Jim Morrison's Caves

Do you remember the little girl in the movie Up? The one who grows up to be that rad old lady who dies within the first fifteen minutes of the movie, leading you to fold into your afghan blanket and sob big, fatty, baby tears? I remember her well, specifically right after she won the heart of the young grumpy man and right before she grew up, she said the words, "adventure is out there!" 

And oh, oh, oh do I believe it, little vagabond girl! I've said it before; the mundane can be the most excellent and adventure truly is around every corner. 

Or in this case, 25 miles north.

Last Saturday, Brett and I took the day off to romp up to Corral Canyon Road, dive headfirst into a post-hike champagne brunch, and slap on our Saturday best for house party shenanigans. IT began very early, which is the best thing to do when you want to devote an entire day to play. In the am we left Culver City to slather our arms in SPF 30 and drive up to Malibu. I've been on a hiking kick ever since I started reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild. (But no I haven't seen the movie yet! The fact that First Aid Kit has jammed their way into the soundtrack is hardcore motivation, but I wanted to get my hands dirty with some pages first.) There's something about the west, the unexplored turf, and the vastness of the mountains that beckons one forward. 

In her novel, Cheryl depicts her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. While the hike Brett and I chose is nowhere near the level of the PCT, I couldn't help but think of her journey as we trudged through the dirt and hoisted ourselves across the rocks. She mentions the great intimidation of the mountain range, and how while it may seem like you are hiking to the top of a mountain, there is no such thing. Mountains are earth, and they just roll on and on without rhyme, reason, pattern, or regard for any living thing that chooses to take on their terrain.

Which makes you realize how little you are. 

After graduating, I was hungry for a syllabus. I wanted control. I wanted to look at a map and for one state to light up and say MOVE HERE and then for a job that made sense and for the dominoes of my life to fall exactly like they were supposed to. But looking at those mountains with Brett while simultaneously thinking of Cheryl's worlds illuminated the fact that that wasn't going to happen. Humans can control quite a bit; our clothing choices, the foods we put into our bodies, heck, even our happiness. But the list of things that we fall vulnerable to is far longer than the list of things within our grip.

That being said, the mountains are beautiful, and the unexplored territory is kinda fun. There are surprises. Like Jim Morrison's Cave.

NOTE: The cave was not so much a surprise for me. My eight-year-old friend Dylan gave me the heads up, as well as vague instructions on how to find it. I will tell you, dear friends, to the best of my ability, but a lot of it relies on instinct because the path changes depending on how the bushes are growing. Some people like to keep good hikes a secret, but I believe that adventure should be shared among the masses. 

You want to drive up to Malibu, making a left on Corral Canyon Road. You'll drive all the way to the end and it will be beautiful and it will feel like you are driving too much and that you are skipping the hike. You are not. Eventually, about ten minutes in, the road will turn to dust and you'll be able to park your car. Take the hike to the back left of the parking lot. Immediately you'll see stacks of stones and smooth rocks that shout CLIMB ME (doooo it). Keep hiking and you'll eventually see this large sphere of rocks that looks like Pet Semetary, but it's not. Turn back around and spy a small clump of rounded rocks and head towards this. There should be a little trail leading back to the caves. Make a left and continue down. The cave will be on your left, as well a little black arrow. Follow it back and you will spy an opening that, I kid you not, looks like a vagina. Climb through the vagina and you are in the cave. 

Glance out and see the big, wide world below. Count the mountains. Bring some wine or grapes and have a party. Ride the snake, whatever. I can see why Jim loved this cave and I can see why that little girl shouted "adventure is out there."

- Stay cozy (in a cave!) 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago: homemade lasagna, Logan's Square, and leaf crunchies

The first time I went to Chicago I was ten years old, wearing Limited Too and pretending to be a Harry Potter character in the comforts of my Uncle and Aunt's attic. It was Thanksgiving, and there were cousins raking leaves into piles, younger cousins destroying said piles, quick kitties, and piles of pie. 

If you had told my denim backpack-dotting self that fourteen years later I would be returning for afternoon hot whiskey drinks and crunchy leaves, my imagination would have gone buck wild. I liked to wonder (and still do) about the future, often with great imagination. And as much as I like to play this game, I could not have fathomed a more perfect excursion. 

 I made the trek back to the Windy City last week for a small reunion with the eight women I once shared a home with. Chris Palmer and Kristen Hanes were our hosts, and we made sleeps in one bed, two air mattresses, one couch, and a papasan. Bras, blankets, and wine glasses littered the floor while leaves tumbled off the trees and down the ivy-lined walls.  We watched Lo, Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, and The Room while avoiding burning off our eyebrows when lighting a fire. It was the epitome of cozy.

We lay on anything that can be consider comfortable, our legs link in order to stay warm. 

Chris chops mushrooms and sautés tomatoes. Maps and cookbooks are discussed, and we take many sips from glasses of Pinot Noir. 

Kaitlyn plays with the camera while I play with a kitty. Italian aromas dance through the air as we sit on countertops and kiss each other's faces.

After a breakfast of tea-smoked duck benedict, togarashi bacon, and huckleberry waffles with sake maple syrup (!!!!!!!!), we take our full bellies on a stroll through the Logan's Square farmer's market. 

There are pumpkins as big as Santa's bum and homemade chai marshmallows and fleece on fleece on fleece. 

Sunday shoppers find ways to stay warm in their layers of flannel and thermal leggings. Beards and vegan baked goods are everywhere. Baby lattice pies steal my heart. And goodbyes are hard. 


I really like this whole taking pictures thing. I like the simple form of capturing a story and the clicky-click of the shutter as each snapshot is taken.  

Yesterday a friend told me that the only consistent things we have in life are ourselves and change.  But if we look for it, there's beauty. Whether it be falling leaf, an old sheet tray, or an empty stool waiting at the bar. 

Also, I can no longer say I've never missed a flight, because I did, and it led to one of the c-o-z-i-e-s-t days in history. Kaitlyn and I worked from Chris and Kristen's office with lit candles and an at-home happy hour. In the evening we drank $1 Milwaukee's Best and ate steamed eggplant buns. Chicago is no stranger to the foodie world. 

-stay cozy 

Fein tau weiyema, or pumpkin bread pudding from Mexico

Today we’re caravanning to back to college with a longer goal of reaching South America.  I’m aiming to have all you East-Coasters back by dinnertime.

There are several things I enjoyed about undergrad.  I loved the feeling of snatching one of the coveted “double-decker” desks located on the third floor of our library during exam week, the random tapestry and incense sales that would occur outside the student union, it being totally acceptable to wear leggings as pants, and the dining hall’s bread pudding.

 Eating bread pudding at James Madison University was my first exposure to this revolutionary dessert.  I remember eating it, setting my fork down, and thinking “what the f***?” The concoction was somehow both crispy and uncooked. It felt like my grandmother had made it, and yet at the same time it had come out of the vending machine. And it was right next to the frozen yogurt machine, which was like putting the North Pole beside Señor Frogs.

As you can see, I was hooked.  Before the experience, I liked pudding, but it was never something I would methodically seek out. But now, after that first freshman year taste, I was obsessed with pudding and carb combinations. Rice pudding, which seemed like a disgusting snack portrayed in 90s cartoon lunchrooms, was actually amazing. Even tapioca pudding had its moments.  Despite the delicious culinary adventure I was on, it always came back to bread pudding. Especially when JMU decided to start adding Nestlé chocolate chips into the mixture. I literally once used a dining hall punch only to get bread pudding, put some in a tupperwear container, and then took it back with me so I could eat in my pajamas while watching Memoirs of a Geisha.

 However, I have since graduated, and had to wave goodbye to the industrialized bread pudding and hello to my pair of oven mitts.  It’s not bad at all, especially when cans of pumpkin are hitting the shelves at only 99 cents.

pumpkinbread.jpg

This is not a recipe for bread pudding, rather a recipe for South American pumpkin bread that tastes and feels like bread pudding. I found the recipe in an issue of Saveur and fell in love with its warmth and simplicity.  It provides the same level of comfort as JMU bread pudding, but allows me to play in the kitchen and powder my nose with flour.

pumpkinbread5.jpg

 The article, along with the recipe, highlighted the cuisine of the Garifuna people living along the coast of Honduras. Identity and cuisine go hand in hand, as the Garifunians use the findings from their habitat to provide nourishment.  When it comes to preparation, the focus is on the act of cooking; friends and family gather in the kitchen, massaging plantains while coconut milk bubbles. 

 Comfort and cuisine are good playmates. They hold hands, take turn licking the beaters, and offer a cozy companion when things get a little chilly. 

pumpkinbread6.jpg

fei tau weiyema (or bread pudding from Mexico)

¼ cup canola oil, plus more for pan

2 cups flour, plus more for pan

1½ cups sugar

¼ cup milk

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. kosher salt

2 (15-oz.) cans pumpkin purée, or 2 lb. puréed, roasted pumpkins or acorn squash

cinnamon-sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9" round cake pan; set aside.

Stir together oil, sugar, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin in a bowl; add flour, and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan, and smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1-2 hours. Cut into squares or wedges to serve.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon-sugar, but this is one hundred percent optional!

This recipe was first published in a November 2012 issue of Saveur and comes along with a lovely little story written by Betsy Andrews on Garifunian lifestyle and cuisine.  The bread is very, very moist. I baked it on the longer end of the spectrum, hitting about 2 hours. The exterior is spicy and crunchy, like a cookie, and the inside is like a pumpkin molten cake. 

In other news, I really love this article on living minimally. I especially love the the mason-jar-food-storage system. Feel like a storybook!!! wee!

-stay cozy

Joshua Tree National Park, plus a birthday

This weekend was all about camping, dessert wine with desert smores, midnight birthday trade-offs, and tutus paired with hiking boots.

I turned 24 on Sunday (yay! hello, new year!) and spent my first few hours of this life phase in the dust of Joshua Tree National Park. My friend Tessa and I filled up my car with granny smith apples, coconut water, and batteries, and made the three-hour drive out to the Mojave Desert. 

A few months ago, I joined a wonderful group called the Ziji Collective, which consists of 20 and 30-somethings with an appreciation for honest conversation and finding mindfulness in everyday life. We planned this little camping trip in order to celebrate one another and the entrance into Fall. Party favors would include vegetarian hobo packs and spirit animal discovery circles, so I was more than happy to make the venture out into the desert wilderness. (As a former girl scout, I will always have a soft spot for the hobo pack.)

 The town of Joshua Tree is sparsely divine. Along the main road sits a handful of coffee shops, yoga studios, and nutritional grocery stores. Tessa and I stopped at Joshua Tree Outfitters to rent a tent ($17 for a two person, woo!) and “paid” the entrance fee (FREE for camper's appreciation day, woo #2),  and then there was nothing left to do but lose our cell phone service and drive into the desert. We did it in style; blasting gypsy music and clapping our hands with glee.  It felt like Thelma and Louise, minus the whole running-from-the-law-to-avoid-a-lifetime-in-jail kinda thing. (Though that would have been kinda cool.)

The beauty of Joshua Tree upon the entrance into evening is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Cacti pop up in random clusters, their spindly arms reaching towards the sky. It's hard for a plant out there, and one hundred percent survival of the fittest. The depression of the day's sun painted a golden light on the smooth rocks, allowing the silhouettes of evening hikers to decorate the horizon.

We didn’t meditate while I was there, but camping by itself instills a wonderful sense of mindfulness. It's impossible to think of anything in the past or future, because everything in the moment is just so darn beautiful. The air smells like fire and wood and the silence plays in a melody thick as molasses.  When the clock struck midnight, the sky was spray-painted with stars, and there were still plenty of logs to toss in the fire. It was very good.

 As for the rest of the day, I drove as newly-24-year-old  from the Mojave Desert to Venice Beach, all the way singing loud rock music and loving the Chai latte season. One year older! Cool! This time last year I was working at the Pennsylvania Faire, celebrating as Lorna “Doom” O’Carroll and crushing on Ketel One like there was no tomorrow. Funny how things work out.

As 24 morphed into 24-and-a-day, I sat in the living room of our Palms apartment for the Sunday Night Cozy Party. It seemed very appropriate to spend half my birthday exposed to nature and the other half nestled in literal blanket nest.  My friends and I played board games and drank wine, and I was grateful for the moment we all decided to take the West Coast plunge

 Looking back, the whole weekend was very symbolic of the things I want. And that’s comforting to say because I don’t think I’m a person who always knows what she wants.  I do, however, know that I want exploration, good friends, starry skies, a well-crafted egg roll, and lots and lots of blankets.

So hello HELLO, New Year! I can now say I’ve seen the Milky Way for REAL and that I’ve lived on more than one coast of the United States. I’m so excited that I’m squealing.

-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