Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Choosing meat

This is a long post, and it's all about food. And not necessarily the fun parts, but important issues that I've been mulling over for a while and want to discuss.

I've been working on improving our diets lately. I'm lucky in that I was raised with really healthy food habits, but when life gets hectic I start to fall back on grilled cheese sandwiches, which is fine for a while but not ideal as a lifestyle. The first step I took was increasing my vegetable intake so that about half of every meal I eat consists of vegetables. Hence, the veg laden breakfasts that we've been having lately. That part was pretty easy, because D and I both love vegetables. I just fall out of the habit of cooking them sometimes because it's faster to ignore side dishes. I find that if I refuse to allow myself to use bread or pasta as a regular crutch, it gets easier to incorporate vegetables. We'll usually have lentils, eggs or meat alongside them. And that's where it gets tricky.

salad with everything
{salad with everything}

Except for a terribly unsuccessful one year stint as a vegetarian, I've always eaten meat. Not much, in general, but some. I should say upfront that I'm fine with eating other animals. I realize that this is one of (many) reasons that some people choose vegetarianism and I respect that, but it isn't an issue for me ethically. But I do have an issue with the animals I eat being treated inhumanely. I've mostly dealt with it by throwing my hands in the air and feeling terrible and then focusing on keeping our meat consumption relatively low. Every once in a while I would try to explore other options and get overwhelmed and give up.

Lauren has been sharing a bit about her decision to be veg, and I respect it a lot. That said, we are fairly committed omnivores. Partly because we like it and partly because I feel physically better with some amount of meat in my diet. But I've been feeling worse and worse about the source of our meat and her posts were the kick in the pants I needed. 

I started exploring options with intense internet searches. Lots of mail order possibilities popped up (a nice change from when I investigated this a few years ago and gave up!), and I think these could be great. My friend Kris and her husband actually purchase a steer share every year which I think is amazing, but we live in an apartment and can't store that much meat at once and our needs are quite a bit lower. 

My goals were to have humanely raised meat first and foremost, with a preference for localish options if available. The cost wasn't the biggest factor, because we don't intend to eat a ton of it, so we can easily fit a higher price into our food budget. Voting with dollars makes sense to me, so I'm glad to spend more to help keep a better option in business. 

When I found out that Novy Ranch has a pick up option at our weekly neighborhood farmer's market, I was pretty much sold. They are fully pastured and fairly local. I can pick up whatever I like at the market without ordering ahead, or I can pick everything out ahead of time and have it waiting for me when I get there. It all comes frozen and vacuum packed, so eating it immediately isn't an issue. And honestly, the cost isn't nearly as high as I thought it would be. We particularly love the ranch cut steaks. We buy enough that we can share a pound of meat between the two of us each week and that gets us through a couple meals. I'm sure that for some people this sounds like an unnecessary amount of meat and for some people it isn't nearly enough. It's what works for us. We do buy extra if we're having people over. 

Grass fed beef does taste a bit different, but I like it. And I feel so much better about this source that everything tastes better. They do age their beef, which is supposed to make a difference. 

Now, for EVERYTHING ELSE. As in, milk and other types of meat. Baby steps. I get overwhelmed by this whole process and have to remind myself to step back, evaluate and not beat myself up for not being perfect about everything. I'll just keep moving forward as best I can. We're currently buying our eggs from a stand at the market that claims to be fully pastured, but honestly, I haven't found a good way of checking up on egg suppliers. How do you guys deal with that? I guess we're always taking everyone at their word, really. It isn't as if I've personally inspected the Novy Ranch farm either.

I should probably note that I still eat meat at restaurants, which can be problematic, but more and more places around here are being transparent about their sourcing, and I try to frequent places that I know make an effort. When we ate at Short Order recently, I noticed that they listed all their sources on the menu, which was amazing. I don't want to get too Portlandia about it, but I really appreciate having a little more information. 

For those of you who aren't local, here are some of the mail order meat options I was considering ... 

I'm sure there are lots of other options and I don't have any personal experience with these, but they looked really promising. You have to commit to a larger mixed order to get the best deal, but it looked like most of the options would work in our apartment sized freezer. 

If you're looking for something in your area, I found the Chowhound local boards to be a good resource.

Questions or suggestions? Bring them up in the comments and I'll make sure to check in. I love talking about this stuff and I'd love to know how you guys handle it.

* Reading this over I realize it is enthusiastic enough to verge on sounding sponsored. Just to clarify - Novy Ranch has never heard of me. I am just really excited about having finally found a convenient, humane supplier. *

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The last few weekends, briefly




tie bar recovered!
{tie bar recovered!}




:: notes :: 

I've been quiet around here, doing the usual balancing act with life and family and work, not always feeling like saying much.

We've been making a lot of coffee at home. D is determined to master the shakerato. I'm sticking with (decaf) lattes. I like the ritual of it, even if I miss the caffeine. I tried going back to it briefly but quickly remembered why I'm staying away.

We went to an old friend's wedding and spent the evening celebrating and catching up with our high school friends and eating way too many mini bundt cakes (enjoying this trend). The previously lost beloved tie bar found its way home and the guys at Nikolai Rose very generously offered to make it perfect again after it suffered some wear and tear on the dance floor so it was able to make another outing, more securely clipped this time. It looks perfect.

I'm not sure I'll ever get sick of arugula. And I love the way it looks, too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Purchases - vaguely running related

After all your good advice on phone covers, I decided to buy a really simple one from society 6. And you guys are right - it looks great but I'm not sure how protective it is. So far I'm still using it because I don't want to research another one, but I may upgrade eventually.


The unexpected side benefit to the iPhone has nothing to do with the phone itself. Having Pandora at the gym is amazing. I despise making playlists and was always really terrible about updating my iPod. Now I don't have to bother anymore and I'm obsessed. I recommend the Stereo Love, Calvin Harris or Mr. Saxobeat stations. I work out exclusively to top 40 hits.

Possibly due to the music situation, I managed to run 66 miles last month. Not impressive for those of you who are serious runners, but I only aim to run about 3 miles a day, 5 days a week and this was my most consistent month in ages. I decided to institute a running rewards program whereby I earn a dollar per mile to be spent on exercise related purchases. Totally dorky, also fairly motivating.

I bought a pair of Lululemon shorts with part of my earnings so far. I have a really hard time with workout shorts because they tend to either bunch up in front or give me a serious wedgie or possibly both, if they're particularly special. These fit perfectly. They are short, but not shockingly so.

Not yet a purchase, but I'm lusting after these shoes after I saw them while window shopping. They are much more neon and ridiculous in person. I can't decide if they'd provide enough support while running. Or is foot support totally 2010 at this point? Aren't we all supposed to be running barefoot? They might be next on my list.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The weekend, briefly (mini-vacation edition)

I just wrapped up a tough quarter at work and we decided to slip away for a very quick vacation. I wanted HEAT and Palm Springs was perfect.

colony palms hotel
{colony palms hotel}

byo cup
{byo cup}



:: notes :: 

We went back to the Colony Palms Hotel, where we had our honeymoon (also a two day vacation - one of these days we'll have to take a longer one). Coincidentally, we checked into the hotel on our nine month anniversary. Not planned. The pool at CPH is great, and that's critical because we spent 8 - 10 hours straight lying next to it. It was a little more crowded this time but we still managed to snag chairs with an umbrella, thankfully. I do not tan.

When we went on our honeymoon I was totally frazzled from the wedding madness. I jammed a few things in a bag and we took off. I forgot to pack any books and was stuck at the mercy of the local CVS selection. This time I was prepared. I had two thick murder mysteries from the library (this one and this one, because I never give up on a series once I start) and a surprisingly large pile of swimsuits (I used to buy one every year when J. Crew would have a post-summer sale and they don't get much wear, so at this point I have half a dozen accumulated). D had a stack of New Yorkers. He's the classy one, clearly.

I bought us these plastic tumblers to take along and they were such a good purchase. I love the drinks from the poolside bar (the purple lemonade is my fave), but they add up really quickly. We packed habanero tequila + grapefruit juice and mixed our own drinks to take down to the pool most of the time. And we also ended up much more hydrated because we were constantly refilling the tumblers with water and ice. I think these are coming on all vacations now.

We went on the aerial tram for the first time. I have a fairly crippling fear of heights but it never seems to occur to me when we're planning something and I really didn't realize how insanely high the tram was. I survived, but it probably wasn't the smartest choice.

In case you are wondering what else to do in Palm Springs, I have to admit I'm stumped. We ate a really nice dinner at Copley's because they were still running their restaurant week special. We had awesome sandwiches at Jake's on our way out of town. Other than that, we didn't leave the hotel property. We mostly just come for the heat and the pool, which is why two days is exactly the right amount of time. Any longer and I would start getting antsy.

* If you're thinking about sneaking out of town for a mid-week stay, CPH is running their summer special now through September 30th. $95 a night for weeknights + $25 restaurant credit + champagne split to welcome you. I'm slightly bitter that this email arrived while I was at their pool, with no such credit, but I'm overcoming my baser instincts and sharing it with you anyways. Book online with the code PRVT.  We might go back and take advantage, but we were also eyeing the Alcazar right down the street. So many options. So little vacation time.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday flowers

in season
{in season}

You all knew those were coming, right? Sorry to be so predictable but I couldn't resist. I don't think I saw those crazy coral ones last year.

They've actually held up pretty well all week, but they attracted some fruit flies (totally weird) and I happen to have a mild fruit fly phobia. Which is particularly mock-worthy for someone who spends all her time in labs, I know. I think I was traumatized growing up with a large backyard full of fruit trees.

Anyways, the peonies are very pretty and refreshing the water every day or two helps.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Making invitations

** Sorry this is so belated! I got the post about these invitations started and then forgot about it until a couple readers reminded me. This is the process I used for making Emily's shower invitations. I hadn't planned on a tutorial, so it's more words and suggestions than pictures. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I'll answer. **

I love messing around with paper, so I make invitations regularly (we still send paper invites for the gingerbread house party every year, just because it's fun).

For Emily's shower I wanted to do something special. I started with the idea of watercolors and moved forward from there.


Watercolor postcards (similar to these, but I used the 5x7 size)
Watercolor paint (you don't need much at all)
Paint brush
Plate for paint + water
Paper for backing the cards (I used a gorgeous gold I found in a large sheet at Paper Source)
Spray glue
Decent printer (we have this one and we've been really happy with it)
Hole punch (for adding dots, optional)
Tacky glue (for adding dots, optional)
Paper for lining the envelopes (optional)

 - The hardest part is always designing the actual invitation and unfortunately that's the part I can't help with! I design using Adobe Illustrator, but I know you can make it work using Word or Powerpoint and patience. - 

Paint your cards: I painted each postcard individually and set them aside to dry. You could also use larger sheets of watercolor paper and cut them down, but getting the edges all even is time consuming. I love pre-cut cards. I liked the effect I got when I painted a darker line of watercolor along the horizontal edge of the card and then gently painted over it with water, letting it bleed across. Play around.

Once the cards were dry, I stacked them and weighted them down under some stacks of heavy books until I was ready to use them. A couple days really decreased the amount of warping you sometimes get with watercolor.

Print your design: Once I had the design ready, I printed the cards by running them straight through my printer. My printer has a setting for 5x7 (many do, so check your settings) and I used the rear tray and didn't have any trouble with jamming. I always use the best quality setting option when I print invitations, because you get crisper text.

Back your cards: The downside to the post cards was that they had printing on the back (yeah, didn't realize this until I opened them, even though it was stated on the package). Luckily, I found some large sheets of gold paper at Paper Source and they were perfect for backing. Working with 6 cards at a time, I would spray the backs with spray glue (outside, on newspaper) and then quickly lay them down on the wrong side of the gold paper and smooth them out carefully. Spray glue dries almost instantly, so I trimmed them to size as soon as I was finished. I saved the scraps of the paper and ended up using it for the dots.

Add the last touches: I used a regular old hole punch to make the dots and then affixed them to the invitation with dots of tacky glue. My method for tacky glue is to make a small pool of it on scrap paper and then dip a toothpick in it and use that for adding glue to the dots. This part was the fussiest, so I made up one with the general layout I wanted to use and then kept it in front of me as a guideline while I did all the others. Note - this was super time consuming and this is the detail that I would have had to drop or modify if I were making a ton of invitations. I wouldn't recommend this for a wedding!

Enclose: The envelopes were from Paper Source and I picked a soft grey that went with the text and didn't clash with the gold accents. I lined the envelopes with a gold patterned paper from Paper Source. I used leftover stamps from our wedding (and much later realized that the postage had gone up - many thanks to the kind post office employees who delivered all of these despite my mistake).

{finished invitation}

Tips for invitations:
* Give people the critical information - in addition to the obvious date, time, contact info, response requested stuff I try to include food info, because as a guest prone to hangry attacks I like to know if I'm expecting snacks or a full on meal so that I can eat beforehand if necessary.
* You can include registry information on a shower invitation, but I still steer clear of it. Everyone has to contact the host anyway to RSVP, and they'll usually ask then. That's a personal preference, though. I know some guests prefer getting that information in the invitation.
* Triple check the date/time/address text and have someone else check it as well, if possible.
* Know the mail rules - square envelopes and/or any envelope over 1t oz require additional postage.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Purchases - around the house

Okay, another big round of purchases from the last few months and then I'll be pretty much up to date on this project. I can't decide if it's better to post purchases up to the minute (makes me look like I spend money non-stop), or if I should just wait and do them in batches (makes me look like I go on massive shopping sprees).

Twelve of these bowls - which function as dessert and prep bowls and have the added advantage of being pretty. They are from our local Japanese market, which always has the best selection of inexpensive, good quality ceramics. $2 each, cheaper than comparable bowls at Ikea.

new bowls
{new bowls}

Twenty-four of these square spice jars. Completely indulgent, but I was so annoyed with the random assortment of round ones. The squares fit perfectly into rows of two. The rack is from Ikea, was not intended for use as a spice rack and they don't make it anymore but it works perfectly for us. I searched for a coupon code and got free shipping so the total was just $16.


A couple of these pillows. D was placing an order for a client and decided he wanted a couple as well. Much earthier than our metallic gold ones. I like the mix.

new pillow
{new pillow}

Pieces from the Heath summer collection. We gave in a couple weekends ago when they were having a sale.   We ended up with the shallow bowl, which is the best salad or pasta server and the trio of little bowls.

heath summer pieces
{heath summer pieces}

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The weekend, briefly




short order
{short order}

early evening
{early evening}

dusk on the patio
{dusk on the patio}

:: notes :: 

The less photogenic side of cake - when you stop bothering to cut slices and just eat it directly out of the box, still cold. Best when you are alone in the house. It's all gone now, thankfully.

We had a luxuriously unscheduled Saturday afternoon together. We ended up wandering over to LACMA and checking out several exhibits, then walking up to the Farmer's Market to try out Nancy Silverton's new burger place, Short Order. It was definitely good, although I'm not sure where I would rank it in my own mental list of LA burgers. It's a highly competitive, ever evolving category.

The evening light just gets better and better. I say this about every season, but I do love summer. It's actually the transition between seasons that gets me excited, seeing and feeling all the changes in the light and the air. But I'm really pumped for summer this year, in particular. I feel like we lost last summer in the craziness of juggling wedding prep and family needs. I'm going to try to do better with this one. Spend more time on our patio, drink more rosé, grill more meals and eat them leisurely.