drink up :: new york sour

Friends! It’s Friday night. Cheers?

I’m currently drinking some red wine, but often I like to make things a bit more spicy. And you know who else fancies a fancy drink? My mom. In recent years, she’s upped her cocktail game and makes a mean one herself.

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Case in point: the New York Sour.

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Deb’s New York Sour

2oz bourbon
1oz lemon juice
½-1oz simple syrup
½-1oz fruity red wine (such as Malbec or Shiraz)
regular ice cubes + large ice cubes for each drink

1. Shake bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker (or jar!).

2. Pour over large ice cube.

3. Slowly pour red wine onto other ingredients in the glass, using a spoon as a barrier to slow the flow and to keep the wine at the top.

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hello, L.A.!

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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.^^

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

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

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

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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.^^

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

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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.^^

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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!^^

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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!^^

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

fathers’ days

It’s been a busy month. A festive month. A really good month.

My mom was here on her birthday. Then came Willa’s birthday! And then, last weekend, thanks to a variety of forces coming together, my family was all in town for Father’s Day. We did it up on Saturday and Sunday with a baseball game, a brewery trip, dinner at our favorite Malaysian restaurant, and lots of laughs.

When you don’t live in the same place as family, the time they take to come visit is so special. It can sometimes be overwhelming to pack a lot in to a short time, but the memories we make are something I truly cherish. As Willa’s getting older and understanding more, I hope she, too, forms her own memories that she can hang on to. I know she will. (It seems unlikely this blog will be around for her to look back on…but who knows where the future internet will go?) She has such a wonderful time with the family and friends who come to visit, but she’s just now starting to to comprehend that they have to leave. It’s hard when good times come to an end. Life lessons, I suppose?

DSC07733^^parents!^^

DSC07745^^future uncle jakob is an amazing child/toddler/baby holder (jackpot!). here he is showing willa the baseball stadium.^^

DSC07764^^ball parks offer overpriced beverages for everyone.^^

DSC07802^^love this shot.^^

DSC07801^^willa’s working on her photography skillz.^^

DSC07821^^waiting on the bus. <3^^

DSC07847^^beer drinking is a good thing to do on father’s day, no?^^

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DSC07881^^me and my men.^^

IMG_0150^^lots of fun street art near renegade.^^

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IMG_0155^^since there wasn’t a food truck at the brewery, we decided to head to one of our all-time favorite eateries: makan malaysian cafe. it’s an awesome place to be any day of the week, but on sundays they have “family dinner” options that give you a sampling of several dishes. i’m always a fan of sharing, but it’s also definitely the way to go for people unfamiliar with malaysian food.^^

IMG_0154^^willa loved the family-style dining as well. she tried more than usual, including a fish ball. this was supposed to be a fist bump to celebrate, but it turned into some kind of fist bumb cheers combo.^^

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IMG_0168^^we rounded out the weekend by waiting in the long line at little man for way too much ice cream. always a good choice. winning! (but seriously, their “single” is about 6 scoops of ice cream. they should revisit their size names.)^^

Huge thanks to everyone involved for such a fun weekend. xo!

a happy birthday brunch for our three year old!

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Willa turned three last week!

So far, I’m not sure what to make of this age. It’s so hot and cold. Up and down. She’s the cutest little girl EVER and then moments later she is so naughty. But I know it’s all part of her development, and I’m doing my best to take deep breaths and be patient and supportive as she’s learning.

She’s working on being a big sister. She loves her little brother and enjoys having him around. She will say, “Hi little buddy!” when he wakes up from a nap, and if he’s fussing, she’ll say, “It’s ok Cameron!” and then tell him something about what’s going on. She has trouble sharing her toys with him. She often grabs things away from him. But she’ll occasionally bring him a toy to play with, and she loves to share her food with him while they’re at the table eating.

My favorite thing about Willa at this stage are our conversations. She loves to ask me questions. Lately we’ve been talking a lot about “workers” and what they build. She started with, “Mama, did workers build our house?” And now she asks if workers have built other things. The other day we were driving somewhere and she asked me to explain how the workers built our car. You can feel her mind working.

She remembers details and events of things we did so long ago. I am always surprised when she reminds me of them weeks or months later. She can carry on a conversation so well. It blows me away. She is getting so tall and so smart. I feel proud of the beautiful and inquisitive little girl she is growing into. She challenges and delights me each day.

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Her birthday was a wonderful day! We were lucky to have family in town to celebrate and we threw a little brunch shindig with friends, donuts, cake, and an inflatable pink picture frame (Is that what we call it? No idea. But it was fun!).

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DSC07659^^”Mango cake!” For weeks before her birthday, Willa was telling everyone that she was going to have a mango cake. We weren’t sure exactly what a mango cake was, but opted for vanilla cake with mango custard in the middle and buttercream frosting. It was delicious. Willa might have ruined her appetite with donuts, but I certainly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the pastry chef! ;)^^

DSC07662-001^^Cam slept for the first half of the party, but woke up and put on his party pants. He tried some snacks and was super excited to meet his Uncle Mike!^^

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DSC07549-001^^An inflatable pink frame = possibly the best $1.99 I’ve ever spent at Goodwill.^^

a week and a brunch with nana

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. We were delighted to be able to spend the day with her for the second year in a row, even though she lives across the country. She was here the past week and we had such a nice time spending time with her. And needless to say, we were overjoyed and so thankful for her help with the little ones. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have another person around.

To celebrate her birthday and the end of a great week, we went to brunch at Block & Larder. The restaurant opened late last year and has become our go-to for going out without kids. It’s a fun place to enjoy just a drink and a snack at the bar, but they have a very extensive menu focused on in-house butchery so you can certainly get a hearty meal.

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They started offering brunch more recently, and it seemed like a place nice enough to celebrate a birthday but not too too nice to take the littles. It was indeed a great place for a family brunch. The only thing that worked against us was that when we got there at 10:45 there was only one other table filled. So any noise made by a small person echoed throughout the whole place. But once we were finishing up, closer to noon, a few more groups had come in, including 2 other babies.

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The brunch menu was solid and more straightforward than their dinner fare; 12 entrée options and just a few sides. And drinks of course. We went with the Oyster Rockefeller Benedict and the Breakfast Bread Pudding. We don’t go out to brunch too often, but when we do we almost always opt for one savory dish and one sweet item for our “breakfast dessert.”

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Cam was uncharacteristically crabby when we first sat down, but once the food arrived his mood did a 180. He was delighted to eat eggs and an English muffin. My mood improved too, actually.The bread pudding was decadent and absolutely delicious. The benedict had great flavors, but I’d say they were a bit stingy on the oysters. (We had two at the table; one had 4 oysters and the other had just 3.) I had a peach bourbon bellini which was just the right amount of sweet. It could have been a touch colder…or maybe I should have finished it faster? But all in all, it was a great brunch. Good food, company, and atmosphere. All the right ingredients.

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DSC07405Happy Birthday Mom! We love you!

“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!

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

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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!^^

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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!^^

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 night out at union station

After all our travel in August, we are trying to settle back in at home and “get ready” for our baby boy who is slated to arrive sometime around Halloween. There’s painting to do, a few furniture pieces to buy, and lots of other misc tasks we “need” to get done.

Also high on the priority list is squeezing in a few nights out. Last weekend, we headed to Union Station to check it out. If you live in Denver, you know exactly what I’m talking about, but for those of you from elsewhere: the historic downtown railway station re-opened in July 2014 after many years of redevelopment. The “new” station is a hub for bus, train, and light rail lines, but also includes several restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. There’s a great article on the project here.

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We didn’t have a reservation anywhere for dinner, but of course wanted to first give Stoic & Genuine a try.  It’s opening earlier this summer was arguably one of the “most anticipated” in Denver in a while, and seeing what “the best” fresh seafood in a land locked state tastes like seemed like something we needed to do (although, given my pregnant state, it wasn’t exactly the best time to go to a seafood place, but oh well).

We lucked out and right away got two seats at the bar, which gave us a chance to taste the food and check out the scene, although perhaps not the same experience in terms of service. The drinks and food were indeed impressive, but our service was a bit lacking. The bartender helping us seemed a bit aloof and when we asked a few questions about the menu the answers we received were short and perhaps a tad condescending. But nevermind that tiny complaint. The food was stellar! To start, I had the grilled sardine with lemon pureé, fennel, and pinenuts. It was quite a generous amount of fish for $6, and the grill and seasoning was perfect. I also had one of their specials: a dungeness crab and mango salad which was phenomenal. It was pricier ($17) but totally worth it. Dan tried some west coast oysters which didn’t disappoint (we love you Puget Sound) and a tuna crudo.

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The seafood was indeed quite fresh. (Although we did take a few seconds to acknowledge the environmentally unconscious nature of our eating choices that night.) The preparation was impeccable. The menu was a bit difficult to take in: they had three different pieces of paper for us to read, which seemed a bit excessive. There were also “sauces” listed on the menu without prices nor guidance on how to apply them to the dishes (this was one question our serve didn’t/couldn’t answer well). Also of note, the clientele seemed a notch fancier than what I typically see out and about at Denver’s trendiest restaurants. Perhaps that’s the Union Station vibe?

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The station itself was definitely happenin’. In the main terminal is the Terminal Bar, which has seating inside, on a patio, and also offers drinks “to go” that you can then sip while sitting in the station’s main lounge. The grand hall is outfitted with new, vintage-style furniture which I can only presume is on point for a certain chosen decade. There are lots of cozy sitting areas, and in the center there are two shufflepuck tables that apparently you can play for free. Fun!

Before we left, we hit up Milkbox Ice Creamery for some salted oreo (they serve Little Man) and enjoyed the outdoor fountains. It was a beautiful summer night.

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I was so happy we finally had a chance go check out the scene down there (always a bit late to the party these days). In the station itself, you can easily see that the redevelopment project has resulted in a space that’s trendy and new, while preserving the historic character of the building. As for actual transportation, I’ve read that the number of passengers coming and going on bus, light rail, and train are increasing every month. But still, being there on a Saturday night, I couldn’t help but feel slightly odd as I saw people like me drinking martinis on wooden benches who had likely driven there and parked in a parking garage (like me also, although we found a street spot for cheaper!). The nature of cities and transit have unquestionably changed so much in the last fifty years, and although we’re trying to bring it back, it often feels like an uphill battle. Sure, people will come for a drink and a great dinner, but will they stop to have a drink before they get on the bus or train hope? Will I? I hope so.

fourth of july weekend!

The past two July 4th holidays in Denver, I realized something: most people leave town. If ever there was a “let’s all go to the mountains” weekend, this one must take the cake. The streets are deserted; many restaurants close for “vacation.” It’s a bit weird, but at the same time, kind of wonderful. We went to the pool on the 4th, and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We snagged a last minute dinner reservation at a place we wouldn’t usually be able to book.

However, come late night on the 4th, things didn’t seem quite so quiet. Firework booms came from every direction until the wee hours of the morning. As if to say, “Don’t worry! We’re all still here! Happy 4th of July!”

Happy 4th, indeed.

DSC03828DSC03832DSC03855^^cherry pie! dan made one around this time last year, and we decided it’d be a solid 4th of july tradition. he used about 1/3 tart cherries from the tree he planted last summer, and the rest were frozen ones from costco. we greatly enjoyed eating it all weekend long. with bourbon vanilla ice cream from brooklyn of course.^^

IMAGE_2647 IMAGE_2649^^between thunderstorms we biked to the neighborhood pool for willa’s continued swim lessons. ok, that’s not true at all. we just let her do whatever she’s comfortable with but it’s exciting to watch as each time she gets more and more interested in the “big kids’ pool.”^^

IMAGE_2809IMAGE_2815IMAGE_2813^^a virgin mule / date night dinner @ lower48^^

IMAGE_2837^^all dressed up for lunch out with friends.^^

IMAGE_2830^^ending the weekend with a splash (pad)!^^

makan malaysian cafe

I found a happy place on Saturday. A place that made me giddy. I place I wanted to stay awhile. A place I plan to go back to many, many times in the future.

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Dan and I were able to go out for dinner just the two of us for the first time in a long while. Life has been pretty full lately, and we hadn’t been out on a “date” in over a month.

While looking for available reservation times on OpenTable, I saw a listing for Makan Malaysian Cafe. I’d never heard of it, so immediately I checked the reviews. (How did I miss a Malaysian restaurant open almost 2 years!? Shame on me!) People had great things to say, so we obviously had to try it. It’s down on South Pearl street, near Park Burger, in a strip of small restaurants and shops interspersed with houses. A friendly waitress and modern Ikea and Asian decor welcomed us into to the mostly empty restaurant. We were seated next to the open kitchen on one side, and a cheery lime green wall on the other.

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We could not decide what to order. The menu was packed with all the most well-known Malaysian dishes. From Char Kuih Tiao to Mee Siam and Roti Canai, they had it all. We were tempted by the $60 for 2 tasting menu, but ultimately decided against it.

Each dish was prepared in a wok just a few feet away, and then promptly brought to our table. It was homestyle food in the best possible way. Everything was piping hot and completely fresh. And each dish was cooked all at once — no flavorless protein thrown in at the last minute. Not only were all our dishes superb, but everything that came out to the other tables made me envious. Why didn’t we order that!? 

DSC03032^^popiah appetizer.^^

DSC03034^^nasi goreng with tofu // char kuih tiao^^

DSC03037^^sambal green beans.^^

It wasn’t just us loving the food. The restaurant filled up from 6:30 on, and everyone around us was raving about their dishes. A regular next to us talked about how he’d come every Sunday since back when the owner just had a cart at the farmers’ market. This place is good.

I was most impressed with the fact the menu didn’t include any dishes to appease an American audience. Every dish on there is something I’d seen served in Malaysia. The menu does have long descriptions of each dish, so no experience with Malaysian food is necessary. But good luck trying to decide between all the great options! And the drink menu was enticing too: Australian-style coffees and Malaysian Tea Tarik as well as wine and beer. This would be a great brunch place. Plus they have a happy hour menu where you can get “mini” versions of dishes like Laksa. Must go back for that, too.

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Also! If you sign up for their “club,” you get a card that give you 10% of everything for a year! No restrictions.

Happy place.