Seasonal Spa Day

Years ago I was a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was a spa weekend in Palm Springs.  It was fabulous and that weekend I decided that I shouldn't wait for a friend to get married to have a spa day.  I came home and told my sisters we should try to have a spa day every time the season changed. 

Over the years I have marked my calendar with the first day of spring, winter, fall, and summer.  Some years we get to the spa on those days and some years we might miss one or two seasons.  But overall we try to make it to the spa to take a few hours out of our crazy lives for ourselves.
The weekend before Christmas we had a spa day at the Pacific Waters Spa at the Hyatt in Huntington Beach.  This was my third trip to Pacific Waters and I enjoy the space.
The spa is tucked into a corner of the Hyatt but you can tell you are leaving the hotel and coming to a new area because you cross a koi pond with a water feature.  Soothing running water welcomes you into the spa and you can tell relaxation awaits.....
This spa has some features I love.  A salt water spa, steam room and sauna, rain showers, inside and outside relaxation rooms, tea, spa water, and  snacks.  During the summer is is nice to sit outside and during this stay it was nice to sit by the fire inside.
Spa treatments are not inexpensive and I find the once every three months to work within my budget.  I usually get a facial when I go to the spa and I love it.  I feel like my face is glowing when I leave, but that might just be the low lights of the spa......
Seasonal Spa Day is something I always look forward to.  I think it is important to take care of myself and to make ME a priority in my life.  I feel that if I am health and happy, then I can be the best version of myself.  And let's be honest, the best version of ourselves is who we always want to be.


Xmas Farmer's Market

I started this blog to track travel, eating, and farmer's markets.  Looking over the past few months, I have been lacking in my farmer's market posts.  Sorry about that.  I do miss the farmer's market some weeks and that makes me sad because then I don't have many fruits and vegetables to eat.  But I have been going during the month of December and the Whole30 thing even inspired T to join me a few times.  This past weekend I went to two farmer's markets (on Saturday and Sunday) to get some items for Xmas meals and to stock up on some supplies to take to Mammoth (T has been up there for a week and sent me a farmer's market list to bring up after Xmas).

So here is what I purchased this week at the Farmer's Market:

Brussel Sprouts:  cut the stems, chop them in half, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Shake the pan a few times during the roasting process.  Serve with more salt if needed.

T loves these and makes them so they are crunchy and crisp on the outside.
Sweet Potatoes: I love sweet potatotes.  They are one of my favorite things to find at the farmer's market.  T has been making sweet potato fries when he roasts the brussel sprouts.
sweet potato
Broccoli:  I have been stir-frying this with spice sausage.  Yum!
Mandarins: A T request, but I love when these show up in the market too.  My favorites are satsumas, but I always taste test these before buying (as you should if they have samples at the farmer's market).  I like the sweet ones.
Cabbage: Green and red.  A T request from Mammoth as our hosts are going to make something delicious with it.
red and green cabbage
Mushrooms: adding these to salads
Avocados: These are also amazing right now and T sent me a recipe for a Christmas Salad that has avocado and pomegranate seeds in it. I have tons of pomegranates from my Mom's tree from the jelly making day so this salad will be making an appearance this week.
Strawberries: I am sorry to say, I bought strawberries at the Farmer's Market this weekend.  I am going to use them in a Christmas brunch fruit salad.  I have a hard time buying strawberries in December because they pale in comparison to the strawberries of summer, but they tasted good and I bought them.
Not pictured:
Bok Choy: I grabbed this for some healthy stir-fry.
Cauliflower: a T request for Mammoth.
Blueberries:  a taste test had me buying blueberries for a Christmas brunch fruit salad too.


Scenes from Solvang

This past weekend the Middle Sister organized a wine tasting trip in the Santa Ynez valley with some co-workers and the Little Sister and I joined them on Saturday.  You might remember from last week that T and I are doing the Whole30 and wine is not on the list of things I can eat.  Sigh.... but I had a good time seeing Solvang and the surrounding wine country.
The Little Sister and I drove up early and then started walking around Solvang when we couldn't get a hold of the Middle Sister (her phone was on silent).  I have been to Solvang a few times, but the Little Sister never remembered going there and she loved it.  She does want to go to Copenhagen eventually and this Americanized version of a dutch town charmed her.  It is charming. And fun to walk around.  Which is what we did.  The weather was cold and crisp with a bright blue sky.  We walked a bit and the Middle Sister called.  We met her at the Fudge shop (my sisters have a thing for fudge), and then headed on our way.
The Middle Sister and her co-workers had a few wineries they wanted to try so we headed out to Foxen Canyon.  The sun hid early in the day and the weather turned cold.  We all had jackets and we wore them!  On a recommendation, we stopped in at Demetria and it ended up being my favorite stop of the day.
For dinner we went to a place called Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos.  Apparently this place makes flatbread pizzas for places like Whole Foods and opens up a space in their building a few nights a week to make it a restaurant.  Fun!  The only down side was that there was not a lot I could eat.  I ended up having two salads and the kale one was great!
The next morning the sisters and I seemed to be up before everyone else, so we explored a sleepy Solvang and they tried some ebelskiver (dutch pancakes?).  They said they were good.  They sure looked good!
After breakfast we wandered around the town watching the storm clouds over the windmills.
We met up with the rest of the group and stopped in Los Olivos before heading home.  
It was a great weekend and I am glad I got to go.  The sisters and I agree,  we need to take more trips like this! ...... and next time...... I hope to try some of the wine.....

The little sister wrote about our trip and you can read it here!


Holy Whole 30!

How should I start this story.....?  Let's start last Sunday night.

I had just returned from my backpacking adventure in San Jacinto and was excited to sleep in a warm BED next to T.  I was almost asleep (I am lucky to be one of those people who falls asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed) when T started talking to me.  It is typical of him to start talking to me

  1. When I am almost asleep 
  2. When I am sleeping and he wakes me up 
  3. When I am sleeping and he doesn't wake me up, but apparently I talk back to him.  

Typical.  Lucky for me I was in Stage one when T talked to me and he started talking about a book he was reading called "It starts with food".  This book advocates a 30 day body reset by changing what you eat.  He asked me if I wanted to do it with him for the next 30 day and I said sure and went to sleep.

Holy Whole 30! Guess what I signed up for? Paleo eating through January 2nd.  What does this mean? Yes to meat, vegetables, and fruit.  No to everything else.

Everything else.

All those other food groups.... like wine.  See you later wine, we can hang in 30 days.

And everything else, but you know what, it's not that big of a deal.  It is only for 30 days.  Granted those days are through the holidays, but I'm not worried about it.  I just think it must be how my Middle Sister feels being a vegetarian.  I just have to navigate food a little differently.

T mentioned it was a bad time to start anything like this, but I started it for him.  He has been feeling off for the last few months.  So off that he has gone to the doctor.  This from the guy who avoids doctors for the most part.  The doctor couldn't find anything wrong. Meanwhile someone at work had been talking to him about all these different books about food and health.  I guess this is the one that stuck.  So I started the Whole 30 because it is much easier to control what you eat when you are doing it with a loved one.  I joined T's Whole30 team.

One week into the program, I don't have much to report EXCEPT that T has started cooking way more.  This semester I had a pretty crazy schedule that included early mornings and late nights (one working and two for Italian class) and I got to come home to T cooking dinner this week.  I would give up wine just to have that (well maybe). He has been finding all these paleo recipes and keeps trying new things.  Awesome!

T has reported sleeping better and not having the mid-afternoon slump he has had in the past.  He also said he has more energy and better focus at work.  Those all seem like really good things.

So for the next few weeks we are doing the Whole 30.   We will make it even though it is Christmas, because it is just 30 days and it's not that hard to do something for 30 days.

Wish us luck!


Backpacking San Jacinto State Park

This past weekend I had my first backpacking adventure in the Mount San Jacinto Wilderness.  Don't I look prepared for it in this photo?
I went backpacking for two nights with a Recreation class. My friends were teaching the class and they had asked me to be a driver for them.  I had kind of talked them into teaching the class and was excited to have a chance to go on my first backpacking trip with them and the students.
The trip was in the San Jacinto Wilderness, but basically it was just outside of Idyllwild. I've camped in Idyllwild many times (cabins, as a camp councilor) and didn't realize the San Jacinto Wilderness was so close.  It was cool to realize I had been in this area as we drove up the hill.
The weather this past weekend was not the best.  It was raining on our drive up the mountain and cold when we started the hike.  It wasn't raining on the hike up, but it was chilly and damp.  One cool thing was that fall had come late to Southern California so the leaves were changing color and decorating the trail.   The hike up was about 2.5 miles and everyone went at their own pace.  I was more toward the back (I have mentioned I am not that fast of a hiker before) but that was no problem.  The group ahead of me would stop for breaks and everyone would catch up with each other.
My friend Matt (one of the instructors) had given me everything I needed to backpack except clothes and boots.  He let me use all of his stuff and even brought all my food!  I was very spoiled on my first backpacking trip. Here is Matt cooking dinner for me the first night.  I had the Beef Stroganoff with Noodles.....

 And here is my tent alla Matt.  I did carry everything but my food up the hill including my tent.
The weather that night was VERY cold.  We all got in our tents at about 4:30pm when it started to rain and get windy.  I was so cold that night I wore every piece of clothing I brought to bed, including three pairs of socks.  I was still very cold all night...
The next morning I woke up and Matt made me some instant coffee and I was ready for the day hike.  Most students went with Mark (my other friend) on a 12 mile hike to the top of Mount San Jacinto.  It is the highest peak in Southern California, according to Mark, and the pictures from the top were awesome.  The view was not good because of all the weather, but some students brought back pictures of trees covered in ice.  Very cool.

Me?  I decided to do the short (3mi) hike to Tahquitz Point.  I mentioned before that fall had finally come to Southern California and my favorite thing on this hike was walking through the ferns.  In the summer the ferns would cover the ground and be a sea of green.  This time of year, they are a carpet of gold under the canopy of trees.  I had never seen anything like them before and would stop to take pictures whenever I saw them.  Truly enchanting.

 Another cool thing about this area is that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) travels through part of it.  I had just finished reading Wild, a story of a girl hiking part of the PCT and was excited to get to say I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail!
The views on the trail were pretty amazing.  Below you can see the weather we were above.
Backpacking in the wilderness is a little different then camping in a camp ground.  For example, where are you aloud to camp in the wilderness?  At a camp ground each site is marked, but in the wilderness? It turns out the sites are marked as well.  You just need to know what to look for.  In the San Jacinto Wilderness spots to camp are marked by two rocks, a log, and two more rocks.  See the picture below.  Once you know what to look for, it is easy to find a place to camp.
The second night was an other cold one.  I think most of us turned in again at 4:30 (it was still windy) but on this night I remembered that Matt had given me hand and feet warmers!  I still wore a lot of clothes to bed, but boy did those feet warmers make a difference!  The low that night was 35 degrees....
The next morning everyone had breakfast and then packed up for our hike home.  It was still cold but I think I might have been adapting a little because it didn't seem as cold.  Matt snapped a picture of the group before we headed out.

I had a great time backpacking this past weekend.  I felt safe with the group and pushed myself out of my comfort zone just a bit.  The students were nice and I had my own personal chef the whole weekend.

Backpacking San Jacinto State Park gets a big thumbs up from me!


Lucky Dozen December

My first try with the Lucky Dozen (Lucky Dozen October Challenge) was so successful, I have decided to give it an other go.  Something about not thinking about what I have to wear is so nice at 5am.

I did the same thing as last time and shopped my closet to switch in pieces for the original Lucky Dozen.  Here is the original (the pieces were all from Banana Republic).

And here are my pieces from my closet.

Here is the calendar and all I do is swap out my pieces and make the outfits.

I mentioned in my October reflection post that I keep all three of these pictures on my phone and can easily reference them when needed.  I will also upload photos to Flickr if you want to see my outfits.

December Lucky Dozen here I come!


Pomegranate Jelly: 2012

As a child my sisters and I made pomegranate jelly with my Mom for holiday gifts.  As an adult I thought I had escaped the joys of pomegranate jelly until one of my sisters decided we should start doing it again in 2010.  You can read about that adventure here.  Pomegranate Jelly has now been holding strong for three years and here are some photos from Pomegranate Jelly 2012.

The Middle Sister is the muscle behind all the pomegranate juice.

The pomegranates from my Mom's tree are the best I have ever tasted.  The seeds are amazing and worth all the work to free them from the pomegranate.  The seeds are so sweet I suggested we cut back on the sugar in the jelly this year.  We ended up making three different batches for a total yield of 37 jars!

The Little Sister getting a pomegranate facial from all the steam!

One of the batches.

The labels the Little Sister design for my Mom with her Tree to Table idea.
Six hours of jelly making is a long day, but my Mom started us off with breakfast and made one of the family meals we grew up on for lunch.  It is great to have four people working on the jelly or it might have taken all weekend.  I am waiting to see how the lower sugar experiment worked out.  One of the batches might have to be given away as pomegranate sauce..... but I am totally fine with that!

Happy Holidays!


What happens after you eat crow

I mean eat crow in the figurative sense, not the literal sense.

In this case I am talking about the bet I had with my Dad about losing weight.  The bet I lost.  And the crow I had because of it.

All that is in the past now, but in a funny way, I am really motivated to lose the weight I wanted to lose in that bet.  It's not for any bet or bragging rights now.  It's just for me.  And you know what,  I am losing that weight.  Slowly.  But it is leaving.

I have been using the LoseIt app for a few years off and on and a few months ago the Little Sister was encouraging me to win the bet with my Dad and said we should start using the LoseIt app again and be "friends" so we could keep each other accountable.  I am a big fan of that app and the "friend" feature is pretty cool.  My Mom is even using it now!  You basically log in all your food and exercise into LoseIt to keep track of your calories. We all use the app on our phones.  I have lost 8.5 pounds since I stared using LoseIt again.

Additionally, the Middle Sister has now decided that "Thin in 2013" is a new theme and has upped our running each week.  An other good thing as this Fall has been very busy and the only exercise I am getting is the running.

I am lucky to have sisters who:
  1. Encourage me in my goals
  2. Both feel the need to include me in theirs
An other thing that happened is that my Dad, at the crow dinner, told me if I could reach my goal by January 1st, he would take everyone out to dinner like I had done when I lost the bet.  (I know, celebrating weight loss with food, it's the family way!). I told him I would try but I don't think he realized how many pounds that was.  Truth be told, it was 19 pounds.

I asked a co-worker who teaches health classes if it was even feasible and he said it wasn't a good idea but that we should check my percentage of body fat to see how much I needed to lose. An other co-worker tried to jump on the betting band wagon and said he needed to lose 20 pounds by January 1st too.  My health co-worker said a pound for pound bet between a male and a female was not really fair and that we should look at our body fat percentages and make goals off of those.  We made an appointment to see him and did the body fat calibration.  Turns out we were both in the average percent and that we both wanted to get down to 15% body fat.  Ironically the weight number associated with 15% body fat for me is one pound over my original goal weight.  The health co-worker proposed a goal date of January 31st.  We accepted.

So what happens after you eat crow.  You get motivated.  You create goals.  And you see which one you can meet.  These are some current goals, some more reasonable than others.
  • 10 pounds by January 1-doing this one with the sisters
  • Goal weight by January 1 -doing this one so Dad will buy dinner
  • 15% body fat goal weight by January 31 - doing this one with a co-worker
I also have 5 pound goals and buy myself something each time I reach that goal.  I have a list of things I want and it is nice to have rewards for reaching my goals.

With the holiday season approaching I am not worried.  I am sure I will be running more and eating a little less on the days that are around holiday gatherings.  I feel like the wheel has started to roll down the hill and I want to keep it going.

Wish me luck!


Reflections: Lucky Dozen October

In October the little sister and I embarked on a Lucky Dozen challenge.  The goal was to take 12 items of clothing and wear them for the month.  How did it go?  I'm glad you asked..... I loved it!


I never had to think about what I was going to wear.

I know that might seem silly, but for a person who gets up at 5am and gets home at 9pm, it was like Christmas morning each time I looked at the Lucky Dozen calendar to see what to wear.  Additionally I wore combinations of clothing I had never worn before and got complements on outfits that were out of my comfort zone.  All in all it turned out to be a win for me.  You can see my outfits here.

The Little Sister also did the Lucky Dozen and her one complaint was that she got sick of wearing the same clothes.  Other friends mentioned they would probably feel the same way.  I think I didn't feel this way because I was already always wearing the same clothes.  I was not very creative when I needed to get dressed so early in the morning and most of my clothes were black, so the Lucky Dozen really spiced up my wardrobe. 

I do have a few confessions to make.  While the Lucky Dozen has 31 days of outfits, I only really followed it on the days I had to work or dress up.  I wasn't so fashionable on the weekends and was probably sporting jeans and a black sweater.  I'm okay with that.  I still loved the Lucky Dozen.

This whole challenge has got me thinking about clothing in a new way.  I look differently at the items in my closet and evaluate the new clothes I think of buying.  This concept will help me create great outfits when I travel and I am looking forward to using for Italy 2014.

I planned on doing another Lucky Dozen in November and picked out and numbered all my pieces.  The problem was that I didn't take pictures of my pieces or make the grid I made last time and that brought the Lucky Dozen November to a halt.  In October I made a grid of my clothing pieces and saved my grid, the Lucky Dozen grid, and the calendar as photos in my phone.  Each morning I would look at these photos to see what to wear.  It saved me tons of time.  On November 1st I went to start a new dozen and realized I hadn't made my grid.  After a little bit of thought, I decided to make November the month of skirts and dresses.  I don't wear very many skirts or dresses but noticed I have some nice ones in my closet.  I have some tights and boots and thought this was the month to give all of those items a chance to come out of the closet.   So November has turned into skirt and dress month, but my Lucky Dozen December will be ready to go when I need it!


I heart Chicken

I really like rotisserie chicken (roast chicken in Italian is il arrosto pollo).  I don't know if I could eat it every day, but there have been weeks when I almost do.  I love chickens I roasted myself, but don't find I have a lot of time to do that so I am very happy living off the rotisserie chickens in the grocery store.  I won't lie, they are pretty good and sometimes I wonder why I bother roasting my own chicken...... (sigh).

T and my sisters know of my love of rotisserie chicken.  It's kind of a joke between us actually.  Funny thing is, I never really order chicken at a resturant.  It must be one of my home comfort foods.

Now that you know of my slightly unnatural love of rotisserie chicken you will understand why I love this link the little sister sent me.

52 Uses for a Rotisserie ChickenMy mouth salivated a little when I wrote that.  That would be a recipe for each week in the year.  YES PLEASE!

The blogger over at eRECIPEcards documented a year of using Rotisserie Chicken once a week and I am happy she did.  I really like my plain grocery store rotisserie chicken, but now I have 52 other things I can try with it.  I am hungry to try some of her ideas.  And because I was excited about something food related that can only make my life better, I decided to share it with you.



Liguria (Italy) presentation for Italian class

Here is the presentation I put together for my Italian class about the Ligurian region.


Liguria from everyAugust on Vimeo.


planning for Italy 2014

Summer 2012 was a ..... learning summer for me.  I traveled to Ireland and Russia (both places on my list) and after each trip I decided it was time to go back to Italy.

I admit it.  Italy is my favorite place to travel.  Someone asked me why recently and the first thing that came to mind was the food.  But it was more than that.  It was the way lunch lasts for three hours.  Or the way strangers become friends.  The way Italians talk with their hands and every story is an adventure.  How there is an open bottle of wine on the table and sunflowers at the market in summer.  There is something about Italy that feels like home. Something that made me decide my summer 2014 trip is going to happen in Italy.

I have a few more plans.  Like I hope to stay in Bordighera, the home town of a friend of mine in the Italian Riviera.  I am taking Italian for the next two years so I can speak, or at least understand, some Italian when I go.  I am thinking of going for 3 weeks in the beginning of June.  I want to rent an apartment and am not sure if T or my sisters will be joining me.  I hope all of them do!  I get lonely when they are not around.

This trip is two years away, and I can't wait to go.  It looks like I will mostly be in the Ligurian region and on the Italian Riviera.  I might take a few trains rides to visit some surrounding towns, but mostly I am just looking to enjoy la dolce vita.



Eating crow

Do you remember that bet I had with my Dad about who could lose 25 pounds first?  Good! Neither do I .....

Still reading?

I lost that bet.  You can read about it here, all the way back in 2009.

I guess I can be comforted that at least it took my Dad a long time to lose those 25 pounds, and I was right, he did plateau, but in the long run, he beat me.

I am actually really happy for him.  25 pounds is a lot and it only means he will be healthier, which is a good thing.

So how are we going to celebrate my loss?  With food of course!  I get to take out the group who was at the original bet.  I wish I would have won.  Then I would be twenty five pounds lighter and the winner.  It is like my dad had a double win.

There was a second bet and I hope to win that one, but we will see.  My Dad is on an eating right and exercising kick. There is a good chance I could be eating more crow next year......


Remembering Summer 2012

I am really looking forward to Fall 2012.  I miss eating soup and that crispness in the air.  Summer is hanging on with a vengeance here in Southern California and I have no idea if we will even have a fall season.  But I keep waiting.  Hoping it will happen soon.

It's kind of funny because I think summer is my favorite season.  I love all the food that shows up in the farmer's markets in the summer.  I love BBQing all the time.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how light it stays.  I love biking, going to the beach, mountains, running and camping and almost all of that happens in the summer.

But, I am ready.  I am ready for fall and to start thinking about snowboarding and winter. 

So anytime you're ready SO CAL.... I would be happy to let the summer season come to an end.


Best Wedding Cake EVER!

Best cake ever! 
That's right, it was donuts.  And they were amazing!

I don't go to a ton of weddings, but I have been to a my share and I like the way couples are making the day special to them.  I have been to the wedding with cupcakes instead of cake and even to one that had an ice cream sundae bar.  Hands down, the donuts instead of cake has been my favorite so far.

This past weekend T's youngest brother Jay got married in Richmond, Virginia.  You might remember Jay from my trip to Hong Kong.  He is the pilot that lives there and he and Andrea (also in my Hong Kong adventure)  decide to tie the knot in her home town of Richmond, Virginia. 
The moment
I can't even image trying to organize a wedding from half way around the world, but they pulled it off and it was great to celebrate with them, meet Andrea's family and friends, and see some Virginia. The ceremony was at the Byrd Park Pump House.
The bros
I found a house to rent in Richmond that was awesome on VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner).  We shared it with T's other brother Kanan and his wife Siska and daughter Amaryllis and with their mom.  Renting a house was such a good idea.  It gave us a kitchen and living room.  Everyone stopped by and we would hang out in the house, kitchen, back patio, living room, basically everywhere.  Everyone but me and Amaryllis (the three year old) drank coffee so the coffee pot was always going or beer was being opened.  The house was such a good idea, and for four days it became a home.   The picture of the brothers above is after the wedding.  T is close with his bothers and it was great that they got to spend time together.
The married couple
The wedding was short and beautiful (my favorite kind) and afterwards Jay and Andrea were so happy and excited.  Everyone was so happy for them!
Kanan and Siska
Here is another happy couple, T's brother Kanan and his wife Siska.
Reception tables
The reception was in a friends backyard and it was perfect.  There was finger foods, an open bar, and the DONUTS!  Early on no one touched the donuts but the kids soon started asking if they could have one and then it was game on for donuts.
Donut time
Here is Amaryllis feeding T a donut.  Amaryllis is T's niece and she loved him.  She called him Uncle Storii the first day (his name is Torii) but soon got his name correct and would wake up every morning looking for him yelling "Where's Uncle Storii!".  Basically T spent the trip hanging out with his niece. It seems like they were always together.  He said he was trying to win favorite uncle and when we left I am sure he had!

I had a great time in Richmond celebrating Jay and Andrea. It was great to see everyone and raise my glass to people I love.