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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thailand Honeymoon Recap: Days... I don't even remember anymore

Yes, it has been over a month since we returned from our honeymoon in Thailand. No, I have not finished recapping yet. Don't judge me.

Luckily, the last week or so of our trip was not very action-packed - manily we just sat around on the beach, read a lot of books, and ate a LOT of delicious food. And yes, I totally wish I was still there. Lengthy narratives are unnecessary for recapping such events.

When we last left our heroes, they were deathly ill (mild exaggeration) on the island of Koh Pha Ngan on the Malaysia side of Thailand. Luckily the death-illness did not last long and soon they were back to gallavanting about the resort and nearby beaches.


Free Continental Breakfast

Hanging out in the hotel's loaner library after breakfast

Regaining our strength in the loaner library

Lunch at Sala

At Sala, a locally owned lunch spot with the most delicious open-face shrimp sandwich I have ever tasted

Shrimp sammich

...followed by dinner at Jip Cafe, which boasted an extremely creative way to keep guests occupied while waiting for their food:

Jenga makes Ben sneaky

...and apparently it also makes me ridiculous

....needless to say, I lost.

View from breakfast

Free breakfast with a beautiful view, followed by hours of lying by the pool

Hanging by the pool

...and yes, those are Ben's sunglasses. Not really my style...

reading material!

(As I've mentioned before - I have a book problem. I read all of these...and then ran out of books. And had to borrow more from the loaner library. Sigh.)

Hair in my face

A nice french guy offered to take our photo together - and then asked us to pay him?? but I think he was joking mostly.


Red Curry with Duck at Jip

Roasted Duck with Red Curry - followed by a fried Banana and Nutella pancake from a local crepe stand. Perfection.

Ben buying a fried pancake with Nutella in town

the town

Beach at night

Well despite my best intentions I only got through two days of pictures. Looks like a couple more recaps are ahead of us... hope you're not sick of Thailand yet!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Chickpeas and Curry

The word "networking" should probably be banished from the english language.

After sitting through my umptillionth presentation on how to network properly, I have learned the following:
- Smile and look people in the eye
- Be interested in others and ask questions instead of just talking about yourself
- Don't drag conversations out to the point of awkwardness
- Don't pretend to be interested just to get someone's business card
- Listen

In other words, "be genuine and have meaningful interactions with people." Or "Build relationships, don't be an asshole." Apparently we need multiple lessons in common decency and basic social skills in order to function in the professional world.

But on the upside, sitting through these presentations gives me time to think about what I want to make for dinner.


The idea for this recipe came together slowly, like a strange crazy mind puzzle. It went through several iterations in my brain before finally materializing on the stove, but it was totally worth every second I spent dreaming it up. It's just what I start craving during the first cold days of fall - warm, creamy, spicy, and just a little different from your average soup. Ben gave it two thumbs up. He also attempted to name it, but the name he came up with was "ChickCoPump Soup"... so I just stuck with the boring yet accurate title you see here.

Bring this soup to your next business gathering and I guarantee you will end up with at least five business cards.

OK maybe not. I've actually heard that if you want to move up in the world it is not advisable to bake or cook for your co-workers. Nice girls don't get the corner office or some bullshit. In any case, you can definitely eat this soup while watching the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother by candlelight. Or maybe that's just me.


In fact, forget about networking altogether. Just relax - have a beer. Give the cat a beer.


Or not. You know what, just make some soup.

- 3-4 cups roasted eating pumpkin or other winter squash
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 can (X ounces) coconut milk
- 1-2 tsp curry powder
- 1 bunch Kale, stems trimmed and torn into 2 inch pieces

Cut your pumpkin or squash into several large sections, rub each with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 400 until cooked. Peel the squash and chop into 1-2 inch cubes. (Alternatively you could peel and chop the squash before roasting, but it's much easier to peel after roasting).

In a stock pot, sautee the onion and garlic in 2-3 tsp of coconut or canola oil until softened and beginning to brown. Add the chickpeas and saute for 2 additional minutes before adding the chicken broth, coconut milk, squash and curry powder. Bring the pot to a simmer and add the kale to the top, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes to allow the kale to cook and soften.

Makes 4-6 servings.
Cook time 1 hour from start to finish

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yoga is my Recess

When I first saw this article in the New York Times last week and read the words "Recess is making a comeback", I'll admit that my first (probably ridiculously naive) thought was: "Wait...making a comeback? Where did it go??" I didn't even realize that not having recess was a thing. But apparently, it is a thing - schools across the country have been slowly and silently snuffing out the one part of the day where kids can be active and - putting aside any discussion of childhood obesity - creative.

Now, I know that academics also encourages creative problem solving (maybe), and Gym class provides activity (if it exists). But the pure play of recess is an entirely different ball game, no pun intended. What I remember the most about recess was that the rules of the game were not imposed on us - we invented them. We had the rare and amazing opportunity to spend thirty minutes each day living in a world of our own creation, and every time we ran out the door onto the playground all that was before us was pure possibility. And there were no grades. No judgement.

This weekend, I attended a workshop with Anusara teacher Todd Norian. This morning, our class was on arm balances, and the theme was "Play." Before beginning the class, Todd took a few minutes to talk about the importance of play in our lives. Play is something you do just for the joy of it, not because you have to or because you're expecting a certain result. We need a creative outlet - a space that is open to expression and possibility, but also free of judgement - in order to have balance.

Something about that statement really hit home for me, because it made me realize how often I bring self-criticism into my yoga, when yoga should be a time to play. Just to make a point, he somehow convinced 30 full-grown adults to run around a community-center cafeteria for five minutes acting like monkeys.

Obviously it is still important to enforce boundaries, to ensure safety and avoid injury, but we need to remember to leave self-criticism at the door. "Why can't my stupid hamstrings do the full expression of this pose?" "Why can't I balance in handstand yet? I must not be working hard enough." Kids have recess taken from them - we take it from ourselves.

When I found yoga in late July 2009, I could barely touch my toes. The only thoughts that entered into my head during the first few weeks/months of practice were pure wonder and amazement. I was awed by the ability of my body to fold further and further in half; to move into a backbend; to hold bakasana until I felt like I was floating. I could do anything.

Todd's class made me remember that feeling - and helped me see how important it is not to let our yoga practice become yet another arena for judging ourselves. The next time you go to your mat, just be open to whatever happens - and remember to play.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Now is not the time, Kato!

Anyone ever seen the original Pink Panther movies? If not, you definitely should - they are so much better than the new Steve Martin versions. Peter Sellers is a genius. But I digress.

If you have seen them, and you do know what I'm talking about, my first childhood exposure to Pink Panther was my dad yelling "Now is not the time, Kato! Now is not the time!!" when my sister would leap at out of some dark corner to pummel him, giggling uncontrollably. She was probably 3 or 4, I was probably 9 or so. This happened frequently and often resulted in bruises. My sister is fierce.

Why do I bring this up now, you ask? This is why:


If there ever was a modern-day, feline version of Kato it would be my parents cat Maggie, who is staying with us for 10 days while my parents are out of town.

Maggie is the master of stealth - except when she's purring. I'm also pretty sure she has no idea what species she is. She might think she's a human, or possibly a dog, but she definitely does not realize she's a cat.

Some other notable traits:
- if she goes for more than about 20 minutes without human company, she goes completely bananas.
- she insists on sitting in a chair during dinner.
- If you are sleeping, she will find you. And she will either a) drool in your ear while purring loudly, b) knead you forcefully with her paws, alsow while purring loudly, or c) sit on the nightstand next to your face, staring at you.
- Maggie enjoys beer.

But it is great having her around. She's a total weirdo and I love her to death.

In other news, today is day 5 of my Yoga Journal Fall Detox - only 2 days to go! It has definitely been an interesting journey and I'll share my opinion of the whole experience after it's done. Here's the short version of days 1-4:

Day 1: Started out not feeling so awesome, but figured it was due to a late night on Friday at First Ave with Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps. I stuck (mostly) to the plan even through my 10 year high school reunion where I was tempted by lots of drinks and apps.

Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps at First Ave

Day 2: Felt a little better than day 1 but still not awesome, and attributed it to continued lack of sleep and also cutting out caffeine. I went to an intense 2-hour yoga practice at The Om Collective with Ali and ran some errands but started feeling pretty exhausted around 5pm, so we stayed in instead of going to a movie like we'd planned.

Day 3: Day 3 was miserable. I woke up with a pounding headache and wanted coffee more than anything in the world but I forced myself to drink green tea instead and tried to get through the 26-minute day 4 yoga sequence. The headache continued all day, rendering me essentially useless at work. I tried to stick to activities that required almost no creative brain capcacity like organizing files and cleaning out my e-mail inbox, but meetings were still a lot of "Sorry could you repeat that?" and "Sure, no problem" having no idea what I had just agreed to. The headache just kept getting worse and even the thought of Kitchiri made me want to vomit so I skipped eating dinner, popped a Tylenol PM for the headache (probably against detox rules...) and went to bed at 8:30.

Day 4: I woke up feeling like a different person. The headache was gone and I didn't feel any strong craving for coffee, so I finally switched from green tea to herbal. I felt a little tired around 4 like usual, but nothing like day 3. And I finally made peace with Kitchiri. Not sure how it happened since I had been feeling such a strong aversion to it but last night I looked at my bowl and thought "you know what Kitchiri, you're not so bad." Kitchiri now feel like my partner - my detox buddy. I'll let you know on day 7 though...haha.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Falling For....

Fall has hit the midwest and in a big way - we had frost the last two nights, but the days have been in the 60's and gorgeous. Personally, I love this weather and have been feeling ready for it for weeks! Here are some of my favorite things about fall:
- curling up on the couch with a blanket and a great book
- watching the leaves change color
- the feeling of a warm cup of tea my hands
- and of course... boots and sweaters


Nothing like curling up in a blanket with some tea, a good book, and a warm bowl of soup or curry - coincidentally if you're looking for a great curry recipe, please check out my guest post today over at Opera Girl Cooks, featuring a delicious Thai Massaman Curry that I learned to cook during our honeymoon! Our dinner guests and good friends Mark and Tessie gave four thumbs up.


Ben and Mark agree - clean plates and good conversation make for an excellent evening.

Please ignore the Twins losing in the background.

In other news, I decided last week (possibly against my better judgement) to do YogaJournal's 7-day Fall Detox. I've never done a detox or cleanse before, mostly because whenever I think detox, I think horrific lemon and cayanne pepper concoctions and days upon days of starvation. But lately, I've been feeling a lot more open to things I haven't tried before. This detox actually involves food, which I like, and a daily yoga practice. I have a wedding next Saturday, which means I have to finish on Friday...which means I have to start tomorrow.

I am really looking forward to discovering what the next seven days bring, but I'm also nervous. I'm normally a pretty small eater, so I'm not so scared of being hungry all the time due to the tiny portion sizes - I'm more nervous about eating the same thing for every meal for seven days straight. I love food, and I love cooking. Being creative and inventive in coming up with fun meal ideas and experimenting with different ingredient combinations is one of the things I look forward to most every day. I'm more worried about being tempted to quit out of boredom than I am about being tempted by hunger.


the "last" breakfast... homemade yogurt, figs, raspberries, chia seeds, peach butter and a sprinke of granola

It's times like this that I'm really, really glad I have a blog - if nothing else, putting my intention down in writing makes me feel like I've signed a contract with the universe. I'm committed. Keep me honest people.

P.S. If you want to join the insanity, Just go to the Yoga Journal Fall Detox to check out the recipes, take the dosha quiz, and sign up to receive e-mails.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thailand Honeymoon Recap Part IV: Paradise on the Beach, Days 1-2

So, when I last left us we had just landed on the island of Koh Pha Ngan. After this, the days started to sort of blur together in a beautiful haze of sunshine, curry, and reading by the pool, so apologies if I skip or gloss over everything.

Before I put up a bajillion photos of the amazing villa we stayed in, I should explain how we were able to swing such an awesome deal. Last May when we were in India, we discovered Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Basically, SLH is a club that is totally free to join but gives you amazing rates on fantastic hotels, plus complimentary continental breakfast and free upgrades upon availability. And did I mention it's FREE to join?

Anyways, the point of all of this is, for less than half of what we should have paid, we landed our own villa with a private pool and view of the sea (courtesy of a free upgrade). We stayed at Santhiya Resort and Spa, which I would highly recommend. Koh Pha Ngan is known for its Full Moon Parties that take place every month, but those are held on the southwest beach, and Santhiya is in the northeast. Since the island isn't very big you can definitely get to the parties if you want to, but you can also have peace and quiet on the beach, so it was exactly what we wanted for a relaxing getaway.

...oh and did I mention, we had our own pool?

Villa from the outside

Our own private pool...

We spent most of our time lounging in these chairs and reading

View from our private pool.  Yup.

Ocean View

Living area

Living Room

Our hotel room.  Wow

Hallway into the bedroom

But I think my favorite thing about the room was the open air bathroom. I felt like I was at a spa every time I took a shower!

Open-air bathroom



More cute bathroom details

I was in love with all of the little details in their decor - even the soap dishes added to the whole feel of the resort

Again, cute bathroom details

For dinner, we ventured away from the hotel and grabbed dinner on the next beach. Right over the rocks we found a great place right on the beach that had a BBQ every night where you could pick your own meat and tell them exactly how much you wanted. They had tons of amazing, fresh seafood to choose from, but I couldn't resist getting the King Prawn.

King Prawn!

Prawn - actual size

That is one large prawn!

Beach restaurant near our hotel

...and a great view of the ocean

Candlelit dinner on the beach

night falls and the candles come out...

Beach restaurant at night

We started the next day off right - with coffee overlooking the ocean :)


Ben's candid camera prowess strikes again!

cute coffee cups

I think I forgot to mention that while we were in Bangkok, Ben was sick for a couple of days (a cold, nothing to do with anything we ate). As tends to happen when two people who just got married are traveling together, it took almost no time for me to catch up to him and by the end of our second island day I pretty much felt like death. We stayed at the resort for lunch and even ordered room service that night (chicken soup!) instead of going out for dinner.

My illness was made even more hilarious by the fact that Ben had a potential work-related Skype call that night and there was basically no place in the Villa where I wouldn't have to stumble past the computer to get to the bathroom. Luckily, the call was pushed back! I'm not sure my husband's future employers would have appreciated seeing me repeatedly lurch through the background like a zombie.

But no illness could curb my excitement for our special bathroom visitor! One side-effect of an open air bathroom is that there is no mechanism to keep little guests from finding their way in there:

Hey there little friend!

I had never seen a mantis in person before so I basically freaked out with excitement and took multiple pictures before my body finally rebelled against me and I went back to bed.

That's it for now - stay tuned for more island adventures!

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's a Beautiful Weekend in the Neighborhood...

This weekend, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and Ben and I found ourselves with a surprisingly small number of scheduled activities. As a result, we had a ridiculously relaxing weekend of hanging out, cooking, watching movies and wandering about in our neighborhood. We walked (almost) everywhere which is part of what I love about where I live - just about everything you could possibly want is walkable.

We kicked off the weekend with a Friday night dinner with my dad at one of our favorite spots. My dad loves italian and lucky for me one of his favorite restaurants, Amore Victoria, is only about a mile away from our place!


The food is delicious (they are very selective in using quality ingredients and make most of their own pasta), and the interior really reminds me of a larger version of the cozy, rustic places I ate at in Assisi, Italy.



My dad and I split our usual - the Fettucini Della Nona, a house-made fettucini with tomato cream sauce and seafood. Sometimes we have trouble finishing it but we must have both been extra hungry because we polished it off, along with a glass of Malbec! After dinner we walked home, stopping for coffee and dessert along the way.

Ben and I had planned on going to yoga on Saturday morning, but fate intervened and gave us a flat tire on the way there. So instead, we spent the late morning doing our grocery shopping - walking to two separate stores to get everything we needed. Groceries are the one thing that is slightly less walkable now that we've moved, but at least walking all over town gave us a great workout! Later that afternoon I did a class on YogaGlo to make up for our AM detour, and in the evening we met up with some yoga friends for a screening of The Heart of Transformation, a documentary about Anusara Yoga.

On Sunday we finally made it to the Linden Hills neighborhood to check out Tilia! We've been meaning to go there for weeks but just hadn't gotten around to it. This was actually supposed to be our first week back at choir, but since we missed Wednesday's rehearsal to see Bon Iver at the Orpheum and Ben didn't feel comfortable performing without having learned any of the music, we opted for brunch instead (sorry choir peeps!).


Please ignore the lipgloss marks and enjoy the cute white dishes


Poached eggs with tomatoes, tarragon, parsley, and parmasean cream



Egg Wreckage

There has been a definite shift over the last few years from chains posturing as "neighbohood restaurants" (I'm looking at you, TGIApplechillisdaysbees...) to actual neighborhood restaurants, and Tilia is a great example of that trend. A truly welcoming, laid-back neighborhood gem serving creative and high-quality food. We will definitely be back.

...and as an added bonus, Tilia also happens to be right next door to one of my favorite childhood haunts - the Wild Rumpus bookstore! I can't even tell you how much I loved this place growing up - every outing to the Wild Rumpus was a special treat.


Remember kids: reading is cool

I really love the following series of photos because they perfectly capture my growing lack of comprehension of, and finally rebellion against, Ben's repeated picture-taking after I asked for "one photo with the little door."



Making a new friend




I spent the rest of the afternoon being quite domestic - blogging while drinking tea, cleaning the bathroom, doing some (minimal) work on thank-you notes (yikes...really need to finish those guys...) and making a batch of Deb's Peach Butter. Savoring the last flavors of summer.



Looks like fall weather is setting in tomorrow - time enjoy the warmth 'cause we probably won't see 80 degrees again until June!
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