a quick trip to cali

We spent last weekend in California visiting family and friends and eating lots of great food (Johnny Doughnuts!). It was a quick trip, but always worth it to see loved ones. AND, Willa was a flying champ. She didn’t fuss at all on either flight. Just happily played with ice, the earphones, the seatbelt buckle and a few of the toys we brought. I’ve been on so many flights where I’ve seen other, calmer children, and I’ve thought to myself, “why can’t W be like that?” This time she was! I was so proud. It made the weekend much more relaxing, and gave me lots of “hey, we got this,” confidence. (To surely be shattered sometime in the near future, but that’s parenting, no?) We picked up a cold somewhere along the way, so this week has been a bit of a drag, but these sunny pictures make me happy:

DSC01808^^the ferry bringing our friend CC for a visit!^^

DSC01812^^it’s always great to see old friends.^^

DSC01845^^so happy on daddy’s shoulders^^

DSC01858^^she kept saying, “wow!”^^

DSC01889^^learning to skip rocks^^

DSC01866^^boats! exciting for W, and always nice to look at when you’re visiting from land-locked denver.^^

Advertisements

a weird but wonderful weekend

This weekend was odd. Lots of fun moments, but some awful ones as well.

IMAGE_1669

Friday night we met up with friends at our local nanobrewery. It was great fun, but in bed a few hours later, I did not feel good. I thought to myself, could it really be two beers making me feel like this?

The next morning, we got up early and battled the traffic on 70 (ugh) to snowshoe at Lily Pad Lake trail (thanks for the great recommendation, Megan!). It was an absolutely perfect day to be outside. Blue sky; not too cold. But midway through our hike, I wasn’t feeling so hot. The altitude? Once we were done, I felt worse, but thought maybe I just needed some lunch. Nope, that wasn’t it, either. I spent the rest of Saturday in bed. Not fun.

IMAGE_1641IMAGE_1667IMAGE_1661IMAGE_1655

On Sunday, things looked up a bit, and we took advantage of another beautiful Denver day by taking a family bike ride. We are so excited to have a new bike seat for Willa! And we finally found a helmet for her as well, so we were good to go. [Side rant: finding a helmet for a toddler is not easy. Apparently the more simple you want the helmet to be, the more you have to pay. The cheap ones at Target have Minnie Mouse, Dora, or some other sparkly princess on them. Or cars or superman. Ugh. And the nice, not ridiculous, gender neutral ones are $60. We probably would have splurged on that one, but we didn’t want to wait for shipping, so we settled on this one from REI. It still has monkeys on it (not to mention skulls and crossbones!?), but at least it’s gender neutral? And, also, why must a bike helmet be so gendered? Triple ugh.]

IMAGE_1674

We ended the weekend with Char Kuih Kak for dinner, and of course, Downton! And thankfully, I’m feeling all better today. Here’s to a good week!

P.S. As you’ll note in one picture above, a 19-month old is not always super keen on something like snowshoeing. She was flailing and annoyed until she finally took a little snooze. Then, later, she had another moment of ruining the peace and quiet…I think she must have gotten cold. Just wanted to make this known, lest you think my toddler was somehow a non-crier, which is what I always tend to think when I see pictures of peoples’ happy kids on their blogs.

costo. + thoughts on bulk shopping

Breaking news: I joined Costco. Yep, bulk city. The Kirkland Empire.

IMAGE_1580

One of my dearest friends is a huge (HUGE) fan of Costco. Ever since I met her, she’s told me about all the amazing things to be found at Costco. From jeans to snowmobiles! (Ok, I might be making up that snowmobiles part, but you get the point.) Anyway, I’m pretty weirded out by giant box stores, but I’m also a huge fan of a good deal. So today, we made a trip west (to the ‘burbs, obvi) and entered the store along with 500 of our closest friends. (Honestly, wouldn’t you think 2pm on a Thursday would be an off time? Apparently not.)

Here are my initial thoughts, to be amended and contradicted in the future. I probably once claimed I’d never even join Costco, so clearly I’m a complicated lady.

Pros:

  • Organic items. Organic blueberries are a staple for us, and they’re SO EXPENSIVE everywhere else. We’d been hoping they’d be cheaper at Costco, and indeed they are. $8.99 for a 3lb bag, which is phenomenal. I also snagged a good deal on organic soymilk and organic tofu. Word on the street is you should keep your blueberries and soy products organic, so I try to do just that.
  • Free samples. Why yes, I have indeed been wondering what raw hemp seed taste like. As well as whole grain pancakes. So I’ll take one of each and dip my pancake into the hemp seeds (that was Willa’s approach).
  • Double child seats in the cart. Uh, genius. I always wondered where the second kid was supposed to go. And, for a change, Willa actually sat in the seat. It could have been the free samples, but perhaps it was also the ample room?
  • No bags. I like what they’re doing with the no bags at check out thing. But they certainly make their environmental footprint elsewhere…

Cons:

  • Bulk. Obviously this is what Costco is all about, but come on, who can drink 2 gallons of milk before it goes bad!? I guess if you have a large family, but couldn’t they sell an individual gallon somewhere in the store for those of us with just one milk-obsessed toddler? You need an extra fridge and freezer not to mention pantry to shop there. Some of the products just seem to be too bulk-y for anyone’s good. Which leads me to point number two…
  • Waste. As someone who’s borderline obsessed with thinking about where waste goes, the amount of packaging found in Costco made me incredibly anxious. I wanted to buy some dried seaweed, but why do they have to individually package every 10 slices? And the bananas need to be in a plastic bag? And those two bottles of oil need to be attached by a plastic ring AND coated in plastic wrap? I could go on an on. Costco’s target market is individual consumers (right?) so why so much packaging? Moreover, there were no recycling bins to be found and all the free sample PAPER cups were going into trash bins. Come on, Costco, don’t you know that Denver is only capturing a fraction of recyclable materials? And as a Seattle company, I expect more. And this doesn’t even consider the amount of items consumers are probably wasting once they leave the store. No one needs everything in bulk.
  • Payment options. You can apparently only pay with a debit card, or one of the credit cards that partners with Costco. So no Chase points for me. Boo.

I will definitely be back to Costco occasionally. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make up the $55 annual membership fee. Perhaps on blueberries alone. But I’d love to hear from others – what do you think about Costco or bulk shopping in general? Do we actually save, or do we just buy more?

nineteen months

IMAGE_1579

Months are passing, and Willa is quickly approaching her 2nd birthday. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Five more months. But still, now that it’s 2014, and she’s more and more a little girl every day…all parents talk about how fast it goes, how you blink and they’re grown up. It’s not that so much. For me, it’s not the speed. But rather, it’s the development. How much she learns each day. How much my love for her grows each and every day. Our little girl. She’s amazing.

IMAGE_1577

She loves transferring things from one container to another. It started with water. Then I got sick of stepping in puddles, so I gave her dried beans and pasta. After a few nights of picking up individual beans and elbows off the floor, we went back to water. It’s her favorite anyway. “Wa-wa!” she demands as she holds up an empty container.

Like all toddlers, her animal sound repertoire is rapidly expanding. Sheep was her first (“baaaa!”) but now she can do a pretty good dog, cow, pig, and cat.

Every day, she gets more vocal about her opinions and desires.

IMAGE_1578

She’s still completely obsessed with “muck” (milk).

She recently started walking down the stairs on her own. But usually she still wants to hold your hand.

Elmo has been a key part of her life over the past few months. She talks about him constantly. Thankfully, the interest seems to be waning slightly.

DSC01539

She finally has her two bottom molars.

When I go into her room in the morning, she starts jumping up and down in her crib. It’s a delightful way to start the day.

She loves her dog, “BB.” And all her people. And we love her. A whole lot.

uncle = overwhelmingly wonderful

I’ve found that the older I get, the less frequently I’m blown away by a good meal. It sometimes makes me sad: I’m only 30 and I’ve already experienced most of the good food the world has to offer!? Often, it’s my own fault: I’m so excited to try a new place, I build it up and up and up in my head and then by the time I finally get to experience it, it doesn’t live up to the place in my head. But, come on, it would be absolutely ridiculous if I was really going to claim this as a problem. There is plenty of good food and amazing restaurants out there. I just have to keep going to new places, trying new things, and improving my own cooking. Also, I’ve been working on lowering my expectations. Not in an insulting way, just ever so slightly so I don’t get disappointed.

I did this before going to Uncle. I was beyond excited to try the delicious momofuku-esque noodle house (confession: I’ve never even been to a momofuku, which is kind of absurd given my love of all things noodle and it’s role in modern food scene.). A few months ago, we had planned to go to there for dinner, but right before our babysitter arrived, Willa threw up all over me. So.

IMAGE_1439IMAGE_1438

But finally, right before the holidays, we made it to Uncle. And oh my goodness. I was blown away. So good. Beyond good. I could go back and eat there every day. Seriously.

The vibe was great. The noodle-house decor evoked a Japanese feel but also seemed right at home in LoHi. We sat at a “community table” which was really just a table for six that had one other couple at the other end. A big jar of chopsticks and house-made sriracha sat in the middle. Servers wore no sort of uniform, so it felt like they were just your friends stopping by to ask what kind of noodles they could bring your way. Our gal was super friendly and helpful but not overwhelmingly so.

IMAGE_1440

We started with the brussels sprouts. Those darn mini cabbages. They’re so ubiquitous these days but I can’t stop myself from ordering them. They’re just so, so good. And this was a stunning preparation: nước chấm, fresh herbs, peanuts, and a copious amount of dried shrimp. Piping hot, they didn’t last more than a minute at our table.

Deciding which noodle bowl to get was quite the challenge. They all looked very promising. In the end, we opted for the chili mazeman with spicy ground pork, zucchini, crispy shallot, and sichuan pepper, as well as the bibimbap with garlic steak, spicy cucumbers, arugula, soft egg, and gochujang. Rice and noodles. They were both fantastic. The steak was exceptional: well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. But I can never not love spicy ground pork over noodles. There’s really nothing more comforting.

IMAGE_1437

Perhaps what I liked most about Uncle was their willingness to put A LOT of dried shrimp on their dishes. I can imagine some restaurants opting to go light on the shrimp so as not to scare away a crowd who probably doesn’t consume that many miniature crustaceans on a daily basis. But not Uncle. They were like, BAM. Have some noodles with your dried shrimp. They didn’t care how you felt about it, because they knew they were right. The salt and fishy flavor dried shrimp adds is key.

Dearest Uncle, thank you for overwhelming me. Nice work.

(Oh, and also, we saw Joel Coen and Frances McDormand there! They somehow had a reserved table although Uncle doesn’t do reservations so that made us realize it was someone important. And then they just sat down and ordered who knows what but undoubtedly enjoyed it. Nothing like a celeb sighting to further validate your restaurant choice, right?)

the source

DSC01664

A couple of years ago in Seattle, Melrose Market opened on Capitol Hill. It was pretty darn awesome, but not that notably unique for Seattle’s food scene. Several food purveyors and restaurateurs devoted to all things artisanal opened up in a building that was formerly an auto-repair shop. Locally-focused, trendy, and so Seattle, I of course loved it. My favorite Seattle restaurant, Sitka & Spruce was one of the main features of the market (it’d relocated from its previous space by Lake Union), and Dan and I went there for our first night out after Willa was born.

Since moving to Denver, I’ve missed Seattle’s food culture. And places like Melrose Market. But Denver continues to surprise me, and months ago I was estatic to hear news of The Source. When I read about the project, I knew it’d be very similiar to Melrose. I’ve been dying to check it out for the past few months, and I finally got there the other day. My sister was still in town (which was awesome) and I thought The Source would be a fun place to spend a few hours. And thankfully, but not surprisingly, it was.

DSC01616

The Source does, indeed, have all the same fantastic traits as Melrose, but with a Denver flair. In a converted factory building– it’s BIG. There’s apparently room for 25 vendors, but the dozen or so that currently occupy the space already offer up a great deal. It was kind of an amusment park for people who love food. Coffee! Fresh bread! Meats! Beer! Kombucha! All local. All delicious. And actually, shockingly, all reasonably priced.

DSC01614DSC01606

RESTAURANTS+DRINKS
Comida Cantina
Acorn
CapRock Farm Bar
Crooked Stave

COFFEE
Boxcar Roasters

ARTISAN FOODS etc.
Mondo Market
Americanum Provisions
Proper Pour
Meathead
Beet and Yarrow

ART+GOODS
Svper Ordinary

DSC01646DSC01649^^lunch at acorn^^

DSC01662^^high five from the butcher!^^

DSC01654 DSC01673^^these photos make me so happy. it was such a lovely morning; family and food. good times. we’ll definitely be back. often.^^