A journey up the Pacific coast, part two

PART TWO! Are part twos ever as good as part ones? I think not, with maybe the exception being Austin Powers:The Spy Who Shagged Me, Home Alone: Lost in New York, and hopefully this blog post. 

When I left off, Ariel and I had just waved goodbye to Sequoia, the man in the night dress who gave us shelter, sofas, and a coffee table full o' weed. (Since my last post, Sequoia has given Ariel and I a review on couchsurfing. It reads "REALLY SWEET PEEPS." I did not add the all caps; that was his choice. What a guy, man.)

Eureka to Eugene: 

Ariel and I awoke with a plan. We would leave Sequoia's house bright and early so that we'd arrive in Eugene at a somewhat decent hour and avoid the hyperventilating that had occurred the previous evening. 

The drive to Eugene was breezy. After a mere four hours, we were in the second largest city in Oregon. The minute we arrived in that state, I could sense something was different. A layer of gray had melted over the earth, covering everything in a Patagonia jacket smelling of incense, musky cologne, and marijuana. The surrounding fauna was a shade green I thought could never be found in the United States, and 70% of the buildings were painted with mushrooms. There were coffee drive-thrus and waterfalls. It was a weird fairy land, if the fairies were lumberjacks who loved macchiatos and shrooms.

Maybe it was the fact that we were finally able to shower, or maybe it was because we arrived somewhere while it was still light outside, but nothing looked as good as that Eugene hostel. We had our own room and all of the bars were in walking distance (!!!). Making use of this valuable time to get some local flavor, Ariel and I put on our “going out outfits” (AKA denim shirts, yoga pants, and high-heeled boots), and went to the paint the town red at the Pizza Research Institute. 

The Pizza Research Institute, though to my knowledge was conducting no pizza research, scored major brownie points. For one, they served their cocktails (I had sangria) in ENORMOUS goblets. There were fat pieces of fruit bobbing up and down, all of which continued to soak up the sweet, boozy nectar. Ariel and I split a salad and each got a personal pizza, both of which came topped with a mountain of different cheeses and veggies. Now, the pizza at PRI wouldn’t fall into any category that was named after a city, but it was fucking delicious. The crust had seeds in it and it was perfectly browned and chewy. The vegetables and cheeses tasted like Greg-the-Waiter had grown them in his back pocket. It wasn’t anything you’d see in any trendy NY/LA restaurant, but it was doughy and cheesey and vegetable-y and everything I wanted to put into my mouth. Aforementioned boozy fruit was the perfect dessert. 

After dinner, Ariel and I moseyed across the street to dive bar with to check out a local Americana band. We began with a glass of wine and a shot of whiskey, and then proceeded to make our way onto the dance floor and rolls our heads with some Eugene-locals. 

The next bar is where things get a bit foggy. It was half arcade, which despite my living in a metropolis, I had never been to before. (Barcades, is what I think the kids are calling them?) Regardless, the whole thing is a bit fuzzy.  I did wake up with a piece of pizza in my purse and an email from an old man named Bill, saying that he enjoyed our conversation regarding the Oregon County Fair. Based on those clues, it sounds like it was a pretty lovely evening. 

Eugene to Astoria:

The next day began with only a slight hangover, some kombucha, and more sunlight than I believed to be possible in central Oregon. This was perfect, considering that Ariel and I had set aside this afternoon to be the one that we ventured into Ashland’s hot springs. For those who may not know, hot springs are basically Mother Nature’s way of telling us that, regardless of how old we get, she wants us to take off our clothes and play in the water. 

Your only form of payment is bravery - hot springs are popular. And in a place like Oregon, where no one seems to work real jobs, the place can get several visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. We arrived around 11am, and there were already a handful of folks skipping naked through the greenery, frolicking like small European children on the beach. 

The last time I was naked in public was my senior year of college when I did a  lap around my friend’s house wearing nothing but a pair of Nike’s and a friendship bracelet. (I’m not one for showing off Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the Cheshire Cat, but….when in Rome.) Ariel and I both through caution (and our underthings) to the wind, and climbed in among a small cluster of Oregon's finest.  

Floating in the hot springs was similar to what I can imagine it feels like to be a mythological creature. At any moment, I half-expected Zeus to parade in disguised as a horse, or witness Vertumnus attempt to woo the spritely Pomona. It barely felt real. Oregon is truly a rainforest, with thick layers of moss painting every tree branch and life inching its way out of every surface. 

I didn’t want to put on my clothes and stop running my fingers over the smooth, wet stones. I wanted to be naked forever, like Tommy Pickles in this episode of Rugrats.  (Also, mental note to add "Naked Forever" to the list of novels I'd eventually like to write.) When the time came for our departure, Ariel and I pulled on our clothes and repacked the car to head up to Astoria.

The drive was quick, and we arrived at our hostel with just enough time to finish a bottle of wine and find a seafood restaurant. But the scariest part of Astoria was the journey down the boardwalk. It wasn't really dangerous, but halfway to dinner we heard the most terrifying wails and wimpers. It turned out to be the sounds of elephant seal mating calls, which upon learning, ended up serving as a nice soundtrack to our oysters and chicken sandwiches. 

Astoria to Bainbridge Island: 

Astoria is located on the Washington coastline, only a stone’s through away from some infamous Goonies moments. It’s also the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s cross-country trek, and they really couldn’t have found a worse spot to end up. Don’t get me wrong; Astoria is breathtaking and worth a visit, but that’s only when you have a bed, an umbrella, and at least some form of shelter. It’s right on the water, and in January this means it’s going to get cold, windy, and foggy. The 101 took us across a ginormous bridge, and it looked as if we were heading straight into purgatory. The nearby landmarks were labeled “Dismal Point” and “Cape Disappointment.” Oof. Rough days, Lewis and Clark. 

We waved goodbye to the coastline, migrating towards Ariel’s uncle’s place on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge doesn't feel real. In the middle of winter, it’s foggy and green, brimming with a gray mist that seems to billow in from every direction. It’s the kind of place one would envision roaming if they were suddenly orphaned and decided to live life in the style of the Boxcar Children. Had it not been raining and dangerous, I’d have wanted to kick off my shoes and muddle through the dirt, looking for storybook berry patches and rabbit holes. 

But Ariel and I had an agenda. We had to be leaving Bainbridge (by ferry) by FIVE so that we could get to Bainbridge by SIX so that I could get to a meeting by SEVEN (despite the carefree nature of this trip, I had not stopped working. Gas money, to my dismay, does not grow on trees.) By this time, the rain was pounding, making our first drive through Seattle more stressful than romantic. Cars were honking. I was apologizing. It was so scary that at one point, Ariel looked at me and said, “Should we fire drill this?” And then we switched spots in the middle of the intersection.

Luckily, break time came for the weary travelers. While I was in my meeting, Ariel went in search of a bar. Her journey was most fruitful, because when I went to meet up with her, I discovered that she had picked one of the fanciest joints in that part of Seattle. And had somehow scored us glass after glass of free champagne. I keep her around for a reason. 

We sat in the corner, shamelessly flirting with the bartenders all while hoping that our luck would not run out. In an attempt to look really fancy, we ordered a plate of oysters, and then proceeded to write haikus on napkins. (The Fitzgeralds would have been so proud!)

The feeling of our arrival that evening was bittersweet. It was wonderful to settle in the Bainbridge house that evening, stripping down into our birthday suits and pretending to be mermaids in the middle of some mossy lagoon. But I couldn't help but feel as though we were living in a fantasy. This is typical of travel, I've learned. It's like living in a bubble; one where you get to spend your days in cars and your evenings in hottubs. 

I began to wonder if these feelings of diving into the unknown were the high from vacation, or if they could indeed by be my reality. Is a life on the road something I could build, or even something I wanted? Where is the line between work and adventure? Could they be combined? And if so, how?

The answer still hasn't made itself clear, but when it does, you'll be the first to know. 

- Stay cozy

 

Into the Idyllwild

I've been thinking a lot about change. 

About one year ago, Valentine's Day, I was driving away from Tyler, Texas to stay with a woman named Maggie who lived a few hours outside of Memphis. I drove eating a chocolate cookie dough blizzard (!!!) and drinking a chocolate coconut water(!!!!!!!), and making a pit stop to pick up Maggie a box of Russell Stover chocolates (!!!!!!!!!).  It was 70 and sunny, and the hop from Texas into Tennessee was as simple as a game of hopscotch. 

I remember feeling older that morning. I'm not sure why. It could have been the chocolate, or the oxytocin, or the rush from completing my first solo drive. Maybe it was because I had decided to quit my job and move to California two weeks later, and so I was feeling grown up and brave.  Whatever the reason, I remember gripping the steering wheel and looking at the road and thinking that life could be a playground if I let be. The highways could go anywhere; they could lead to anything. 

There's been a great deal of change since I made that drive. As a human with a type-A, list-loving personality, I sometimes find this hard to embrace. I like to make plans and stick with them, but that's certainly not often the way things work. Some of the best things in life (road trips and ice cream trucks) are spontaneous. 

Said spontaneity led me to Banning, California last weekend. I'd be staying with my new friend Marta, a woman who ran a business with her late husband operating the concessions at Renn Faires across the country, and her friend Amin, 25-year-old San Diego-an who likes to climb mountains.  Marta's cooking skills are beyond medieval, and when I arrived she welcomed me with the freshest and chunkiest homemade guacamole and Rosé.  For dinner, we had carrots and sweet potatoes in a tangy yogurt sauce and a chicken bathed in Indian spices. The meal was consumed around the living room table, surrounded by purple pillows, waves of incense, and 90s country music. 

A mere 45 minutes away from Banning stands Idyllwild, a town high up in the mountains and clustered with coniferous trees. Amin and I went up there the next day to explore the nature and hear a biker play the electric guitar. Along with the tourists and venturing biker gangs from Temecula, Idyllwild offers a handful of ice cream shops, restaurants, and places to buy beads and crystals. It reminded me of Sedona, but greener and closer to the clouds. Amin, a self-proclaimed "dark sky chaser" pointed out Yosemite and Big Bear from an especially high point in Idyllwild. It's pretty cool that you can see parts of California MILES AWAY from other parts of California. I still can't get over this. 

I left the Banning and Idyllwild, tanned, sweaty and accidentally laptop-less. When I realized my mistake upon returning home, I slapped my forehead and went "UGH." My plans for the evening and the next day flushed down the toilet, as I had another road trip to make, this one even more spontaneous than the first. Luckily, my friend Rachel is always down for a romp in the desert, especially if said romp involves attic exploration and roadside ice cream. 

Changes over the last month have been minor, such as "shoot, I can't complete any of these tasks because I need to go back and get my laptop" to more major ones like "okay, how is my rent going to get paid." And in the midst of a batch of crazy twists and turns, these changes have been the one thing I can guarantee. While some of them feel torturous in the moment, I've found that allowing them welcomes in a plethora of unexpected delights. My plans for last Monday didn't involve a return to Marta's or listening to Bob Marley with Rachel's feet on the dash, but they did. How lucky.

So cheers to another year of "who the f%& knows what will happen a year from now?" I can plan on that. 

Photos by myself and Rachel Tenenbaum //

-stay cozy

 

Adventures in Solvang

A natural museum, the exhibits painted in christmas shops and miniature ponies; Solvang is place for dreamers, tasters, and holiday-enthusiasts. Arrive at night and you'll be greeted with twinkling fairy lights and glass of pinot noir, preparing you for a sleigh ride into December.

Thanksgiving back east means frosted grass, 8am bloody marys, and collecting pinecones to decorate the centerpiece. Mish would be hard at work in the kitchen, while Uncle David and I lay flat on our bellies watching the parade as we chomped vodka-soaked celery sticks. Out in California, Thanksgiving is painted in shades of blue and gold. In the middle of this colorful landscape sits the town of Solvang. When my friend Dave first told me his family lived there, I proceeded to google image it and immediately thought he had sent me to some small town in Holland. Solvang was more than just blue and gold; it was red and white and Christmas-y and full of chocolate fudge and skeet shooting and coyotes and stars. So when Dave extended a Thanksgiving invite to Kaitlyn and I, we squealed and I threw my wooden shoes in a suitcase. 

We arrived just after sunset on Wednesday, meeting up with Dave and his best friend Dante. Molly and Rick Ballantine melted my soul with their immediate offering of red wine and enthusiastic embrace. Back in our Harrisonburg home, Kaitlyn and I slept next to one another in separate bedrooms. Neither of us could have predicted we'd eventually be sleeping next to one another in a Solvang bedroom equipped with amazing bathrobes and a cerulean wedding chest that I wanted to steal. But oh, oh, oh, I was glad we did! Especially at 8am, when Kaitlyn pulled the covers over her face and whispered "Happy Thanksgiving."

Thanksgiving-y things happened. There was a parade and a tennis game. I successfully threw a football. Oh, and cornhole!! Cornhole was great companion for this holiday, especially when paired with team Amante and team Daitlyn and team Stella Artois. Then there was the pinot noir, the turkey, the corn souffle, the roasted green beans, and the sausage-and-apple stuffing?! I was so excited I could have knocked the table over! (Which would have been a shame. There was a lot of wine on that table.) 

Celebration continued until the wee hours of the morning and then some more over the next 36 hours. We sang Sinatra around the piano, tasted wines, shot rifles that shattered clay pigeons, and visited the Sock Loft. We gave ourselves flash tattoos in the laundry room. Ohio and Michigan played against one another Saturday morning, and we celebrated with mimosas and pushups upon ever point scored. It led to some very tipsy and very enthusiastic exercise.

And in Solvang, where the food and fudge shops and wine pours from the sky, I remember that first kitchen meal. That time where I knew I was safe and with good people who cared about food and friends. We ate these carrots alongside flank steak, salad, and salted potatoes as the stars came out to play. 


molly's roasted carrots

8 imperator carrots (or others of a similar variety)

Olive oil 

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Peel the carrots. Use a chef's knife to cut them into slices. (I like an uneven cut. It looks beautifully imperfect and rustic.)

Place the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the desired amount of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, mix the carrots around the baking sheet to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings. 

Bake for 20-45 minutes, depending on how you like them. I do a solid 30. The longer you cook them, the softer they get. The edges also get oh-so-wonderfully charred. 

Let the holidays continue! I've discovered the Christmas radio station and now my LA drives are 10x more festive. Cheers, cheers, cheers.

- Stay cozy

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Food with Simon Majumdar, and a few Saturday morning links

I was spoiled this week. 

Wednesday - I twirled to First Aid Kit, a two-girl Americana band hailing from Sweden.  A string quarter joined them, and as they sang the The Lion's Roar, massive headbanging ensued. 

Thursday - Cathy gave me a set of baby balsamic vinegars for tiny tastes and samples! For no reason! I also went into Williams and Sonoma for the first time this holiday season and while I'm trying not to be so much of a consumer, oh my goodness did I want everything. There were dutch ovens and emersion blenders and stand-mixers of the palest blue. As I get older, this is what I envision Santa's workshop to look like. With the addition peppermint white russians. 

Friday - I ate Indian food.

Correction, I learned how to make Indian food, straight from food and travel writer Simon Majumdar. One of the subtitles on Simon's website says, "Go everywhere. Eat everything." He's a judge on Cutthroat Kitchen, Iron Chef America, and The Next Iron Chef, and a poet when it comes to detailing the nourishment of food and exploration.

Simon (the sweet guy!) agreed to do some videos for Salted, one of the companies I'm currently freelancing for. Mostly my work has me A) curled up in bed with a cup of hot cocoa, researching the history of the pomegranate, or B) in the office, this time likely with chai, and writing out Thanksgiving Day recipes.  However, Friday was spent in the best possible way:  setting up camp in the airy loft of littlemeatsLA for a day of filming Simon serving up some classic Indian dishes.

Over the course of nine hours, we learned how to temper oil, to roast and grind spices,  to make garam masala, to make naan, and to make paneer. We also learned the recipes for chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, a lime/garlic/ginger/chile yogurt sauce, and saag paneer.  Cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cloves danced in the air as we moved through the shoots, pausing to change refill water bottles and sample some of Simon's brilliant creations. 

"Look how sexy that is," Simon said, gesturing to the spice pods, dried chiles, and cinnamon sticks laying seductively in a white bowl. He was right. They WERE sexy.  Like,  man-bun level of sexy. 

Now, I know I was technically working. Simon in particular was moving with a super-human level of endurance. But there was something about this process that felt so utterly cozy.  The lofty kitchen of littlemeatsLA provided our day's nest and offered all of the kitchen supplies we could possibly need (someone did their Williams and Sonoma shopping). There was a sense of community as we navigated across the counters, refilling jars with kashmir chili and cream so that Simon could continue onto the next recipe. Even washing dishes triggered the memory of Thanksgiving Day back in my home of Northern Virginia. I had that same feeling that I should be overwhelmed with the amount of dishes, but instead I felt lucky to even be in the kitchen in the first place. It's a good place to be. 

By the time the sun dipped beyond the horizon, Simon had prepared his final dishes, and we were sampling his homemade naan. There was a warm lick of butter across the top of the surface, and the pillowy interior rocked me in a gentle massage.  Light fell from the high bulbs of the loft onto the wooden tables, and the remaining warmth from the burner echoed throughout the room. 

Every time I practice yoga, I set a small mission for myself to keep through the day. Most recently I've been focusing on awareness and gratitude, because there's really no point for me not to feel either. As I scooped up my remaining saag paneer with a wedge of the naan, I felt a wave of both sensations. The naan offered more than a jolt of energy; it gave me gratitude for the moment, awareness of every sensation, and tremendous appreciation for the flavor of life. 

Some more of Simon's recipes can be found here. I certainly recommend trying the saag paneer. In addition to being sexy, it's also downright delicious. 


Saturday morning links!

// littlemeatsLA is where we filmed Simon's shoot. It's a sweet little creative space that allows for artists and chefs to collaborate with one another, and is on a mission to bring back the Sunday Supper vibe. 

// how famous artists would plate Thanksgiving Day meals  

Remember chugging the leftover chocolate milk from Cocoa Pebbles? Megan turned it into a grown-up dessert. //

// I want to live in a cake terrarium   

Mama makes beautiful lunchbag art for the littles one //

// Aphrodite's Kitchen is now one of my go-to blogs for beautiful pictures and collages. Her stories of Cyprus read like fairy tales. 

 

-stay cozy! 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia wine country and lancaster county

I've jet-lagged myself into the mindset of an early bird. The room is gray with morning light, and I'm wearing a t-shirt that smells like my favorite boy. 

Back from the East Coast, and it looks like a suitcase has exploded in my room. It's full of semi-folded clothes and my brain is full of good, great, and cheer-inducing memories.

So with that being said, I'll review my week in a handful of the moments collected. I like to imagine them as metaphorical snapshots, laid out on a wooden floor so that I may stand above them and think. "yes, yes, yes!" I'll likely also dance a bit, maybe cry, and then sit down to cuddle them.

Mish made omelets, and I am forever grateful for back-porch-Sunday-mornings.  The sounds of southern bugs had been forgotten since my move. They provided nice background tunes. 

I visited Breaux Vineyards, where Ketel One and I shared the Virginia scenery, orange chocolate, and a knockout Cab Franc. "Like a saddle fell on the flowers."

There were homemade fajitas and a plethora of citrus-medlied margaritas.

Around 10pm, we watched The Graduate, where a plastic bag of bulk peanut M&Ms fell into my lap and I felt very alive.

Lemon-ginger kombucha plus bacon granola is the way to go when it comes to car trips. 

I lazed in a hammock, where approximately one year ago, I lazed in the exact same position with the exact same girl and we giggled over the things we once feared.

Two lovers with bloated bellies ate salad greens over a maple desk.

We adored an armful of kittens, watching them dig their tiny kitty nails into the cardboard and mew for attention, or food, or just for the hell of it.

I cut a watermelon and felt very cozy.

I returned to my stompground of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where my  dad and I shared Hefeweizen while dodging rain bullets.

Epic sleeps. 

Circa Paleo played and there was much rejoicing. 

A microwave Amy enchiladas meal never tasted so good.

The words "free wine tasting" never sounded so good.

There were massive amounts of "I love yous" and tight embraces that warmed my soul like a pumpkin latte wearing a sweater. 

________________________

 

The plane ride back was difficult, for sure, but I take comfort in a scented shirt and the words of Rainer Maria Rilke. These came from his letters to Franz Kappus, back when Mr. Kappus was goin' through his quarter-life crisis, and I HIIGHHHLY recommend his work for the readin pleasure of any writer, artist, or human.

"For the people who are close to you, you tell me, are far away, and that shows that you are beginning to create a wider space around you. And if what is close is far, then the space around you is wide indeed, and already among the stars."

-stay cozy