A few weeks ago I bought tickets to see Jack Johnson when he comes to Brooklyn in early June. I’m so excited about his show! My taste in music tends to change a little bit every few years, but I have loved Jack’s music (yes, we’re now on a first name basis) since my first year at UCSB. It reminds me of the beach, biking to and from campus, adventures in the dorms, and sitting inside the Sueño house with the door open with a nice ocean breeze coming through. These memories are still evoked when I’m sitting on a packed subway car or in my office working, a stark constrast in ambiance from college, so clearly the music is powerful to me. It probably has something to do with the fact that Jack Johnson attended UCSB himself. Fun fact: in Bubble Toes, when he’s singing about eating lunch at the DLG, that’s a UCSB dining commons! I used to love sharing this with prospective students when I was a tour guide for the campus.
It’s not a completely gloomy out today – I see some blue skies trying to peek out of the clouds when I turn around to look out my window – but this Thursday at work could use more cheer. So I leave you with my all-time favorite Jack Johnson song, Better Together. It’s the version with Paula Fuga so it may not be the one you’re accustomed to hearing, but it’s beautiful.
I recently stumbled upon these tumblers on Anthropologie’s website and instantly knew I had to have them. The brightly colored glass gives these glasses a beachy vibe and the fleur de lis decor reminds me of New Orleans. Although living in Nola sometimes resembled life in a third world country, such as when I got flat tires due to my car falling victim to the massive potholes on our streets or when the city issued warnings about the water being unsafe for consumption due to a compromise in the filtration system, the city will always hold a special place in my heart. For starters, it’s where I met Alex. : ) Also where I met the other love of my life, my cat Benji (who is sitting on my lap as I type this post). Our first kiss, becoming “official,” and saying I love you for the first time all happened in different spots around New Orleans, as well as countless other memories spent getting to know each other. New Orleans is also home to many fun times had with my law school friends – late nights at Goldmine, Mardi Gras parades, Tuesday nights at Bruno’s, wine and cheese nights, Felipe’s margs, celebrating the Saints’ superbowl victory, beer pong, dances. The last time I went back to visit I got so nostalgic as we drove down the familiar streets remembering all of these moments. Law school was a nice and necessary transition period between the shitshow that was college and becoming a professional. Luckily I have plenty of excuses to travel back to Nola and act like a student for a weekend. Several of my good friends still live there and since I adopted the Saints as my football team while at Tulane anytime they play at home is a good excuse to visit. Nothing beats a game at the Superdome!
In a nice change of pace from the snow and polar vortices, this weekend the sun came out to play and New York reached highs of 52 degrees. Alex and I took advantage of the warmth by spending Saturday afternoon walking around the city. We started with the flea market in Hell’s Kitchen (right by our old stomping grounds), then walked through the Village, Soho, and Tribeca back to our apartment, stopping through interesting shops along the way. Our cutest find was an Australian cafe called Pie Face, which has excellent coffee and mini savory pies topped with smiley faces. I wish they had one in our neighborhood, I’d be a regular. My evening was spent getting drunk and eating cheesy biscuits at the Times Square Red Lobster with friends. Eating at a chain restaurant in the most touristy part of the city was probably one of the least New York things we could have done and it was glorious. It’s nice to take a break from the small, crowded restaurants here where you inevitably hear the entire conversations of tables on either side of you. And come on, cheesy biscuits. For those of you who love those biscuits as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can make them at home using this mix (also available at Walmart). I made them during our law school reunion in the mountains last Labor Day, with extra cheese and butter, and they tasted just as good as the ones at Red Lobster itself.
Aside from some more light shopping on Sunday, I was a lazy bum. Alex and I have been watching Scandal on Netflix for the past two weeks and yesterday we had a full blown marathon. We’re approaching the end of Season 2, and I am amazed by how screwed up everyone’s lives got in the show so quickly. The series started off relatively benign and got pretty complicated by the end of the first season, but at this point it is beyond convoluted. I love it. I also love everything about Olivia Pope’s wardrobe. Ever since I started watching I’ve found myself wearing more extra long, delicate necklaces and pants, so apparently I’ve started channeling Olivia’s style. My envy of her looks doesn’t end at her clothes – I think Kerry Washington is one of the most beautiful actresses around. I know it’s a television drama, but seeing shows like Scandal and House of Cards really makes me wonder how crazy life is as a powerful politician in D.C.. Surely they cover up transgressions such as hiring prostitutes, but I wonder how commonplace it is to hide the really crazy crimes, like murders and election fraud. Probably much less so than they make it seem on the show. Anyway, I’m excited to get all caught up so I can watch new episodes as they air!
It’s no secret that both Alex and I love Mexican food. Unfortunately for both of us I tend to be pretty snobby abut the quality of Mexican food here in New York. There is amazing food of almost every ethnicity here – Italian, Japanese, Greek, you name it – but I just haven’t been able to find good, authentic Mexican done the way it is back in California. Not to say that I haven’t found decent tacos and burritos here, but they usually leave me feeling a bit disappointed. I miss the quesadillas at Taqueria Ramiro & Sons in my hometown of Alameda, where we used to go for lunch in high school, and the Mission-style burritos at El Farolito in San Francisco, which I tried for the first time a few years ago. In college there was Freebirds for nachos at 2am and Super Cuca’s for a California burrito or nachos, either at 2am or hungover the next morning. And whenever I head to LA to visit my UCSB friends we hit up Don Antonio’s for tacos and margs.
As a result, we don’t usually go to Mexican restaurants when we eat out. Instead I cook a lot of Mexican-inspired dishes during the week. Not that I can claim my Mexican cooking to be super authentic, but at least I can keep my meals light and cheap when I’m making them at home, and they do as good of a job of satisfying my cravings as eating it out in NY. My favorite is making tacos, mainly because they are easy and can take any kind of meat, but I decided to switch it up a bit this week and bust out my crockpot to make some chicken tortilla soup. Given the continuing nasty weather I thought it would be a nice, comforting choice.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- ~1 lb boneless & skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can diced tomatos (peeled), undrained
- 1 can diced tomatos with green chiles (RoTel), undrained
- 1 can yellow corn, drained
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2 jalopeno, seeds and spines removed, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 32 oz organic chicken broth (I used Trader Joe’s)
- Juice of one lime (I had one that looked like it was on steroids so I only used half)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- .5 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tsp Adobo seasoning (find this in the ethnic foods section of grocery stores)
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- 1.5 of chili powder
- Tiny pinches of salt and pepper
- Pinch of oregano
Put all ingredients into your crockpot and stir well. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Garnish with warmed corn tortilla stripes, shredded cheese, sour cream, and sliced avocado. Yum!
Last weekend my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of ditching the snowy northeast for a trip to south Florida. It felt so amazing to sink my feet into the sand, swim in the salty ocean, and feel the sun on my face. Best of all I was able able to wear sundresses and shorts for three whole days!! For the last 7 years before I had moved to New York I was able to wear dresses almost year round, so as you can imagine they still constitute a large part of my wardrobe. It was nice to be able to dig them out for a short rendezvous.
We stayed right across the street from the beach with his family in their winter condo. They have the most beautiful view of the ocean.
Also of the full moon at night. I didn’t have my tripod so taking night shots was really hard!
And we were spoiled by great food, both homemade and eaten out. Food not pictured, but here we are in Palm Beach.
After spending the weekend alternating between shell hunting at the beach and reading by the pool I’m convinced I could retire right now. Aside from the whole money issue, of course. I doubt I’d ever grow tired of frolicking in the clear blue waters, but even if I did there are other things to do when you grow older… volunteer work, taking classes, and of course travel. I guess all these aspirations can serve as motivation to contribute more to my 401k.
And I leave you with some beautiful orchids on Worth Street in Palm Beach.
The title of the post may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not. Today I am sharing my love for foods by Amy’s Kitchen. Ever since I moved out on my own completely, i.e. also out of the dorms my first year at UCSB, because that lifestyle came with a meal plan, I’ve had an unfortunate penchant for frozen food. During my college years I sustained myself on a diet of hot pockets, dino buddy chicken nuggets, and beer purchased in bulk from Costco. So gross looking back at it. It wasn’t until maybe my last year in Santa Barbara that I started to utilize the kitchen, mostly still making frozen meals, except that I upgraded to items from Trader Joe’s and using a pan or oven to heat them up instead of the microwave.
In law school I finally learned some fundamentals. I was partly inspired by one of my roommates from 1L year (law school’s first year) who was from Alabama and an amazing cook – she was always whipping up one casserole or another for dinner and the kitchen smelled fantastic. Sometimes she cooked for the house and sometimes for her and her boyfriend at the time. I had just started seeing Alex and I thought it would be nice to be able to occasionally make dinner for the two of us without having to worry about ruining something basic like pasta. Yes, I once managed to boil a bunch of spaghetti into one giant tube. Another infamous incident at the Sueno house in SB was when I burned an omelette and ate it anyway, pretending it tasted fine, after being made fun of by my roommates. So I slowly began to learn to make the basics, and today I make most of the meals in our household. Even more surprising, now that I know more of what I’m doing I really enjoy cooking!
Of course cooking takes time and sometimes I don’t have much of that to spare or I’m just too tired. Incidentally, my other 1L roommate introduced me to Amy’s pizza pockets. I love anything and everything pizza-inspired, so when I smelled these as her dinner one night I was intrigued. I tried one and I was hooked! Organic, pizza-flavored, and in a smaller portion? Perfect. In New Orleans the easiest place to find Amy’s dishes was Whole Foods, but here in New York several of the grocery stores around me have a wide variety. I regularly have their pizza pockets and burritos, and more recently I’ve tried some of their other offerings like tamales, pad thai, chili, and mac and cheese. All have been delicious and satisfying. I’m not the type of girl who can eat a salad and be fine for another 6 hours, so I especially love these as a lunch option. The portions are a little heartier than some other “healthy” meals like Lean Cuisine, but still small enough that they fit well into my diet even when I’m really watching what I eat. Also, the ingredients are organic and the meals are made without preservatives. The one downside is that they can be a little pricey but hey, you are what you eat.
When I first moved to New York about a year and a half ago it was September, a month that universally blesses both the east and west coasts with beautiful weather. Despite the abundant sunshine and temperatures well into the 70s, I was already concerned about surviving my first *real* winter. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, college educated in Santa Barbara, and legally educated in New Orleans, I was a stranger to true winters. I grew up wishing for snow that never came and my worst experience with bad weather in a place that I called home was an unusually cold week in Louisiana, during which I bought my first peacoat (a great investment, by the way). I joked about starting a blog about the trials and tribulations of a California girl braving her first east coast winter, but my boyfriend assured me that no one wanted to read the same post every day telling the world “IT IS SO FUCKING COLD.”
As fate would have it, what made my first New York winter difficult wasn’t a freak blizzard. In late October 2012 Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast and flooded our apartment building’s three-story basement. About seven weeks after having moved in and without the chance to finish completely unpacking, we were forced out of our apartment for three and a half months due to extensive damage to electrical and other equipment. We temporarily relocated to another building in a “neighborhood” called Hudson Yards by the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. My work’s building hadn’t fared much better in the storm, and I went from sharing a spacious office with one other person in my class to sharing the former trading floor of a defunct investment bank. In other words, everything went to shit.
This year I have had the pleasure of living in my pretty apartment and working in my office without interruption. However, this winter has been one of the worst in recent years all across the country. Even Californians have gotten their share with the severe drought that they are experiencing. With the polar vortex making frequent and unwelcome appearances I’ve gotten used to staying indoors much more, and as a result, I’ve cultivated some indoor hobbies – cooking, learning to use my DSLR, practicing manicures, and now blogging. So while no one wants to hear/read me complain about the winter, I hope you enjoy reading about the trials, tribulations, and tips of a twentysomething California girl living and loving in Manhattan.