Friday, August 4, 2017

Broccoli Apple Salad

With weather predictions of over 100 degrees, this last week was all about easy-cool meals...and trying to not eat "salad" every other night. So I changed things up on the family with this Broccoli Apple Salad (yes, I know "salad") recipe. I had made it a few weeks (months?) ago for the BF and he loved it!

 It is fresh and vibrant, can be eaten the next day for lunch leftovers, taken to a summer BBQ potluck, and easy to substitute out ingredients or alter for a different flare.

Don't have raisins or broccoli? No worries, use dried cranberries or cauliflower?
Substitute the red wine vinegar for rice wine, toss in some sesame seeds and a dash of ginger for an Asian slaw.

Broccoli Apple Salad

3 C broccoli florets, diced small
3 Gala apples, chopped small
1 C carrot, grated
1 C raisins
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (optional)
2/3 C Greek yogurt, plain
1/3 C mayonnaise
1 1/2 TB Red wine vinegar
1/2 TB honey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Mix broccoli, apples, carrot and raisins in large bowl
2. Add cooked chicken (I cooked in skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper)
3. In separate small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour
4. Toss dressing all over salad and return to refrigerator (ideally) or serve

My family ate it on croissants as a sandwich, I ate mine as is with some fried onion crunchies on top. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Almond Joy Macaroons

One of  my favorite candy bars is Almond Joy - the creamy chocolate, crunchy almond and the chewy coconut... so delicious. And my mother has memories of growing up with giant 2-person macaroons from Canter's Deli in Los Angels. So why not combine the two?

Almond Joy Macaroons

1 egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 C. sweetened condensed milk
3 1/2 C sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 C slivered almonds
1 C dark chocolate chips
12 (or so) almonds; roasted

Preheat oven to 325 F. and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

1. In a large bowl, stir together the egg white, vanilla, salt and sweetened condensed milk.
2. Mix in the coconut and slivered almonds until well combined.
3. Using large spoon (or ice cream scoop for larger cookies) drop the dough onto the baking sheets (they do not spread very much so you can put them closer together)
4. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes.
5. While cookies are cooling, melt dark chocolate over double boiler
6. Dip cooled cookies into melted chocolate and top with almond!

The best thing is these cookies are very kid-cook friendly. I made mine with my 8yo niece; she mixed, scooped and was on almond duty!

Now they really are best warm out of the oven but chocolate dipped is delicious too. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cold Shrimp and Crap Soup

Growing up in Southern California with 112 degree summers, you'd think 91 would be no big deal...WRONG! There is a reason I moved away and after 8 years up north I've acclimated to cooler PNW seasons. So these last few weeks, with weather bouncing between 85 and 91 means staying indoors and keeping cool.

Which also means thinking of cool dinner ideas for the family (i.e. no oven or standing over the stove top) and let me tell you, you can only tell them dinner is "salad" so many times before they start to rebel.

Thank goodness for Pinterest and magazines in the doctor's office. In the same week my mother and I both found the same recipe for Cold Shrimp and Crab soup (her from a Sunset magazine from the doctor, and I on Pinterest).

As always (because I really think it's a compulsion and I can't help myself) I altered the recipe ever so slightly.

  • Substituted 3 cups crushed tomatoes (because I happened to have a giant can on hand)
  • Substituted shallots for green onions
  • Substituted 2 (of the 5 TB) lime juice with lemon
  • Sauteed the bell peppers, a shallot and garlic before adding to the puree
  • Add 3 cups homemade crab stock and 2 cups water to the tomato puree to thin and stretch 
  • Added a TB dried basil before chilling
  • Served with avocado and a choice selection of hot sauces (for individual taste)
With the right hot sauce this definitely hit the spot on a hot summer Monday night and brought me back to vacation in NOLA. *drifts off to dreamland*

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Date Yourself

That may sound odd to some, and for other's there is an echoing "Hallelujah!". I'm in the category of doing things for and by yourself on occasion. Whether it's treating yourself to a movie, getting a reservation at the new hot brunch local or spending a quiet afternoon meditating on life in a garden - date yourself.

Ru Paul says, "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?"

It's true. It took me years to find some true-self love. Not that I spent years of my life hating myself. I was lucky enough to be raised by a family full of love, had a good high school experience and made life long friends in college.

But it wasn't until years later that I started on a path of true self-love. Being happy in my skin, happy with my accomplishments, actively trying to balance my care for others with the care for myself.

I do believe that it is through this self-love work that I have everything I do today. I have a BF that I adore and who adores me, a job that I feel is contributing to the greater society, family who enjoys being together (as I type this I'm sitting out on the back porch with my mother - not speaking just "hanging out").

Occasionally I still need to step away from all that I have and allow "me time". So this past Summer Solstice, I got off work and headed to the Chinese gardens in downtown. I spent (easily) three hours walking the paths, sitting and just emptying my mind, treating myself to a cup of Holy Basil iced tea and steamed boa.

And for no other reason that a Me Date. Give it a try. I promise it will change your life.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Overnight to the Oregon Coast

Manzanita, OR
Working as administration at a college means this time of year (only two weeks before graduation) is super busy and a long stretch ahead (as I don't get summer vacations like some colleagues). Every weeks starts with a big sigh in preparation for the unknown that may come through my door any moment. Knowing that chaos could be around the corner at any moment, I thought a quick mini-vacation may be in store. So the BF and I packed out bags for an overnight out at the Oregon Coast.

For those that don't know, the Oregon coast is just over 363 miles and none of it private. The entire Oregon coast is public and accessible to all. It's also spotted full of quaint tiny little ocean side towns. Sure there are the "bigger" (read: tourist hot spots) like Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Astoria; but my favorite are the smaller less packed spots just on the other side of the city limits.

Camp 18 Restaurant and Museum

But not all the "hot spots" are out at the water, some are along the drive - like Camp 18; a logging museum and restaurant known for GIANT cinnamon rolls. We stopped on our way out for lunch and let me tell you I fell in love with their fish and chips! Better than any I've found in Portland! I'm already plotting my next trip out Hwy-26 so I can order another batch.

After lunch and a quick browse through the gift store, we headed out to the water. For our midweek mini vacation we headed to Manzanita, Oregon - population 600 - just south of Cannon Beach. Mountain hiking, stretch of sandy beach, beautiful look outs and delicious Mexican food!

Wait. What?

McOceans from Bread & Ocean
Yes, you heard me. For dinner Tuesday, after an hour long stroll along the water we headed to El Trio Loco for some delicious Mexican cuisine.

Lucky for us it was right next door to our motel. Which I highly recommend if anyone finds themselves out in Manzanita. Vanessa and the Spindrift Inn was perfect and exactly what we needed. Our room had a queen bed, two chairs and a table, mini-fridge/microwave/coffee pot (all of which came in handy for an early morning cup of joe) and all rooms have a back door that takes you to a private (adorable) patio area.

The next morning we walked through the little town, had giant breakfast sandwiches, did a little souvenir/gift shopping (including yummy Salt Water Taffy from Salt & Paper) before heading out of town.

Since we had gone the "northern" route to get to the coast, I thought why not continue heading south and make a quick detour through Tillamook? Now some of you may be familiar with Tillamook cheese. I know that before I moved to Oregon that was my only frame of reference. But did you know they do MORE than just cheese?! They also do regular and Greek yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream! So if you're ever in the area make sure to stop by the Tillamook Cheese Factory and indulge in one of their many yummy flavors.

With bellies full of Mudslide, Stumptown Cold Brew and Marionberry Cheesecake we headed back to Portland. It was a lovely way to end an absolutely amazing overnight to the Oregon coast.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Trip to the Bay: Food, Hikes, Wine

I realized I haven't posted since the end of February but so much has happened since then. In the last four-five months I've started a new relationship, made (easily) 120 delicious dinners, dived into a number of DIY beauty treatments and (oh yea) turned 34!

My thirties have been a pretty amazing decade and turning 34 hasn't been any different. This year I spent my birthday down in the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) celebrating with one of my longest BFFs.

Bottom left is a new movie theatre built in the PDX airport - plays short films by local film makers

We had a whirlwind of adventures...and when you get Luke and I together you know there is going to be copious amounts of good food (he even went of the Whole 30 just for me).

Only the beginning of the delicious food we ate

We also then headed to Muir Woods so I could hug a Redwood (yes that was a goal for my birthday). Somehow, despite living in California for ~28 years I had never hiked Muir. It was stunning! Cold misty morning, cool enough for a jacket but dry enough to hike around for an hour or so.

I'm a tree hugger
After Muir Woods we headed over to Sonoma for an afternoon of wine tasting. Sonoma wine is just as wonderful as Napa but not nearly as "touristy". We had the Bartholomew Park Winery tasting room to ourselves and had a lovely conversation with the vineyards owner before heading to Gundlach Bundschu (the oldest single family owned vineyard in California). I bought a beautiful bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Bartholomew and have tucked it away for a special occasion (perhaps my next birthday).

All but the bottom right is Bartholomew Vineyard - Cave is Gundlach
After a number of glasses of wine (thank you to a heavy handed pour) we grabbed ice cream and took a stroll through Old Town Sonoma.

I really couldn't have asked for a better birthday....but it did get better! Later in February my sister K took me to the 20th Anniversary performance of Rent, we had a tea party with family (celebrating all the winter babies) and the weekend after I returned I had my first date with my (now) new sweetheart.

Thirty four is shaping up to be a good year.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Samoa Cookie Bars

You ever have those days when you need to bake!? The other day it didn't matter what I just needed to mix, stir and turn on the oven. So I did some digging in my pantry and baking drawer (yes, I have a "baking drawer") and came across coconut flakes, chocolate chips and caramel candies.

What does that mean? Samoa Cookies!!

Now I made a similar cookie to this during the holidays (minus the chocolate) and during Girl Scout cookie season Samoas are always on the list. So why not make an easy at home version?

The family LOVED them! My older sister K even asked for a few to be set aside for when she came over next (there are three awaiting her in the freezer).

For something I whipped up last minute and out of my head, this may become a family favorite and go-to cookie.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Beauty Review: Charcoal Pore Strip Masks

I'm not usually one for "New Year's Resolutions". Unattainable goals that we cast aside less than a month in. But this year, I've decided on one that I think I'll be able to keep up. It's (basically) taking better care of my skin.

I'm not one who minds the thought or onset of wrinkles. They're smile lines. Road maps to the life I've lived. But I am (almost) 34 years old and have noticed some significant changes to my skin over the last few years.

Where I used to have strictly an oily complexion, it's changed to very much combination skin. I still tend to have break outs (whether because of a hormone change or when I know I've been bad at going to bed with makeup on), have discoloration and dry patches.

Now I've been MUCH better at not going to bed with makeup on. That really has been step number one. And I'm making a goal to increase my water intake more (gotta stay hydrated even in the winter months). So the last step is finding facial products that work for me and my skin - moisturizers, exfoliates, lip balms (pictured are a few of the products I've been trying lately).

I've been a user of Biore strips for years. Forehead, nose, chin....I was born with large pores and being an avid makeup wearer (and known sweater), Biore helps pull that last bit of oils out that exfoliates can't reach. So when the new fad of charcoal pore strip masks came onto the market! Hallelujah! Now I can clean out those craters anywhere on my face!

There are so many brands out there I basically searched "charcoal peel mask" into Amazon and this is what I came up with. I didn't realize when I bought it that it would be coming from China (China mainland requires products to be tested on animals and I try hard to avoid supporting companies who do - future blog). But this is what I have so figured give it a try and go with a different company next time around.

I've used it a few times now. Sometimes just across my nose, sometimes with cheeks...chin...forehead....etc. The trick has been to apply a thick enough product. Sure you don't want to be wasteful and too much makes the product drip like big black boogers. (Yuck I know). If you apply too thin it flakes more than peels.

You also want to make sure to peel UPwards. I'm sure there is something scientific/biologic about the way pores face, pulling out the gunk, etc. I just know that it's the tip I've heard from beauty bloggers, and the time I pulled sideways I didn't get nearly as much "gunk" as I knew was in there.

I only use it once every few weeks - I don't want to aggravate or irritate my pores. It's just one piece of a larger "Better Skin Care Regiment" that I'm trying for the new year.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

WHO doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? Whether soft and chewy or crispy with a snap! there's a cookie out there for for everyone. Personally? I love a soft and chewy cookie. Thick and fluffy with lots of chocolate chips!

I've spent years looking for the perfect recipe. Making slight changes, tweaking things just a little. In the end here is my go-to recipe:


2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (for an extra fluffy cookie)
2 sticks (1 C) unsalted butter, not warm but slightly soft to the touch*
1 1/4 C dark-brown sugar
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Approx 2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay sometimes I do 2 1/2 cups)

*Tip: When the butter is too warm it makes for flat melted cookies. This is also why I keep my dough in the fridge between batches.


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add both sugars; and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Slowly add vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed.

2) In another bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX! Stir in the chocolate chips gently with a large spoon (folding in the chips).

3) Drop heaping spoons of dough (2-3 TB worth) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets; about 2 inches apart. Bake approximately 12 minutes (give or take a few depending on your oven) until golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool* before transferring to a wire rack.

*Tip: I usually have 2 baking sheets I rotate, one in the oven and the other on the counter cooling with cookies. 

If you try my recipe, let me know how it goes? 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Round Two with Bettina May

Years and years ago....okay not really that many ago....

For my 30th birthday I created a "30 During 30" list of accomplishments. A bucket list of sorts - without needing to kick the bucket that is. One of those items was to take a class for fun. I hadn't (still haven't) been in school for years, and I wasn't necessarily looking for a textbook and grades sorta class.

So as a mark off my list I signed up for Bettina May's Bombshell Basics course. Learning how to apply makeup in different era pin up styles (yes there is a difference between 50s pinups versus 40s pin up etc), hair curled and styled, posing lessons and an amazing photo shoot. (Read more about the experience here).

I've followed Bettina since, she was a true inspiration in embracing the style and making it my own.

So when I heard she was coming back into town I jumped at the opportunity to attend another of her classes. Yes, it would be similar/the same as the one three (plus) years ago, but I'm a believer in always getting better (curling my hair still doesn't go as planned).

The session was small, me and two other ladies, which makes it more personal and intimate. Bettina had the same assistant as before (adorable gal named Lily) and the session was held at a local yoga studio. They set up a beautiful backdrop and scene for us (I wanted to mop everything there).

Bettina makes you feel so comfortable, will help guide you in posing and facial expressions. In the end you walk away with not only a memorable experience but also a link to your raw footage. I was glad the first time I attended Bettina's class but the second time made it even better.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Breakfast Pizza

Have you seen that Pillsbury* now has crescent roll dough without the perforated triangles?! Please tell me I'm  not the only one geeking out about this!?

Without the perforated lines in the crescent dough you don't have to worry about cracks and leakage of contents. I make a number of dishes with (yes I'm admitting this) Pillsbury refrigerator dough - homemade pork burns, pork chops and applesauce, pain au chocolat, and this time....BREAKFAST PIZZA!  The family loved it!

I precooked the dough to ensure it was crisp and flaky, before topping it with soft scrambled eggs, fresh baby spinach, breakfast sausage and grated mozzarella cheese.  Pop it back in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese. Add hot sauce, ketchup, salsa...whatever tops your pizza. 

The options are endless - sweet, savory, spicy.... I can't wait to try out another recipe. I promise to share.

*Not sponsored

Saturday, January 21, 2017

BurlyCon 2016

I can't believe it's already been two months since I attended my first BurlyCon!

"BurlyCon is an annual community-oriented professional growth and educational organization for burlesque performers, producers, fans, and aficionados. Our aim is to further the current development and historical knowledge of this unique American art form, especially in light of burlesque’s resurgence worldwide. BurlyCon is committed to providing an affordable opportunity for performers of all levels to learn, grow, and develop their skills."

I had heard about BurlyCon for years, from following a number of burlesque queens on social media and my various pinup photo shoots, but 2016 was my first time attending. As an introvert it was challenging (but sorta the point) to break out of my shell. Overall though? The experience was brilliant.

From classes on hair and makeup tips (think how to make it stay with gallons of sweat), history of Burlesque in the 1990s, group chats on balancing stage life with your "Muggle life" (a term used many times, and it made me giggle every time) and book signing sessions.

There were so many types of people at BurlyCon - genders on the spectrum, ages spanning time, beginners to founders. It did make for some interesting conversations. In the "Burlesque in the 1990s class" there was a man (not sure who he was or his intention for attending) but he was looking to put strippers and burlesque dancers into boxes. "I'm not a prude" was been repeated a few (too many) times. Oh boy did it make for some feisty dancers!

I'm still  not sure if I'll return or find the place within me to get on stage and shake my tatas. But BurlyCon will forever be a memory I hold dear.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Peppermint Patties

One of my favorite flavor combinations is chocolate mint- York...Junior Mints...Girl Scout Thin Mints...any brand really.

So why I only make homemade peppermint patties during the holidays is beyond me! They should be a treat all year long but perhaps it's that chocolate/mint is everywhere during the holidays.

I've tried a few different recipes over the years and have made some tweaks each time. Here is the process I used this year that worked so fantastic!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snow Day (Part II)

Holy smokes Portland!! Enough with the snow days already! Haha.

Mostly because
1) I don't want to shovel anymore snow
2) I'd like to walk down the road and not worry about falling
3) I haven't had a full 5-day work week since just after Thanksgiving

I work for a college and we've now had 7.5 "closed for inclement weather" days in the last month. This past weekend we had an ice storm come through closing campus on Monday. The Tuesday night over 7 inches of snow fell and the whole city has been close since. The mayor has declared a state of emergency as Portland borrows snow plows from Seattle.

It has been beautiful. Sitting in the family room looking out the back windows, watching the snow fall, listening to the stillness. We've all gone out and played in the snow, my sister and her BF made an adorable snow fairy.

It is lovely to play in now and then....but I'm done. I'm ready for weather I'm accustomed too, that I can function in with out having anxiety attacks (I fall every winter but haven't yet....trying to keep this luck).

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow Days

I was born and raised in Southern California where winters just meant rain. When I lived in San Diego, winters included throwing on a hoodie but still wearing sandals. So when I moved to the PNW snow wasn't necessarily something I had too much experience with - minus a few small snow days and day trips to the mountains.

My first winter here there were a few days of 19 degree weather and I, jokingly, asked my family if they had brought me here to die. Haha. As the years go by, this is my seventh winter, I'm still not completely accustomed to the cold. Despite layers upon layers - socks, pants, sweaters, jackets, earmuffs - I still much prefer to be inside on snow days.

This winter the snow days are more than ever before. In the last month we've had three "storms" and my school has closed five/six days. Luckily today is Saturday and the snow isn't as heavy.

Still a perfect day for snuggling on the couch, watching NCIS and recovering from this head cold.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Seasonal Gifts

My family actual celebrates two holidays during the winter season. We were raised with celebrating Christmas (Santa and my Episcopal Grandmother) and Yule (as we were raised by a Wiccan Mother) and have continued to celebrate both as we got older.

Generally we get together on (or close to) Yule, as a large family, eat amazing food, read stories of the solstice and exchange presents. Christmas is reserved for stockings, Christmas PJs and Santa presents with the little ones. We have had years where the gifts (from everyone) have been handmade only, other years we do secret-Santa exchanges, but always stressing it's not about "things" but rather being together and sharing love.

This  year my family knew me way too well - Harry Potter, kitchen gadgets....

...socks that swear and a childhood favorite book.

Okay so the couch was a present to myself (and the house). The day after Christmas we went to the local thrift store to drop off a number of donations and went inside to browse (everything was 30-75% off how could I not) and I ended up coming out with this gorgeous Ethan Allen turquoise blue couch. LOVE IT!

How was your holiday season? Did you treat yourself to anything special? What was your favorite gift?