Road Trip Upon Road Trip…Heading North Pt 2

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Heading north from LA was harder than expected.  We started our morning off at Abbot Kinney.  Our intent was to hit the road and head out from LA Monday afternoon around 1pm or so.  None of us seemed to be in too terrible of a rush, as at 6pm, we still found ourselves in LA.  Obviously we weren’t getting very far that night.  The second lesson learned on this trip:  don’t hold tightly to expectations.  We were hitting the road with no plan (other than being in San Fran by Thursday night).  We had no reservations.  Only a tent in the trunk and high hopes of camping along the way.  Hopes that we soon realized were sorely unrealistic in California in the summer.  Our plan was to start looking for a place around 7pm and to stop by 8pm.  That never happened.  Our average stop time was around 11pm.  And we never found camping.  So, needless to say, we ended up bringing a tent on the plane and all the way to California, along with three sleeping bags, to never use them.  Hotels and motels and crashing at a friend’s house it was for us girls.  All of which added to the adventure.  The motel was up there in the top five worst places I have spent the night (complete with a sink and toilet that didn’t work).  Camping would have been so much better.  Needless to say, we hit the road bright and early the next morning.  Lesson three learned:  finding a decent hotel on the road is not as easy as it is overseas.

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Highway 1

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We had one golden rule.  If at any point, someone wanted to pull over and check something out, they just had to say the word.  And each and every stop was totally worth it.  Those were the best.  The ones that were unexpected.  Like the sea lions sunbathing on the beach.  The hidden beach across the railroad tracks.  The organic strawberry farm where you could wash your berries in a sink and eat them right then and there.  The little town of Davenport.  The list goes on and on.

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Places to Stop Along the Route:

Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you if I wanted to.  We didn’t make note or pay too much attention to where we were.  I think that was the beauty and the adventure.  It was just happening upon things.  The delight was in the unexpected.  In nature.  In the drive.  In each other’s company.  We didn’t listen to music.  We just talked and drove.  And probably said oh my gosh a trillion times.  The nature was breathtaking.  It kept getting better and better.  It was what made my heart burst with excitement and emotion.  It was almost too much.

But, there were a couple of places of note that are worth a stop if you happen to see them.

First, any and all fruit stands!  With prices as low as 10 grapefruit for $1, how can you not.  Lesson learned.  We should have lived off of fresh produce.  Why we didn’t I don’t know.

Pezzini Produce Stand:

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We made a pit stop here without even realizing what it was…an artichoke farm.  I have tried to grow artichokes for the past couple of years (and quite unsuccessfully) so I was pretty darn excited to see an actual farm.  Plus, we had to try the artichoke cupcake and the food truck selling steamed, fried, or grilled artichokes.  Too tempting not to.

Fambrini’s Farm Fresh Produce:

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I wish we had more empty bellies and a larger car.  We could have gone crazy here.  So sweet and so quaint.  And hint…near the beach by the railroad tracks on the way to Davenport.

Big Sur:

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You will know when you hit it.  We were waiting for this the whole drive.  It was like nothing else.  Make sure to save some serious time here.  And if tons of cars are seemingly pulled over at an overlook, chances are it is worth stopping too.

…and then finally we crossed over into San Francisco, where we walked the streets for the next four days.

San Francisco:

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San Francisco Places to Eat:

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Seed + Salt:  After eating whatever we happened to find on the road, this felt perfect.  I don’t know if our mouths or bodies were happier.  So good.  Definite recommendation:  zucchini spaghetti w/ buckeye veggie balls and fresh tomato sauce

Jane:  An excellent recommendation from my uncle.  One of my sisters voted it the best latte she had in San Francisco (I was too tempted by other drinks to try their coffee).  The perfect start to the morning and our time in San Francisco.  Definite recommendation:  the turmeric tonic.

Four Barrel Coffee:  So California lattes took some getting used to.  Super creamy and not too strong.  Not bad.  Just not what we have become accustomed to.  Four Barrel Coffee definitely had the best hands down.  Plus, anyone who roasts their own always gets brownie points from me.

Sight Glass Coffee:  Another great coffee shop.  And they just happen to roast their own beans too.

San Francisco Things to Do: 

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  • Sunset ride across the golden gate bridge
  • Explore the Ferry Building farmers market

As our trip came to a close, all we wanted was for another trip to California.  Little did we know it would only be weeks away…

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Road Trip Upon Road Trip…West Coast Style PT 1

It was not planned. But yet it was.  Sometimes life takes a turn, and you just follow the path laid out. I planned on spending this year traveling as much as I could possibly fit in. Turns out it meant hitting the road quite literally. Two back to back road trips in Cali to be exact.

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I have always wanted to do a massive road trip, but just never made it a priority. I have had so many trips and travels that of late, I just jump for the ones that present themselves, rather than pursue the ones of my dreams. But then, sometimes, life and dreams fall into place and become one.

My sisters and I had a week to spend in Cali so what better use of ones time than a slow meandering up the coast from LA to San Fran?  We figured four days to drive would be plenty of time. How we underestimated the time we could have spent.  But we had to be in San Francisco by Thursday night.  First lesson I have learned this summer.  Although deadlines inhibit, they also help.  From a girl that prefers freedom always and avoids commitments, structure even amidst complete freedom and flexibility can be a beautiful thing.

So first up, LA.  A bit gritty at first, but the city quickly woes one with its vibrancy, and at the same time, its laid back and easy going vibe.  We all arrived into LA on a Thursday and staying through Monday.  Scattered arrivals meant I pretty much spent my entire day at the airport, but I was sitting in sunny California, so it couldn’t be that bad.  Even though sunny California was actually quite freezing and had been up since who knows when with only a couple hours of sleep.  How does one always forget (even after living in a place for three years) that California is not life on the beach and bathing suits?

LA Places to Eat:

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Dinette:  This has become a fav spot of ours.  I think I have had their vegan waffle three times now this summer.  (Pictured there on the right with coconut cream and flax seeds.  Oh my gosh so good.)  Definite recommendation:  Fig and Balsamic Vinegar Soda, Omega Waffle (vegan).  But pretty much everything we had was killer good.  Hard to go wrong.  And the perfect place to get a feel of LA life.  Sitting on the sidewalk enjoying each other’s company while eating delicious food and people watching.

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Ostrich Farm:  Just down the street from Dinnete (Echo Park was our go to place for eating first time around in LA), oh my gosh.  Such the right vibe.  Beautiful aesthetically, so hospitable, relaxed vibe, and delicious food.  As per traveling with my sisters, we tend to order a couple items and then just share.  We went a little overboard here though.  Our picks:

  • lamb meatballs with romesco sauce and yogurt
  • peach and burrata flatbread
  • brussel sprouts with bacon
  • salmon (can’t remember what it was served with shockingly…)

And for dessert…

  • Lemon curd, merengue, and cream with berries
  • profiteroles with lemon rosemary, chocolate grand marnier, and one other flavor that is escaping me
  • Cappuccinos

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In-N-Out Burger:  So, as this is a bit of an institution (albeit fast food), we felt it obligatory to partake.  And I will be honest, it hit the spot pretty perfectly.  And as sisters go, we all ordered different burgers and taste tested.  Ironically, I think we all were pleased with our individual choices.

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Red Window Coffee: Hands down our favorite spot in LA for a coffee.  No competition here.  Such the cutest spot, plus delightful owners and staff.  Highly recommend the salted caramel monkey bread.  Two times and neither disappointed.

Kreation:  Rustic Persian Cuisine and Modern Healthy Classics…need I say more.  Even though this is a chain, it was the perfect spot.  We felt like we had been living on lattes, cappuccinos, and sweet treats (oh and juice), so we all wanted some seriously healthy food.  My pick, the Ash soup, which consisted of Spinach, Parsley, Cilantro, Leeks, Mint, Quinoa, Barley, Garbanzo Beans, Black Beans, and a touch of Yogurt.  Seriously perfect.  Just what I wanted and what my body was calling for.

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Other recommendations:  Intelligentsia (like In-N-Out Burger, this is a bit of institution in my mind when it comes to the West Coast and is a go to once kind of place), Grand Central Market (home to a million – not quite – food vendors…you can find anything and everything here)

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Next time:  Mennoti’s for coffee, Café Stella for French food which is always a weakness, street vendors (I can’t believe we have been twice in a month and still have not gotten food off street vendors) specifically a hot dog wrapped in bacon (because it is apparently the rave), and a million other places we passed but didn’t take note of…until next time

LA Things to Do:

IMG_3595Griffith Park:  So there is the observatory, which is beautiful and worth a visit in its own right, but then the vast amount of trails and hills to be explored.  Oh, this is the kind of place that makes my heart sore with joy and excitement.  So contented.

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10932451_842997569081942_536817088_nSilly me, I forgot hiking shoes and had to spend four hours in backless sandals.  Thankfully no snakes spotted.  And we avoided two trails that would maybe have been a bit difficult.  But there is always next time.

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And, if you care to get a close up look at the infamous Hollywood sign, this is the place to do it.

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Abbot Kinney Blvd:  Definitely the place to hit for some shopping.  Our favorites on the street:  Buck Mason, Urbanic Paper Boutique, and Ilan Dei Venice

Neighborhoods still to explore:  Highland Park specifically York Street, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Downtown LA…pretty much all of them.  Even though we stopped at various spots in each area, we didn’t even dent them.

Next Time in LA:  The Getty, Hollywood Forever Cementary for a movie night, LACMA

LA Places to Stay:  Okay…so, even though there are probably a million great boutique hotels in LA, my sisters and I travel on a budget to say the least.  So, airbnb it is for us.  Our awesome find…loved the aesthetic and such the sweetest host.  Just wish we had more time to enjoy the place, but we pretty much just crashed there at night.  Too bad.

And now for the road trip…which will just have to wait for another post…

In love with: the sun

I have never loved the heat of summer or laying out or Florida.  It is not that I don’t like them.  I just don’t love them.  They are good every now and then – but mostly in little doses.  However, I do love feeling my skin soak up the sun.  When I started thinking of the sun as a blessing due to its health benefits (Vitamin D, which is needed in absorbing other vitamins), I started to enjoy being in the sun and the heat.  I am not by any means recommending laying out all day, but a little sun each day can help to keep the doctor away (by building up essential vitamins)!  Just make sure to be responsible.

So, as I was falling in love with the sun for its healthy benefit to my body, I also fell in love with it for making tea!  Who knew!  It might not sound like a big revelation, but I felt like it was.  Not only is it amazing how much the water does warm up over the day and really steep the tea, but it is fun too!  I don’t know why, but it gives me immense pleasure to make sun tea.  Maybe how simple and natural it feels (and a little like a science experiment).  Nothing but a mason jar, water, some tea, and the sun.

Sun tea:

Step 1:  Fill a mason jar with fresh cold water.

Step 2:  Pick a tea.  (Today I decided to try a rosehip & honey tea my aunt brought from South America.)

Step 3:  Add the tea bags to the jar.

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Step 4:  Leave in the sun to brew all day, or until your liking.  It really depends on the weather.

Step 5:  Remove tea bags and enjoy!

Simplified version:  fill a jar with water, add tea bags, and leave it outside all day.

Tip: Cucumber Water

I hate to waste a delicious cucumber, especially with only a couple left on the vine in my garden, but it is for a good cause!  A newly learned bit of information – put cucumber in water and my mother will drink it all day long.  She loves coffee (and juice) and it is a bit hard to encourage her to drink water.  Water is so important, especially during these summer days (even though Tennessee’s temperature has been surprisingly fabulous).  Since I have started eating primarily raw at home, I tend to find that I don’t drink as much water either.  Our solution – keeping a pitcher of cucumber water in the fridge at all times.  So simple.  Just slice a cucumber and put in a pitcher then fill with water.  Leave it in the fridge and refill when it runs low.  The cucumber will last for a couple of days depending on how many times you need to refill.  So drink and enjoy!  And don’t forget it is in there.

 

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My Raw Food Pantry

So I have come to find that I tend to use the same ingredients over and over, just in different ways, depending on what is in my CSA or at the Farmers Market.  Here is a list of my MUST haves for my raw food pantry/fridge.  I really use these almost every day.

Spices:

  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Curry powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ginger, root and ground
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla, both extract and beans
  • Sea salt

Oils & Vinegars:

  • Olive oil, extra virgin cold pressed
  • Untoasted Sesame oil
  • Red wine vinegar, raw, unpasteurized
  • Apple Cider vinegar, raw, unpasteurized
  • Nama Shoyu

Sweeteners:

  • Honey, raw, local
  • Medjool dates
  • Maple syrup
  • Raisins

Snacks:

  • Kale chips
  • Greek olives
  • Two Mom’s granola bars

Fruit & Vegetables (in addition to what is local and in season):

  • Bananas
  • Gala Apples
  • Avocados
  • Lemons

Nuts:

  • Almonds (mostly to make almond milk)
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Coconut, unsweetened, shredded

Seeds:

  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Other Foods (these are not a daily necessity but I use them maybe once a week):

  • Cacao butter
  • Cacao nibs
  • Cacao powder
  • Sprouted lentils
  • Steel cut oats

Supplies:

  • Blender
  • Whisk
  • Knife
  • Colander
  • Cheesecloth
  • Hand juicer
  • Mason jar (for making sun tea and storing my almond milk)
  • Vegetable peeler

From this list, I pretty much can make all the raw food recipes I love.  There are a couple of other things in my pantry, but they don’t get used as often.  I just purchased some Ume vinegar and Coconut oil, neither which I have used yet.  I also have some buckwheat groats, goji berries, hemp seeds, millet, and oat groats that I have not gotten around to using yet.  Some of the other things I like to keep on hand but don’t use as frequently are:  cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and a coconut (both for the water and the meat).  For supplies, I occasionally use a Benriner Cook Helper Slicer for spiraling vegetables.  I still have not bought a dehydrator and do not feel like it has been an issue.

As with all my food, I try to source my fresh produce locally if possible and to make sure it is raised naturally and organically.  However, if it cannot be sourced locally, I try to make sure that it is organic and grown in the United States.

My goal for this week:  to start sprouting seeds.

A beautiful life….

I would like to introduce Lydia Hoke.  Lydia is one of my dearest friends and my first deep friendship outside of my sisters.  She has touched my life profoundly and will always inspire the way I live, simply by knowing her, and observing how she lives out her life. When I think of Lydia, I think of a life lived beautifully.  Beauty simply is part of her – her home, her child, her food…everything.  And it all is so naturally done.  Here is a little glimpse of a beautiful life in her own words….

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I am one of those people who loves spending the day in the kitchen preparing a meal for guests or even just my own family. It is my purpose.  Putting a dinner together is also more than just preparing a meal.  I enjoy setting the table, arranging a centerpiece, lighting candles, or putting together a playlist.  My sister used to say when we were preparing for a special event “that it’s all in the details.”  This is so true, even when it comes to cleaning your house before your guests arrive.  No one wants to come into a dirty house, it is uncomfortable and can make you feel (as a guest) that you are inconveniencing them by being there.  Hospitality takes work.  It isn’t always easy to find the time, but it is a fulfilling gift to you and your guest.  Something my husband tries to remind me of is, that even if our house isn’t the way I wish it looked, we are not having people over to “show-off”  and that we want them to feel comfortable and welcome.

For everything there is a season and it is a good thing to remember when you feel sleep-deprived and weary at caring for your family and keeping your house clean not to mention showing hospitality!   Not too long a go, I had a newborn, and then a really clingy baby and I am just now starting to feel like I can relax and cook and do projects when he is around.  In fact, he loves to help and by letting him, he is learning to be a servant.  Nap-time used to be the only time I ever got things done and I used to run myself  ragged just trying to get everything done before he woke up.  I had to learn to lower my expectations (which were ridiculous) when we were at that place in our lives.  I still kept a clean house and made meals and had people over.  I just didn’t make Julia Child’s Braised Beef (which, when you have the time is worth it!) or anything too time-intensive and didn’t care if I hadn’t done my hair that day.  The thing is, I have always wanted a child in my life and if that meant less sleep, more messes to clean, and simpler meals for a time, that was just fine- I hope I can go through it all over again soon!  Oh, and never underestimate the powers of caffeine.  Even if it doesn’t seem to give you that energy boost you so desperately need, taking the time to make a nice cup of coffee or tea always gave me a great excuse to sit down and enjoy it.  In fact, I didn’t become a daily coffee-drinker until I had my son, in the morning it was my reward for getting up and my iced-coffee in the afternoons became a favorite ritual especially when I got to share it with a friend.

Here is what I do for a homemade latte:  First, I use my Bialetti stove-top espresso maker.  Before my dear friend gave  this little gem to me I used to brew really really strong coffee  in my french press.  This tastes great, but if you are like me and crave the taste of your local coffee shop’s latte but realize just how much your habit is starting to affect your budget you can try this.   The espresso maker makes espresso so, when you add your milk or half and half it doesn’t water it down like when you add it to brewed coffee.  I don’t add any sweetener, just a good bit of milk and a splash of  half and half or cream and coffee ice cubes (reserve leftover coffee in ice cube trays and freeze for your next drink, these guys won’t water down your drink!)   If you are feeling particularly indulgent a bit of sweetened whipped cream will hit the spot.  And don’t forget the straw-it makes the drink a little more official if not more fun.  Cheers!

Another thing I learned from my mom was to have a “go-to” meal or dish for those times that you unexpectedly need one.  Mine, is a chocolate tart I came across when I was first married in a Gourmet magazine.  I love it because I nearly always have the ingredients on hand and even though I make it quite frequently I never get over how incredibly delicious it is!

Warm Mocha Tart

Serves 8-10

For the Crust:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.   In a mixing bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and a 1/2 tsp. salt.  Melt 12 Tbs. butter, then add 1 tsp. vanilla and stir into flour mixture.  Press into 10-inch tart pan.  Place in oven and bake until light golden, about 20 minutes.  Turn oven off.

Filling:

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan combine 1 cup heavy cream, 3 tbs. butter, 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp. ground coffee.  Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.  Right before the tart crust is done stir in a 1 beaten egg and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Pour through a strainer to remove any lumps and pour filling into tart crust.  Place in oven (that is turned off but still warm) and bake until tart is set.  It should jiggle slightly when moved, about 5 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Bon Appetit!

Want to hear more from Lydia and her sisters?  Check out their blog ginger + pearl or their shop on Etsy.

Tip: Sleeping Outside

Wow…something so simple as sleeping outside can truly be amazing.  I don’t mean sleeping in a tent…I mean sleeping under the stars.  To fall asleep gazing up at the stars and listening to the gentle sounds of night.  There is nothing like it.  Even waking up during the night becomes a treat as you are again reminded of the immense beauty of God’s creation and the night’s sky brimming with little lights.  Wonderful is the perfect word…to be filled with wonder.

Tips for a successful night:

  1. Check the weather.  It seems so obvious, but I have been awakened numerous times by the fall of rain…
  2. Sleep on a deck and not the ground (less bugs that way).
  3. Bring out a mattress and lots of cozy blankets.  There is no need to totally rough it unless you want to be extra adventurous.  Make it feel luxurious.  It is worth the extra effort of dragging everything outside.  (And one more little tip…protect your mattress by putting a sheet or something underneath it.)
  4. Experiences in life are always better shared.  So share it with your spouse, your kids, your siblings, your dog…

…But for those of you who do not want to sleep outside, a great alternative is putting glow in the dark star stickers on your ceiling.  Make sure to get the flat ones that are actually stickers and not plastic.  They blend in during the day but glow at night.  When we were younger, my sister covered her ceiling with them.  I still LOVE when I sleep in her old room and am lolled asleep by the silent yet peaceful stars above.

Hope you enjoy!….Virginia