Monday, October 28, 2013

Hello Weenie

Did I tell you we got a dog?

She is a tiny lil 5 pounder named Gertrude (Trudy for short).

Naturally, we like to put her in humiliating outfits for our own pleasure. Halloween is the perfect excuse to do so.

She was the belle of the ball at our halloween party on Saturday. I dressed as the Mad Woman in the Attic. You get exactly one million points if you have any idea what that is, which my uncultured friends were unable to do. Which is totally not their fault and they should in fact be praised for being friends with a giant nerd like me.

(Thank you to friend, Witt, for taking this delightfully creepy photo of me in madwoman action)

I also ran across this old throwback from 2010. I'm Annie Hall. Not sure if it was Halloween or just for fun as I would wear this on a normal day. (Side note: One of the biggest regrets of my life is misplacing those sunglasses).

Do you dress up your pets?
What's your favorite dress up moment?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

365 Days of Breakfast

Breakfast, the rebirth of your digestive system; a gift of starting anew you can give yourself every single day if you choose to. Breakfast sets the tone for the day. Are you going to make healthy choices? Are you in too much of a hurry for a satisfying meal? Or did you not even do your body the kindness of a bite of sustenance to start your day? Breakfast counts, people.

I invite you to join me in my quest to document a year's worth of the MOST important meal of the day with the tag #365DaysOfBreakfast. I wanna know what you're eating. In the meantime, here is my first week of breakfasts out of 52.

Day 1: Mountain breakfast. Peppers and spinach scrambled eggs with a side of fresh avocado and apples. We are off to a good start.

Day 2: Breakfast on the road. Unsatisfying apple slices, soon washed down with a Burger King veggie burger. Please don't tell anyone.

Day 3: Monday blues (and pinks!). Chose sleep over freshly prepared breakfast and opted for a Luna Bar and a sunrise commute instead.

Day 4: Breakfast binge. Spent close to $10 at Sanfrancisco Coffee satisfying all my cravings. Here you see a scrambled egg croissant with lox and cheddar cheese, a small chai tea latte, and a side of grapes.

Day 5: Protein time! Plain yogurt with granola, flax seed, and protein powder.

Day 6: Mental health day. Treated self to a noon breakfast at Belly General Store in Virginia highlands where I always end up ordering the same thing: the egg tortilla with cheddar, avocado, and house mole sauce. TO DIE FOR.

Day 7: Homemade egg sammies on the porch. Served on flat bread with spinach, grilled tomato and onion, avocado and havarti cheese.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Eating your way through Barcelona. Part UNO

Food glorious food, you will sing these words often in Barcelona. Particularly if you choose to treat yourself to a night of exquisite local dining like at the charming and rightfully celebrated restaurant, La Pepita ( Shall I commence the obscene food pornography?

Start by ordering a few appetizers to share. We dove into these so quickly I failed to get a before shot. Let the ravaged plates speak for themselves. It probably doesn't matter what you order but this was a kind of croquette with sweet sauce and tart apple slices.

Get your own individual Sammy's. You'll need to eat these crispy bad boys with a knife and fork, and lick that soy avocado goodness off your fingers. I promise not to look.

We started with (delicious) wine but quickly grew jealous of the amazing gin and tonics we saw being made at the neighboring tables. We also read the words "world famous gin and tonics" in the menu and were instantly sold. They offer corking so we corked our wine and moved on to ginnier pastures. The face I'm making is probably related to the desert I just ate, which you can admire here:

This is chilled fresh pumpkin on fluffy cheese with honey and sugared nuts. Death and instant heaven. Come to me. 

It's a casual place, but its moments like these you must use as an excuse to get out your sparkly gold peep toes. You did lug them all the way to Europe, after all.

Sheer blouse hand me down from friend
Shorts hand me down from same friend (I have amazing friends)
Gold sparkly Nine West peep toes from DSW and probably made through salve labor and by chopping down a rain forest... But they were on sale! and so shiny! It was a momentary weakness and I will do better in the future.
African bracelet gift from Africa
Big red ring vintage from 70s (was my mom's)
Stack rings from Sole Shoes and Accessories (scoutmob)
Black nested ring from street artist in L5P
Shell ring home made by yours truly. Shell Yeah!

Want to go to La Pepita? Here's what you need to know:

Address: Còrsega, 343 Gracia, Barcelona 08037
Phone number: +34 932 38 48 93
Closed Sunday.
MAKE A RESERVATION!! This will allow you to breeze right through the hungry waiting crowds and go straight to your table.
Go late! Like anywhere in Spain it really comes to life after 9:30/10:00

Friday, June 28, 2013

Driving in France

Scary as it may seem at first, to truly "profiter" of some parts of France, you're going to need to suck it up and get a car. (I'm looking at you, Provence). Getting to know a new car in a new land is no simple feat, but totally worth it in your quest to scour every nook and cranny of France's landscape.

Here are some helpful hints we learned the hard way, so that you can learn the easy way!

Maps: dust off those 9th grade cartography skills because your GPS system has the potential to SUCK. Ours was a slow poke and didn't have satellite in many small towns, and of course the iPhones we've become accustomed to relying on were unable to save us. Close to tears from exhaustion and being turned around on the countless roundabouts led us to a gas station where we quickly made our first, most useful purchase of the trip.

Highway numbers: highways are assigned their own codes (D114, N113 for exemple). Check the map before you head out and make a mental note of the major highways you'll be traveling on that day.

Roundabouts: they're everywhere! At first, they freaked us out and we would panic and go the wrong way. Just keep your eye peeled for the highway numbers indicated at the top of the road signs; usually you'll be going straight, which is like a semicircle around the roundabout so that you continue straight ahead rather than veering off in another direction.

Towns you're heading towards: like American highways, French roundabout exits are marked with the next major towns you're heading towards. Check the map and see which towns come between you and your destination so you can have the security of knowing you're heading the right way.

About the cars: even automatic cars are really hybrids! They're not what we're used to. Mom and I had a few heart attacks the first few times we parked and the car seemed to be inexplicably continuing to roll! We figured out that there's a safety break you always need to engage. Also, "A" is forward, "R" is reverse and you have to park and start the car between the two.

Vocabulary for driving:

Rondpoint: roundabout 
Sortie: exit 
Première, deuxième, troisième, quatrième, cinquième: first, second, third, fourth
L'embrochement: Split (in the road).
Tournez à droit/gauche: turn right/left
Ou est ______?: where is ______?
Automatique: automatic
Voiture: car  

Remember: don't stress out! Getting lost is half the adventure. Happy driving!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gorges Ardèche

Have you heard of the Ardèche region of France? Me neither, until my friend, Constance, invited me to her wedding there. It's in the west and marked by winding paths through the incredible gorges. You really need a car to enjoy this region so you can explore the valleys and crags to their fullest. My mother and I spent an entire day just driving along the highway and admiring the picturesque towns we passed through and discovering the natural beauty. 

Wearing: gap shorts hand-downs, thrifted floral blouse, bed stu brand loafers from Bridge Boutique, vintage sunnies.

In France, lunchtime is over by 2 PM. Restaurants usually close by then, and reopen later for dinner. Our jet lagged tummies rumbling at 3, we had no real hope of finding an open restaurant along the sparsely populated Ardèche gorges, but the trees parted to reveal this precious little spot tucked away along the winding highway. It's called Auberge du Pouzat. To our surprise and good fortune, the kind owner and waitress (and adorable dog) welcomed us. We had some cold white wine and toasted to our delicious salad and our good luck. 

The pies were of course staring at us the entire time, and when the waitress told me the cherries had been picked from her own garden that very morning, we couldn't resist. 

Kind of like we couldn't resist these eyes that said "throw my bone ONE more time?" 

If you'd like to travel in Ardèche, here is some useful vocabulary for you: 

Un carafe du vin rouge/blanc/rosé - a small pitcher of wine. Trust me, you want a small pitcher! SOOO inexpensive and good! Just be careful driving along the cliffs!
Grottes - caves... Famous naturally forming underground masterpieces, really worth a visit.
Carte - map. Get one. Learn to read it. Foreal doe.
"Ça vous a plu?" Servers might say this to you. It means "did you enjoy it?" Say "oui" or "ça m'a plu" if you like a challenge. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pack green, pack light, pack right

Holy smokes!  I am going to Europe for 5 weeks.  In that time I will be attending a wedding in the South of France, living large in Prague with my childhood BFF, and presumably walking and biking my tuchus off all across the continent (destinations include Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris). So how on earth does a fancy gal like me manage to pack light, stay green, and overall, remain classy?!  Here are my top packing techniques, honed to near perfection over years of trial and error abroad. 

1. The trusty, dusty Boy Scout roll. There is a reason this is the all American packing method of choice amongst our nation's patriotic outdoorsy youth. (Actually, I can't back that up... any Boy Scouts reading?)

Roll your clothes up tightly instead of folding to make the most out of your suitcase space. This allows you to squeeze clothes into every available square inch. It also reduces wrinkles and makes it easy to see at a glance all the riches you have packed.

2. Ziplock bags are your friend! They buy you beers, they laugh at your jokes, but most of all they help keep your stuff organized. I like to separate mine by garment type; i.e. blouses, skirts, undies. Anything that doesn't fit in it's designated zip lock is left behind, which keeps me honest in the packing-light department. This method has the potential to be wasteful so make sure you hold on to your ziplocks for reuse when your trip is over.

3. Have a gift suitcase. If you are seeing friends abroad, chances are you want to bring them treats from your homeland. Designating a separate suitcase for this purpose also ensures you have plenty of space to bring goodies for yourself and your friends back home, too. 

I like bringing local bath products (these lotions are from the Indie Pendent in Virginia Highlands), and small bottles of American bourbon. I scored these on my recent trip to Kentucky. The dream catchers are authentic (not made in china!) from Cherokee, NC. If you travel a lot, it's a good idea to pick tiny gifts up as you go about life to later share with friends in foreign lands.

4. Throw and go. I originally learned this from a girl traveling in Israel with me. At the end of the day, she threw her gym socks away rather than repacking them moist and stinky in her bag. Anyone who reads this blog knows that the thought of throwing away perfectly good gym socks makes my palms sweat, so I adapted this trick to fit my more green ways. If you have old, worn out undies you've been meaning to toss, save them for your big trip! It's not exactly wasteful since you intended to throw them away anyway, and it saves you the trouble and space of repacking used underwear!

[not pictured because, ew.]

See how easy it is to pack light and go green? It's the only way to travel! Now get out there and start planning your big trip to Europe so you can put my methods to the test.

Btw, hello from MFin FRANCE!!! Nothing tastes better than your first croissant of the trip, even if it is from an airport cafe. These are the faces of happy, green, light travelers. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kentucky Cool

Historic facades along Whiskey Row in down town Louisville

As I approach the little table where author David Sedaris is signing copies of his book, Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls, I see for myself that putting duct tape over his mouth for the signing "express lane" was no empty threat. He peers up at my aunt and me through kind eyes and a mouth strapped with pink floral duct tape and says "mmm mmm mmm mmm" which I think means "Hi, how are you." I look with surprise as he proceeds to write MY name in the book. We had come for my aunt. "It's for me? Aw, thank you so much, Ellen!" I say, and David says "mmm mmm!" (how sweet) and adds "mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmm" (here's a kitty cat for you) and draws a cartoon cat under his signature. I happen to love cats. Could this day possibly improve?

This kind of cultural richness, a block party in honor of a vocally liberal and openly gay author, hosted by a tiny independent bookstore and a dusty old antique shop might not be the kind of experience you would expect in Kentucky... but that's Louisville for you! A little air pocket of liberal, walkable, charm in a sea of red, which still knows how to hold onto traditions like horse racing and bourbon.

KY bourbon at the Silver Dollar, served neat and on the rocks :)
In Louisville, you can laugh your butt off at a literary reading of one of your favorite authors, walk to a wine shop where an expert will sell you the perfect cheese to go with your tuscan wine, then go eat your fill of locally sourced vegetarian food (Roots - EAT HERE!). When evening falls, you can head to any of the unique little bars around town (the Silver Dollar!) and choose from an almost overwhelmingly large selection of bourbons at equally alarmingly affordable prices. 

If you're not too hung over, you can spend the next day at the adorable walking bridge that goes (almost) all the way to Indiana. When I was there, the bridge wasn't completed to actually let you walk off of it into Indiana, but it still makes for a charming stroll and a great way to test out your new KEENS and see if they are worthy of your upcoming European excursion. Okay, that last part might just apply to me. 

My KEEN CNX's on their first real trial run across the pedestrian bridge. Besides some new-shoe blister action on my heel, I'd say they passed the test!

If you want to get REALLY traditional, Churchill Downs, the famous track that hosts the Kentucky Derby every year, is not far away. Park for free in one of the neighborhoods and head in to catch a few races. It only costs 3 dollars to get in, and you can bet on a horse for a minimum of 3 dollars. Make sure you have your money out and your bet in your head BEFORE you approach the window. Apparently it's a total rookie move to stand at the counter hemming and hawing. Nope, you gotta march right up there, slap your three singles on the table and say something like "Three dollars on Stinky Sailor Smile to win!" That's how you come off as a local. Some advice: basing your bets on the weirdest horse name is not a successful strategy in my experience.

If you're just a tourist in gambling-land like me, your real expense will come from the pricy drinks. You can't go to the races and NOT have a mint julep, that's just not American. So shell out the $10+ dollars and enjoy the novelty glass that you get to keep. If you're lucky, you'll get a gigantic stalk of mint growing out of your beverage to tickle your nose with fragrance while you drink and yell obscenities at the track (depending on if this is your first or third julep). 

All in all, Louisville is a town that knows how to balance classics with contemporaries. You can walk anywhere you please, and you never know when you might run into one of your favorite authors! Comedian Jim Gaffigan is scheduled for later this month, so you might want to get to Louisville sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Beltline Betty and Keens for Europe Testdrive (part 2)

Did I mention I love my job? This is what I did at work the other day: walked the Atlanta Beltline from the school I teach at all the way to Piedmont Park pool! I had a green tea in one hand, a cute kiddo paw in the other, and sunshine on my back. Basically, life was grand... and I did this all while testing out my Keen Newport H2 shoes to see if they will be invited to Europe with me in a few short weeks!

The results?

They are not invited :( 

As much as I love Keens, the Newport H2s were simply not a match for my feet. I'm a bit flat-footed, and used to thinner footwear with a bit more give. While the Newports offer great protection in their solidness, the firm plasticky interior with the "contour arch" was not a friend to my feet. By the end of a full day of walking in them, my aching arches were branded with a backwards "KEEN" logo. Not a good sign. 

But I am not a quitter! Determined to bring eco-friendly and reliable walking shoes to Europe, I took the Newports back to REI and exchanged them for the much more flexible and cushy Keen CNX. As soon as I slipped my tootsies into those babies, I heard my feet sigh with relief and say "we're home." 

Stay tuned as I take my CNXs for a testdrive in Louisville, KY, to determine if they will earn the coveted position of My Walking Shoes For Europe.

Should you buy Keens for your go-to travel shoe? Here's my rundown of your options based on my experiences.

Newport H2: The classic Keen. Most of my friends have this shoe and LOVE it. It has great arch support and is good for most feet (particularly wide feet). They are very solid and don't bend much with the foot as you walk, almost like a hiking boot. This would be a great shoe for rugged outdoor activities.

CNX: This incarnation of the Keen shoe is more flexible and has a more cushiony, forgiving interior that is good for flatfoots like me. It's a little bit more expensive, but well worth it for quality, ethical shoes from an amazing company with a more than reasonable return policy.

Emerald City Sandal: The blessed walking sandal that turned me on to Keens in the first place! SO comfortable, and NOT overtly athletic at all. Basic, cute, sandals that feel like walking on a cloud. A cloud with incredible, soft support, which I guess clouds don't have, so maybe it's not like walking on a cloud. Maybe it's more like walking barefoot on one of those playgrounds made of cushy recycled rubber. Yeah, that's it.

Do you have a preferred brand of walking shoe? Do share your secrets! And if you do the Google + thing, let's connect!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Breezy green choices for Europe

Uniqlo Slub Maxi Dress (Image Source Here)
I want to move in to this maxi dress from Uniqlo. I want to build a picket fence around it, raise my children in its front yard, and grow old in it. That's how good it is. At first, when I tried it on, I was kind of disappointed that it didn't look as effortlessly glamorous on me as it did on the lovely website model. But I threw on a belt to synch it at the waist, and voila! I had a figure AND a breezy dress option for Europe.

Why you should pack this dress to travel:

  • It's made of a light jersey that stands up well to wrinkle.
  • It can be rolled up very small. 
  • You can dress it up or down with jewelry and shoe pairings.
  • It fits loosely around the legs so it doesn't impede walking strides like some maxi designs.
  • You can buy it in tons of different colors.
  • It's a semi Green option (Uniqlo gets points for recycling and ethically sourcing materials but loses points in possibly questionable labor practices). 
  • It's affordable at... holy crap I just checked the website and it's on sale for $7.90!!!!! GET YOU ONE, GIRL!

Uniqlo maxi
Beaded belt from Sole Shoes and Accessories (psst...they have a scoutmob deal on right now!)
Keen Emerald City walking sandals
Vintage thrifted box bag
Holy smokes I love a maxi for a voyage. Do you have any go-to styles for travel? I'd love to hear what's on YOUR packing list!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Destination, Georgia: Moody Forest and Red Earth Farm

Georgians, you don't have to travel across the continent to California to see a rare and stunning ecosystem with majestic trees. Look no further than your own Coastal Plains region, which boasts the world's only longleaf pine ecosystem. This ecosystem once covered the vast majority of the southeast, but has now been reduced to less than 1% of its natural glory. It has become one of the rarest (and most breathtaking) ecosystems with the most diverse and rare wildlife population in Georgia, and which I was fortunate enough to visit along with my students a few weeks ago. 

In Moody Forest in Appling County, GA, I put my arms around 200+ year old trees. I could almost feel their wise hearts beating deep inside. Kids picked edible berries and grasses, and we saw a rare bird that can only be found in the longleaf forest. In our nostrils was a rich and savory smokiness, coming from a controlled burn not far away. That's how they keep the forest floor healthy and allow new growth to take root and flourish. Georgia author, Janisse Ray, prizes these trees and this forest deeply, saying “I carry the landscape inside me like an ache. The story of who I am cannot be severed from the story of the flatwoods” (Ecology of a Cracker Childhood).  Even from my short visit to Moody Forest, I could sense why. There's something magic about trees that watched our ancestors settle this land, and continue to watch as we tiny humans delve into the depths of the woods with our children in 2013. 

Our guide was the aforementioned kind and spirited author, Janisse Ray herself, who opened up her prized stomping grounds for us to explore, as well as her home and farm, Red Earth Farm, which is another amazing destination once your in the area. Especially if you're interested in ethical, natural, locally sourced food. They do amazing work there, and make it a priority to educate the public about the farm food movement. If you're visiting the longleaf pines, do yourself a favor and schedule a visit to Red Earth Farm too for organic produce or one of their cool workshops (make your own cheese, anyone??)

Janisse was too hospitable, letting the kids roam free on her farm, feeding goats, terrorizing chickens, being terrorized by an over-friendly turkey, and absorbing the good a unique place like this can do for souls. I'm overflowing with gratitude and hope for the future. My next visit to Tavia's Trail in Moody Forest will not be too long in coming. 

How to get there: The following instructions are taken from Shan Cammack and Hilary Smith's Public Lands Profile: Miracle of Moody Forest: "From Baxley, take U.S. 1 north for about eight miles. Turn right onto Asbury Church Road and go about three miles. Turn left onto Jake Moody Road, go about a mile, and then turn right onto East River Road. The trailhead for Tavia's Trail is at the intersection and the office is about a mile to the east." 

For more information about the two trails that run through this ecosystem, contact the Nature Conservancy's preserve manager at (912) 366-9549.

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