Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ladies' trip to Palm Springs

Jumping back in time to the beginning of May, when I got to spend a weekend with some ladyfriends from college/beyond. We don't all live in the same city anymore, and when we do get to see each other we're usually surrounded by children and husbands (not knocking this - our group is pretty fun and their kids are adorable). But getting away for a couple days was exactly what we needed. We rented an AirBnB with a pool and movie screening room and we drank and ate and talked and re-watched 10 Things I Hate About You and talked more and generally had the most relaxing, life affirming weekend. Oh, and we got massages. It felt indulgent but was actually not too bad cost-wise, since we split the rental four ways and cooked almost all of our meals.

Palm Springs

Ernest Coffee

Mirage

Mirage

Also, Palm Springs continues to get better and better. It's always been lovely, but the food and drink offerings were lackluster. I'm happy to report that things are looking up.

What we did (besides lying around the house, which occupied most of our time):

Coffee at Ernest Coffee - we went four times over the course of three days. It's that great. The place is adorable and has legitimately great coffee (when I was there they had a date shakerato that was out of this world) but also has boozy coffee options for late afternoons (their Irish coffee was so much better than any other version I've ever had that it could have been a different drink altogether). And here's the really fun part - the back half of the coffee house is a tiny, adorable tiki bar that opens up in the evening. Which leads me to ...

 Drinks at Bootlegger Tiki - as I mentioned, it's tiny and only has a few booths, but you can also take your drinks outside to the Ernest Coffee patio. Tiki drinks are one of those things that I would never in a million years consider making at home (so many ingredients, so incredibly sweet) but I love a good tiki bar, especially on vacation. This is a good one.

Breakfast at Cheeky's - always worth a stop.

Morning run to the Doug Atkin installation, Mirage. Running up that hill was brutal, but the sweet reward was an utterly deserted mirror house at the top. When D and I went to see it back in March it was crowded and still blew me away. Seeing it completely empty was next level. The website says it closed on April 30th, but we were there the following week and it was definitely still open (there was a guard and everything). Maybe they've extended it?

Friday, May 26, 2017

East coast vacation

Whew. This was a great trip but we really maxed it out while trying to take as few vacation days as possible, leaving super early on Saturday morning and then getting back close to midnight the following Sunday. Normally I try to make sure we get a day at home to recover before going back to work but the timing wasn't right here. We were going to a wedding in Scranton, PA so we decided to tack on a couple of side trips to visit old friends and really make the most out of it. Totally worth it.

Queen's Museum area
{flushing meadows corona park}

Posing at the Whitney
{the whitney}

Ellsworth Kelly
{ellsworth kelly at the whitney}

Samara Golden
{samara golden at the whitney}

The Happiest Hour
{the happiest hour}

Lygia Pape
{lygia pape at the met breuer}

Sol Lewitt at Mass MOCA
{sol lewitt at mass moca}

Spencer Finch at Mass MOCA
{spencer finch at mass moca}

Power outage
{power outage!}

Deer!
{deer in williamstown}

Wedding cocktail hour
{wedding cocktail hour - scranton}

day after coffee
{day after coffee - scranton}

We flew into NYC and spent a few days hanging out with various friends, visiting museums and spending way too much money on drinks. But we made up for it by crashing with our friend Beth the whole time (I think I've posted this before, but I find it incredibly life affirming that you can have people you love so dearly that squashing yourselves into a studio apartment is a joy). We try to make it out to visit her every couple years and whenever we're there I have these glimpses of our alternate life. We were thisclose to moving when D was choosing a grad school, but we made the prudent financial decision to go with in-state tuition in CA vs. private school (and higher living costs) in NYC. I think we made the right call because we'd probably be bankrupt in Manhattan and I don't know how I would have managed my family stuff long distance, but I still get pangs. Lots of pangs.

Highlights of this NYC trip: 
Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the Queen's Museum (and ridiculously good dim sum in Flushing beforehand) - I hadn't seen the Panorama piece and it was really fun.
The Whitney - that Samara Golden piece in the biennial was breaking my brain but D figured it out right away.
The Met - for the Rei Kawakubo exhibit, of course.
The Met Breuer - now in the former Whitney building. The Lygia Pape exhibition was great.
Breakfast at Sadelle's - super fancy bagel breakfast. It's pricey but you could also go to the bar and order bagels a la carte.
Soft serve from Big Gay Ice Cream Shop - the Bea Arthur is my jam.
Lovely Szechuan style noodles at Hao Noodle and Tea.
Drinks at Seamstress - crazy long menu but everything we tried was wonderful.
Drinks at The Happiest Hour - the interior alone is enough to make you feel happy.
Drinks at Death & Co with my lady LMO.
A couple of exercise classes to try to balance it all out - we both got ClassPass* trials this month specifically because we knew we'd be going on this trip and it seemed like a good time to test it out. I'm happy to report that it was super easy to use. I've always resisted because I was afraid it would be a huge pain. I'm going to see if we use it enough at home to justify keeping it.

We rented a car with Beth and drove out to Williamstown, MA to visit our other dear friend (last time we were together was for her beautiful wedding!). Dustin and I met the two of them 19 years ago (!) at a really dorky educational summer camp and they are still our people. I feel so lucky to have them in my life and even though we only get to see each other every couple years it always feels like we're picking right back up. Our plan is to eventually retire together on a compound, Golden Girls style.

Massachusetts (we only had one full day here, but we tried to make the most of it):
The Clark - make sure to hike up the hill in back
Mass MOCA - mostly for the massive Sol LeWitt exhibit but the Nick Cave currently on view is wonderful.
Delicious breakfast at Five Corners - they had hibiscus kombucha on tap and it was the first time I've really understood the craze.
Pizza from Hot Tomatoes, which we were incredibly grateful for because we had just paid for our order when the entire town had a major power outage due to a sudden storm and everything closed down immediately. They finished cooking our pizza in the dark and we drove home and ate dinner by candlelight.
A morning run where I spotted a deer during the first five minutes and then got to run along the river, heaven.

Annnnnd then we proceeded down to Scranton, PA for the big event of the trip. The wedding was beautiful and so full of love and it had a great dance floor, which I really appreciate. It's kind of a blur but I don't think I sat down for more than 5 minutes. We were mostly doing wedding stuff, so we didn't get out much in Scranton but we had a really good time at the few places we went.

Backyard Alehouse - ridiculous selection of beers
Texas wieners at Coney Island of Scranton - the name, like the Texas wiener itself (which is a hot dog sandwich with chili on it), is somewhat inexplicable but I have no regrets.
Coffee at Adezzo and also at Northern Light



* I feel like they're always offering deeply discounted ClassPass trials, so maybe google for that first, but you can also get $30 off by signing up through this link (full disclosure - I also get $30 credit if you use it, so if you hate me you should probably not click on it) which might be better than the promo running at any given time.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Checking in

I'm traveling a lot (for me) in May and June and I want to post about all of it, soon (I swear - check back tomorrow). I haven't been taking my actual camera anywhere, since I feel like snapping quick cell phone photos is so much easier and keeps me more in the moment but I'm always a little sad when I get home and realize I don't have any high quality photos. I know, cry me a river.

BUT in the meantime I can't resist a super quick check in.

Watching: The Handmaid's Tale is my new favorite thing every week. I have read the book a million times but not in years, and no, I didn't re-read it before jumping into the series. I know the show departs from the book, but I think they made good choices and I love, love, love seeing it brought to life. There are some scenes that are just so deeply creepy and apparently my imagination is not as good as beautiful camerawork. I find Margaret Atwood's books fascinating (Bodily Harm was part of my thesis project in college - read it if you like being majorly bummed out) and she's involved with writing and producing the show which makes me happy. Bonus - I liked this essay she wrote about the book/show back in March.

We watched the second season of Master of None while we were in NYC (bingeing on TV shows on vacation is a long standing tradition with my crew and I absolutely do not think it is a waste of our time together). I hate to say this but I was SO frustrated with most of the second half of the season. Ugh, love and poor life choices. We were basically heckling the TV by the end. Bonus - NPR interview with Aziz Ansari. I have always suspected that his mom doesn't love acting. Ha.

Reading: Um, still not much action here worth mentioning. I've re-read about 20 Elizabeth Peter's books, eagerly awaiting the release of her posthumous novel in July. It's taken so long for them to get it out that I'm very concerned it will be terrible.

Listening: We listened to the entire first season of My Dad Wrote a Porno while we were driving around the east coast last week and were in hysterics the entire time. Like, it should probably be illegal to listen to it while operating a moving vehicle. I think it goes without saying, based on the title, but it is most definitely not safe for work (or public, or anywhere that children might stumble in unexpectedly).


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trader Joe's love - beans

Soooo .... I promised I would get some TJ's posts up and it turns out it's harder than I expected to get semi-decent photos of canned food. Andy Warhol, I am not. But I took some shots and was excited to start posting and then when I was uploading them I realized I am starting with the world's most boring category - beans. I mean, these are pantry staples in my house and I rely on them but I probably should have jumped in with some of the more exciting TJ's options (frozen meals! refrigerated dips! cookies!). But this is what I have and I'm tired of seeing product photos of swimsuits at the top of the blog, so maybe even beans would be an improvement?

Also, I'm on a super tight food budget for the next few months* which might put a damper on fun food spending, but I'll try to keep taking photos as I buy stuff and share it whenever I can. Worst case scenario, I can always resort to taking cell phone photos in the store. Ha. (But really - I could probably make that work if I had the portrait mode setting. I'm trying to make my phone last until the new iPhone is released but in the meantime I'm just jealous of everyone with the 7 plus)

Am I rambling to try to avoid posting really boring photos of canned beans? MAYBE.

Trader Joe's Beans

These are the three types of beans I always have on hand and they're the best for super quick meal options.

The salsa style refried pinto beans have been my favorite refried bean option for at least the last two decades. They're not that different than what you'd pick up at the regular store but they have a bit of heat and flavor that I love. There was a dark period back in 2006ish when they were temporarily unavailable for a year or two and I was afraid I'd never see them again. And then they reappeared, in an organic reincarnation! There isn't much to say about refried beans, honestly, but these make a great burrito and I'm not even ashamed to admit that if I'm feeling lazy I'll just eat them room temp with tortilla chips. $1.99/ can

Trader Joe's Salsa Style Refried Beans
Trader Joe's Salsa Style Refried Beans

The Cuban style black beans are an amazing quick meal option. They're just regular black beans but jazzed up with some extra flavor. They make a great side dish, especially when paired with rice, but my favorite way to use them is to heat up a corn tortilla directly over the flame so it gets a little crispy, put some beans on it and then add a fried egg on top. Best served with salsa or hot sauce, sour cream is optional but delicious. They are in a bit of (flavorful) liquid which you can soak up with rice, but I'll drain them if I'm eating them on tortillas. $0.99/can

Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans
Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans

Gigantes are one of my very favorite Greek dishes so I was super excited when I saw them at Trader Joe's a few months back. They call them giant baked beans in tomato sauce (catchy, right?) and that's a fairly accurate description of what you're getting. I won't say it's exactly the same as the best homemade version, but they're really good. These are great hot or cold and they're perfect as part of a mezze spread with pita, hummus, olives, etc. I will sometimes just eat them straight out of the can and call it lunch. $1.99/can

Trader Joe's Giant Baked Beans
Trader Joe's Giant Baked Beans

* I haven't been great about tracking our expenses since the holidays and when I finally sat down to do it I realized we've been majorly overspending on groceries since, oh, Thanksgiving. I decided to try to catch us up, but it means slashing our monthly grocery budget for the next four-ish months to make up the difference. I'm hoping that if I can keep us on a pretty tight weekly budget I'll still have enough left for a few fun grocery splurges during that time, but we'll see how bleak it gets around here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Swimsuit PSA

I rarely post about clothes because I rarely buy them. I'm just generally lazy and we also try to keep our spending reined in and I tend to blow my allowance on coffee and the occasional manicure. But last summer the swimsuit that I'd been wearing for six years* finally started to get see through and I realized that I was going to have to suck it up and go swimsuit shopping. Which is basically the worst type of shopping, ranked just slightly lower than bra shopping and slightly above jean shopping, in the hierarchy of terrible dressing room experiences.

Luckily for me, I happened to walk past an Old Navy a couple weeks ago and saw they were selling some cute vintage-y looking suits this year. I didn't go in and try anything on (I do not impulsively try on swimsuits - I need to be mentally prepared for that type of event) but I did go home and order a bunch of options to test at home. I used a coupon code so ordering all six options came in under $100, which is about what I would have spent on a J. Crew suit, if I were crazy enough to buy anything from J. Crew at full price, ever.

swimsuit shopping
bottom row, left to right - high waist, hipster bikini, ruched bikini

I'm happy to report that everything was pretty good! I had fairly low expectations but after trying it all on I honestly couldn't decide which pieces to send back and I'm tempted to keep everything so that I can mix and match options and hopefully avoid bikini shopping for at least another six years. The high waisted bikini bottom is a stand out, so good. I'm 5'6 and it comes right to my belly button and is actually super flattering (I was afraid it would look like I was wearing spanx to the beach so I almost didn't order it). I love all the tops, although I feel like I just got lucky with sizing. It's bizarre to me that bras sizing is so complicated but underwire bikini tops are just sold in small, medium and large. How does that compute?

There are some fun prints but I'm boring and stuck with mostly black except that one bikini bottom with the green palm print (which is super cute in person).

I decided I might as well put it out there, in case anyone else is not looking forward to tracking down a bathing suit this summer. I'm just relieved that I can cross that chore off my list. Let's not even talk about the fact that I've had to endure two bra fittings in the last three months and I'm still on the hunt for something that doesn't make me feel like I'm being slowly strangled throughout the day. I am seriously considering just wearing sports bras for the rest of my life.

* This is the swimsuit I'd been wearing forever and I love it but I was ready for a change. If you're looking for a cute vintage style one piece, it's a nice option. I'm assuming the quality and cut is the same as when I bought it, but it has been a long time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The weekend, briefly

We skipped the traditional Easter this year because we had plans with friends, but neither of us could resist a bit of crafting at the last minute. On Saturday D made his usual cascarones (confetti eggs) while I made a double batch of Deb's pecan sticky buns (verdict - very good but very messy) and on Sunday morning we put together and delivered some little Easter packages for a few of the toddlers in our life (only the ones living within a 5 mile radius - sorry to all the other babies we love, but you can take it up with LA traffic).

easter flowers

hashbrowns

easter bouquets

cascarones

pecan sticky buns

saturday kitchen

It was one of those weekends where I cleaned the kitchen about five times each day and by Sunday night I was DONE. We'll probably be eating veggie burgers all week because I'm not sure I'm willing to make a mess again, but it was definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Listening

podcasts april

I've been attempting to listen to podcasts again lately. I'm always hearing about great podcasts and even subscribing to them but they tend to pile up on my phone. The issue is that my mind wanders like crazy when I'm driving or walking alone. I try to listen to a podcast but suddenly realize that I've spent the last 15 minutes deciding exactly how to spend my future lottery winnings (I have a super practical plan, guys, too bad I never remember to buy lottery tickets) and I have no idea what anyone is talking about and then I have to try to back it up to the point where I stopped listening. Repeat that three times and you have my commute home, which explains why I eventually gave up. This also explains why I was a terrible student all through elementary school, before I managed to train myself not to daydream during class.

But after the third person in two weeks recommended Terrible, Thanks for Asking I decided I had to give it a try and I was hooked immediately. It's a podcast about how people deal with tragedy or hard times in their lives. The episodes vary because they're interviewing different people each time, but I've loved almost all of them. I still don't try to listen to it while driving but I've found that I can focus a bit better while I'm running and I made it through the entire season that way. And then when we drove up to Berkeley we made it through all of S-town and half of Missing Richard Simmons*, as I mentioned previously. Apparently I'm better at focusing when there is someone else around to discuss the podcast with, especially if there is drama/intrigue involved.

I do manage to listen to The Dinner Party Download almost every week, and I sporadically catch up on Fresh Air. I also do this novel thing where I listen to some shows live each week, on the actual radio, so I usually catch This American Life, Good Food, The Moth Radio Hour, and The New Yorker Radio Hour (does this make up for the fact that I gave up even attempting to get through The New Yorker every week?).

I tried My Favorite Murder when everyone was raving about it and it just didn't work for me. For a while I used to listen to the Savage Lovecast, but I feel like both the questions and the answers go on forever and it's almost like they're filling time (important note - definitely not safe for work, if you aren't familiar with Dan Savage already).

Anything you're listening to that you love?


* I was conflicted on this one. I totally get the impetus for the podcast, but it started to feel self serving really quickly and I felt bad for Richard Simmons. But then he signed a new licensing deal, so maybe I'm totally off base.