Pizza with figs, Roquefort, and caramelized onions

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All week long I’ve had figs on my mind.  I spent hours pouring over new recipes to try, and daydreaming ideas to improve old favorites.  Figs come twice a year, but are at their best in the later summer and early fall.  To me they are the perfect kind of sweet, not too sugary, not too tart, the way I imagined nectar tasted to bees when I was child.  Like a with a good cheese, your first taste of a ripe fig should be held on the tongue for a moment, taking time to appreciate its subtle flavors before it melts away in your mouth.

Figs, flour (for dough), sweet onion, Roquefort blue cheese

Figs, flour (for dough), sweet onion, Roquefort blue cheese

I like to get to the market early on Saturdays.  There is always something delicate that comes in small quantities and is gone if you sleep in, even just a little.  For me its worth it to give up a little sleep to have a chance to grab green garlic, the first pears, or a handful of mushrooms.  This week we were running a tiny bit late and when we arrived I headed straight to the back to look for figs.  To my delight, there was one carton of half a dozen figs left.  As soon as I’d set them in my basket, a well-dressed man came rushing up, asking if they were the last ones, and I was sorry to tell him I thought they were.

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Years ago, I had an internship in the mountains in eastern South Africa, and next door to our lodge was a tiny little gift shop called Nina’s, that also sold the most amazing light lunches.  They had a fig and Roquefort pizza that was a hit with my fellow interns.  I’ve never forgotten those amazing flavors and decided to try to make something similar.

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Caramelizing onions

Caramelizing onions

On the pizza stone

On the pizza stone

The result was better than I remembered.  I used far less Roquefort than I would mozzarella on a typical pizza (about an tablespoon and a half vs 1/2 a cup).  The Roquefort melts and spreads out thinly over the other ingredients, it’s sharp salty flavor mellowed by the sweetness of the figs and caramelized onions.  The mister is not a fan of non-traditional pizza (he loves a good red sauce), but even he wolfed down a few slices and tried to describe how the flavors interacted.

Outside it was sunny with a cool breeze, and I took the entire pizza board outside with a glass of sparkling vinho verde; the perfect lunch for an early autumn day.

A few tips:

Consider a pizza stone.  We keep one in the bottom of our oven at all times.  Pizza stones help your oven retain heat that is usually lost when opening the oven door.  This use of high, even heat combined with the kind of wet, aged dough we use, results in a crust that is crunchy on the outside and chewy within.  I’ve mentioned that we use the dough from this book, but here is a similar recipe from Food Wishes.

Aged dough already has really amazing flavor, but I think that brushing a little olive oil over your dough before adding any ingredients really adds another level of amazing flavor.  A tablespoon should be enough for the whole pizza.

Caramelizing onions takes a while.  I usually start well before I’m ready to make the pizza, and they are easy to keep in the refrigerator if you want to make them ahead of time or even the day before.  Just be sure to set the container out when you begin working on dinner; they’ll be easier to spread over the dough if they’ve had a chance to warm up. I caramelized two medium onions for this pizza.

Roquefort and other blue cheeses aren’t the easiest to crumble, but its easier if they are cold.  Keep the cheese in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

You can quarter the figs if you’d like, but I find thin, even slices make for easier eating.

I think that a light sprinkling of salt over the assembled pizza really helps bring out the flavors.  I take just a pinch of good sea salt and hold my fingers high above the pizza while sprinkling.  This helps get a more even distribution so no one part is too salty.  In the case of this pizza, I salted it just before adding the figs.

A perfect weekend lunch

A perfect weekend lunch

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Breakfast radishes

Semolina loaf, radishes, eggs, raspberries

Semolina loaf, radishes, eggs, raspberries

There is a time every year, when I’ve read one too many depressing pretentious books by hot young authors, that I put them all away with a dissatisfied grumble and allow myself to drift off in a series of what I call “French food memoirs.”  Typically penned by Americans or Brits living in France or remembering France, they hit just the right combination of bittersweet memories and mouthwatering recipes, and always, always I want to never reach the last page.

One of the first such books that I loosely grouped into “French food memoirs,” is Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  There’s a short chapter about the early stages of love and eating radishes with butter on toast.  At the time, I’d probably never had a radish that wasn’t cut into an underwhelming salad, and I promptly went off to the store to try this supposedly simple, perfect meal.

Leave the greens on to stabilize the radish while slicing

Leave the greens on to stabilize the radish while slicing

No doubt it was good, but as I ate them, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would work to saute the radishes in said butter, then serve on a toasted baguette.  As it turns out, it was good, very good, and has become one of our go to lazy morning meals as well as an interesting treat we make for guests.

Sauteing radishes and toasting bread

Sauteing radishes and toasting bread

A few tips:

Leave the greens on while slicing the radishes; it makes it easier to stabilize them as you slice and will help prevent a slip of the knife as the end tapers off.

Use a large pan or saute in several batches.  If you overcrowd the radish slices, they are more likely to steam instead of brown.

Cook the radish greens for a tasty addition, but beware, they like to hang on to their grit.  To get them really clean, float them in a bowl of cool water once you’ve separated them from the radishes.  Every few minutes give them a little swish with your hand, and the grit will loosen up and sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Fresh baguette is great, though we like to eat them on sliced and toasted semolina bread, with a fried or poached egg and fresh fruit on the side.

My perfect breakfast

My perfect breakfast

Wanderings: Orange County and Los Angeles

I love this gorgeous girl and the gorgeous view

I love this gorgeous girl and the gorgeous view

At the end of this trip to California, we headed south for the wedding of one of the Mister’s good friends from college, hopscotching all over Orange County and Los Angeles for various wedding events, visiting family, and getting in a little sightseeing.

We started out in Irvine, staying with family on his side.  I wrote a little about it here.  To kick off the busy weekend, the Mister’s auntie made us an Italian feast, with homemade gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, fresh fig salad, and on and on.  By Saturday morning, we were well-rested and energized for a busy couple of days.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach

Beach cruisers

Beach cruisers

Stuft Surfer Cafe

Stuft Surfer Cafe

Early Saturday afternoon we drove to Newport Beach for the ceremony.  We got to the church about an hour early and walked a block over to the beach to have a look around.  It was a gorgeous day, and I wanted to hitch up my long dress and run straight into the waves.

Wedding flowers

Wedding flowers

Gorgeous florets on the bridal gown train

Gorgeous florets on the bridal gown train

I wished I had been wearing this beautiful sari

I wished I had been wearing this beautiful sari

The Mister and the groom come from a tight-knit group of ten or so friends from college, most of whom were able to make it to the wedding. They are scattered all over the country now, and we were glad to spend time before the ceremony chatting and laughing, and catching up with the groom’s family, who they knew well.  After the ceremony, the married couple dashed to their vintage ride in a cloud of bubbles, rose petals and cheers, and while they went off to take photos, we all piled into our cars and headed straight to the nearest In-N-Out Burger for a pre-reception snack.

Pre-reception pit stop at In-N-Out Burger

Pre-reception pit stop at In-N-Out Burger

We split a Double-Double with fries

We split a Double-Double with fries

The reception was at the gorgeous Montage Hotel, overlooking Laguna Beach.  Cocktail hour and a tea ceremony were held on the lawns, perfectly timed to coincide with the last few golden hours of the day.

Pool at the Montage in Laguna Beach

Pool at the Montage in Laguna Beach

Cocktail hour over looking this gorgeous view

Cocktail hour overlooking this gorgeous view

Look at those green green waters

Look at those green green waters

Succulents, bougainvillea and the sea

Succulents, bougainvillea and the sea

We took turns taking each other’s photos and indulging in the champagne bar.

Catching up with friends who now live far away

Catching up with friends who now live far away

Amazing champagne bar

Amazing champagne bar

I had a few of these

I had a few of these

Once the sun had sen, we made our way into the ballroom for dinner, each table set with elaborate ceramics, and bowls of candles and blossoms.  We danced the night away to a Beach Boys cover band, under dozens of paper lanterns.

Paper lantern over the dance floor

Paper lanterns over the dance floor

Some tables had these beautiful ceramics

Some tables had these beautiful ceramics

Other tables had these bowls of flowers and candles

Other tables had these bowls of flowers and candles

The next morning, we pried our weary bodies out of bed, and drove to Corona del Mar, for a brunch overlooking the beach at the bride’s family home.  We sipped mimosas and bloody marys, and watched the waves crash on the rocks a few feet away.

Wedding brunch overlooking Corona Beach

Wedding brunch overlooking Corona del Mar

and me

Needing more coffee

All brunches should have bloody mary bars

All brunches should have bloody mary bars

the Mister

The Mister

Just some brunch

Just some brunch

Quiet little oasis

Quiet little oasis

After brunch, and many hugs goodbye with good friends, we headed into Los Angeles to drive around a bit before I had to catch a red eye home.  On the recommendation of Kristina, we stopped at Grand Central Market for lunch.  We wandered around the building, eating all the food with our eyes, and finally settled on the taqueria with the longest line and no visible name.  Amazing.

Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market

Beef and pork tacos

Beef and pork tacos

Packed lunch counter

Packed lunch counter

We also made our way up to Griffith Observatory to take in the views of the city and explore the observatory.

Griffiths Observatory and downtown Los Angeles

Griffiths Observatory and downtown Los Angeles

Irresistible touristy photo

Irresistible touristy photo

View of the city

View of the city

Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Visitors mesmerized by the pendulum

Visitors mesmerized by the pendulum

Pendulum

Pendulum

There was so much amazing food and architecture that we couldn’t get to, and now we are both itching to come back soon and taste a little more of what the city has to offer.

Palms and sunsets

Palms and sunsets

Tomato Galette

Leek, green onion, cherry tomatoes, corn, dough, egg, parmesan

Leek, green onion, cherry tomatoes, corn, dough, egg, parmesan

There was a point in learning to cook when I went from a frustrated picky eater trying to make food that tasted the way I wanted, to wanting to make simple, beautiful food to share with friends and family.   From the first time I saw them, galettes took my breath away, seeming somehow chic and rustic at the same time.

As autumn makes its way in, I’m tempted to make savory galettes with caramelized onions and squash, or sweet ones with apples and figs.  And yet, the farmers market is still bright with cherry tomatoes and ears of corn, and I couldn’t help but think of the summery galette Deb recently posted on Smitten Kitchen.  I’d practically drooled onto my computer screen when I first saw it, and this weekend I filled my market basket sun golds and sweet corn, knowing what would be making an appearance on our table for lunch.

Sauteed vegetables cooling

Sauteed vegetables cooling

Deb’s recipes are highly reliable, so if you don’t have a go-to dough, try hers.  We keep an everyday sourdough in our fridge most of the time.  It’s a little wetter than her recipe, but I’m used to working with it, so I felt comfortable deviating from her recipe a bit.  Apart from using a different dough and substituting one of the vegetables, I followed her recipe exactly and produced a wonderful, summery galette.

Galette assembled

Galette assembled

A few tips:

Mince a little fresh rosemary and add it to the flour when you are making the dough.  Rosemary is such a great aromatic to add to breads and cakes, and really makes a sourdough pop.

If possible, make your dough a couple of days ahead.  Dough that is at least 24 hours old develops amazing flavors and helps give it that golden yellow color.  This is likely the secret to the amazing crust at your favorite pizza place.

I’m not opposed to zucchini, but I don’t love it either, so I was happy to substitute chopped leeks here.  Their buttery flavor was perfect with the tomatoes, corn, and green onions.  I’m sure it would easy enough to substitute in your favorite summer vegetable, just make sure it’s something that doesn’t release too much liquid.

Out of the oven and ready for lunch

Out of the oven and ready for lunch

Wanderings: Santa Cruz

Amusement park on the Santa Cruz board walk

Amusement park on the Santa Cruz board walk

While in California we had hoped to have a chance to meet up with a couple of good friends who live in the Bay area.   We’d all been traveling a lot, only had part of one day free, and they have a baby, so when our friend hit on the solution of meeting up half way in Santa Cruz, we thought “Perfect!”  On Sunday morning, we rented a car and made the hour long drive north.

Beach baby in her french duds

Beach baby in the outfit we got her in Paris last year

Santa Cruz Beach

Santa Cruz Beach

Getting some quality snuggle time

Getting some quality snuggle time

I’d never been to Santa Cruz before and it was really the perfect town to meet up for a few hours.  It was still a little foggy when we arrived, so we parked near the boardwalk, got espressos and drifted down to the beach to watch the volleyball players.  Not long after, our friends arrived with a beach blanket and picnic food.  We set up a few feet up from the water, snacked and caught up, and dug in the sand with the baby, all the while watching athletes complete a triathlon along one stretch of the beach.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Pat the Beard-y

Pat the Beard-y

Once the sun had burned through the fog and we’d had a chance to soak up the warmth, we packed up the blanket and headed over to the boardwalk to check out the amusement park and the arcades.  It was fun to see the baby taking in all the lights and sounds and the movement of the rides, sometimes wide-eyed and sometimes squealing in delight.  We hadn’t seen her since last summer when she still so tiny and sleepy, and now she’s practically a pro at walking.

Selfies from the chair lift

Selfies from the chair lift

Chair lift

Chair lift

Hi!

Hi!

We women snuck off on our own to ride the colorful chair lifts high above the park, and the men and the baby wandered around the rides and booths below.

Nom nom softserve.

Nom nom softserve.

Playing well so we can win her a big prize

Playing well so we can win her a big prize

We combined all our tickets and got her this sea horse.  She approved.

We combined all our tickets and got her this sea horse. She approved.

Like the end of any perfect summer trip, we indulged in vices treats like corn dogs and chocolate dipped ice cream cones.  We wandered into the arcades and did our best to win enough tickets to buy the baby something cute, and when we came up short, we fed more money into the token machines so we could win more tickets.  Eventually we racked up enough tickets to get her a soft blue sea horse on a bendable stick, and she rewarded our efforts by laughing and repeatedly giving it kisses.

Making friends

Making friends

Such a cool theatre and I want to see Mason Jennings!

Such a cool theatre and I want to see Mason Jennings!

It’s good to be home for a weekend

It was good to be home for the weekend.  I spent a lot of time catching up on sleep, cooking, sorting through photos, and celebrating a friend’s birthday.  Here are a few phone snaps from the last couple of days.

Pork belly ramen

Pork belly ramen

Raspberries at the farmers market

Raspberries at the farmers market

Biking in heels for the first time

Biking in heels for the first time

Great seats at the baseball game

Great seats at the baseball game

Veg, veg and more veg (with brown rice and an egg)

Leek, mushroom, bean sprouts, green onions, snow peas, napa cabbage, carrots, shallots, cilantro

Leek, mushroom, bean sprouts, green onions, snow peas, napa cabbage, carrots, shallots, cilantro

Lots of travel usually means lots of meat and carbs in my diet, and as delightful as that is, when I get home I usually just want to detox on a giant pile of vegetables.  A quick stir fry over brown rice has become our go-to for a filling, veg-centric meal.  We try to keep brown rice in stock in our apartment, so whenever the fancy strikes us, I can make a quick run to the little neighborhood grocer, pick up whatever vegetables look good that day, and get dinner started.  The best thing about this is that you can use as many or few vegetables as you want in any combination.  Experiment.

A few tips:

Brown rice has a bad reputation for being hard to cook.  I love this recipe for perfect brown rice every time.  It’s easy and reliable.  I like to substitute chicken stock or add chicken stock concentrate to enhance the flavor.

Saute the vegetables separately.  It takes a little longer, but I find the flavor of the final dish to be better when the tossed components are cooked separately, rather than muddling the flavors by cooking them together.  It’s also helps keep vegetables crisp and not too soggy if you don’t overload the pan.  After sauteing each vegetable, I load them on a large platter.  We then serve rice in a bowl, and top with veggies.

Shred the carrots on a grater to keep their texture and crunch more consistent with the rest of the meal.

Add a little sriracha to the cabbage when sauteing.  I don’t know why, but these two go so well together.

Garnish with a little fresh chopped cilantro and bean sprouts for crunch.

Topping the dish with a fried or poached egg adds the perfect amount of richness.

Top brown rice with sauteed veggies, fresh cilantro, and a fried or poached egg

Top brown rice with sauteed veggies, fresh cilantro, and a fried or poached egg

Wanderings: Biking around the Monterey Peninsula

One of many breaks along the trail

One of many breaks while biking around Monterey Peninsula

One afternoon, I found myself on my own with time on my hands and no place in particular to be.  I popped in to Adventures by the Sea and asked about renting a bicycle for a few hours.  Within a few minutes they fitted me for a small white, dutch step-through style rental bike, taken my info, and pointed me in the more scenic direction of the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail.

My ride

My ride

This part of California is known for quick weather changes and this day was no exception.  On the ride out, the fog (they call it the Sea Layer) clung to the rocky outcroppings and crashing waves, and the landscape was spooky and otherworldly, making the coast seemed wild and a little dangerous.  On the ride back, the sun had burned through the fog and everything was bright and warm and calm, and almost unrecognizable from the earlier ride.  I felt as though I was returning through a completely different place.

Red ice plant growing along the dunes

Red ice plant growing along the dunes

Monterey.Bike.4

Foggy, craggy coast

There are numerous little beaches along the way, some of them with benches and picnic tables.  I probably stopped a dozen times, locked my bike up to a chain or fence post and wandered down to the beaches, exploring the rocks and tide pools, numbing my feet in the water and looking for sea glass.

Tide pools and crashing waves

Tide pools and crashing waves

Little boy looking out at the giant waves

Little boy looking out at the giant waves

The crashing of these giant waves is incredibly loud

The crashing of these huge waves is incredibly loud

Red aloe bushes

Red aloe bushes

There and back, I rode a little under 19 miles in 3.5 hours–pretty slow and leisurely.  I’ll probably be back in California later this year, and I’m hoping to pack a picnic and do the entire ride down to Carmel-by-the-Sea.  This would almost double the distance and probably take a full day, but I’m looking forward to it.

Towards Lover's Point

Towards Lover’s Point

A few notes on the ride: I started my ride on the paved bike path near Cannery Row.  This is part of the larger Monterey Bay Coastal Trail; its a paved multi-use trail that is separated from the street.  After Lover’s Point, in Pacific Grove, the paved bike path ends, and I followed some other cyclists on to the street along Sunset Drive.  I don’t typically feel super comfortable riding along with cars, but the traffic on Sunset Drive was slow and lazy, and after about two miles a bike path reappears on either side of the road. I followed this for another mile or so to Spanish Bay, then cut inland and joined up with 17 Mile Drive.  The road is free for cyclists, $9.00 for cars, and absolutely beautiful.  Ride along for a few miles or the length of the trail, there are plenty of places to stop and rest, but be sure to bring your own food and water, as I didn’t see anything available for sale.  The ride is relatively flat, with only one incline that left me a little winded.  Here’s a map of the approximate ride I did, 8.7 miles each way.

8.7 Mile bike ride along the Monterey Bay Peninsula

8.7 Mile bike ride along the Monterey Bay Peninsula

Wanderings: Kayaking in Monterey Bay

Sea lions chasing each other around our kayak (and splashing us!)

Sea lions chasing each other around our kayak (and splashing us!)

Early one cool, golden morning, we headed down to the beach to explore Monterey Bay by kayak.  It was a little breezy, but the water was glassy and calm, and our wetsuits kept us perfectly warm.  I expected to see harbor seals and sea lions, and was surprised by just how many animals we saw.  I only got photos of a few of them, but altogether we saw sea lions, harbor seals, otters with pups, dolphins, sea nettles, starfish, a sea hare, cormorants, pelicans, and small octopus.  Our guide was thrilled about the octopus as it was the first one he’d ever seen there and couldn’t recall hearing of a sighting in three or four years.

Our amazing guide, Alex, from Monterey Bay Kayaks was incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and clearly loved his job.  Alex was careful to keep us a safe distance from the birds and mammals (for their safety), but many of them seemed just as curious about us and swam over to check us out–and occasionally give us a good splashing.

Starfish

Starfish

Sea lion

Sea lion

California sea hare releasing ink

California sea hare releasing ink

Sea lion diving beneath our kayaks

Sea lion diving beneath our kayaks

Great day out on the water

Great day out on the water

These cormorants popped out of deep water next to us, then completely disappeared twenty seconds later

These cormorants popped out of deep water next to us, then completely disappeared twenty seconds later

Lounging sea lions

Lounging sea lions

Ghostly harbor seals checking us out from below

Ghostly harbor seals checking us out from below

A sea nettle among the kelp forests

A sea nettle among the kelp forests

Happy kayaker

Happy kayaker

Wanderings: Monterey

After a satisfying hour of looking for sea glass

After a satisfying hour of looking for sea glass

After nearly two weeks spent in California, I’m finally home and it feels strange to no longer be two blocks from the ocean.  I already miss the crashing waves and smell of eucalyptus.

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

Beach path leading down to Monterey Bay

Beach path leading down to Monterey Bay

I worked via laptop most of the time I was away, so it wasn’t really a vacation.  Still, it was amazing to walk down to the bay when I was done for the day and work with the windows thrown wide open because the weather was so lovely.   I’ll likely be back again in early December and I’m already making lists of things I didn’t have time to do this time.  Longer bike rides and boating, the aquarium and the markets.

A little strip of beach near Cannery Row

A little strip of beach near Cannery Row

Wandering around the neighborhoods before dinner

Wandering around the neighborhoods before dinner

California was golden days and the perfect blend of warm and cool.  Now I’m home and the heat seems to have burned off for the year.  It really feels like the start of autumn and I’m looking up and waiting for the leaves to change.  Its been more than five years since I was last in school and summer blends into the other seasons with no clear delineation.  This year feels different.

Candy shop along fisherman's wharf

Candy shop along fisherman’s wharf

Kayak crossing

Kayak crossing

I want one of these perfect little bungalows

I want one of these perfect little bungalows

Cormorants and gulls

Cormorants and gulls

Dunes

Dunes

Brown pelican and the marina

Brown pelican and the marina

Wanderings: Irvine

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Today I’m working from a relative’s house in Irvine.  I got chance to sneak out this morning for a little walk and was delighted to find pomegranate and lemon trees growing in neighbors’ yards.  My life’s dream is to have my very own avocado tree, and if I’d seen one of those I might not have been able to stop myself from taking one.  Have a great weekend!

Palms

Palms

I just love all the bougainvillea

I just love all the bougainvillea

Lemon and lime trees

Lemon and lime trees

Hibiscus flowers

Hibiscus flowers

Wanderings: Last day in Monterey

Heading down for drinks and dinner

Heading down to the hotel bar for drinks and dinner

Outfit: Madewell sweater (similar) / J. Crew Skirt (similar)/ Madewell Shoes / Madewell bag (similar)

Today is my last day in Monterey.  Tonight I head south to attend a weekend wedding and hopefully do a little exploring.  I’ll share some photos from my time here next week, but for now, here are a few shots around our gorgeous, Spanish-style hotel.

Rose garden

Rose garden

Lounging in the old atrium

Lounging in the old atrium

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

Ready to wear

Taking up the hem on a maxi dress

Taking up the hem on a maxi dress

This weekend, we’re heading to Newport Beach for a wedding.  The dress code is black tie optional, so I decided to have a little fun and picked up this bright pink maxi dress from Ruche.

Cassidy One Shoulder Maxi Dress from Ruche

Cassidy One Shoulder Maxi Dress from Ruche

It’s light-weight, simple, and easy to dress up or down with the right accessories.  Not being very tall, maxi dresses are usually much too long and this one was no exception. Getting the hem professionally altered seemed silly considering how affordable the dress was, so I decided to tackle this one by hand.

I won’t go into too much detail about how to stitch a basic hem since there are lots of amazing tutorials online.  I used a simple backstitch, and was careful to use straight pins and a measuring tape to ensure a consistent length all the way around the bottom.  All together it took about an hour to do and now the dress is the perfect length.  I have a few other dresses I need to take in and am thinking of getting a small sewing machine.  If you are interested in altering your own clothes, I love Extra Petite‘s tutorials. Here are a few of my favorites one / two / three / four.

Extra length, pinned up

Extra length, pinned up

Measured and pinned

Measured and pinned

Carefully back stitching

Carefully back stitching

Inside out

Inside out

Newly stitched and ready to cut the extra length

Newly stitched and ready to cut the extra length

Perfect length and ready to wear

Perfect length and ready to wear

Shown with: Madewell shoes / JewelMint bracelet / J.Crew necklace / Ruche necklace

Bracelets, studs, and Jewelmint

Pyramid bracelet

Pyramid bracelet

Earlier this summer, I’d been on the lookout for a few pieces of bold, modern jewelry to add a touch of interest and polish to some of my more tailored and understated outfits.  Lot’s of what I was seeing was girly and colorful and not quite what I was looking for.

A couple of mentions in various blogs led me to JewelMint and exactly the sort of jewelry I was looking for.  I started with two bracelets and a pair of earrings.  All three have become work horses in my outfit rotation.  They work equally well for conservative business meetings or drinks with friends, and I get lots of compliments on them.

Above: Moto Chic Bracelet (worn with an old turquoise beaded bracelet and a woven bracelet I picked up in Southern Peru.

Gold bangle

Gold and bold

Above: Golden Arm Bracelet – Currently out of stock but I love this Cobra Cuff

Gold stud posts

Gold stud posts

Above: Gold Pyramid Studs.  Worn with a Madewell shirt.

A slight shift: To and Fromage

Saturday night's cheese platter

Saturday night’s cheese platter

Over the cheese course at dinner on Saturday, the mister joked that it was a shame I hadn’t called my blog “to and fro….mage.”  I think my face immediately fell, because, honestly, it was the perfect name.  Why couldn’t he have been so clever twelve days ago?  Most likely we were eating cheese when I mentioned that I was going to try a blog for sharing photos.

Oh well.  In honor of the change, here are a few photos of delightful cheese experiences we have had in recent times.

Digging in to a communal cheese platter in Paris

Digging in to a communal cheese platter in Paris

Cheddar feast on St. Patrick's Day

Cheddar feast on St. Patrick’s Day

Selection from our first Beaujolais Nouveau party

Selection from our first Beaujolais Nouveau party (we’ve now hosted three)

Sampling cheese ripened in a goat stomach on the Asia side of Istanbul

Sampling Tulum cheese,  which is ripened in a goat skin, on the Asia side of Istanbul

Parmesan and 80 year old balsamic vinegar from a friend's family in Italy

Parmesan and 80 year old balsamic vinegar from a friend’s family in Italy

Rainy day picnic in Paris

Rainy day picnic in Paris

Cheese plate in Galata Square, Istanbul

Cheese plate in Galata Square, Istanbul

Cheese, prosciutto, and pesto picnic on the Tiber River in Rome

Cheese, prosciutto, and pesto picnic on the Tiber River in Rome

Wanderings – Greetings from Monterey

Sunset on Monterey Bay

Sunset on Monterey Bay

I’ve been in Monterey for a few days now and its been a wonderful change of scenery.  The days have been sunny and cool, and the air smells like eucalyptus which is one of my favorite things about being in California. Here are a few photos from my first walk down along the water.

This weekend we are planning to go kayaking in Monterey Bay, explore Carmel, and drive up to Santa Cruz to hang out with friends.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Path leading to the bay

Path leading to the bay

Hello, Pacific Ocean.

Hello, Pacific Ocean.

Ready for Autumn

Watermelons at the market last week

Watermelons at the market last week

I always get a little sad as the last few weeks of summer produce make their way into the farmer’s market in September.  I find myself thinking, “Blueberries won’t taste this good for another year” or “Will this be the last of the summer melons?”  And yet, the fall produce appears and I get excited about the amazing things I will get to eat again.  Looking through these photos from recipes tried in years past has me excited for crisp temperatures and fall bounty.  These all need to make a reappearance on my table soon, and until then I will be savoring the last days of blackberries and heirloom tomatoes.

I love apple picking season

I love apple picking season

Pumpkin pancetta risotto

Pumpkin pancetta risotto

Donal Skehan’s Pumpkin and Crispy Pancetta Risotto

Tart with figs and blue cheese

Tart with figs and blue cheese

New York Times Recipe Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Stilton

Fresh apple cider donuts

Fresh apple cider donuts

Apple cider donuts are above my skill level but I think they taste best piping hot with apple cider after a couple hours spent picking apples.

Summer tomatoes with baked polenta

Polenta is an amazing vehicle for so many vegetables.  In the summer, I like to roast cherry tomatoes, corn, and mushrooms in the oven and serve over baked polenta.

Sungold cherry tomatoes from the farmer's market

Sungold cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market

The Mister used to go through the labor intensive process of making polenta on the stovetop, but then we found Joy the Baker‘s amazing baked polenta recipe and haven’t looked back.  Its so amazingly simple and there is no need to stand by your oven stirring until your arms ache.  I start with her recipe,  substituting chicken stock for flavor and goat cheese instead of butter.  I also like to add a few red pepper flakes and a little fresh chopped rosemary.  Leave in the oven 10-20 minutes longer if you like your polenta a little firmer.  Another nice touch is to finish it under the broiler.

Cherry tomatoes, corn, garlic, onion, mushroom, pepper and sea salt

Cherry tomatoes, corn, garlic, onion, mushroom, pepper and sea salt

There is no set recipe for the vegetables; I usually wing it.  For this version, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and toss with chopped mushrooms, onions, red pepper, and corn cut off the cob.  Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with olive oil and stir well.  Then pop in the oven along with the polenta, taking the pan out to give them a stir once or twice.  Allow the polenta and vegetables to cool for about 15 minutes.  Top with fresh chopped herbs–basil or lemon balm are great–and if you like sprinkle with grated parmesan, sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Seasoned and ready for the oven

Seasoned and ready for the oven

Let them rest for about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven

Let them rest for about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven

Garnish with fresh herbs

Garnish with fresh herbs

Packing for California

Blues, whites and greys

Blues, whites and greys

Packing up for a two week trip to California.  I like to travel light and have tried to adhere to a great packing tip I read about on Cup of Jo a while back: stick to a simple color scheme.  This let’s you mix and match tops, bottoms, layers, jewelry and shoes, so that you can have lots of outfits without lugging around too much stuff.  I’ve packed one brightly colored dress, since I have a wedding to attend at the end of the trip.

I’ll be working from California for next two weeks, mostly in Monterey, but spending a little time in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.  Any tips on great places to eat or things to do?

Mix and match shoes, a swimsuit, and one dress for a wedding

Mix and match shoes, a swimsuit, and one vibrant dress for a wedding

Wanderings – Florida

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach

Over Memorial Day weekend, we traveled to central Florida to attend the second part of our four-weddings-in-six-weeks blitz.  We tacked two extra days onto the long weekend and rented a cottage on Cocoa Beach.  The water was clear and warm, and large waves broke a few feet from shore.  We had fun standing right at the break and trying to jump over the waves without getting barreled over.  One day we went dolphin watching and were even lucky enough to catch a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center.  After five days we were so relaxed and it was hard to leave our tiny kitschy cottage by the sea.

Enjoying the ocean breeze

Enjoying the ocean breeze

Swimsuit – Modcloth / Sunglasses – Persol / Beach tote – J. Crew / Jewelry – Satomi Kawakita and Steve Alan / Hat, Shoes, Towel – Target

About 30 seconds before he jumped in the ocean

About 30 seconds before he jumped in the ocean

Video I shot of the rocket launch.

These two are oh so cool

These two are oh so cool

Satellite Beach

Satellite Beach

Dolphin watching on Banana River

Dolphin watching on Banana River

A quick trip to Madewell

Running my favorite kind of errand. I ❤ Madewell.

Madewell in my bike basket

Madewell in my bike basket

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