hello, L.A.!

DSC00505

We headed to L.A. last month to visit Dan’s brother for a long long weekend. We had a delightful weekend packed with several fun activities. Both kids were terrified of the ocean’s waves, but they loved the beach, so we enjoyed our fair share of sand in our hair and between our toes. We hiked in Malibu, and I hit up a Dailey Method class in Venice. Combine all that with family bonding, and it was an all-around great trip. Thanks so much for hosting us, M&S!

DSC00442^^first trip with her very own suitcase. she was so excited.^^

DSC00455

DSC00462

IMG_2445^^post-flight beach walk: getting our wiggles out + thrilled to see the ocean.^^

DSC00472

DSC00475

DSC00476 ^^afternoon at santa monica beach followed by piggyback snoozes and smoothies.^^

DSC00466

DSC00458^^tree pictures: can’t stop. won’t stop.^^

IMG_2651

IMG_2658^^venice, i like you. after taking class at the dailey method there, a teacher recommended i try the bulletproof coffee at another kind of sunrise. it did not disappoint.^^

DSC00494^^ICYMI: homemade fries are AMAZING. look at cam salivating.^^

IMG_2457

DSC00522^^in this moment, at venice beach, we learned that willa can write her name!^^

DSC00524

DSC00527^^i was so excited to check out salt & straw since it’s kinda a big deal on the national artisanal ice cream stage (that’s a thing, right?) and i’d never made it to the portland location. venice to the rescue. i ordered a kids’ size, per usual, but it was a legit small portion, so i had to indulge and order a second flavor. totally worth it.^^

IMG_2672

IMG_2680^^dan and i snuck out for a late night dinner at cassia in santa monica. it calls itself a southeast asian brasserie. i love the things restaurants come up with! (seriously, i do.) to me, it had a definite LA vibe. luckily i’d packed one fancy outfit, ha! the food was really good and the martini i had was fantastic (“gin, imbue vermouth, blanc vermouth, lemongrass tincture, orange bitters, smoked quail egg” – the quail egg scared me at first, but it was just on a toothpick like an olive would be, and it was delicious!). the whole grilled sea bass was the best thing we ordered. fresh herbs!^^

DSC00566

DSC00568

DSC00575^^there is an awesome playground at tongva park in santa monica. when we walked by it the first time, the kids were asleep, but we knew we had to go back. indeed, they loved playing there. there was also a water feature for hotter days. wish we had more of those in denver!^^

IMG_2466

DSC00581

DSC00593

IMG_2684^^beautiful, BEAUTIFUL hike in malibu to round out our trip.^^

Advertisements

christmas highlights

DSC06367

Finally: stockings for all members of the family!

Willa’s excitement after the last small ornament was velcroed to our new-this-year advent tree. Meaning: Christmas tomorrow!

DSC06083

Walking down the street on Christmas Eve morning to hear the Christmas carolers, followed by a stop at the park to enjoy the beautiful weather.

DSC06102

Willa making a gingerbread house with Grandpa and Barbara.

DSC06113

This shrimp dish for Christmas Eve dinner. With delicious wine.

DSC06434

Wearing Cameron in the Solly wrap amidst the festivities.

DSC06133

Watching Claymation Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve and then reading our special pop-up version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

DSC06157

Willa’s excitement about leaving out cookies, carrots, and eggnog for Santa. And when she sneaked upstairs on Christmas morning to see if he’d eaten the cookies. She was supposed to be taking her stocking stuffer bath toy to her bathroom, but she didn’t skip the change to run up one more level to the tree to check things out.

DSC06235

Eggnog lattes with Morning Fresh farms nog from Marczyk Fine Foods.

Forgetting to send some of the stocking presents I’d bought for my sister. Baby brain?

DSC06286

The $13 used train set I found at Goodwill in November. Divided into three boxes from Santa, it was just as awesome of a gift as I’d hoped it’d be.

Running with Dan on Christmas day. Just the two of us. (And feeling bad we forgot to take Bryna with us.)

My Little Pony lip balms from the dollar store = Willa’s favorite gift on Christmas day.

DSC06339

Matching PJs (+ sibling love!?).

DSC06370

So many generous, thoughtful gifts. For Willa: Imaginets, books, an ice cream scoop set, Duplo Legos, clothes, new Keens, a Take-A-Part Airplane, Dot-a-Dot markers, a modern sock monkey, and more…

Afternoon eggnogs with whiskey.

Santa bringing Willa Frozen: She called him (obviously) last week to ask for it, and after Wal-Mart didn’t have the Blu-Ray version, we ordered it in the nick of time from Amazon. We then forgot to put it under the tree because it was so small, but we snuck it upstairs as the unwrapping was coming to an end. As she opened it, she quietly and thoughtfully said, “He remembered.” Who knows if she’ll remember, but we definitely will!

Snow on Christmas day.

DSC06407

Five pounds of beef tenderloin, also from Marczyk. Much of it went into the freezer, but the portion we had for dinner was divine. I even had seconds!

DSC06326

Cameron sleeping 8.5 hours Christmas night. Apparently the festivities wore him out!

“ready” for christmas

A common greeting this past week or two seems to be, “So, are you ready for Christmas/the holidays?”

It’s a perfectly friendly, well-meaning question. Nevertheless, I am not sure how to answer. What does “ready” mean exactly? Emotionally prepared? Gifts bought? Wrapped? Food planned? Centerpeice arranged? Even writing those all out makes me feel a bit overwhelmed…

There’s no way around it; a lot of “work” goes into celebrating holidays. I use quotation marks, because is buying and wrapping gifts really work? Not so much. But yet, it is. Work in the sense that it takes effort and organization. I go back and forth: on the one hand, I think it’s important to keep things low-stress. But at the same time, I want both us and our children to experience special holiday traditions, and those don’t just create themselves.

The past several years since I’ve been married, I haven’t gotten around to making our Christmas holidays as tradition-heavy as I would like. I always have grand plans, but never get to many of them. Somehow though, this year, we managed to make lot of things happen, despite having a new baby. I think time took care of things…the past couple of years Willa hasn’t been old enough to participate much in traditions, but this year she has been so excited about everything.

Here are some pictures of our holiday activities so far. And once I get my wrapping done, I’ll be officially ready for Christmas!

DSC05852

DSC05854^^spinach balls! a christmas tradition since i was little, and i’m so excited willa enjoyed eating a few this year!^^

DSC05879

DSC05863

DSC05889^^tree decorating! i missed out on most of the ornament hanging this year because i was on the couch breastfeeding, but willa did a great job with a little help from her dad. our tree is from whole foods again this year, and i think it looks good!^^

DSC05905

DSC05907

DSC05929

DSC05948^^many hours have been spent making three batches of cookies (sugar + gingerbread). the first batch of sugar cookies had natural food coloring for the frosting. tasty, but not pretty (in the photo above, willa’s attempting to make green. puke green, i suppose?). willa’s favorite part is licking anything she can get her hands on. she’s not as interested in eating the finished product, but she is very excited to leave some out for santa!^^

DSC06004

DSC05986

DSC05999

DSC06018^^last saturday, we rode the bus downtown for a family adventure. we’d thought about checking out the carousel at denver pavilions, but decided to first go to union station for a hot chocolate. union station was so festive that it ended up being our only stop before dinner. we had hot drinks and cake pops from pigtrain coffee, which we enjoyed by the huge christmas tree. santa ended up being there and willa was initially really excited to see him, but as soon as it was her turn she went and hid behind a chair. i don’t really blame her! he scared me a little too (he wanted to sneak up on her in her hiding place so i could get a picture? and when i declined to that plan, he suggested “photo bombing” via a different angle? chill out, santa!) after a quick dinner at illegal pete’s, we took the bus home after dark and admired the christmas lights along the way.^^

buchi cubano café

Given the recent change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, it seems like a fitting time to talk about Cuban sandwiches! Or, perhaps, it’s a totally inappropriate time? Either way, it’s happening. We went to Buchi Cubano Café recently, and I can’t stop thinking about when I can go back again. Cuban coffee! Pressed sandwiches! Delicious!

DSC05793

DSC05819

My friend Alli was visiting to meet Cameron, and one night we decided to be super wild and stay up late (10pm) watching the movie Chef. I’d remembered hearing great things about the film, and was really excited to see it. Turns out, the buzz was mostly about the stellar cast and the big-name foodies behind the scenes. It was a fun watch, with especially good music, but really the only takeaway we all had was: we needed a Cuban sandwich STAT. We immediately hatched a plan to walk to Buchi the next morning.

DSC05797

DSC05812

The weather was relatively mild for December, and given that we had our dog and expensive stroller in tow, we decided to sit outside. It took a few minutes to get service because they were so packed, but the server did not forget about us. She apologetically rushed outside with waters and menus, and then promptly returned to take our order. We all, except Willa, decided to get the Cuban Mix: Cuban roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, onions and mustard. Willa went for the side of beans and rice, obvi.

DSC05821

DSC05814

They have rich Cuban coffee available with any amount of milk you desire. I had the café con leche this time, but in the past I’ve greatly enjoyed a cortado. Interestingly, they use powdered milk (I found this out when I tried to order a milk for W). I’m not enough of a Cuban coffee expert to know whether or not that’s typical (it probably is, I’d guess?) but it’s delicious.

Walking there and back made me feel justified in having devoured my entire sandwich. Those with more self-control might be satisfied to share one.

DSC05792

I’ll be back to Buchi soon for sure, but right now I’m going to go make an espresso with eggnog to satisfy my sweet coffee cravings…

a donut desert in denver

When we moved to Denver, I knew I would miss so much about the city of Seattle. Not so much the rain and the grey (although I actually do really miss that sometimes!) but lots of other things. One thing I didn’t anticipate missing, however, was donuts. Artisan donuts. To get even more specific, vegan donuts. Basically, Mighty-O Donuts.

Before moving to Seattle, I’d always liked a sweet baked good, but I’d never really dabbled in the donut scene beyond a Dunkin’ Donut or a Krispy Kreme (why so much alliteration in the donut world, btw?). But on a cool, rainy, Seattle morning, there’s really nothing like a donut and a coffee to get you going. Mighty-O is where all my loyalties lie, but the city’s other big purveyor, Top Pot, is pretty much just as delicious. We’d frequently stop by one or the other for donuts on our way to a hike or a walk or a ski trip.

IMAGE_3194B283-2659-42B7-B374-6270C61D7370IMAGE_BC0BE422-14AB-4408-BE37-D7361163CDBD

Then we moved to Denver. A donut desert. There were great restaurants to be enjoyed, craft beers galore, and sufficiently (although not exceptionally) delicious cupcakes. But where could a girl get a donut? No where, it seemed. I asked around, and most people didn’t even understand my need for a fancy round treat.

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking (Voodoo!). There are exceptions to this complaint. Mighty-O sells their donuts in a few Whole Foods. (Not all of them though, so it took a lot of asking and hunting. Cherry Creek is your best bet.) Voodoo Doughnuts opened on Colfax earlier this year. And another place joined the donut game as well: Glazed and Confuzed. It’s a bit of a haul from our ‘hood, but we made the trek last weekend to see what they were serving up.

IMAGE_3210IMAGE_3204

Unfortunately, despite the excitement shown in the above photo, I’m still left missing “Seattle-style” donuts. I’m hard to please, I guess. Voodoo, Glazed and Confuzed, and others certainly make delicious donuts. But here’s why I’m still not satisfied:

1. High-quality ingredients vs. Wow Factor
The craziest donut you’ll find at Mighty-O is something like chocolate raspberry. They make delicious and unique flavors, but they’re all pretty tame. French Toast is one of their standbys. This means whatever you choose for your breakfast treat will be indulgent and sweet, but not overly so. You (most likely) won’t feel ill. I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but because Mighty-O uses only vegan (+ non-GMO) ingredients, their donuts are never going to be as over the top as Voodoo’s. Same goes for Top Pot. Their donut case has shades of browns and beiges. Not so much a rainbow. And that’s just fine with me.

2. Coffee. Maybe this is another Seattle vs. Denver thing, but both Mighty-O and Top Pot offer stellar coffee alongside their donuts. (I’m talking about a full-service espresso bar that uses locally roasted beans. Not a thermos with some random variety drip.) It seems like a no-brainer. Does anything go better with a donut than coffee?

3. Cake vs. Yeasted
Which type is your favorite? I’m with cake, all the way. And that’s what Mighty-O and Top Pot do well. They usually have a couple yeasted options, but not too many. Voodoo and Glazed and Confuzed on the other hand, offer up several yeasted varieties.

4. Lines. This is where only Voodoo fails. I don’t even want to get started because I might not be able to stop. I have a serious problem with the omnipresence of the line outside all (most?) of their stores. Sure, there’s a long wait when something new and exciting opens. But months and months later, the line is just evidence that you’re not doing something right. You need a more visible menu! And perhaps you should carry a few less varieties at a time so people can order more quickly! Or staff some more people!

Ok. I have to cut myself off. From this post, that is, not from continuing to demand what I think is a better donut. It must be coming? It exists in so many cities. Come on, Denver, make me proud.

campers

I like to think of myself as a camper. You know, someone who camps. Like a girl scout. But not. A camper. Growing up near the Adirondacks, my family camped a lot. I also went to summer camp for almost 10 years. I can build a fire and set up a tent. I have some mean canoe skills too.

But, truth be told, I haven’t been camping in probably three years. We went a few times in Washington, but since Willa was born, we’ve been scared. Sharing a hotel room with her is daunting enough, let alone a tent. Until recently, I just didn’t really understand how it would work. Our tent is a backpacking 2-person tent that barely fits the two of us and our dog. As I’ve mentioned, Willa is a great sleeper in a crib of some sort, but she’s never been much into the family bed idea. Where would she sleep? Squished between the sleeping bags and Bryna? That had to be a suffocation hazard, no?

DSC04191

But then a friend of mine organized a camping trip for a group of us and our littles, who are all about the same age. It seemed like the perfect chance to take the plunge! So, last weekend, we all headed up to a campsite near Pine Junction. Aside from the fact I ended up insanely exhausted the next day, the trip was a huge success! Much fun had by all. The city kids got nice and dirty, we swam in a (natural!) lake, and indulged in campfire cones after the littles went to bed. And apparently, I was really overthinking (or underthinking?) the sleeping situation. All we really needed was a tent big enough for a travel crib.

DSC04241

It all went so well that I’ve been feeling really sad we can’t get back the last two years of no camping trips and go a few more times. But there’s always the future, right? More family camping trips! We just need to invest in an awesome “family tent” like the one our friends lent us. And some type of mattress pad! (Can I still call myself “a camper” if I don’t sleep on the rock-hard ground? Maybe just for use when pregnant? Oconto ladies, what do you think?)

DSC04199DSC04214^^we drove to nearby wellington lake for an afternoon swim/play in the water. i wasn’t wearing my bathing suit but i still couldn’t resist a dip in the inviting lake. it was so refreshing! (plus we had to get our money’s worth because they charge a steep $5 per person and $5 per vehicle to get in!)^^

DSC04266DSC04285DSC04281^^i’d been saving this nescafé gold (straight from taiwan thanks to my dear friend bai) for a special occasion. and it totally hit the spot in the fresh air of the early morning. milk and sugar already mixed in? yes please!^^

DSC04292^^future “camper”!?^^

Huge thanks to NM for organizing everything, GB and SL for being awesome camping companions, MH for lending the tent, and RKGB for the delightful coffee hook-up!

rosenberg’s bagels + delicatessen

IMAGE_3003

I wouldn’t describe myself as a bagel lover. Donuts? Yes! But bagels? They’re good, sure. Growing up I loved having a bagel that my dad had picked up at the local bagel shop. When I was in college at Middlebury, nothing compared to a bagel egger sandwich at the Middlebury Bagel Deli. So good.

But then we moved to Seattle, and bagels were a joke. So bad. No one in Seattle could make a decent bagel. Even the places that were rumored to be good were just mediocre. Sure, it too bad, but I was never bagel-obsessed enough to really mourn the loss. I just moved on with life, bagel-free.

And yet, when I heard that some smart fellow (Josh Pollack) was opening up a new bagel shop in Denver and engineering the mineral content of the water to make perfect New York style bagels, I was indeed intrigued.

IMAGE_2993

We finally got to Rosenberg’s last Sunday, and although the outside looked a little unpromising (we came in the back entrance off 26th and there isn’t yet any signage), there was a long line at 9:30am. Things moved pretty quickly, and we got to the front of the 20-some person line in 10-15 minutes. Most people were opting to take their orders to go, so there was ample seating. The space was super cool without being overly trendy. Pollack apparently wanted to restore the art-deco history of the space, and he has definitely achieved that with just a few modern touches.

IMAGE_2995IMAGE_2998

The bagels were indeed perfect. Crispy on the outside but doughy and appropriately chewy on the inside. The fish options on the menu looked fantastic (salmon galore! cod! trout! hand-cut!), but we opted for eggs. I got one of their specialties, “The Frenchie” (think French toast meets egg sandwich), while Dan tried egg, bacon, and cheddar on a poppyseed bagel. It was great to try something unique, but I ultimately prefered the basic egg sandwich. It was just done so well. Most importantly, the bacon was the perfect crispness so you could take bites. There’s nothing worse than bacon that slides off a sandwich on the first bite, right?

IMAGE_2997

They had a fancypants espresso machine whipping up fantastic drinks (Boxcar Roasters coffee, I think? Shoot. I can’t remember for sure.), and I enjoyed an iced latte (small complaint: no liquid sweetener besides honey which isn’t super cold-water soluble!). Another food trend observation: lots of people were drinking cold brew bottled coffee from the fridge case, which seems like an odd choice to me when you’re in a place that has an espresso bar…I do think it’s delicious and a great option when there isn’t one, but…?

Anyway. In case there was any confusion, the verdict on Rosenberg’s is: go now! I cannot wait to go again. Who knew how much I was missing bagels?