Sunday, September 29, 2013


We were greeted with unseasonably warm, almost desert-like, weather on this first fall weekend which made it all the nicer to spend time outside with friends. Flavio had to work Saturday so Guiri and I met up with my friend and her yellow lab for some beach fun and lunch. Saturday night our gym friends hosted a paleo potluck inviting everyone on the challenge for a meat-fest in their gorgeous backyard. It was a fun barbecue and we all agreed it was a totally different experience to party sans alcohol. We enjoyed sitting outside and relaxing with our gregarious gym group. This morning we hung at the dog park and then made breakfast at home. Since then, Flav's been watching football while I've been grading papers and researching Halloween decorations. All the cheesy gold spray-painted pumpkin tutorials remind me to re-read this gem on fall decorating.

Flavio thinks this is an overshare, but something minor happened on Saturday afternoon that kind of surprised me and I want to discuss it in my journal, aka my blog.  I was in Trader Joe's and ran into someone I used to see regularly at my old gym. We were often workout partners and she approached me in the produce section, gave me a big, excited hug and said, Oh, it is sooo great to see you! We chatted and she introduced me to her husband as her "favorite workout buddy ever" and she mentioned how we should meet up for a drink sometime. I told her I was now doing CrossFit, she told me she was really into Bikram yoga but wanted to come try my CrossFit, followed by five minutes of other niceties, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the conversation I told her it was great to see her and that we should be in touch, and is she on Facebook? Yes! Find me! And let's get together! she said and gave me another hug. I told her I'd add her and when I did, she rejected the friend request.

My point in bringing this up is that many of our interactions today are fake. I work with a lot of international students and they've often told me how strange it is that they meet Americans and think they've met a new friend, but then outside class, or later on, the person acts like they don't know they exist, and my students are often hurt. I can honestly say I'm not at all hurt. I do think it's strange, but I could care less that she didn't add me - I'm finally reaching a point in my life where I don't worry whether people like me and she is not a person I ever sought out as a real friend. But this small interaction brings up bigger questions about human connectedness. Why all the theatrics of Wow, it is so great to run into you! Let's get together! when she could've just said a friendly, more genuine hello-and-how-are-you and moved on? -  Which is what I would've done had she not exhibited such an over-the-top charade. Or, I might've avoided her all together - I don't know. And of course my suggestion of adding her on Facebook was all smiles and hugs and was my own fake way of making a semi-connection with her. I think we both knew from the beginning that we weren't ever going to be friends and that's okay, yet we pretend otherwise. Why? Even if she had added me on Facebook, that would've been fake. In a world where we're more in need of meaningful connection than ever, we do these dances to create boundaries that prevent truthful interactions and it feels not right.  I don't have a solution and I've touched on this point before here, but maybe it's important to just be aware of this puzzling part of our culture and try to be better than it, to do our best to always act with genuine feelings and still be nice. Thankfully, juxtaposed to this small weirdness was a delightful weekend with real, great people who remind me there is still a lot of authenticity to be found.

I could go on, but I'll stop this overly rambly post here. We're off to our friends' house to watch the very last Breaking Bad. What is going to happen?! We don't have cable and I can't risk a spoiler so we're stoked to watch it with them live. We're bringing Pollos Hermanos (rotisserie) chicken. We'll miss you Walter White.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall To-Do

I try not to play favorites with the seasons, but there is something so magical about this time of year. For me, fall means pumpkin and apple treats, snuggling by our fireplace, warm blankets and old movies, and the excitement of all my favorite holidays. Though San Diego doesn't showcase fall as beautifully as other places, there were slightly lower temperatures and a few auburn-colored leaves on the ground this week - enough to get me excited for all things autumn. Here are some of the things I plan to do in the next few months:
  1. Go to Julian for apple picking, leaf-peeping, and pie tasting
  2. Master three new soups, starting with this one
  3. Pack hot cocoa and take night walks
  4. Decorate our house for Halloween and Thanksgiving
  5. Make and jar apple butter or pumpkin butter to give as gifts
  6. Visit Temecula for wine tasting
  7. Volunteer at a soup kitchen 
  8. Make mulled wine
  9. Carve pumpkins
  10. Try at least three new restaurants (we always go to the same places!)
Wishing you a fabulous fall weekend. xo

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

E.B. White on Daisy

{EB White in his office at the New Yorker, circa 1955}
My very first job, at age 16, was to write obituaries for the Imperial Valley Press, the local newspaper. It was exciting part-time work to a high schooler who thought she wanted to be a journalist and since then, I've loved reading these posthumous tributes - though Flavio finds it to be a macabre hobby. I've read many an ode to the departed, but none has delighted me like E.B. White's tender obituary to his beloved dog Daisy.

"At the moment of her death, she was smelling the front of a florist's shop. It was a wet day, and the cab skidded up over the curb - just the sort of excitement that would have amused her, had she been at a safe distance. She is survived by her mother, Jeannie; a brother, Abner; her father, whom she never knew; and two sisters, whom she never liked...She never grew up, and she never took pains to discover, conclusively, the things that might have diminished her curiosity and spoiled her taste. She died sniffing life, and enjoying it."

I read it here last night and found myself misted with happy tears.  Read the whole thing - I think you'll love it.

Dogs, who remind us humans to delight in the wonders of the world, to play with intensity, to stop and sniff with curiosity, are the best.

{Photo via}

Monday, September 23, 2013

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte

Happy first day of fall! Actually, it was yesterday but I was under the weather so I'm celebrating today. Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year - rosy cheeks, crisp evenings, comfy sweaters - and I always treat myself to a pumpkin spice latte from Starbuck's to celebrate the first day of this fantastic season. But, our 30-day paleo challenge doesn't allow for the...wait for it... 49 GRAMS of SUGAR (yikes!) in a grande pumpkin spice latte. [Um, that is more than double the amount of sugar that you should have in a day, according to Dr. Oz. Kind of horrifying, no?] So I did a little recipe research and made my own paleo version in my slow cooker.

I'm not gonna lie - it was a creamy afternoon treat but definitely not the same. I guess it had to do with the fact that it was missing 49 grams of sugar.  However, pure pumpkin, coconut milk, and spices are all good for us, so I was happy to be welcoming autumn with this much healthier, more natural, and still very comforting version. Plus, it was really easy to whip up and made the house smell like pumpkin pie.

Here's how I did it.

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Lattes in the Slow Cooker
Adapted from here
Makes about 4

1 can Trader Joe's Coconut Cream (Extra Thick and Rich version)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin (no added sugar)
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup brewed Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Coffee
If you are not strict paleo-ing, you might add a little raw honey or agave nectar to taste
Heavy cream for whipping

Pour all ingredients (except heavy cream) into slow cooker.  Whisk everything together well. Cook on high in slow cooker for an hour. Stir. Cook on high for another hour, for 2 hours total. Ladle into mugs. Whip heavy cream with a dash of vanilla and top lattes with whipped cream and spices. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


So, Friday I was feeling sort of weak and blamed it on my low carb intake. That night we enjoyed our rom-com marathon and even threw in a third movie, It's a Disaster (streaming on Netflix - I recommend it), but that whole day I was just Saturday morning I woke up achy, coughing, sneezing and generally miserable. I inherited the wicked cold that previously belonged to Flavio, so basically the weekend looked like this:

Except there were a lot more tissues and the accompanying cacophonous soundtrack of me hacking and whining - We were supposed to go to our friends' for a bacon-wrapped-scallops dinner party on Saturday and hang out at Heights Tavern for football Sunday, and I was vocally bitter about not being able to do the fun things we had planned. I hate the way being sick slows you down. Wahh! Anyway, the convalescence wasn't all bad. Flav brought me cheery yellow roses and I got some good couch time in. I ate a ton of The Best Chicken Soup...Ever, snuggled with my two faves, watched a whole lot of movies, and slept and slept. I think I'm on the mend. I'm not calling in sick tomorrow, so hopefully I wake up sniffle free.

PS: My fear of Calling In Sick

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rom-Com Marathon

It's Friday! Tonight's plans include eating paleo leftovers and watching romantic comedies. I need this, and I can't wait. (Flavio is so good to me.) What are your favorite rom-coms? Mine might be You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally, but I also love Dan In Real Life and Adam, and we'll probably watch those tonight.

Did you ever read Mindy Kaling's hilarious article in the New Yorker on the seven types of women in romantic comedies? The "woman who works in an art gallery" kills me. As does the closing line, "There are, like, nine people in the entire world who are architects, and one of them is my dad. None of them look like Patrick Dempsey." Ha! So true.

Have a romantic and funny weekend. xo

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Best Chicken Soup...Ever.

Sorry I'm always blathering on about soup but this one is my all-time favorite, we made a bubbling cauldron last night, and I couldn't resist sharing. Chicken Soup with Loads of Vegetables has a few secret ingredients, transforming it from meh-just-whatever-chicken soup to Nectar-of-the-Gods-Yum-Chicken SOUP! Its first weapon, bone marrow, gives the broth a fat and a depth that I swear to you, dons the whole thing with magical healing powers. If you are sick, or tired, or cold, or are just in need of something soothing, this soup is your prescription. Also in its arsenal is a magnificent combination of lesser-used (at least in my kitchen), seemingly old-world vegetables including parsnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi, and turnip which work together to make the broth rich, fragrant, almost sweet. You can change up the ingredients as you like. On some occasions I've added leeks, cabbage, garlic, or eliminated one thing or another. We don't usually add noodles or matzah as I don't think it needs it.  Do what feels right. This recipe makes a lot of servings, so if you're just two, you might freeze half the batch for when Old Man Winter comes calling. You'll be glad you did.

Other soup recipes I love and have blogged about:

Italian Wedding Soup
Coconut Red-Lentil Curry
Cream of Tomato with Goat Cheese
Spanish Pea Soup
Greek Lemon - Avgolemeno

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


On Sunday we went to a super fun picnic at Mission Bay and while there, something struck me as totally taboo. A friend-of-a-friend, six months pregnant, was drinking a can of beer. As the day went on, she chased the beer with multiple cans of soda. When someone gave her a hard time about the beer she jokingly said, "Shut up! Don't judge me!" Flavio and I were definitely judging. I know having a little alcohol or soda while pregnant is not the end of the world for the health of the baby, but why do it? It's 9 months of your life - why not be the healthiest you can be for your unborn child's sake? It struck me as selfish and sort of upsetting.

Update: Sept. 23 - I just heard this story on NPR. Studies show experiences in the womb affect a child's longterm health. Mothers, your lifestyle and nutritional choices matter. 

I try not to be a Judgy McJudger, but here are a few other things I find taboo:

Kissing family members on the mouth. We do NOT do this in my family and I find it sort of horrifying. Maaaaybe ok to kiss babies on the mouth, but not adult-to-adult family members. Ever.

Keeping reading material in the bathroom. It weirds me out when we go to someone's house and there is a book or a stack of magazines in the bathroom. I mean, how much time are you spending in there? I think it's strange and I'd never want to touch another person's bathroom reading material - Eww! Flavio thinks I'm nuts.

Making out in public. Maybe I'm prudish, but a kiss or a loving embrace in public is fine but there should be absolutely no tongue, no groping, no long make-out sessions in public! So creepy. I find overt PDAs especially upsetting when the couple is post-teen years.

Hope I haven't offended you, dear reader! :/ Different strokes for different folks. :)
{Best party game EVER.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

30-Day Challenge + Paleo Thoughts

And so it begins. The Healthy Life 30-Day Challenge put on by our CrossFit starts today and we are armed with meat, produce, and iron determination. I'm somewhat embarrassed to be announcing another challenge after the flop that was our Spring of Self-Improvement (aka Paleo-Faileo), but this time around feels different. We are committed. And it helps that our gym friends are in on this, too. If you care to see what the challenge involves you can read all about it here, but basically we need to exercise 5 days/week, eat paleo, avoid all alcohol and added sugars, keep a food log, de-stress, and get 8 hours of sleep every day.

To kick things off, we made a special Mexican Independence Day-inspired paleo dinner of slow-cooker carnitas and cauliflower rice with shredded cabbage, salsa, and avocado. It was a-ma-zing. I am stoked slow-cooker season is upon us; minimal effort, maximum flavor - I love throwing everything in before work and them coming home to heavenly smells.
{paleo dinner #1}
I'll be documenting some of our favorite paleo meals and overall progress throughout the month and look forward to living healthier. Game on!

Long but related ramble: I had a lively discussion with a co-worker about the paleo diet and came to realize it can be a polarizing topic. My colleague basically feels it's "the latest fad" and that it's unhealthy to eat so much meat. Here are my thoughts: Sure, the caveman thing is fad-ish - I don't buy into that part, it feels gimmicky. We are not cavemen/women, we do not hunt wild game and forage for berries, but that's not the point. The point is that paleo advocates filling your plate with tons of vegetables and nutrient-dense proteins, instead of processed foods. I am 100% sure eating natural, whole foods is essential for our natural human bodies and I find that when I am eating paleo, veggies take the place of processed foods on my plate. I'm no nutritionist, but filling my plate with vitamin-rich produce feels intuitively healthier than a side of bread/rice/pasta, which has little nutritional value and spikes insulin. (Of course, not to knock a slice of good bread every now and again. I love you, bread.)

As for the meat, I am a committed carnivore but totally respect people who are vegetarian for ethical reasons or otherwise. Except for a terribly unsuccessful year as a vegetarian in high school - a year that had me replacing the meat in my diet with some veggies but mostly with pre-packaged, manufactured, gluten/soy-filled, unsatisfying junk - I have always eaten meat. I find that I feel better with meat protein in my diet, so I have no problem eating other animals. Having said that, I do have a problem eating animals that aren't being treated humanely. Flavio and I make a point to eat grass-fed, pasture-raised, hormone-free, organic, and local whenever possible and though it's more expensive, I see it as voting with my dollars to keep more ethical operations in business.

Paleo is not for everyone and I'm definitely not hardcore (obviously, um, yesterday's post was on Funfetti cupcakes!), but I know there are some health lessons to be gained from trying to eat a minimally processed, natural foods, insulin-friendly diet like paleo. If you're interested in reading about 6 Health Lessons From The Paleo Diet, Huff-Po recently posted an article.

Eating is complicated - it's entwined with our social, cultural, and emotional selves, and there is so much conflicting information on what's healthy. I think most of us are just trying to do the best we can, and to each their own.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Flavio and Guiri are still sleeping and I am up early, sipping coffee, baking these funfetti cupcakes topped w/ mascarpone-vanilla icing to bring to an end-of-summer picnic we're going to today. So festive! Just looking at them makes me happy.

These are the last non-paleo treats we'll be seeing for a while. We joined a 30-day healthy life challenge with our gym, and we start tomorrow. More soon. xo

Friday, September 13, 2013


Guys, it's been one of those weeks. Poor Flavio has a jerktown cold and his coughing and nose-blowing has kept us up most nights. My college dean did an in-class teaching observation/evaluation of me this morning which had me in a panic, and I was prepping furiously all week (I think it was fine in the end). In general, my new schedule is kicking my butt.  I am exhausted. I wanted to come on here with something fun and inspired, but I just can't summon it. Our house is messy and each evening I've come home from work with the intention of cooking something good and tidying up, but then decide to hide in our unmade bed and eat boxed mac and cheese instead. Things feel a little out of whack. T.G.I.F. (!!!!)

True to form, I'm making soup. It calms me. This lemony Greek chicken soup (Avgolemeno) takes about 15 minutes to pull together and is a major step up from mac and cheese. It's the perfect soup for this seasonal limbo - sorta feels like fall, sorta tastes like summer - and will be comforting to the nastiest of head colds and the tiredest of wives.

I'm off to pour a giant glass of wine and eat soup. I'll be back soon, hopefully recharged.

Happy weekend. xo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gems from the Web

Sometimes when I should be working (like right now), I find myself sucked into the interwebs, fascinated by articles, essays, videos, and Tumblrs. I've found some good stuff online lately, and wanted to share it with you in case you too are procrastinating, or are just in a link-reading mood. Here are some of my favorite gems from the web:
  1. On this somber day, I think we should honor 9/11's heroes. This woman's story about her boss is so touching.
  2. This dad's fantastic essay brought tears to my eyes.
  3. 12 things successful women do differently.
  4. Awesome people reading.
  5. An important piece in Elle about women and ambition. It's been on my mind since I read it.
  6. Words to know, like cataglottism ("French kissing") and farctate ("the state of being overstuffed with food; having overeaten").
  7. The most touching StoryCorps ever: Danny & Annie still make me cry.
  8. Martha Stewart doesn't give a damn and neither should you.
  9. Hilarious things to keep in mind if you're having a bad day.
  10. I'm usually a heel girl, but have been debating whether to buy these flats. Is $180 too much for leopard print? Probably.
{This photo is not really related to the post, but I love the way the light comes in to our kitchen in the morning.
Flowers, Sept. 11, 2013}

Sunday, September 8, 2013


This weekend came and went in a flash - sort of dragging myself into the work week here - but despite its brevity, we enjoyed ourselves. Saturday we both worked but before heading in, we stopped for heavenly coffee at Calabria. I've been thinking about giving up coffee lately... As mentioned, my acupuncturist says the caffeine contributes to my anxiety, and I know it's probably worth trying, but when I see a mug o' heaven in front of me like the one below, well...I'm weak. And what would I pair with my Sunday morning baked goods? I realize I could switch to decaf, but I'm stubborn and have convinced myself it's just not the same.  We'll see - I've been more nervous than usual lately and wonder if my upswing in coffee consumption is to blame. I should probably make a change, or at least cut back. At some point.
{love in a mug, Calabria}
Saturday evening we scrounged up some appetizers, mixed up some drinks, and set up shop on our porch. Flavio then picked up Greek salads and we chilled out at home with stand-up comedy on Netflix. People, Bill Burr is hilarious and twisted. His stuff has us cracking up!
{hummus and drinks}
Sunday morning I baked this strawberry-buttermilk skillet cake to go with more coffee and Guiri and I spent the day lounging and napping. I read magazines while Flavio watched hours of football. This Onion article rings true for our family this time of year; farewell, Flav. This evening we went to the dog park, grilled some burgers, and now we're watching Sideways as our laundry spins in the next room.
{strawberries, sunny morning}
{skillet cake, cooling}
{Sunday morning}
{Sunday afternoon}
I wish it was a three day weekend. For the love of god, I just need one. more. day. off.  I'd like to make a suggestion: 10-hour work days, 4 days a week. Who's with me?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Double Rainbow

I am not an early bird but my new schedule has me up before the crack of dawn, Monday - Friday. This morning I felt exhausted, dark clouds made our usually sunny house dim, so clutching my coffee, I dragged my drowsy, grumpy self out to the car to head to class. Upon pulling out of the driveway, I looked up to see a bright double rainbow! And a small flock of white birds flying in front. I screeched on the breaks, jumped out of the car, snapped a photo, and ran inside to get Flavio. The two of us stood on the porch admiring it, and the whole experience made me inexplicably happy. Rainbows are a rarity here - I can't remember the last time I saw one - so the colorful arches made this morning feel special and different and as a consequence, the whole day felt magical.  I've decided it was symbolic: After a long week, it was a bright reminder to open my eyes, cheer up, and celebrate the beauty all around. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dear Evolution, WTF?

Dear Evolution,


No love,

One of the many fun things about working with college kids is their insider knowledge on social media. After a brief and random discussion on Darwinism, one of my students mentioned the Tumblr WTF, Evolution? Of course I pulled it up after class and we had a big laugh over the gripy letters addressed To: Evolution, Re: Mother Nature's craziest creations. Here are a few of my favorites:
The emperor tamarin: Because somebody told Evolution mustaches are "in."
The wolffish is actually modeled after Evolution's cousin Frank. Evolution has always secretly hated its cousin Frank. 
Okay, what? Shut up Evolution, this cannot actually be a bird. Are you high? 
Walruses. What were you thinking?
 Hilarious! You can see more here

Monday, September 2, 2013


We labored this Labor Day weekend, but enjoyed some fun, too.

Saturday I was aglow with the imminent prospect of fall and in the excitement of the changing season, decided it was time to take action in my closet. I started the clean-out early in the morning and by noon was finally finished, and dripping with sweat. Fall is definitely not here and Saturday was the stickiest, most humid day yet. I loaded everything up and drove it over to Goodwill in my air conditioned car. As always, it felt good to get rid of stuff. A couple observations from my closet clean-out: I tried on a vintage dress I bought in college when I was much skinnier, and had to come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be that size again. It pained me to give it away. God, undergraduate stress, living on top ramen, and darting all over campus must do wonderful things for your figure. Also, I realized I was getting rid of a lot less stuff this year. Thanks to our financial fast, I am no longer buying cheap fabrics a la Forever 21 and instead have been investing in fewer, higher-quality items. Ah, the realities of aging - better clothes but in a larger size.

Sunday we couldn't take the heat anymore and decided to go to Flavio's air-conditioned office to get some work done for the busy week ahead. We brought a little floor picnic, put on some music and worked away on our computers as we basked in the air-controlled heaven of his empty branch. It was actually kind of fun. Saturday night we watched Breaking Bad episodes and cooked dinner.

Can I go off on a nerdy tangent about Breaking Bad? It is so not the kind of show I would normally watch - I can't stand violence, drugs, etc. so it's completely out of my usual genre - but it's the psychology, the moral ambiguity, and the situational ethics that have sucked me in. I love its overall commentary on the current travesty of our healthcare system, reminding us that with expensive privatized medicine regular people may have to choose between hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancer treatments or the financial well-being of their families. It is dark and existential and prompts questions about moralism versus nihilism, questionable protagonists versus anti-heroes, loyalty versus law, and ultimately asks: Are we all breaking bad?  It's visceral and brilliantly written. I'm sad it's the last season.

Anywho, this morning we got up early for CrossFit, went with some gym friends for coffee and then spent most of the day at the beach to let our furry friend cool off in the ocean. Now we've got a pot of chili simmering on the stove and we're sipping on icy beers. It's been a nice day.

Yikes. I've said too much. A few randoms from this weekend...

Coronado on Labor Day:

More sunsets from our porch. Are you sick of them yet? I can't get enough. Every evening brings a new miracle.