packed lunches: on a salad kick

I vowed to myself last year that this current year, I would bring packed lunches every day (except for special occasions like 'monthly bagel bar!' or 'it's friday! i'm treating myself!") See, the thing is, I'm kind of picky about packed lunches. And the act of packing them is always annoying. Therefore,  I like to keep it simple, and definitely not hot - unless it's soup in an ultra-sealed camping performance thermos. I don't know what it is, but heating up stuff in microwaves kind of skeeves me out - especially communal microwaves.

This week, out of the blue, I got into the idea of salads. And what kind of salad is better than a photogenic salad?

I am a big believer that a good salad needs a crunch, a smooth texture, and a punchy dressing. I love walnuts and almond slices in my salad, and a nice light cheese (lately it's feta) always adds an extra taste. My dressing of choice has been a concoction I made up: balsamic and a strawberry pecan (fat-free!) dressing.

So, I think this salad is 100% fat free, unless - wait, the cheese - but hey, it's still a salad. That has to count for something.

50/50 spring mix and spinach
sliced strawberries
clementine or orange
walnuts, almonds or some sort of nut
crumbled feta cheese
Ken's strawberry pecan dressing

This has turned into my favorite portable go-to.

ciao! xo



The month of April has been ahhhhmazing.

I turned 25, I got to visit S again on the West Coast, had my first lavender honey ice cream of the year, visited new places (hello, DC - twice!) and spent lots of time being a foodie.  For the most part, I've been able to get out and really feel awake, rejuvenated...through running at the park or just simply running errands. I love getting back outside. The entire winter, I felt like most weekends were spent by the fire (and I loved it!) but it is veryyyy good to be in the sun and warmth outside.

A big theme for spring so far: simplicity. Eating lighter, living without excess, getting sun, sleeping well, and making choices that I feel better about (ex. cooking at home rather than eating out). I am in the midst of planning more travels for the summer, so I am thinking this simplicity kick has got to stay in order to make the plans happen. We're thinking a road trip up the West Coast!

Another idea that I've had over the past few weeks: I love being in my mid-twenties. The earlier years  were kinda chaotic - job searching, exiting college, figuring out all that stuff. I feel sooo much more mellowed out and I like it! I think it gets better every year...

ciao! xo
(ps. follow my insta!)


coffee diaries | peregrine

A few weeks ago I found myself in DC and one of the first things I wanted to do was to continue my coffee diaries quest. With a little help from Yelp, I found Peregrine, which is Quite a fitting name for this adorable Capitol Hill cafe! If you'd like to skip my synopsis, just know that this place is definitely a repeat winner.

As noted on its store front, The word 'peregrine' is synonymous with 'foreigner,' or one from abroad. Sort of like a pilgrim. Which was actually pretty cool because it is very rare that I find myself in DC. So, myself being a Peregrine of sorts, I happened into this green, bright, minimalist cafe on a gorgeous April day. 

First, the neighborhood. It is nestled in the heart of the elegant, charming and polished Capitol Hill section of the city. The quiet streets are lined with lithe, narrow apartments - - the kind with turquoise doors and fancy balconies and spindly windows. The brick sidewalks add a sense of uneven charm to the corner intersections where bike racks, unabashed pigeons and not-quite-ready cherry blossoms all come together.  The neighborhood is important because when you take your lattè - or in my case, cappuccino - outside, you're right in the middle of it all. 

Second, the coffee. The menu is limited - but those are the best cafes! I am not one to go deep into the technicalities that one could explain on a chalkboard menu above the register. Peregrine's espresso menu read: LATTÈ. CAPPUCCINO. MACCHIATO. AMERICANO. Now, the espresso - and any drink for that matter - seemed to be very tailored. For each individual order, new beans are ground. The wait wasn't short, but it was worth every moment of anticipation (and that aroma!). My little cappuccino - evidently poured and created with love - was delightful. People, skip the Starbucks around the corner and go here. This is what the coffee diaries is all about.

Notes from the coffee diary
Cappuccino, one size 
smooth, light, creamy
A minimal smoky undertone
Savory, not bitter or sweet
Absolutely amazing latte art (I was a little envious of my friends' lattes) 
Friendly staff (no coffee snobs in sight)

I can't wait to come back to Peregrine :)

Peregrine Espresso
1718 14th Street
Washington DC


easy mediterranean kebabs

Something about the warmer days makes me want to eat cleaner and lighter. I've had more and more tendencies to pick out my favorite foods from the Mediterranean 'cuisine' lately, with a focus on grilled chicken, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, greek dressing, etc. So at home we were inspired to add our own twist onto an easy fan favorite: kebabs.

Actually, the reason we did this was because we found these awesome bamboo skewers (an essential!) and the rest of the dish sort of worked around it. Our kebabs had a variety of vegetables, including red onions (my favorite), grilled red pepper, zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, and even baby red potatoes. Our variety of ingredients was inspired my a nearby Mediterranean restaurant who has a similar dish. We used our own seasonings and spontaneously threw in other stuff (like the red potatoes, which I would probably cook separately next time). It was fun to watch it cook and turn out so great...except when you stab your index finger on your skewer.

One completely new thing I have never done before: prepare and grill my own shrimp. I decided to experiment a bit and make some grilled shrimp kebabs in the mix, and they turned out fantastic. I ended up making only one kebab because I was a little worried I would screw it up, but it turned out SO delicious that I wish I made more!

I would say the preparation piece (~20min) of this dish is key (especially with the business of peeling and disemboweling shrimp, EW). Besides the cutting of vegetables, it would be really fun to do a build-your-own sort of station and have each person create their own serving of what they'd like. The grilling portion takes maybe 10 minutes. It's seriously so light and perfect to accompany a salad, pesto flatbread, or eat over a bed of rice pilaf or quinoa. We had all of the above, and it was a nice and easy, light meal.

Firing up the grill so early makes me just that more excited that spring (and soon, summer!) is here. Happy kebabing :)

ciao, xo


seeing the cherry blossoms

Spring is officially here!!! I was so happy a few weekends ago to finally check 'the cherry blossoms' off of my must-see list - it was right at sundown, the light pinks were accentuated with the dark orange hues of the sky. I love the soothing and cool hues in the photos. I'd also never seen the Jefferson Memorial. It is a beautiful structure, made even more stunning with these delicate heaps of flowers surrounding the Tidal Basin. Confession: I didn't leave the car for any of these photos. While that might make it sound like these are a bit more ingenuine, I think it makes me love them even more.

HOWEVER - the reason we didn't get out of the car was because of the ridiculous traffic and crowds due to the Blossom Festival. If you're like me and just want to snap a few good photos without dealing with crowds (slow walkers are my pet peeve), I'd pop out the window as a passenger like I did, if that is possible. I don't think I've ever seen more people!

I love how much I've been in DC the past few weeks! Check back soon for a DC coffee diaries :) It was such a good, impromptu find.

ciao! xo


quick stop in San Diego

San Diego was one of the coolest places I've ever been to. Very relaxed and chill, with the by-the-bay vibes all over the place. S picked out the best place for dinner that went down in the books as the BEST fajitas I have ever had. I'd also just like to note how giddy I was when I figured out that we were less than twenty miles from the Mexico border (eeee!). So yes, I loved San Diego. I wish we were there longer!

We started out hungry and ventured out for some good eats with zero expectations. We wound up at La Fiesta (simple name to remember) - seriously the best fajitas ever. So fresh and simple, yet incredibly filling and satisfying. I think I could make a hobby out of finding the best fajita places in California. Might be my next coffee diaries. Anyway.... one thing I loved about California was the 100% perfect outdoor seating weather every.single.hour.of.every.single.day. We got a seat right in the heart of the Gaslamp District and enjoyed the people watching. The frozen blended margaritas made it even more fun! I also ate my first ever whole jalapeño (is that weird?)

The sunset was gorgeous. We watched it over the south end of the city, over the Padres stadium and the bay and Coronado Island. I sipped a mojito with S and we just marveled at the view - it was one of our best dates (and sunsets) ever. I love traveling with S and he knows it :) 

ciao San Diego! xo


carlsbad flower ranch

Carlsbad Ranch and their 50+ acres of ranunculus was the last spontaneous destination of the trip heading back from San Diego...and it was so. heavenly. beautiful. I truly have never been so overwhelmed by color. It was once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable.

One important reason why I am so fond of this memory is that it is so truly and completely spontaneous. I had never heard of anything like this in California, let alone the United States...I only thought that fields like this existed in Europe. I saw an editorial in a hotel magazine about the Flower Fields at Carlsbad the day before and was immediately curious and intrigued. And even more conveniently, it was located right on our way home - about 5 minutes off of our route. Fate? Yes!!

From the road, you could see the rows and rows and rows of vibrant bursts of color. Ask S - I think I was squealing. By the way, S was SO patient as we walked through here. It might not look like it from the pictures, but the place was teeming with tourists. It was also teeming with the happiest buds of ranunculus - a more delicate kind of peony - of every color imaginable. It was beautiful to see the variety of colors even within one row. From afar, it looks like blurred punches of one color, but when you walk up to the flowers and get on a closer level, you really see all of the flecks and variegated colors within the petals.

I could write a love letter to these fields. I want to sleep there, wear a big floofy dress in there, and just take thousands of pictures all day. As a photographer, this was a moment out of one of my dreams. I loved the cheerful vibes of the staff - I mean, I guess working at a place like this is the secret to happiness indeed. I want to cut a bunch for a gigantic bouquet, but then I don't - how could one ever willingly cut away from these gorgeous, undulating waves of color?

Carlsbad's peak season is from the end of March until May. I am so, so eternally happy that I was blessed with the opportunity to see this with S! He knows it meant a lot to me. I love the little hidden treasures like this. Go if you're ever down on I-5 by Carlsbad :)

Ps. Thanks to the @the_flower_fields for following me back on instagram! You guys are the coolest. Be back soon :)

ciao, xo