - though he'll tell you he's "never met a dessert he didn't like." Over the years, I have delighted in baking for him and planned to make this berry pie while they were visiting last week; it was a hit when we made it at my parents' house last summer. I bought a ton of berries and had my rolling pin ready, but we were busy having fun in the sun, and I never got the chance. With berries waiting, I knew I'd need to set aside some time to bake. I've made a few berry pies, but this one is definitely the best. It's not overly sweet (I reduce the sugar in the filling to 3/4 cup and add more lemon juice) and the tartness of the berries really shines through. The crust is crisp, flaky and buttery, the texture is gooey and cobbler-like and I prefer its almond streusel topping to the usual lattice. We hate to eat it without my dad, but we'll count this one as a practice attempt for the berry pie I'll make for him in August. Dad's Berry Pie was an ideal accompaniment to a Monday evening snuggled on the couch with a big glass of milk, and tasted even better for breakfast this morning.

{berries and zest}
{almost ready to bake}

Monday, June 24, 2013


It was a weekend full of family and fun.

A Friday night Padres v. Dodgers game with my parents and brother. I'm usually more interested in the concession stand than what's happening on the field (baseball can be so slow), but it was a lively game in great seats, a Padres home run, fireworks (humph!), a Padres win, and a hilarious group sitting near us who heckled players and fans alike. Perfect summer night.
{Petco Park}
{heckled for taking a pic}
We spent Saturday with my parents at brunch, Coronado, and then a happy hour. We said goodbye to them that night, which is always hard; we likely won't see them till August.  I always fall into a post-parents funk, missing them, so Flavio and I stayed in and cooked and had a Mad Men marathon (we're moving into season 5 and god, it keeps getting better and better).
{walk with mom, bougainvillea}
{Coronado, summer}
{attempted family photo. Guiri wouldn't sit still}
Sunday evening my mother-in-law came over for dinner. We made this meatloaf, which I've blogged about before, and which is so perfect for company because it's fast to whip up and better than any meatloaf you've ever had. My M.I.L raved about it. Makes great sandwiches the next day, too.

{Sunday dinner}
{meatloaf, salad}
We wrapped up the weekend with a night walk to admire the big, low, yellow supermoon. Supermoon for a superweekend. (cheesy. sorry. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice

{last summer, Ensenada, Mexico}
In the winter I'm big on staying in and nesting, but in the summer there's an urge to get out and explore.  Today I'm taking the day off to spend some time outside with my parents.  We'll be hitting a new restaurant for brunch, doing some shopping, and then wrapping up the day with a Padres game. I'm excited to switch things up, spend time outside with the people I love, and kick summer off on the right foot.

Have a wonderful first weekend of summer. xo

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When Parents Become Friends

I realized something lovely last night. Slowly, without thinking about it, Flavio and I have become friends with my parents. Yesterday, we went out to dinner, drank wine and had a magical evening, just the four of us. Driving home after dinner, Flavio said the sweetest thing: "Mom and Dad are such fun people; I'd hang out with them even if they weren't related." I couldn't agree more. We love visits with my parents. We talk about movies, travel, and book recommendations. We laugh hard, tell stories, and truly delight in their company.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. As a child, teen and young adult, there was a clear delineation of our parent-child relationship. I suspect things started to change in my mid 20s, when I no longer needed their approval, when I was financially solvent, when we both realized my personal decisions had nothing to do with them.  I have come to discover my parents in a way my young mind would not allow - as whole people, with their own quirks, histories, relationships and ideas. They are no longer the flat, two-dimensional characters of my youth. They are friends.

{sangria at Cafe 21}

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Fourth of July is approaching and the people who know me well know that I hate/am terrified of fireworks. Mainly, I'm afraid of the noise. But I think once you've seen one fireworks show, you've seen 'em all. Also, I hate how humans ohh and ahh at fireworks shows like mesmerized buffoons. The whole experience irks me. So last night, we were discussing plans for The 4th when Flavio mentioned (for the millionth time) how strange it is that I hate fireworks. He then told me it was just one of my many quirks, and pointed out some of my other idiosyncrasies. Me? Quirky? Here they are:

:: I don't really dry myself with a towel after a shower or bath. I air dry, leaving wet footprints and water drops on the floor from the bathroom to the bedroom.
:: I have an irrational fear of street performers. They're creepy and I will cross the street to avoid them.
:: I sometimes brush my teeth in the shower. It saves time!
:: I say crazy things if I'm awakened from a deep sleep.
:: I get really cranky when people sneeze loudly or repeatedly.
:: When I sleep, I MUST be covered with a blanket. Even if it's 100 degrees out.
:: I spill on myself and others regularly.
:: I nickname all my friends.

I think these things are endearing. :)

What are your quirks?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Go-To Smoothie

Southern California seems to be in a juicing craze; I'm pretty sure everyone and their grandma has a NutriBullet. And I totally understand the trend. Juicing is quick, tasty, slimming and healthy. But for me, a good old fashioned smoothie-in-the-blender is all those same things, and it keeps me full. I have a few smoothie recipes I like, but here's my basic go-to:

Summer Breakfast Smoothie

1 cup cold almond milk
1 frozen banana, pre-sliced into chunks
1 small handful fresh coconut meat (I buy the little containers at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon honey (optional, but better with it)

Combine in a blender until smooth. Summer breakfast is served.

You could dress this baby up with berries, cocoa powder, flax seeds, etc. but I like it just like this.

{Photo via}

Monday, June 17, 2013


Saturday was busy with work and errands and chores, but we soldiered through. We rewarded our efforts with a trip to Heights Tavern, which we'd been meaning to check out. The atmosphere is fun and their beer list is impressive, but prosaically, I stuck with their mules. I love that so many great bars are opening within walking distance to us. 

Sunday we made an improvised fritatta of mushroom, leek, parsley and goat cheese which turned out really well. We considered going out to brunch but decided standing on a sidewalk for an hour waiting for a table on Father's Day was not how we wanted to spend the morning. Standing in our sunny kitchen, listening to music in our jammies while drinking coffee and cooking was definitely the right move. Post frittata we went for an afternoon gelato. I had spumoni as an ice cream salute to my dad - his favorite. We finished our chilled out day with lots of lounging, a trip to the dog park and a simple but fantastically summery dinner at home (we made this easy fish recipe and I recommend it).

Alas, we never got to a movie as I'd blathered about on Friday. Flavio is not into Gatsby and there's nothing else either of us are dying to see right now. We're waiting for this Bonnie and Clyde-esque love story to hit theatres in August:

My parents come to visit tomorrow. I can't wait. I have tons to do today, hence the stream of consciousness style on this post. Back to it.

Happy Monday.
{jacaranda, June gloom}
{Heights Tavern}
{I love leeks}
{Sunday morning}
{spumoni salute, Gelato Verro}
{Sunday lounging}
{Sunday napping}

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

"There are many different kinds of bravery. There's the bravery of thinking of others before one's self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams."

"Where did he put them?"

"He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer. ...He does. And that is why he is brave."

-- Conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Happy Father's Day to my dad, the bravest, smartest, kindest man I know.  xo

Friday, June 14, 2013

Freestyle Friday

How is it already Friday?  I'm definitely not complaining, but I'm also not sure where this week went.  I am on a self-imposed blogging schedule where I try to get on here 5 times a week, but this week was busy with work, a happy hour, after dinner walks, lots of Mad Men, and general relaxation and I'm definitely not complaining about any of that, so blogging was sporadic. I'm hoping the chilled out vibe continues into the weekend.

I don't particularly have anything of note to say on here today, but wanted to come on and freestyle it. That means, I'm not letting myself edit. Just enjoying my latte at Twiggs while I type whatever comes to mind. Here goes...

{my beloved Twiggs}
What are you guys up to this weekend? I'm hoping we go see a movie, maybe Gatsby. I'm in the mood for some campy Baz Luhrmann and I'm always in the mood for some Leo.  I know a trip to the movies doesn't sound particularly groundbreaking, but we haven't been in ages! I can't even remember the last thing we saw, and it's one of our favorite things to do. I gotta say, Flavio and I have had the weirdest experiences at movie theatres. The people are so unpredictable. And crazy. We always seem to sit by a weird laugher, or a loud chewer, or a nail filer, or a snorer, or a talker. When we were in Spain we sat by some guy who loudly blew on every piece of popcorn before eating it. So bizarre. Also, what are your thoughts on people who clap after a movie? I think it's sort of funny and sweet, but Flav hates it and gets tetchy when people start to clap. I mean, I get his annoyance - the actors aren't there, so it is a bit bewildering. Who are they really applauding?  It doesn't bother me one bit, and I always tell him to stop being such a grump about it. Final word on the subject: My favorite movie theatre is the world is Cinepolis Luxury Cinema. You order food and adult beverages from a touch screen and waiters carrying little flashlights bring sushi, sangria or other treats TO YOUR SEAT while you lounge in huge cozy chairs and enjoy the movie. The food is actually delish (think quesadillas, sliders, etc.) and friends, the whole experience is simply heaven. But be warned, once you go to Cinepolis, you're spoiled and other "regular" theatres will feel so ghetto. Anyway, if we go to a movie, and if we sit by a weirdo, and if people clap, I'll tell you all about it.

Alright, I need to do some work. Thank you for bearing with me through this nonsense transmission. Actual posts coming up soon.

Happy Friday. :)

PS: When I said on Wednesday that posts would be free of contrivance, this is not what I meant. Future posts will have more thought and organization. It's just that I'm vibrating on coffee, and wanted to say hi, and I couldn't stop my fingers from typing.

{Twiggs photo via}

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On Balance and Apple Cake

My dears, you must make this apple cake.

I made it in celebration of Besos and Bubbly's 100th (!) post. In my very first post, I featured this same amazing rum-and-butter apple cake, and it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate today's little blogging milestone.

So, this afternoon, I baked said delicious apple cake, and left it on the counter to cool. It looked golden and perfect and round. I sniffed and admired it. I decided I'd walk the pooch to the park, then come back and take a picture of it in all its freshly baked glory. My husband had other plans. While I was out, he came home from work and tore into the warm cake, leaving the gaping hole you see above, and an irritated wife. I got snippy, explaining that I wanted to style the cake up, make it look pretty for the blog, but now he ruined it. He laughed, then said something so annoyingly true: But, I thought your blog was for you. Then joked, And I thought the cake was for me. :)

Blogging is new to me, but I'm finding that sometimes there's a difficult balance. I want to make things for this space that look pretty enough to share (no one wants to look at ugly pictures), but I also want to capture moments as they happen in real life - free of any staging. I went back to my Blog Blueprint to remind myself: The reason I started this blog was to have a chronicle of the life we are actually living, a true account, for me.  But sometimes I can't help but re-arrange food on a plate, or move the table into the sunlight, or style up the cake in an effort to take prettier pictures. And there's an impulse to try to make the photos on this blog look as perfect as they do in my mind. In the end, I'm not a photographer, and the photo above doesn't look very different from one I might try to fix up anyway.

Flavio digging into the cake is a welcome reminder to keep it real, to let things be, and to create posts free of contrivance.  That's the goal for my next 100, and beyond.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cream of Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese

June in San Diego is wishy-washy. Some days are gorgeous, but most days at least start and end with our regional June gloom and a slight chill. Not to moan, I mean, Southern California is fantastic. But I have a hard time keeping up with the weather this time of year; is it hot, or not? June just makes my head a little spinny and the inconsistency leaves me craving something comforting and constant. For comfort and consistency, soup is my go-to.

Weird that I've only written about soup twice on my blog (here and here), as I really like to make it. One of my favorite Sunday rituals is to brew my morning coffee, then throw on a pot of yum. While we snuggle under blankets to watch movies, sip coffee and laze the morning away in our jammies, veggies and broth are slowly working their magic in the Le Creuset. The smells of that week's stewy delight fill the house and by lunch time, we've got a treat. And bonus, soup is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes a quick re-heated meal, and tastes better after each day.

So many soup recipes, so little time, but Cream of Tomato with Goat Cheese is an old favorite. Flavio hates regular tomato soup. "Too sweet. Too tangy," he groans. But years ago in a French cafe we had a cream of tomato soup with chevre, we both loved it, and decided to re-create it at home. (He's right; regular tomato soup can be too acidic and overly sweet if not done right.) This tomato soup with chevre is a favorite in our house.  It's the kind of thing you'll want to anchor with a good salad, crostini, or grilled cheese. The fresh tomato and basil scream summer. The creamy goodness fights June gloom.


Start by making Ina Garten's amazing Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup. (It's Monday night and I'm too lazy to type it out here. We follow her recipe closely, except we double the garlic and go easy on the cream.)

When you're ready to serve the soup, break up and drop in about half a log (or more, depending on your cheesy preferences) of Trader Joe's Silver Goat Chevre (we like the Garlic and Herbs version). Stir until the cheese is melted into the soup. Serve hot and top soup with julienned basil leaves.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I mentioned it Friday, but time seems to be speeding by faster and faster lately. Guys, we're already more than half way through 2013! Kind of crazy, no? So, this weekend, I focused on enjoying every minute. On Saturday, we dropped Guiri off at her furcut appointment and then had leisurely coffee and conversation at Caffe Calabria (hands down, best coffee in SD). Later that day we took our girl and her new 'do to the beach. I'm still shocked by her summer cut, but I'll get used to it. Something had to be done; she was shedding like crazy. Doesn't she look tiny without all that fur? 
{Summer 'do, at Ocean Beach}
Our Sicilian friend surprised us by dropping off a fresh baguette and her dad's amazing homemade tomato aglio, which we enjoyed with wine. How can something as simple as tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and black pepper be so good?! Tastes like summer, and it totally made our Saturday evening.
{Saturday night, tired, she likes to sleep belly up}
Sunday we cooked, watched movies (finally saw Silver Linings Playbook which was good!), then went to Lucha Libre for burritos (hands down, best burritos in SD).  We finished our relaxed weekend with an evening stroll around our 'hood. 
{burritos, Lucha Libre}
{After dinner stroll}
{Loving all the bougainvillea lining our street}
Hope you had a lovely weekend. xo

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

If today were your last day on earth, would you have any regrets? I would. I've been thinking about this question lately. Maybe because time seems to be hurtling forward, faster and faster each year, and I want to make sure I'm living my best life. Probably because I read this beautiful blog post about the regrets of the dying, and it's stuck with me since. Working as a hospice care nurse, Bonnie Ware had the chance to speak with many people in the last days of their lives, listening to their regrets as they faced their mortality head on. Interestingly, the regrets had nothing to do with wishing they'd finally gone sky diving, or had taken more splurgy vacations. Instead, she writes, "When questioned about any regrets they had, or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top 5 regrets of the dying, as told to Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I recommend you read her post, as she explains each regret simply and beautifully. She reminds us that happiness is a choice and prompts us to ask ourselves: Do you have any regrets so far? What will you change before you die?

Wishing you a toes-in-the-sand kind of weekend.

{Photo of the Amalfi Coast via}

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I love camping and am pretty used to roughing it, but by the end of our last camping trip to the Grand Canyon, I was struggling with a need for some girly pampering. I had my dry shampoo (a life saver when camping!) but by day 5 without washing my hair and sweating under my bandanna, my head was covered in a matted tangled straw I could barely brush. My skin was glazed in a grime of sunscreen, bug spray, sweat and dirt and I spent mornings using facial cleansing towelettes all over my body to try to get some of the crud off. By day 5 of being dirty, I was daydreaming about a long, hot bath and a massage. I was daydreaming about glamping.

We were lucky enough to glamp on our trip to Kenya in 2007. After roughing it there for about a month, we splurged on 4 fabulous nights at Little Governors' Camp in the Masai Mara. It was amazing to sleep tented, but with all the pampering one could imagine. Below is a pic of Little Governors', as well as some of my dream glamping destinations. Ahh, nature on a silver platter...

{Little Governors' Camp, Masai Mara}

{top photo via, all other photos via}
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