It’s Friday, I’m in love

Tian Tian hanging out

Tian Tian hanging out

I’ve had an incredibly busy week, but these frigid temps have left me uninspired to do anything except curl up under my blankets for weeks at a time.  Lucky for me we are supposed to have a bit of sun over the weekend and I plan to be outside soaking it in.  Hope a little good weather makes it your way, too.

Here are a few photos from the week.  Have a great weekend!

I love peeling a clementine in one unbroken strip

I love peeling a clementine in one unbroken strip

Starting to feel like I will never be warm again

Starting to feel like I will never be warm again

Fancy pretzels at District Commons

Fancy pretzels at District Commons

PJs, slippers, and mini quesadillas

PJs, slippers, and mini quesadillas

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Wanderings: Under the radar Chinatown

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Traveling is always better when you have friends to show you the places only the locals know.  When making dinner plans with one good friend, he offered us three choices: fancy, real deal, or home cooking.  We had fancy reservations for another night, so we opted for real deal, and were not disappointed.

Our friend took us to a small, unpretentious szechuan eatery in Chinatown—a favorite of his own family—and ordered a variety of dishes for the table, none of which I could name for you and all of which were delicious.  Afterwards, we had drinks at the speakeasy-style Hop Sing Laundromat, where the cocktails are fantastic and photos are not allowed.

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Wanderings: Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

One of the highlights of our stay in Philadelphia was lunch at Reading Terminal Market.  Once the train shed for the former Reading Terminal, the market now houses dozens of lunch counters and vendors selling amazing selections of cured meats, handmade cheeses, roasted coffee, preserves, fresh pretzels, bouquets of flowers and on and on.

The Head Nut

The Head Nut

Old City Coffee

Old City Coffee

Pierogi

Pierogi

Absolutely starving, we wandered around the terminal, sampling pierogi, buying bags of coffee, and hitting the bulk bins for chocolate covered malt balls.  For lunch, we decided to split up and satisfy our divergent cravings.  The Mister indulged in a roast pork sandwich with provolone and broccoli rabe, while I queued up for fancy grilled cheese at MeltKraft.  I’ve already got plans to try to make their melted brie and caramelized onion sandwich at home.  Yum.

Meltcraft Grilled Cheese

Meltcraft Grilled Cheese

Brielle: melted brie on brioche with caramelized onions and cranberry chutney

Brielle: melted brie on brioche with caramelized onions and cranberry chutney

Jams and preserves

Jams and preserves

Fresh pretzels

Fresh pretzels

Peking duck

Peking duck

Pastry counter

Pastry counter

Wanderings: Philadelphia

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January is about the time of year that winter starts to get to me.  At first it’s exciting to cozy up in sweaters and layers, and the sparkle and cheer of the holidays is lovely.  By late January, however, the dreary gray and bitter cold make me feel cooped up and anxious.  Fortunately for me, we recently managed to convert a short last-minute work trip into a weekend getaway in Philadelphia, and, though it was cold and gray there, too, it was a very welcome change of scenery.

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We’ve visited most of the major tourist sites in years past, so it was nice to be able to slow down and enjoy leisurely meals, wander around neighborhoods, and meet up for drinks with friends.  We even spent a few exciting hours wandering around the Mütter Museum, which is completely fascinating if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing a few favorites from our wanderings around Philly.  Here are a my favorite photos from Center City.

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Hello, tiny panda

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

Ever since we moved closer to the National Zoo, the Mister and I have become total zoo fans and frequent visitors.  Like the rest of DC, we were pretty thrilled when the Zoo’s giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth to a tiny healthy panda cub this past summer.  We’ve eagerly followed all the news updates about her and watched her exploits (mostly sleeping and snuggling) on the zoo’s panda cam.

Last weekend, her exhibit finally opened to the public, so on Saturday, I woke up early, threw on my warmest layers, and walked over to the Zoo.  This week’s frigid temps and piles of snow seemed to keep the crowds at bay, at least for a little while, and I was able to walk straight into the exhibit and get my first in-person glimpse of the little cub.  All of last week’s troubles melted away as I watched the tiny panda scramble all over her mother, nurse, cuddle, and generally tumble around.

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

There were sort of a reverent hush among the early morning crowd, all huddled together and snapping pictures while wearing an amusing array of panda paraphernalia.  Children would enter the exhibit and say, “Bao Bao?,” in their tiny voices, and the crowd would part to let them stand in front and have a peek at the tiny panda.  What is it about pandas that inspires so much awe in people?  Probably the extreme real-life cuteness, but still it was almost as interesting to watch the people there as to see the cub herself.  I have a feeling I’ll be visiting the Zoo even more often this year.

Bamboo Storage

Bamboo Storage

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

Mei Xiang and Bao Bao

It’s Friday, I’m in love

Looking glass

My mirror staring back at me

It’s been another cold and snowy week here in DC—not the best time to be trying to get over a cold.  A friend of mine is having a party this weekend, and since I’m starting to feel much better, I’m looking forward to doing something other than burrowing under a pile of blankets or horrifying people on the metro with my cough.

Here are a few photos from the week.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Snow day treat: nutella smothered banana bread

Snow day treat: nutella smothered banana bread

Snowy scene on the National Mall

Snowy scene on the National Mall

Charms / Curanderismo / Juju

How about one to make terrible coughs go away? Charms / Curanderismo / Juju

It was a train that took me away

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What is it about train travel that is so romantic?  Something about the architecture of the grand old stations or maybe the shiny metal cars or sneaking away to stretch your legs and refresh your drink in the lounge car.  Whatever the reason, there always seems to be a little extra glamor to taking a train.

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My office recently sent me to Philadelphia for a few meetings, and here on the east coast that often means train travel.  It was lovely to spend a few hours lingering in beautiful Union Station, and later 30th Street Station, admiring the cavernous terminals and watching people come and go.  I’m already eager to take another train somewhere new.

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Go to sleep and dream of snow

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Everyone loves a snow day, and even though I’m recovering from a bad cold, I couldn’t help but sneak out for a few minutes to twirl around in the swirling flakes.  We’re promised bitter temperatures tomorrow, but for now, I’m happy to delight in a magical wintery snowfall.

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Wanderings: Isla Saona

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The highlight of our trip to the Dominican Republic was definitely our visit to Isla Saona, a small tropical island off the south-eastern coast of the mainland.  Conjure an image in your mind of a tropical island and it would likely mirror Saona’s white sand beaches and clear green waters.  Saona is a protected national park, which is evident by the pristine beaches, dotted only with a few thatched cabanas and day-trippers who have been dropped off by speedboats and catamarans.

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Sailing on a catamaran

Sailing on a catamaran

To get to Saona, we were driven from our resort to nearby Bayahibe, a small sea-side town.  At Bayahibe we were taken by motor boat out to a large catamaran which would take us and a large group of very enthusiastic Canadians to Saona.  Sailing on the catamaran was great fun.  Sometimes we’d lounge on the netting that spanned the boat’s hulls, soaking in the sun, and sometimes we’d relax in the shade and enjoy the dance party the Canadians were engaged in on the catamaran’s deck.  The rum was flowing freely and there was A LOT of dancing.

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Once we approached Saona, small motorboats took us from the catamaran to the shore, where plentiful beach chairs were spread out and a Dominican barbeque was being prepared.

The waters were mesmerizing; clear and warm and green as any I’ve ever seen.  It was tempting to doze off in one of the hammocks that dotted the sandy white beaches, but I was too enchanted with the sea and could hardly pull myself away from it.  We floated along the sandbars, found conch shells, and made friends with more Canadians (both Québécois and Torontonian, who, upon meeting, immediately engaged in a rum-fueled debate over which part of Canada was superior).

When it was time to go, we piled onto two long thin speedboats, which dropped us off into the shallow waters of a natural sandbar, some distance away.  We waded around in water that felt much too far from shore but only came up waist high, drank more rum, and marveled at the huge starfish that lived on the sand in those shallows.  As the light began to fade, we piled back into the speedboats and proceeded to race each other across the ocean, cheering and taunting the other boat, and nearly bouncing out of our seats with every wave we hit—a pretty exhilarating way to end an amazing day.

Look at those green, green waters

Look at those green, green waters

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Racing speedboats back to the mainland

Racing speedboats back to the mainland

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Fever in the morning

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After a few great days in Philadelphia, I’m back in DC.  Unfortunately I’ve been hit with a pretty nasty cold, so I’m planning to take it easy, drink lots of tea, and indulge in a few naps.  Be back soon!

It’s Friday, I’m in love

We migrated to the Dupont farmer's market for the winter

We migrated to the Dupont farmer’s market for the winter

After a week of polar vortex-induced time at home wearing three pairs of socks, it’s been really great to enjoy a few days of sunshine and warm-ish rain.  I’m in Philadelphia for a few days, extending a short work trip so that I can meet up with friends and enjoy the city.  I always find a change of scenery to be energizing, so I’m pretty thrilled to be here.

Hope you have a great weekend!  Here are a few photos from the week.

Carb feast

Carb feast

Leeks

Leeks

Squash

Squash

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Turnips

Turnips

I need more empanadas in my life

I need more empanadas in my life

Wanderings: Horseback riding in the Dominican Republic

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Though we spent most of our time in the Dominican Republic lazing around the beach, we were able to see a little more of the La Romana area via horseback.  Our resort helped us set up a horseback riding trip that meandered through the lush countryside and along the beaches.

It was a lovely way to spend a balmy, breezy morning, and our guides were warm, easy-going and fun to chat with. One of them spoke four languages fluently, several more languages proficiently, and seemed to have lived a dozen lifetimes.  The two older men declared that the youngest guide had pretty much been born on a horse and was the best horseman of the three.

Cowboy Mister

Cowboy Mister

Hibiscus flower on horseback

A gift: Hibiscus flower on horseback

Guides and rides

Guides and rides

After our ride, we explored a Dominican cigar factory, ventured to a grocery store where we happened to meet former baseball all-star Julio Franco, and stopped at a small lunch counter to pick up food that ended up being the best meal we ate our entire time in the D.R.

Local catch

Local catch

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Bananas

Bananas

Sampling the local coconuts

Sampling the local coconuts

Cigar maker

Cigar maker

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Amazing local food

Amazing local food

Citrus and rosemary sparklers

Citrus syrup, champagne, ice, rosemary, candied citrus peel

Citrus syrup, champagne, ice, rosemary, candied citrus peel

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had fun making Shutterbean’s candied citrus peel.  One of the happy byproducts of the candying process is a jar of bright citrus syrup, perfect for making cocktails.  The abundance of amazing citrus is the best part of winter, and this syrup, mixed with a little sparkling wine and a sprig of rosemary, made for a perfect cold weather treat.

This sort of drink is often served in a champagne flute, but personally I like both the heft of a tumbler in my hand and a little ice in my cocktail.

Citrus and rosemary sparkler

  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 spoonfuls citrus syrup
  • 5 oz chilled champagne, cava, prosecco, or other sparkling wine (preferably on the dry side)
  • 1 candied citrus peel

Add a couple of ice cubes to a tumbler.  Twist and pinch the rosemary sprig a little—this helps the oils in the leaves steep into your drink—then place in tumbler.  Add citrus syrup and champagne.  Give the drink a good stir, garnish with one of your freshly candied citrus peels, and enjoy.

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Candying Citrus Peel

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Neither the Mister or I are big candy people.  It makes it’s way into our house and can last for months, baffling our sweet-toothed friends.  In general, I like to nibble here and there on very dark chocolate or mildly sweet candies like Swedish fish.  I’d read about candied orange peels and figured they were right up my alley and worth a try.

Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit

Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit

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Though I was tempted to just make orangettes, I liked Shutterbean’s candied citrus peel recipe since it let me experiment with a few different citrus flavors and–*bonus*–produced a jar of citrus syrup that I could use to make cocktails.

Since I was feeling ambitious, I made my peels using oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.  They all turned out pretty delicious, but I think my favorite are the grapefruit peels, though that may be influenced by that fact that grapefruits and I are having a moment right now.

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A few tips:

  • Though it takes about a day from start to finish, the most time consuming part of the process is peeling the fruit and removing the piths.  Put on a favorite movie and just power through this part.  This is the kind of work a paring knife is made for.  Don’t forget yours.
  • A word to the wise: limes, though tasty and pretty to look at, are hard to peel and don’t have much pith.  Expect them to be a little harder to work with.
  • You could make each batch separately, but I threw mine all in together and the flavors still came out great.
  • These are easier to store if they dry in straight lines, so take a little extra time to straighten the peels when you set them on your cooling racks.
  • Tracy says that strained syrup will last a few weeks on the shelf, but I just went ahead and refrigerated mine and haven’t had any crystalization.
  • The syrup is fantastic in cocktails.  Tomorrow, I’ll share a little about one of the cocktails I’ve made.
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The tiniest of details

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When it comes to bracelets and necklaces, my preferences tend towards bold and chunky.  For earrings and rings, on the other hand, the more delicate and understated, the better.

I’ve had my eyes on Elephantine‘s Nova Trio for several years, and someone special gave them to me for Christmas this year.  This trio of tiny gold studs comes with white, champagne, and black stones, and they add just subtle touch of sparkle.  The champagne set is my favorite so far and I love that they are just a shade off from my skin color.  Check out Elephantine’s Etsy page for more of her gorgeous jewelry.

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It’s Friday, I’m in love

Cooking with Lana Del Rey

Cooking with Lana Del Rey

Now that we’re starting to defrost in DC, I feel like I can finally crawl out from under my pile of blankets, shed a couple of pairs of socks, and maybe get a few things done.  I’m hoping to do some baking and take advantage of a little sunshine on Sunday to bike down to the farmer’s market.

Here are a few photos from the week.  Have a great weekend!

Just when I thought I'd never feel warm again, someone whipped up homemade ramen

Just when I thought I’d never feel warm again, someone whipped up homemade ramen

So. Many. Layers.

So. Many. Layers.

Morning light and a layer of ice inside the windows

Morning light and a layer of ice inside the windows

Icy bike ride through Rock Creek Park

Icy bike ride through Rock Creek Park

Wanderings: The Dominican Republic

Beach

Beach

We’re well into winter now and I’m starting to feel the chill in my bones.  We have a lot of traveling to do later this year, so a warm weather getaway isn’t in the cards right now.  Instead I’ve been curling up under a fuzzy blanket with a stiff drink and browsing through photos of warmer days.  Right now, I’m loving these photos from last winter, when the Mister and I snuck away for a few lazy, sun-soaked days in the Dominican Republic.

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Typically when we travel we try to find an apartment in an interesting place and explore a new country on our own.  This time, however, we were worn out from a tough year of work and politics, and we decided to book an all-inclusive trip through CheapCaribbean.com.  It came highly recommended by a colleague who grew in the Virgin Islands, and it’s my new favorite travel site.   We found so many great rates on all inclusive package deals and our trip was wonderful and stress-free.

Poolside cabana

Poolside cabana

For five perfect days, we stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic.  The resort arranged to have us picked up at the airport and from that moment on we had no logistics to worry about.  Food was readily available at the resort, excursions were just a matter of flipping through a colorful booklet, and cocktails were included and plentiful.  Wireless internet was only available in the resort lobby, which made it very easy to disconnect.  There were plenty of chairs available at the beach or by the pool.  As all good resorts should, there was a bar in the pool, and we quickly became it’s little satellites, never straying too far.

Pier gazebo

Pier gazebo

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Wonderful open air lobby

Lobby

The perfect place to shelter from the once-a-day 15 minute downpours

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Lush, lovely greenery around our balcony

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Gardens from the balcony

Gardens from the balcony

Dominican sunset

Dominican sunset

Blazer weather, come back

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Winter this year has been all over the place in terms of weather.  We’ve alternated snow, warm drizzle, ice, sleet, pouring rain, biting wind, and our current bitterly cold polar vortex.  Also in that mix were a few unseasonably warm and sunny days, which we took advantage of to meet up for brunch outdoors with friends.

I usually love coat weather, but it was a nice change to throw a blazer over a cozy gray sweatshirt and enjoy brunch outdoors.  My friend showed up wearing the most gorgeous crystal earrings.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of them and I loved they way they contrasted with her black leather jacket.

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Baby, it’s cold out there

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Brrrr… these have been cold days.  Much of the country seems to be buried under snow or warm blankets.  We’ve been coping by staying mostly at home, wearing extra layers, drinking lots of hot tea and coffee, and working through our Netflix queue.

Hope you stay cozy and warm indoors.

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Snowy snowy night

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While much of the northeast and midwest were hit with a pretty intense blizzard last week, we just got a dusting of snow and a day of bitterly cold and windy weather.  Having grown up in Texas, I’ll probably always find snow pretty irresistible, so after dinner I went out and wandered around the neighborhood with my camera.  Here are a few snowy images from that night.

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It’s Friday, I’m in love

Purging the book collection.  Only the most beloved books made the cut.

Purging the book collection. Only the most beloved books made the cut.

Since Christmas, we’ve been busy with some major apartment interior improvements and we are finally putting our place back together again.  I’ll share more about that project later, but it’s awfully nice to kick off the year off with our digs looking shiny and new.  Here are a few photos from the week.

Hope you have a great weekend and a happy new year!

So many takeout floor picnics while the home improvements took over the apartment

So many takeout floor picnics while the home improvements took over the apartment

One of my beloved succulents decided to bloom for the first time ever!

One of my beloved succulents decided to bloom for the first time ever!

Always waiting on a train

Always waiting on a train

I haven't played shuffle board since my college days.  Not too rusty!

I haven’t played shuffle board since my college days. Not too rusty!

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