Tuesday, July 30, 2013


{playing ball with Guiri when she was still a baby}
Way back in March I wrote about a little tip for happiness that makes a big difference: ending each night by stating what you're grateful for. Flavio and I still do this and it is powerful! I truly think it helps me be a better, more positive person as I spend my days looking for little bits of joy to report for our nighttime pillowtalk, and I know he does, too. Today has been somewhat frustrating and even a little sad, so I thought it might be a worthy exercise to make a list of ten everyday moments that make me smile. Not little moments of gratitude for today (still looking for those), but the simple moments that pop up every now and again and feel special, almost magical. I'm not sure what to call these moments, so I'll just call them noted.

1. When I unexpectedly find money in my pocket.
2. When it's raining and I have nowhere to be.
3. When I catch Flavio smiling at me for no reason.
4. When I hear Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bookends'.
5. When drivers give me a thank-you wave for letting them pass.
6. When I am up early, quietly baking in our kitchen.
7. When we're at the movie theatre and the lights first dim.
8. When I'm hungry and suddenly remember we have Thai/Chinese/Indian leftovers in the fridge.
9. When my students make a connection between the text and the real world.
10. When our flight takes off.

What special little moments have you noted?

PS: 15 of My Favorite Things

Monday, July 29, 2013

Best Ever Blueberry Muffins

I realize I'm making a bold statement, but: these are the Best Ever Blueberry Muffins. At least that I've ever made. The cake is moist and tender, bursting with blueberries, and the tops are freckled with a simple butter-sugar streusel. They're super quick to throw together and the only thing that stops me from making them more often is the waistband of my pants. The original recipe here is for blueberry muffin tops, an homage to this hilarious Seinfeld episode, but I've always just followed the recipe exactly making them as regular muffins (with "stumps"), and they are perfect. Since blueberries are in season, I whipped up a batch for breakfast on Sunday. There is nothing cozier than these bejeweled beauties, good coffee, and a pajama-clad movie marathon on a weekend morning.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Except for a trip out with friends on Saturday night, we were mostly homebound this weekend. We both worked all day Saturday and I knocked out a bunch of prep and grading, which means this coming work week should be smooth sailing.  That night we met friends at Heights Tavern (now our go-to neighborhood bar - love that place!) for dinner, libations and some great discussion around the Tavern's fire pit. The four of us spent much of the night tipsily debating whether or not to have kids and on the walk home, Flavio and I declared we are leaning more in the direction of to have, than not to (!). Not immediately, but.. Scary. Anyway, a fun night and a delightful end to a long day.

Sunday morning we took Guiri to the park and then came back for warm muffins and coffee and an all-morning movie marathon. We re-watched Drive, which is amazing, and were enamored by the classic landmark Italian film The Bicycle Thief, streaming on Netflix. Flavio's teenage nephew is in town, so they went to play soccer while I spent the afternoon getting our house ready for the week and listening to music (loving this Calexico album). This evening we made salsa verde to add to some tasty shrimp tacos for dinner. It was a quiet fiesta.
{anniversary flowers, slightly wilted but still going strong}
{muffin prep}
{salsa prep}
{taco fixins}
{she loves to watch us wash the dishes}

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunsets, lately

This has been the most relaxed busy week ever. Relaxed because Flavio has been off work and his R&R has been wonderfully contagious. Busy because it's down to the final days of my summer classes and in between cake in bed and drinks on our porch, I've been pumping out some serious grading. Can you believe summer is almost over? I intend to soak up every last minute. And come August 6th, I'll officially have three weeks of vacation coming my way. Woot! In the meantime, more marathon grading sessions counterbalanced with more play. And if we're lucky, more of these gorgeous evening skies.

Happy weekend. xo

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Anniversary Getaway

For our two-year anniversary, we booked a quick weekend getaway to Rosarito, Mexico, which is about 45 minutes from our house. I had been many times before - my parents' friends had a condo there when I was growing up and we'd go each summer. My best friend Shauna would always come along (hello, secret margaritas at age 15! ) and though the condo has long since been sold, Shauna and I still try to get down there for a bestie weekend at least every couple of years. For the most part, beachy Rosarito hasn't changed since my first visit 18 years ago, and it sort of feels like my Mexican home away from home. But, Flavio had never really been, so it was exciting to experience it with him for the first time.  It was a short but sweet trip, and we enjoyed every second. We relaxed by the pool, took walks on the beach, delighted in a massage, and laughed over drinks and great food. Here are a few photos, if you'd like to see. 

Update: Just realized these photos are mainly of food and drink. We can see where my priorities lie. 
{Drinks upon arrival. Bandera = 3-shot cocktail of sangrita, tequila, and lime juice}
{carne asada}
{rainy day sunset}
{chips and lime}

{lobster lunch, Puerto Nuevo}
{reading by the pool}
{our anniversary day view - the sun finally came out!}
{back home - anniversary cake}

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cake in Bed

Reason #452 why I love being an adult:

You can eat anniversary cake in bed. Just pair it with a good cup of coffee and you can call it breakfast.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Book Recommendation

We are back from Anniversary-land but still in major vacation mode. Flavio is off work for the next few days which makes it very hard for me to get out of bed in the morning, let alone be productive. I have some ideas for blog posts rolling around in my mind, and am excited to upload a few pics from our anniversary weekend, but those things might not get accomplished until later this week. Especially considering I need to do actual work for my actual job. :/ In the meantime, let me tell you about a great summer book: David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. It's a quick read and he is as sick and as hilarious as ever. I was LOL'ing poolside the whole weekend. 

Also, I really enjoyed his most recent interview on Fresh Air, here.

PS: Here is a list of my favorite books.

Have you read any good books lately?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Two years ago today


I made you this nerdy virtual postcard to tell you we are having a wonderful weekend away! This is the current view from our balcony, and I don't want to leave. It's been a short but sweet trip, with lots of fun and relaxation.

The weather has been cloudy and grey, but the sun came out this morning in full force and I like to think it's in honor of our second anniversary. Two years ago today, I married my best friend. Best decision I ever made. Life has been sunshine since.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Heading South of the Border

We are heading to Rosarito, Mexico this weekend and I can't wait to be doing this:
{last summer's anniversary trip, Ensenada, Mex.}
We'll be celebrating two years of marriage with margaritas, massages, good food and total relaxation. 

Hasta pronto, amigos! xo

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Hour at Home

So, I know on Tuesday I said I was having a detox week, but this evening brought a little retox, in a good way. We've started a new mid-week, post-work tradition and we're calling it Happy Hour at Home. On either Wednesday or Thursday of each week, we put on fun music, drag our camping chairs out of the closet (I never said it was classy), mix up some cocktails (this week we made palomas), and relax outside on our porch with appetizers and good conversation. It's our time to reconnect in the middle of our hurried work weeks and I think it's more fun than any of the (mostly overpriced, mostly hipster) happy hours around.

PS: Here's last week's HH@H drink.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Best Moment

My favorite thing about blogging is that it helps me remember moments. It's my time capsule, and reminds me to appreciate and record the little things, which in reality, are the big things. As Cesare Pavese put it, "We do not remember days, we remember moments" and I only wish I'd started blogging about my moments sooner. Our two-year wedding anniversary is coming up and I've been nostalgic, watching our wedding video and looking through the photos, remembering all the love, laughter, and tear-filled pieces of that amazing day. It was truly the happiest day of my life. But I've been thinking, if I had to pick one single life moment as my all-time favorite, it would be the moment we got engaged.

Flavio's proposal was perfect. On a whim, Flavio declared he wanted to go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He is not  Mr. Surprises, but I was thrilled by this totally out-of-character move, and a few days later we were off to the white-sand beaches of Vallarta. When we arrived, our taxi pulled up to an incredible private villa overlooking the sparkling blue ocean. I could not believe my eyes - or the fact that my then-boyfriend had organized such a luxe, out-of-the-blue getaway, and without any real reason to celebrate.  {Note: It never occurred to me that he would propose. Flavio and I had been together for over 9 years at that point, and I had given up on any hope of a proposal. I was also so enthralled by the present moment that I really didn't have time to guess about his motives.} After taking a dip in the villa's rooftop pool (!), we decided to walk down to pick up tacos and cold beer. When we got back up to the roof with our dinner, Flavio said he had to go to the bathroom. I was mesmerized by the golden sunset and too busy adding salsas to my tacos to notice that Flavio had returned and had quietly gotten down on one knee. When I looked over, he was holding up a beautiful ring and had tears in his eyes. He said many sweet things, and then asked me to marry him. I was in shock. And beyond thrilled. And shouted, YES!  We cried, laughed and hugged. We were excited to share the news with friends and family, but decided to keep it to ourselves for that magical moment. We emerged into a perfectly warm, star-filled night. Just the two of us, alone in paradise.

What is your best moment? I'd love to hear.

{Photo note: Sadly, we do not have photos of our engagement night. It was just us and no camera around. The photo above is from our honeymoon to Malaysia in 2011.}

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Healthy, Homemade Take-Out: Veggies and Tofu

Flavio is a far better cook than I am. He's one of those natural chefs that experimentally throws random things in a pot and (usually) makes a great meal out of them. I am not instinctively a great cook (I'd much rather bake, obviously) and I definitely need the structure of a recipe. But every once in a while, I surprise myself and create something semi-improvised, delicious, and in this case, quick to make.

This is a busy week. I'm trying to wrap up a ton of grading and lesson planning so we can go out of town this weekend without any worries. When I'm stressed, I fall into a gross cycle of frozen pizzas and take-out, so I wanted to challenge myself to create something quick and semi-homemade, a la Sandra Lee -- but without the hideous tablescapes and bad food. Leave it to Trader Joe's to help me make a healthy Chinese take-out meal at home in no time.
Here's how.  I cooked up a bag of Trader Ming's Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry, and added a bag of broccoli and cauliflower to the mix because they give you so much sauce. Meanwhile, I followed this totally delicious and fast recipe for Mongolian Tofu but reduced the sugar. I plated it all up and topped the veggies and tofu with few peanuts for crunch, scallions and a squeeze of lime.

Seriously, it took all of 20 minutes, was healthy, and tasted amazing.

By the way, tofu was a tough sell on Flavio, but he totally loved this dinner and went back for seconds. I'll be adding this to my quick-dinner repertoire. I was a little wary about cooking with tofu, with all the soy GMO controversy and whatnot, but Trader Joe's doesn't carry GMO products and I bought the organic tofu, so I think we're good. Bonus: tofu is crazy cheap.

Can you tell I'm trying to detox after an indulgent weekend?  I've been eating more bacon and ice cream and drinking more sparkling wine than is justified and I need to re-balance the scales this week. CrossFit, infused water and veggie/protein packed meals it is.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


It was a luxuriously unscheduled weekend. Saturday morning Flavio got up early to play soccer and I made coffee and brownies then hung out with my brother and nephew before taking them to the airport.  I love, love weekend mornings baking alone in our sunny kitchen. Peace. Saturday afternoon we took our lady to the park and then picked up lunch at bfd (ridiculously good sandwiches) then went home to nap. That evening we put on music and set up a picnic on our porch. Cold rose, warm weather and the summer evening light. And an impromptu card game. Basically perfect.

Sunday morning we made breakfast then headed to Coronado to stroll and play. We picked up In-N-Out in the afternoon, read our books outside, and then cruised out to see the gorgeous sunset in Ocean Beach.

Everything about this weekend was relaxed and easy with sunny days and warm breezes. It felt quintessentially Californian.

A few scenes, some of which try to capture the evening light, which I love this time of year...

{enjoying the sunset as we drove away. she cracks me up.}

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Brownies for Alaska...& a song!

My brother and nephew breezed through town today. They were here on a pit stop en route to an Alaskan adventure. I am so stoked for them and can't wait to see photos of glaciers and grizzlies galore! In their honor, I made these brownies to-go. I baked and packed them, then delivered the brownies, along with two excited travelers, to the San Diego Airport. Flavio and I kept two squares for ourselves and topped them with ice cream and berries. Thank god the rest of these babies are on their way out of town. Irresistible hunks of chewy, fudgey heaven are not the kind of thing I want to be left alone with.

Alaska or bust.

PS: Totally not related, but my alarm went off to this song this morning, and left me in the best mood. Brownies and Robin Thicke are not a bad way to wake up. Yum to both. ;)

Some notes on brownie-making: Homemade really is better than the box (if you use the right recipe), are just as easy and don't have any of the scary artificial ingredients. I made these and they are the archetypal brownie, decadent and rich with a crackly candylike crust. I sprinkle a little sea salt on top mid-way through baking. It makes all the sweetness sing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Cold + Hot Pea Soup

I'm feeling a little under the weather today. A tickle in my throat. A run in my nose. An ache in my joints. But, I wanted to come by and say hello. I promise I won't breathe on you.

I blame this wacky San Diego weather (um, it's been raining  today!); and my students and their summer colds; and the fact that I've been operating at 110% capacity for about 80% of the time for the last couple weeks. I just need a quiet evening in...or three. I also need hot liquids poured down my gullet, stat. Normally, I'd ask Flavio to make his famous Magic Hot Toddy, or to pick me up a bowl of #18 pho, but he's working late, which means it's just Guiri and me. Just a couple of bitches and their Le Creuset. :)

The easiest soup recipe I know of (besides Maruchan Ramen Noodles) is this Spanish Pea Soup from my girl, Ina Garten. It is so quick and cozy. I add extra garlic and top it with Ina's no-fail roast bacon. Ah, I feel better already.

Us ladies are off to eat soup and watch Bridget Jones.

Back soon. xo

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Strawberry Bubbles

It's been a hectic week. It's Wednesday. The weather today is grey and gloomy. I'm in need of something simple, fruity and fizzy. Cue: the Strawberry Muddle. My love for champagne-based cocktails is eternal (hence the ode to Bubbly in the title of this blog), but when I'm making drinks, I prefer a no-muss, no-fuss, no-special-hardware cocktail. I made these last week for our Happy Hour at Home (which is becoming our Wednesday evening tradition) and loved them. They will be made again this evening after work, and enjoyed on our porch. The original recipe here requires more work and more sugar than I like. So, I adapted the drink to my tastes by skipping the whole simple syrup step and instead adding just a teaspoon of superfine sugar (available at most supermarkets) to each glass before muddling. This drink is everything a summer cocktail should be - bubbly, cold, lightly sweet, citrusy, and super easy to make.

Besos! xoxo

PS - Good news. According to this Forbes article, bubbly boosts brain power. Bottoms up!

{photo via}

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mr. & Mr. Bert-Ernie?

Now that the Supreme Court has finally gotten with the times and put an end to Prop 8 and DOMA, I've been wondering something: Will/Do same-sex couples change their last names? Who might take whose surname? Or, would most same-sex couples scoff at such an archaic tradition? Or, might they make new rules by hyphenating both partners' last names, like Mr. and Mr. Bert-Ernie (what are their last names, anyway?!)? My curiosity led me to Google, which had me clicking on this interesting article in The Atlantic. According to the author, same-sex couples are taking their partners' names and tend to have a conversation to decide which partner will change their name. She goes on to describe that gay and lesbian couples have definitely chosen to uphold this old tradition but for very new reasons. Fascinating, no?

Personal factoid: I always imagined I'd take my husband's last name, but had a strict stipulation. Even after countless courses in women's studies and degrees in sociology and repeated indoctrination from academics that wifedom means coverture, and that taking your husband's last name signifies women as property, I was still over the moon to become Mrs. Castillo. I'm more than sure my sociology colleagues raised an eyebrow at my choice to change my name. However, I see sharing a last name as a symbol that Flavio and I are a team. But here's the stipulation: Ever since elementary school, I knew I had to marry someone whose last name started with the letters A, B, or C as being at the front of the alphabet is strangely important to me. Often, assigned classroom seating, your place in the graduation line, etc., is based on your surname and I always saw anything below C as an unacceptable step down. So, when I met Flavio, I was relieved he was Ca-, a step up from my maiden name which starts Cl-. Fate! And I get to keep my monogram, which I like. Plus, it's a sexy last name. If he was Smith, I'd think twice.  (I realize I am totally Crazy.)

Related: According to this HuffPo article, the majority of US women still change their last names after marriage.

Would/Will/Did you change your name? Why/not?

{Photo: The best New Yorker cover ever.}