Friday, February 28, 2014

random thoughts

Some random thoughts for this Friday morning:

I've been listening to Beck's new album Morning Phase a lot over the past few days - I love how dreamy it is. 

Years ago, my father recommended that I read John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman. I finally got around to it and it was absolutely terrific. Now that I've finished, I'm re-reading T.H. White's The Once and Future King.

I desperately need a haircut. I've been considering a cropped look, maybe something like this. Feeling indecisive.

And finally, it's our five year (!) anniversary tomorrow. We haven't made any big plans but we'll hopefully going for a hike of some sort during the day - so long as it's not raining - and then I'll be making dinner (and dessert). If I have anything to do with it, there'll also be some champagne.

Happy weekend.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

the saguaro hotel, palm springs

When I found out that we'd be staying at the Saguaro in Palm Springs while visiting Joshua Tree, I was secretly really excited. I'd seen pictures of the candy-colored hotel and was curious to see it in person.

My room had been painted a vibrant shade of magenta with red accent walls and there were a few cute little touches - a vintage camera, a pile of books on design. I ended up hanging out at the bar for a while with my team, drinking palomas and playing Cards Against Humanity. I fell into bed around 11:45 and slept better than I have in ages.

So the Saguaro did not disappoint. The only shame is that we weren't there long enough for me to lounge by the pool. How clever to turn an otherwise rather ordinary hotel into something so memorable. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

joshua tree

I spent the last two days in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs on a sort of field trip. Since it was a sort of work trip, I won't go into details but I did have the chance to hike around and take some photos when I was there.

Last time I was in Joshua Tree in 2007, I didn't make it to see the cholla cactus garden, so that was particularly exciting. The cacti look so soft and fuzzy but I can confirm that they are in fact quite prickly - I managed to throw my hand into one by mistake.

We also drove out along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea, out in the open desert. It was hot and windy and quiet.

A really interesting and often beautiful trip but it left me completely exhausted. Back tomorrow with some pictures from Palm Springs.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

this new adventure

My parents moved to San Francisco last weekend. It all happened pretty quickly - the move wasn't even on the radar a few months ago - but now they're here, settling into an apartment near Dolores Park. On Friday, I drove up for a lovely dinner fixed by my mother. Afterwards, we curled up on the couch to watch Manhattan. In the morning, my mother and I woke up early and walked to Tartine for coffee and pastries (we shared a delicious, sugar sprinkled morning bun). It was a gorgeous sunny day so we spent most of it ambling around the neighborhood, checking out a few open houses, walking through Duboce Park, getting scoops of ice cream at Bi-Right, and day-dreaming about all the things we'll be able to do now that we're all in the same place. In the evening, Daniel came over and we all went for dinner at Heirloom. I love that my parents are diving into this new adventure with such gusto.

My weekend visit reminded me of the very best and the very worst parts of living in the city. There's the wonderful food, the Victorian apartments, the people watching, the window shopping and the general liveliness of the city. There's also the nightmare of parking, the sky-high rents, the trash in the streets, and the screaming of sirens at 3am. I'm feeling particularly aware of all of these things because I've given up my lease at Stanford and am about to embark upon an apartment search of my own. March is going to be an interesting month.

I'm headed to Joshua Tree tomorrow for a couple of days. Should be fun and I'm hoping for good weather so I can take a few pictures. Back soon.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

up to tahoe

Daniel and I took Friday off and drove up to Tahoe. Though the snow was still very thin - so much so that I couldn't justify paying for a ski pass - we had a lovely time hiking around, playing card games, hot tubbing, sitting by the fire, and sampling lots of beer. We stayed with our friend Kinzie at her cabin which was just off of the beach and on our strolls, I experimented a bit more with my new camera lens. I'm loving it. 

I wish we could have stayed longer but Stanford doesn't give us Presidents' Day off (boooo) so I'm back in Palo Alto getting ready for a busy week. Hope everyone else enjoys a fun, relaxed long weekend.

Monday, February 10, 2014

april bloomfield's english porridge

After my lovely dinner at Tosca over the weekend, I thought it'd be fun to try out a recipe from April Bloomfield, albeit for something a bit more austere than what I sampled at the restaurant. I've been curious about Ms. Bloomfield's recipe for porridge for a while - I am one of those people who has to have breakfast, every morning, within 30 minutes or so of waking up, so after reading a number of rave reviews of this humble breakfast cereal, I thought it'd be good to try it out.

The recipe calls for equal parts rolled oats and steel cut oats, cooked in a combination of milk and water with a hefty dose of salt. I stood over the stove, yawning and stirring, for about twenty minutes and then, as per the recipe, added a bit of brown sugar to the pot and spooned it out into my bowl. My first thought was, wow, this is really salty. It IS really salty - there's a teaspoon and a half of Maldon sea salt in the recipe. I love salty foods but the next time I make this, I think I'll probably dial the salt back by 1/3. Because I definitely will make this again. The texture is silky but has some chew to it, courtesy of the steel cut oats. I used 1% milk rather than the whole milk that was called for in the recipe because it's what I had on hand and having made it that way, I don't think I'd change it - the recipe still had a pleasant, creamy taste and was perhaps a bit less heavy. This is an oatmeal that really needs no accompaniment, save a splash of cold milk and a sprinkling of brown sugar, making for a warm, satisfying breakfast that I'm already excited to eat again and again.

April Bloomfield's English Porridge
Makes 2 ample servings

1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cups steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt (but as I mentioned above, I'd take this down a bit)
2 tbsp brown sugar.

Bring the milk and the water to a slow simmer in a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot then add the oats and the salt. Stir frequently for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar. Spoon into a warm bowl and add a splash of cold milk and a big pinch of brown sugar on top. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

saturday night, tosca cafe

Yesterday evening, I put on a party dress and braved the stormy weather to meet some girlfriends for dinner at the newly reopened Tosca in North Beach. The place was positively humming with energy and even though the wait for a table was on the long side, it was completely worth it. We sampled a few cocktails and shared a number of small plates, from crispy pig tails to lumaconi with lemon cream and breadcrumbs. Everything was just terrific. It was such a lovely blend of the city past and present. San Francisco, I love you.

Anyway, I had a splendid (if very damp) weekend. Hope you did too!

Illustration by Konstanti Kakanias for The New York Times Magazine

Thursday, February 6, 2014

warm pumpkin and chickpea salad with tahini

I still haven't quite figured out my feelings with regards to tahini.

It's one of those things I want to like but find myself struggling with when I try it - the flavor can be oddly pasty and bitter. Anyway, it's an ingredient that comes up fairly often in vegetarian recipes of a certain ilk and though I've avoided it ever since making a highly disappointing tahini salad dressing a few years back, I saw a recipe for warm squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing recently that got me interested in checking it out again.

The salad was pretty basic - roasted squash (I used pumpkin) with some spices (I used za'atar) tossed with chickpeas, chopped red onion, some fresh herbs (I used parsley), and a dressing made of tahini paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and water. After whisking the dressing together and tasting it, I was disappointed. It wasn't horrible but I didn't love it. It was, as I had feared it would be, somewhat bitter. But I decided to soldier on and made the salad, stirring the tahini dressing in with the vegetables and then adding a poached egg and a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top for good measure. 

And it was great. The bitterness of the tahini was balanced out by some of the natural starchiness of the pumpkin and the richness of the egg. The paprika didn't hurt either. I like bitter foods but find that I usually want to pair them with rich foods. The point isn't to mask the bitterness but rather to balance it out in some way. So for me, the addition of the poached egg brought the salad together and made for a lovely rainy-day lunch. 

*Original recipe found here (hardly a surprise, I know) but I made a number of changes/substitutions, as noted above. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

weekend update

Last Monday, I turned in the research paper that's been keeping me busy for the last month. Which was great, except that I woke up with a nasty cold on Tuesday and spent the rest of the week fighting it. 

I was feeling better by Saturday, though, which was a good thing because Daniel and I had planned to go up to Napa. We drove up Saturday afternoon and ended up taking a stroll around Yountville. I have a new macro lens I've been experimenting with so I ended up taking some pictures in the French Laundry gardens. I still don't quite have the hang of the lens but it's been a lot of fun to play with - hopefully I'll be able to get a few pictures up soon. Daniel's dad told me he was sick of looking at the hot and sour soup, so I guess I'll try to do this sooner rather than later.

Anyway, it's Monday now and time for me to head out. I'm out of coffee, which means I need to scurry over to Starbucks before 9. Back soon.

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