merry, merry.

Christmas card 2018.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays - I spent the last week at my parents' house in MA, and we had a perfect, low-key celebration. I'm looking forward to heading back up to Portland to ring in the new year and fresh start for 2019.


happy december.

tree is up.

ceiling decorations at sichuan kitchen.

the BEST cereal ever.
Happy December! November went by super fast--I can't believe it's the last month of 2018.

I spent the weekend decorating and getting in the holiday spirit, and I was really excited that my Dominique Ansel Christmas Morning Cereal arrived on Friday. I bought it last year and it is so, so good but ordering online is somewhat stressful. They only make a limited amount and it goes on sale each Friday at noon so you need to be ready to order immediately. I lucked out and I can't wait to enjoy this Christmas morning.

Saturday I did a Pure Barre class and went to Trader Joe's and Target. I bought all of the truffle things at TJs and Target was a total nightmare (it reminded me how glad I am for online shopping). I spent the rest of the afternoon decorating and my place is looking very festive. Later I had dinner with my friend M. at Sichaun Kitchen, which is an authentic Chinese restaurant in Portland -- I had never been there before but it was really good. We split the veggie dumplings and I had ants climbing a tree (cellophane noodles with ground pork and spices) and I'll definitely be going back.

Sunday was dreary and gross so I spent the bulk of the day binging Game of Thrones--I finished season one and I'm excited to get through the rest. Later I made The Pretty Dish Roasted Garlic Tomato Bisque, which I think would have been really good but I accidentally bought fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis and it ended up being really spicy (so spicy that my face started sweating and my glasses fogged up. So that was fun). I'm going to try it again sans chilis.

And that's pretty much it--I'm all done with my holiday shopping and need to get my Christmas cards in the mail, but I'm really looking forward to savoring as much of this month as I can. it's my favorite time of year.


the BEST old fashioned.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the old fashioned, especially this time of year. There's nothing better than sipping on this delectable cocktail on a freezing day while the bourbon warms your insides. The only problem? I was never able to recreate the deliciousness I experienced at restaurants at home (mine always tasted way too bourbon-y and burned my throat).

Until now.

During our Portland trip over Thanksgiving, my sister bought Craft Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup at Gus & Ruby. I was a little suspect at first, but it turns out, this syrup is a total game changer. It creates the perfect old fashioned every time with no need for muddling or adding separate bitters. I immediately grabbed some when we went back to Gus & Ruby (this time in Portsmouth) the next day. It's seriously the best.

(They also make an Italian Spritz syrup, Spicy Margarita syrup and more - I can't wait to try them all.)


thanksgiving week.

someone refused to go outside in the snow.

one of many festive holiday beverages.

my thanksgiving contribution: smitten kitchen's union square cafe bar nuts.

a very cute Sam.

beach photoshoot.

It's Tuesday and I think I'm still recovering from last week's Thanksgiving festivities. It was a fun-filled family week.

I headed down to Massachusetts to my parents' house on the Saturday before so I could dog-sit their dogs--they went to Bermuda to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary for a few days. I had a pretty crappy cold but took full advantage of their whirlpool bathtub and ample amounts of wine. On Sunday I picked up my sister in Boston and we did a little shopping downtown and had the most delicious martini at Atlantic Fish Company (they use crabmeat as a garnish and it was divine). The days leading up to Thanksgiving were a blur of eating and drinking and prepping--we met up with my brother for the best chicken wings around and it was nice to have some sibling time.

Thanksgiving was hosted by my parents and it went by way too fast, but I loved seeing my mom's side of the family and my nieces. On Friday my mom and sister and I headed up to Portland for some additional shopping and eating (a stop at Eventide was a must) and then we went to York and met up with my dad. The following day called for a trip to Portsmouth for Small Business Saturday and my sister and I continued to eat our way through the weekend. She went back to Pittsburgh on Sunday, and I was so glad to spend all of that extra time with her since she's not going to be home for Christmas.

I wish I did a better job of documenting it, but that was my week! Now I'm trying to hold off until December 1st to start decorating--I'm very excited for the next month of holiday celebrations.


sister LA trip.

This past Thursday I hopped on a plane and met my sister in LA for a quick sister getaway. She was already out there for a work trip and after I had a supremely crappy week she bought an extra ticket for me to meet her and make a weekend out of it. She is seriously the best. 

And before I go into the places we stayed and all the delicious food and drinks we enjoyed, I want to say how much my heart aches for the people of California and the devastating wildfires. It was totally surreal to be there when this was going on (especially being from the Northeast, where this never happens). I donated to the Red Cross, but there are a lot of other organizations doing great work that need help (there's a good list of places to donate here).

Where we stayed:

Sunrise over the Hollywood sign.

When I arrived on Thursday my sister was wrapping up her conference at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown LA. She had a king suite that I enjoyed lounging in when she had a meeting Friday morning and the view was pretty great. 

The Standard in West Hollywood.

After she wrapped everything up on Friday, we made our way to West Hollywood to The Standard. The location was perfect (right up the road from Chateau Marmont) and I highly recommend it. I've stayed at the Standard in NYC a couple of times and the vibe in West Hollywood was so much more low-key. They had a great restaurant with 24/7 room service, a cool bar area and a pool with an adjacent ping pong table (I forgot my bathing suit but we had a heated ping pong tournament). I would definitely stay there again.

What we did (aka where we ate):

I need to preface this by saying that my sister and I really love to eat and drink. While other people might plan a trip around cultural activities, we focus on stuffing our faces. 


White Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse at Nick and Stef's.

Sister selfie.
On Thursday night we decided to do an early dinner at Nick and Stef's which was within walking distance of the Westin. We each had delicious steaks, potato gratin and an incredible white chocolate hazelnut mousse (and I generally hate all things white chocolate, so this was especially tasty). It was pricey, but so worth it.


Brisket taquitos with rice and beans.

On Friday my sister had a meeting in the AM, so I grabbed Starbucks and waited for her return. We did a little shopping at Zara and H&M and then decided to grab Mexican across the street from the hotel at the Border Grille -- we shared a shrimp ceviche to start and then I had brisket taquitos and my sister had the crispy rajas tacos. Both were super delicious and super filling. We then made our way to the Standard.

Delicious cocktail that I can't remember the name of at the Cactus Lounge.
Sister selfie #2.
We hung out at the lounge for a rather long time, and then pulled ourselves together to head to...

I mean, we had to.
We grabbed a happy hour drink at Pump and sat next to none other than Scheana Marie (formerly Shay) who, although we did not talk to, through casual observation seemed to be exactly like she is on the show. We then went to TomTom (again, we had to) and shared some shishito peppers and a glass of wine before deciding it was too much of a scene and we had to go. We made our way back to the hotel and ordered room service from Croft Alley and called it an early night. 


On Saturday morning we were both up super early due to our early bedtime and the time change, so we grabbed a small bite at Croft Alley first thing.

Johnny Cake with Fried Chicken.
We then made our way to Hart and the Hunter for brunch, which is in the Palihotel on Melrose. I had the Johnny Cake with fried chicken and smoked bacon maple syrup, and my sister had shrimp and grits. Both were very good.

Blood orange mule.

Melrose Umbrella Company.
We walked down Melrose and had the most delicious blood orange mules at the Melrose Umbrella Company. Their food menu said they had a wedge salad made with spring peas that looked amazing, but we were informed that it was no longer available which really amplified our need for one. After scouring menus, we found there was a restaurant near our hotel that had them. And that's how we found ourselves at Saddle Ranch on a Saturday afternoon.

The Saddle Ranch wedge.
Our salads ended up being just what we wanted, and we enjoyed them while watching USC and Cal Arts students enjoy bottomless mimosas and ride the mechanical bull. We then headed back to the hotel for naps. 

Later that evening, we met our cousins at Gracias Madre for happy hour. It was a total treat because we barely get to see them, and we sipped "So Fresa So Cleans" (tequila blanco, strawberry, rose water, lemon, cachaça, and aquafaba) while catching up. 

Crab tacos at Nobu.
The best sushi OF MY LIFE at Nobu.

And then we went to Nobu. Admittedly, we were both a little stuffed from the day's events, but decided to keep our reservation given all of the a la carte menu options. We had edamame, crab tacos, and sushi that ended up ruining all future sushi for the both of us. It was seriously so good and I need to go back on an empty stomach to really enjoy everything on the menu. 


Croft Alley.

Avocado toast.
On Sunday we grabbed breakfast at Croft Alley before we headed to the airport. I had avocado toast (because if you go to LA and you don't have avocado toast, did you even go to LA?) and my sister had their GF bananas foster waffle. 

Plane views.
I returned home 3-5 lbs heavier and super tired but it was seriously the best weekend away with my sister and very much needed. (I love you, Mayo!!!)


on flying solo.

It's been six months since I moved to Portland, which is kind of hard for me to believe. Sometimes I feel like I've been here forever, and then there are days when I struggle to get my bearings. All in all though, I really love it and I definitely think I made the right decision coming here.

One of the questions I get a lot is whether I get lonely in a city where I didn't really know anyone before I moved. And to be perfectly honest, the answer is no. I've made some friends in my building which is convenient and great and I know they'd always be down to grab or drink or movie or hit the town. But I also have become extremely comfortable being on my own: I have zero issues doing things by myself (and sometimes, I prefer it).

I think that being in a new city undoubtedly forces you to get outside your comfort zone (otherwise it's too easy to have Netflix and your couch be the daily norm) but I also think that flying solo is not for everyone. It took me until my mid-thirties to not only truly feel comfortable doing things by myself, but also not feel sorry for myself for not having a friend or partner to do things with.

Which brings me to dating: I'm not doing it. The whole online/app thing isn't for me and I honestly don't feel like my life is lacking in any way that I actively need to find someone to spend my time with. Would it be nice to meet someone and fall head over heels? Sure. But it's not something I feel like I really need right now. That of course, is subject to change, but at this moment I'm really happy and fulfilled as a party of one (or 1.25 if you count Olive).


happy november.

the best mussels with bacon and blue cheese at the york river landing.

a very leafy walk.

sushi and lobster and brie nachos at surf.

a rainy stroll down market street in portsmouth.

harbor views.

Happy November! I can't believe there are only two months left in the year--time is flying by. And much as I hate losing an extra hour of sunlight later in the day, I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming holidays. I have a packed couple of weeks ahead of me and I'm going to do my best to enjoy every minute.

This weekend my parents came up to York so I went down to hang with them. It was perfect to relax in front of the fire on Friday, and on Saturday we braved torrential downpours and walked around Portsmouth--I hadn't been there since the summer and it was great to pop into all of the cute shops. On Sunday my mom and I went for a blustery run, and Sunday was spent on the couch with Olive. I made Smitten Kitchen's mushroom marsala pasta bake for dinner and it was a delicious way to end the weekend. 


bbq bean rice bowl.

Disclaimer: I know this isn't really a "recipe" but it's a super easy dinner that makes for a great meatless Monday. Groundbreaking? Absolutely not. Easy and cheap? 100%.

I usually make a large meal on Sundays so I can eat leftovers the rest of the week, but after spending the weekend with my parents and having another weekend away coming up, I wasn't in the mood to go to the grocery store. So I did some cabinet searching and was pleased to discover I had everything I needed for a bbq bean rice bowl.

What you need:

  • Rice (I used white boil-in-a-bag, but I'm also a huge fan of Trader Joe's microwaveable white and brown rice--you could also do quinoa)
  • Cheddar cheese (sharpness according to taste, I like to shred my own)
  • Guac (I love the single serve containers - you can usually find at any grocery store)
  • Beans (Kidney, black, chickpea, refried...the choice is yours. I used black)
  • BBQ sauce (again, to your liking. I used Trader Joe's Carolina Gold which has a nice mustardy kick)
  • Salsa (there's a theme here--whatever you like best. I love Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Tomato-Less Salsa)

What you do: 
  • Cook rice according to instructions.
  • Drain and rinse beans (if you're using anything other than refried) and add a couple of tablespoons of BBQ sauce to taste. Cook over low-medium heat until warmed through.
  • Assemble your bowl with the rice base and add guac, cheese, salsa and beans.
  • Enjoy.

Stupid easy! I usually make a big batch so I can have lunch the next day: it reheats nicely and keeps you full.


weekend recap.

the best crunchy oysters at pearl.

the makings of bananas foster waffles for brunch.

a cozy Sunday fire enthusiast.
Did you have a good weekend? I went to my parents' house to celebrate my mom's birthday and it was just what I needed. We went to Pearl on Friday night, which was delicious as always--the perfect way to toast my mom. Saturday was a nightmare in terms of weather (super rainy and windy and cold) so I hunkered down and watched movies while my parents attended a wedding--I watched Friday the 13th for the first time, and it was a wonderful October night.

On Sunday my brother and his family came over for a birthday brunch for my mom, and I made bananas foster waffles using this sauce from Stonewall Kitchen--so good. The rest of the day was very low-key and nap-filled and I'm (somewhat) ready to face the week.


kitchen goals.

{ photo by jennifer hughes - elizabeth lawson design ]

{ Rachel Paxton - Masion de Pax }
{ amber interiors }

My condo was in pretty great condition when I moved in. Aside from painting, I didn't foresee any major changes but now that I've been settled for a few months I'm leaning towards revamping the kitchen. Currently it's totally livable and fine, but the cabinets are a generic oak and the appliances need some updates--I have a gas stove and I absolutely love it, but the only way of determining the temp is to check an antiquated thermometer inside (and I sure would love a fridge with a water and ice dispenser).

So I'm searching the internet for inspiration - part of me loves the idea of doing a darker cabinet on the bottom and maybe lighter on top, but then I see an all-white kitchen and I love that, too. And I've also always loved open shelving over tile, but I'm pretty restricted with space so I might want things hidden.

So basically, I have no idea what to do but I don't think I could go wrong with any of the above pictures. If I'm ever able to make a decision, I'll let you know.


a very gluttonous weekend.

Pai Men because I'm a creature of habit.

An understated filet at the Grill Room.

Oysters and wine at Eventide.

I didn't plan on eating my way through Portland this weekend, but that's what happened and I'm not mad about it.

After a very stressful week, I decided to go to my old faithful Pai Men for dinner on Friday and I got the usual. Eventually I'll try something new, but why mess with a good thing? I also finished the book You which was super creepy (I had started watching the show on Lifetime before I realized there was a book - both are good and cringe inducing).

Saturday consisted of Pure Barre and an insane amount of laundry, and then I treated myself to dinner (treating myself was a recurring theme throughout the weekend). I sauntered down to the Grill Room, and had a perfect and leisurely dinner of crab and pea shoot salad, a bacon wrapped filet over mashed potatoes with blue cheese, mushrooms and asparagus, and then topped the night off with apple fritters with butter pecan gelato that I enjoyed in the comfort of my living room.

After cleaning my place Sunday morning I went to Eventide for oysters, a lobster roll, and clam chowder. I hadn't been there since my sibling rendezvous earlier this summer, and it was just as good as I remembered (the key is getting there right when they open and grabbing a spot at the bar). I did a little shopping at Anthropologie and took advantage of their 25% off sale by buying jeans and a candle, and then I bought some faux leather leggings at Athleta that I'm really excited about--I had wanted to buy some for a while and these have the perfect look and texture (but be warned, they run big so size down).

And that was pretty much it--I was kind of all over the place but it was the perfect mix of hanging at home and being out - a truly great weekend in Portland.


splurging on sleep.

west elm's belgian flax linen sheets.

Let's talk sheets. For most of my adult life, I've slept in the basic cotton sheet set you grab on a whim at Target or Home Goods. They were easy and fine and I generally had no complaints.

But after battling through this summer and the insanely high temps and humidity, I decided it was high time I explore my sheet options and see what could serve the dual purpose of keeping me cool in the summer and warm in the winter. After extensive research, linen appeared to be the best option.

I bought West Elm's Belgian Flax Linen Sheets during one of their 30% off sales, and to say I'm obsessed is an understatement. These sheets are the best. They kept me cool during the tail end of the summer, and as the temps have dropped I've been perfectly comfortable with the addition of a quilt. I love the weight and the texture--they're soft, but not overly so, and they're also slightly heavy but breathable--every time I climb into bed I thank myself for splurging on the set. Sleeping in any other kind of sheet has become a let down.

I seriously cannot recommend these enough--if you've ever thought of buying linen sheets, do it!  


an easy and delicious bolognese.

It's hard to take appetizing pictures of spaghetti sometimes.

This is my favorite time of year to cook. I understand the importance of seasonal produce and there's nothing I love more than an heirloom tomato during the height of summer, but for me, it's all about the comfort foods: stews, pasta bakes, root vegetables...there's really nothing better, and living in New England gives ample opportunities to cook all things comforting in the cooler months.

99% of the time I dine at an Italian restaurant, I order bolognese. It's the ultimate comfort food, and I'm always on the lookout for the next recipe to make at home. While Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese has been a staple, I wanted to find a similarly simple dish with a slightly different flavor profile (but I also ultimately wanted to avoid traditional recipes that include veal--personal preference).

My sister recently gave me The Pretty Dish, by Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats and the first thing I made was her bolognese (simply titled "Our Favorite" in her cookbook). It was really, really, good--I loved the addition of mushrooms, and the only thing I might change for future renditions is adding a mirepoix at the very beginning. And warning: this makes a TON--I ate this for a week and still have two containers in my freezer just waiting to be defrosted.

Our Favorite (Bolognese) from The Pretty Dish

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 sweet onion, diced [I would also add a 1/2 cup of diced celery and a 1/2 cup of diced carrots]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch plus 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste [I used a 1/4 cup and it was fine]
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

What you do:
  • In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt (add celery and carrots if you're into those, too). Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and stir. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the mushrooms soften. Increase the heat to medium and add the pork and beef, pushing the veggies to the sides and breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and breaking the meat into small pieces or until it's browned.
  • Add the sugar, half and half, wine, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes tomato paste and Parmesan. Stir well, and bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve over the pasta of your choice! I did regular spaghetti, but any hearty pasta would do.
  • And add additional Parmesan, because, of course. 


weekend recap.

Hamayaki at Pai Men.

Naps and Hocus Pocus.

The perfect leaf on my doorstep.

Did you have a good weekend? I did pretty much nothing, which was just what I needed--after a number of late nights last week I was psyched to have nothing on the agenda. On Friday I went out to Pai Men Miyake, a place that has quickly become my favorite neighborhood spot (I seriously go once a week). They make a mean Manhattan and while they're know for their ramen, I always get the steamed pork buns and Hamayaki, which is broiled crab and scallops over rice with kewpie mayo, truffle oil and eel sauce. It's to die for.

Saturday and Sunday consisted of Pure Barre, naps, and football. I managed to go to the grocery store and on Sunday I made brisket using this sauce - it's really good (although I didn't half the recipe and it appears I will be eating brisket until the end of time).

And that's pretty much it--the forecast calls for low temps and that means sweaters and continuing to burn the best fall candle on a regular basis (Anthropologie's Pumpkin Soufflé).

Have a good week!