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


easter bouquets


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


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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Celery cocktail

celery cocktail

I haven't been motivated to cook much lately, and last month I had the brilliant idea to sign myself up for a four week CSA share. I figured getting a box of vegetables delivered weekly would force me to spend some time in the kitchen.

Well ... best intentions and all that. I can't stand wasting food, so I did force myself to make sure I was using up the salad greens weekly, and it was fairly easy getting through the various fruit and potato options that came in. But I did not anticipate the celery. Dear god, the celery. A huge bundle every single week so that at the end of the month I had an entire crisper drawer of (lovely, organic) celery staring at me reproachfully every time I opened the fridge.

I finally rolled up my sleeves, pulled it all out on a quiet Saturday and tried to figure out what to do. I should note that while I don't hate celery and I'll happily incorporate it in recipes where appropriate I have zero interest in munching on sticks of celery. I'm neither a rabbit nor an 80's dieter.

I shared the dilemma on Instagram, as you do, and two friends recommended making up a giant batch of mirepoix to freeze, which was brilliant and had the added bonus of using up carrots and onion. At the end of that chopping marathon (p.s. coolest way to cut celery) I had just one bunch left and it was 5 pm and I started thinking that the quickest way to make friends with celery, as with so many difficult companions, would be to add some alcohol to it.


celery cocktail

I made a quick celery juice in the food processor, then turned it into simple syrup and improvised with the ingredients I had on hand. This cocktail is not too sweet, and the celery flavor comes through strongly and makes it incredibly refreshing. I froze the extra simple syrup* but I've been going through it so quickly that I'm almost tempted to buy another bunch of celery.

CSA celery cocktail

Celery simple syrup

1 large bunch celery, cleaned and roughly chopped
Large pinch each of sugar and salt

Blend well in food processor, then press through a fine mesh strainer to extract the juice, pressing with a spatula to make sure you're getting as much out as possible. I ended up with about 1 1/3 cups of juice from a large bunch of celery.

Combine almost equal parts celery juice + sugar (I did 1 cup of sugar to 1 1/3 cup juice, but you could do 1:1, or do slightly less sugar if you prefer it less sweet), simmer gently until the sugar dissolves, remove from heat.

Cocktail (makes one)

1 oz celery simple syrup
2 oz good vodka (I used the St. George California Citrus)
1 egg white
1 oz lemon juice

Chill your glass by filling it with ice water and setting it aside. Add all ingredients except the ice to your cocktail shaker, shake for a minute, add the ice, shake for another minute.**

Dump the ice water out of your glass, pour in the cocktail and sip as you contemplate WTF you are going to do with the three heads of (lovely, organic) cabbage still taking up a shelf in your fridge.

*Simple syrup isn't really the best candidate for freezing. The high sugar concentration makes it a bit sticky and soft even when fully frozen. But I'll still do it sometimes because it lasts so much longer than it will in the fridge. I just left these guys in the tray and I pry them out with a butter knife when I want to use them.

**This is called a dry shake and it's my usual method but when I was looking for a link to direct you to I found this method called a reverse shake which sounds intriguing - not sure I'm willing to fish out the ice between the two rounds of shaking, but I'll at least have to try it once.

Friday, April 7, 2017


sorting books

meyer lemon juice

I've been sorting through the last of my dad's stuff and it's so bittersweet. We took care of his clothes and things right away, but I kept putting off his library. Nothing feels as personal to me as books and it's just so hard to make those choices. His cookbooks are particularly heartwrenching - I have to flip through each one and look at the stains and notations, and then sometimes grocery lists and recipes clipped from the newspaper fall out and suddenly I'm transported back to a particular week in his life. We both loved to cook and we would often have entire phone conversations about what we were making for dinner, so I remember talking to him about some of these recipes. It's so strange to be seeing them this way.

My dad had planted a Meyer lemon tree in his yard a few years before he died. He babied it and worried about it and waited (incredibly impatiently) for it to start bearing fruit, updating me almost weekly on the progress it was making. It had its first big crop just a few months before he was hospitalized for the last time, two years ago. That winter he had been sending us home with bags of lemons and was so thrilled when I used some of them to make the cupcakes for my sister's baby shower. We were all so excited to meet the baby, and so heartbroken when Dad died less than a month before she was born. This year my niece turned two and the week before we went up to Berkeley I picked some Meyer lemons from his tree and made those cupcakes for a belated birthday celebration. It felt like he was there too. It's funny, these threads that pull through your life, keeping you connected to the people you love even when they're gone.

My absolute favorite vanilla cupcake recipe is here, but I used the lemon curd recipe from here and I pair it with either a German buttercream (my personal preference) or a Swiss meringue buttercream (which I did this time because I needed to use up all the egg whites leftover after making the lemon curd).

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Around here

How about a quick catch up session? I don't feel like I have enough to say about any of these (entirely unrelated) things to make an entire post so I'm just going to smash them all together.

mini garden bouquet
grapefruit blossoms

- Taking advantage of the backyard superbloom and bringing as many flowers into the house as possible. I was convinced that some of the plants in our yard were dead because of disease, but it turns out it was just the drought. Several tons of rain later and our whole backyard is going nuts in the best way possible. Plants need water, who knew? Normally I'm reluctant to pick citrus blossoms because it means less fruit, but the grapefruit tree is overloaded this year and the flowers smell so good that I can't resist keeping some by my bedside.

- Getting back into running and it feels good. I'd been avoiding it for ages because I'm not a naturally talented runner which means that if I fall off the wagon getting myself back to a place where I can run steadily (without feeling like I'm going to die) is so much work that it never sounds appealing. My usual method is to allow myself to run as slowly as I need to for 30 minutes and gradually improve my speed and distance as I build up strength. This time I wasn't anywhere near being able to run for 30 minutes continuously, so I finally let go of my ego and downloaded the C210K app. I used the C25K method to learn to run the first time, but that was before smart phones and I had to write down my workout each day and then track the intervals with a timer. Having the app is a million times easier. I don't have to look ahead or think about what I'm going to do. I just commit to putting on my workout clothes and leaving the house. And I'm running! Yesterday I ran for 20 minutes without stopping. I'm not really sure why I persist in running when it's so much work, but there's something undeniably satisfying about it. Plus, it sounds more impressive than other forms of cardio. No one wants to hear you talk about how you crushed it on the elliptical at the gym the other day. To be honest, no one wants to hear about your running stats either, but most people will feign interest because running at least commands some respect.

- Not cooking much on weeknights lately and I've been relying heavily on the quinoa cowboy veggie burgers from Trader Joe's. As I was eating my 100th burger a few weeks ago I started seriously considering starting an entire blog just to share my favorite things at Trader Joe's. I mean, I know there are people already doing that, and also I already have a blog that I barely keep up anymore so it hardly makes sense to start a new one. But I keep thinking that my love for Trader Joe's deserves its own platform, even though blogs are almost entirely dead at this point.

- Still not reading anything new, and yes, it feels weird. I'm just going with it and re-reading things here and there.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The weekend, briefly

We drove up north last weekend to see family and friends and leaving my niece and nephew on Sunday broke my heart - it gets harder every time. I did a terrible job of pulling out the real camera so I have very few decent photos but the trip was wonderful.

temescal brewery flight
Circe with toddler fruit salad
baby jellies

My niece got a new play kitchen and kept carefully presenting Circe with offerings of wooden fruit, which Circe ignored. We got to see a few friends and eat some good food and the Bay Area was being particularly show-offy this weekend. The weather was amazing, there were flowers popping up everywhere, we went to our favorite brewery plus a new one we hadn't visited before and of course, Berkeley Bowl was full of the best citrus. By Sunday afternoon I was pretty much ready to move in. I do love LA, but northern California is fairly spectacular in spring.

P.S. - During our drive we listened to all of S-town and then started on Missing Richard Simmons, which made the 12 hour round trip much more bearable.

P.P.S - Because I haven't been writing regularly I have all these random things to talk about and none of them feel like full blog posts so I'm struggling with that a bit. Hopefully I'll have some bits and pieces up around here soon in some form.