Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving!

We've got our turkey in the oven and we're watching Love Actually and drinking coffee. I love holiday mornings, in jammies and fuzzy socks, cuddled up as heavenly smells waft through the house. Lots to treasure. Have a delicious holiday, friends! xo

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Cocktail - Cranberry Margaritas

Wine flows pretty liberally during our Thanksgiving dinners, but I thought it would be fun to sip on a signature cocktail and offer one to our guests while the food is being prepped this year. I wanted to serve Spiced Dark & Stormys (Spiced Stormies?) but Flavio reminded me not everyone loves the ginger/rum concoction like I do, so we decided to go with a safer choice - cranberry margs. I like that we're serving a classic cocktail, but also making use of festive cranberries, which I'm a sucker for this time of year. The prep is a little more daunting than a regular old 'rita, as you have to make and chill the cranberry jam component beforehand, but then you can just leave it in the fridge to have ready for any holiday guests that pop by.

I modified the original recipe from Bon Appetit as I like my drinks less sweet - i.e., I think cranberry should be tart and the original BA recipe is cloying. Also, the original recipe makes enough cranberry jam for 4 - so I tripled it. We mixed up a test batch tonight - um, strictly for quality control purposes - and really enjoyed our version. Here's how we did it.

Adapted from this recipe

Make enough cranberry jam for 12 servings (keeps up to 5 days in the fridge).

12 oz. fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar, to taste
6 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 cup water
3 teaspoons orange zest

Bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice and water to boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until thick and jammy, stirring occasionally, 30 - 40 minutes. Mix in orange zest and let cool.

Cranarita - for 1

1 1/2 oz. tequila blanco*
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. orange juice
2 Tbsp. cranberry jam

For each marg, combine above ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Cover and shake until the outside is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into glasses rimmed with lime and Tajin (or other spicy chile-lime powder) and filled with ice. Enjoy!

*We like the Zapopan Tequila Blanco from Trader Joe's. It's not for sipping, but is perfect for cocktails, and it's cheap!

*Cranaritas - for 12

3 3/4 cups tequila blanco
1 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/4 cup cranberry jam

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Our shaker lets us serve about 2 drinks at a time. Shake 2 and serve, then shake and serve 2 more...

FYI: The jam tends to get stuck in the shaker, so you may have to spoon some of it out between pours.

*NOTE on my fuzzy math: Math was never my strong point, so Flavio helped me work out these party-sized calculations.We'll be making these Thursday, and I may need to make some adjustments to the for-12 measurements. Stay tuned...

*UPDATE Dec. 2 - I have no idea what measurements we used. We just tasted as we went along - which is dangerous. To make things easier, we squeezed a bunch of lime juice and chilled it before guests came over, and then just put drinks together in our shaker 2 x 2. Use the above fuzzy math calculations at your own risk. :)

{Top photo via, other photos mine}

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Essential: Return-address stamps

Ok, essential it is not. But fun it is! Last week we got our holiday cards in the mail, and I realized a return-address stamp would make addressing all those greetings faster and easier. I ordered a return-address stamp, it came today, and I've been stamping away. Is it weird that this gives me a thrill? It's the little things, I guess. I can't wait to mail our rent check.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Flavio is on vacation and I wish I was, too. He's over there lounging with wine and that air of relaxation and peace that comes with knowing you have time off in front of you. Lucky man. I have more grading to do tonight (gripes), so this will be a quick post. 

We had a fantastic rain and lightening storm on Friday night so we picked up Indian takeout, lit our fireplace and cuddled up to watch This Is 40 (stupidly funny and likable) and finally saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I wanted to love but think it was too hyped and I was left somewhat disappointed).

Saturday morning we went for brunch, and then we both worked.
{mimosas and too much food)
Saturday night's Mystery Date took us up to Mira Mesa for fantastic Thai food and then for an evening of cosmic bowling! I haven't been bowling in ages, and we had so much fun drinking cheap beer and watching Flavio get strike after strike (and me finish with gutter ball after gutter ball:).
 {selfie, date night}
Today we slept in, went for coffee and then hit up a bunch of grocery stores, stocking up for Thanksgiving.
{easy like Sunday morning}
{silly latte}
So happy it's a short work week ahead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Made me laugh.

This is so me.

Happy Friday! :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving - 2013 Blueprint

{last year's turkey in progress - named David Hasselhoff for his golden physique}
We're one week from Thanksgiving and I am in major planning mode. We're hosting again this year and while I'm usually the one who does most of the cooking, I am working long days Mon - Wed of next week so Flavio gallantly volunteered to do most of the labor. (He's a great cook but I'm not sure he realizes how much work this actually is? Eek! But I'll be home in the evenings to help, if needed.)

My Thanksgiving planning usually involves a paper system with lots of notes and scheduling which I decided to partially transfer to my blog this year. It will be convenient to look back next year for reference without having to keep a bunch of stained recipes in a binder. But also, I love how Thanksgiving planning is a little snippet of life, something personal to me, and I want to record it here for that reason, too. This is not to say I don't still love paper planning. In the 1960s, my Grandma Mary mailed handwritten family recipes around to her seven children and they are treasured family heirlooms - Is there anything more personal than the handwritten notes someone has recorded about the food they've made? And for my birthday this year, my friend Chris baked his family's pumpkin roll and then sweetly passed the dessert and the recipe on to me. These are the most special gifts. Anyway, I digress. Some old fashioned paper planning and some newfangled digital age blogging for the Thanksgiving Blueprint this year - with most of the instructions to be passed on to my saintly husband.

The following may not be helpful/interesting to anyone but me, but here goes.


Cider-Brined-And-Glazed Turkey (the best recipe - I have made this for years & won't use another)
Apple, Sausage, and Parsnip Stuffing (outrageously good - Flavio hated stuffing until this recipe)
Mashed Potatoes - Flavio's mom is bringing
Yams - Flavio's mom is bringing
Cranberry Sauce - buy pre-made at Trader Joe's
Clinton Beans aka Green Bean Casserole with Gruyere and Criminis
Dinner rolls - my mom is bringing
Double-Dutch Mac and Cheese with Chard
Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream
Apple pie - my mom is bringing
Wine - red, white, sparkling - various guests are bringing
We're thinking it might be fun to do a signature cocktail this year? Maybe a Spiced Dark & Stormy (!)


I hit up three stores for groceries and I try to get all my groceries in my fridge/pantry by Monday.

We do Whole Foods for their free range turkeys.

Trader Joe's for butter, whipping cream, eggs, Italian sausage, cranberry sauce, green beans, macaroni, cheese, Crimini mushrooms, chicken stock, bread, organic pumpkin, spices, and wine.

Then Vons for parsnips, celery, sage, sundries and gladware - if you're hosting, it's a nice touch to have extra gladware to pack leftovers for your guests so they can go home with goodies, and you don't have to worry about trying to get the containers back.


I make a short list of things that need to be done for each dish and when I plan to do them. For example, I like to dry my breadcrumbs for stuffing and make and freeze my pie crusts on Monday, finish all chopping on Tuesday, make pie fillings and bake on Wednesday, etc. I cross the tasks off as I go. These are most of the tasks I'll be leaving to Flavio.


Because we have one smallish, single oven, this dictates when dishes can be put out. I make an oven schedule worked around the turkey roasting time. Since the turkey needs to rest at least 30 minutes, I try to have him out of the oven right before guests arrive. As soon as I pull him out, I pop in two dishes - usually I bake the stuffing and re-heat the mashed potatoes, then warm the mac & cheese, Clinton Beans, and the dinner rolls. It's all kind of hectic - you don't even know what I'd do for a double oven.


Before doing anything else, set your table. It will calm and focus you. Read more on my table-setting reasoning here.


Get your turkey in the oven early and start the day with a breakfast focused on relaxation and light eating, i.e., mimosas and a yogurt parfait. This is so cheesy, but I always spend some time before guests arrive thinking about why I'm grateful, and before we eat, we each say thanks. While I love the gluttony and family time, my favorite part of this holiday is the chance to be thankful for our privileges and blessings. As Thanksgiving is at risk for becoming the kickoff for Christmas shopping, it's important to remember this is a day for appreciation and reflection... and for wearing your stretchiest pants. :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

A quick note on my birthday...

I always feel so different on my birthday, even though I got up early, taught all day, unjammed a photocopier, and went about my Monday as usual - inside, all day, things felt... special.

I usually spend my birthday making a mental list of all the goals I want to accomplish in the coming year but right now I want to quiet my inner planner and freeze time. The future will unfold itself. I love where we are in our lives; I love our teeny, cozy house where I'm greeted daily with puppy and husband kisses. I like that's it's just the three of us, for now. I feel thankful for health and employment and for all the love I have in my life.

So, with you - dear blog reader - as my witness, I am going to use this birthday to make a formal commitment to try to notice and savor all the little details and the big goodness of every day of this thirty-third year... and to be profoundly grateful that I get more time on this adventure called life.

Right now, we just finished a fantastic dinner by Chef Flavio and we're off to enjoy a walk under this auspicious full moon.

{birthday cake at Island Prime}

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's my birthday weekend...

...and I'll drink champagne if I want to!

I'm turning a whopping 33 on Monday. Woot! In the meantime, I asked Flavio for a low-key family weekend, topped off with some celebratory cake and bubbles. Some years I feel like throwing a party but this year I'm looking forward to trying out a couple new restaurants, going to a movie at fancy Cinepolis, and enjoying this rainy fall weather with my very favorite person and our beloved dog. I wouldn't want to welcome another year of life any other way.

Have a wonderful weekend! xo

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prescription: Oregano Oil

In the last year, I've grown paranoid about taking medicine. I try not to pop tylenol for a headache, I eschew NyQuil for a cold, and I definitely won't get near any antibiotics. I'm not sure why. My acupuncturist (who Flavio calls my "witch doctor") is definitely one reason - she always preaches holistic health and prescribes herbs when I'm feeling off, and they work! Stubbornness is a close second - when I get something in my head, don't try to change my mind: Western medicine is mostly chemical warfare - period. Finally it's just, the older I get and the more I read, the more I realize most things approved by the FDA are nothing but synthetic shitstorms made by pharmaceutical profiteers, and it just seems logical to me that our natural bodies need natural medicine.

So this past weekend I was fighting a little bug, and decided to embrace alternative goodness in the form of oregano oil. My friend Chris swears by it, and I've started taking it in the last few months when I feel that tell-tale tickle in my throat. I really think it works. You just put one little baby drop into your hot tea and it clears your sinuses right up. It is also a good preventative, I hear, although I can't bring myself to take it yet unless I'm feeling already starting to feel sick. The thing is, that baby drop is strong - it tastes like death, and if you're like me, you'll need to hold your nose while downing it. But its natural immunity-boosting and antiviral properties make it worth the gag reflex. Placebo effect? Maybe. But who cares if it works. Germs, you don't stand a chance.

PS: My other favorite natural cures -  Flavio's Magic Hot Toddy and The Best Chicken Soup

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

I've missed baking. I love the quiet rhythm of my kitchen, enjoying coffee and the morning sun as I get my mise en place together, the quiet whirr as Sunny spins, the ritual of kneading and rolling as Guiri dozes on the floor watching me work. I was fighting a bug this weekend, and slept for most of Saturday and Sunday, but woke up this morning rested, feeling great, and excited to bake these cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze. I first made them last year for Christmas morning and they are irresistible. Warm, gooey, soft, and spiced, these will be our Christmas breakfast tradition again this year and going forward. They are fabulous, but way too indulgent to be made with any kind of regularity, and are best when shared with many friends (makes 18 rolls). I am beyond excited for the holidays - visions of sugar-plums (i.e., Christmas cookies) are already dancing in my head.  More leisurely kitchen time to come. I can't wait.

Some tips for making these: If possible, do most of the prep the day before - it's so nice to wake up, let them do their final rise, and then just pop 'em in the oven (they smell so good when baking!). Just follow all the steps, slicing them and putting them in their baking dishes. Then cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge until you're ready for them the next morning. So. much. easier. Also, don't overbake - they need a little less than 20 minutes.  Finally, I like to add a little cardamom and some fresh lemon or orange zest to the cinnamon mix because, why not?  Happy baking!

{Top image via}

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy 2nd birthday, Guiri!

Today is Guiri's birthday and she celebrated with bacon, a new bully stick, and a trip to the park with her friend Oslo. I can't believe she's already two! Since the moment we met her, we've been absolutely besotted. She is a sock stealing, bone burying, french kiss giving, banana loving, cuddling, kindhearted little soul, and she brings so much joy to our lives.

Guiri, we love you.
{just born, Nov. 10, 2011}
{the day we met her, 1 month old - look at her tummy!}
{bringing her home, 2 months old}
{sleeping on my babouche, first day home}
{3 months old}
{soccer player}
{posing, 1.5 years}
{today, 2 years old}

Friday, November 8, 2013

Enjoy wasting time.

This is so my plan for this 3-day weekend. I am looking forward to another mystery date tonight, a mani-pedi and some shopping tomorrow, celebrating Guiri for her birthday on Sunday, and SLEEPING IN and staying in my jammies all day on Monday. Eat, sleep, play, read, bake, relax, movies, repeat.  I hope you enjoy! xo

{image via pinterest}

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mystery Date

In an effort to be more fun and adventurous (I am reliably predictable and overly comfortable in routines), and to take my mom's marriage advice to go on a weekly date night, we're starting a new thing: Mystery Date. Each week, one of us plans a night out, either to a new restaurant, new place, or new neighborhood, and the other will have no idea where we're going. We figured this would help us see each other more between our busy schedules, and give us an excuse to explore our city. We've been on two mystery dates so far, and here's how they went down...

The first was planned by Flavio, and he took me to Flavors of East Africa. This restaurant was so bad it was hilarious. Our sambusas were frozen, our orders were wrong, they don't serve alcohol, the drinks they did serve tasted like Kool-Aid, and the poor staff was so overwhelmed by customer complaints and general chaos, you couldn't help but smile at them and try to be patient. We enjoyed ourselves despite the bad food and I love that Flavio took me there so we could reminisce over all the fun we had when we were in Kenya in 2007. We ended the evening with a night cap at The Red Fox, and pretended we were Ron Burgundy & Veronica Corningstone, enjoying the piano player and drinks in their retro, red leathered, den-like lounge. Totally delightful.

{drinks at The Red Fox}
I took Flavio to Kous Kous for Moroccan, and the food was excellent. We sat on cozy sofas and enjoyed mint tea, tagines, and a long meal with great conversation. Our waiter was from Marrakesh and we talked to him about our travels there, which was fun. It might just be the friendliest and most delicious restaurant we've been to recently. Highly recommended.

It's Flavio's turn to plan next and I have no idea where he's taking me. Seriously, this thing is so fun. Where are we going?? Who knows! :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013


We've had our share of ups and downs this past week. Down: Flavio was involved in a car accident on Tuesday and his car was pretty smashed up. Up: Everyone is fine, and he gets to drive around in this rental mini, which Guiri and I love. Now I want a Mini! Adorable. 

Down: My mom had unexpected, emergency surgery for a blood clot in her leg on Friday, which sent us all into a panic. Up: She is recovering at home, feeling good, and is enjoying being doted on by my dad. We're all just so thankful the blood clot was found! Major miracle. Down: Flavio and I have been working so much, we've barely seen each other. Up: Time is flying by, we're already into November, and I can feel the end of the semester nearing. Down: We've been over-scheduled, and I've been really anxious about our packed nights and weekends. There's something about this time of year that has me eagerly saying yes to every invitation, when I know I should be finishing work, sleeping more, and generally taking care of myself. Up: November is here, and the holidays are about to hit full swing. My goal is to slow down, take care of myself, and enjoy some quiet time in the next couple weeks. I've been working on clearing my schedule so we're not so overextended.

So, life has been crazy, but we've also had a lot of fun. Here are some of the things we've been up to lately...

Last weekend we went with some friends to Julian for pie, leaf-peeping, and wine tasting. It was a gorgeous fall Saturday, a much-needed change of scenery, and I finally ticked one thing off my fall to-do list.

{gorgeous sunset on the drive home from Julian}

Last Sunday a friend had a birthday paw-ty for her pooch, complete with doggy birthday cake, doggy bags, and pizza and drinks for the humans. Super fun!
{birthday boy}

Halloween night we drank a bottle of wine and passed out tons of candy to the neighborhood kiddos. We decided this will be our annual tradition - drinking and passing out candy. Over the course of the night we dubbed it Hallowine, then Trick-or-Drink, then Trick-or-Liquor. We're not sure what we're calling it yet, but it was fun!

Last night we went to a Halloween party at our gym and enjoyed a night of dancing, way too much drinking, and general ridiculousness. We spent most of today with the kind of hangover that reminds you how old you are, and that shots are not your friend like they were in college. Totally worth it, though. We had a blast.
{Supergirl and Clark Kent}
We sat very still for most of today, watching movies and eating takeout to cure the hangover. Thank god for daylight savings and its glorious extra hour of sleep! Love it. We finally emerged from our lair to go to the dog park this evening and now we're back home, snuggling. Nothing makes me happier than quiet and quality time with these two. Bring on the calm.