Picnic Dinners

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One of our favorite new dinner routines is to pack a picnic, a blanket and a Frisbee, and explore a new park.

Dinners don’t require much prep–just a quick stop at the grocery store and a few odds and ends from the fridge, tossed into a basket or bag. We’ve been buying a baguette and cheeses, especially those little marinated balls of mozzarella because Tom is obsessed. My friend Eva included some baby brie rounds on a cheese plate this weekend, and I think those would be awesome too, because they’d get all gooey as they sat outside. Once, for my birthday weekend, we picked up a few other sides at Whole Foods for our elaborate smorgasbord, but I also like to just prep a salad during the day and slice up some fruit to round out our meal.

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Arugula Salad with Peaches, Avocado, Feta, Nuts

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This is a celebratory salad.

It’s for those times when something exciting happens–Germany wins the World Cup AND you now own a couch AND a patio table, all in one weekend. Or, it’s for those times when it’s too hot to cook and you just want, no, need, something light and cool on your table, something quick but filling, and full of good-for-you things.

Four months in, our apartment is almost a home now, in time for both our families to visit in the next few weeks. Having a couch makes the living room feel like it should, though, I’ll admit, I’ve still been cuddling with pup on her dog couch/futon mattress, especially as she recovers from anesthesia and a tooth extraction. We purchased the IKEA Ektorp sofa in black because of the dog hair, but also because the fabric was on clearance so the couch was significantly cheaper. Have you ever wondered what a couch from IKEA looks like before it’s assembled?

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A Colorado Summer Vacation

Tom travels for work pretty often. Too often, in my opinion, for it’s far different for him to be out-of-town now than it was when I lived in Virginia. Just this week, pup and I dropped Tom and his suits off at the airport at 5 a.m. Monday for a three-day conference he’s putting on in Chicago, leaving us with lots of time for decorating and napping together. (And, job searching? And a puppy’s tooth extraction.) But the perks of his work-travel allow Tom to explore new cities (and countries!), and every once in a while, I’ll try to tag along. (San Francisco, you’re next!)

Last month, his company produced its largest event in Denver. A trip to the midwest seemed ideal for my own summer “funemployment,” since I’d last traveled to Colorado when I was but 1-year-old. Memories of hiking in the mountains during that trip are nonexistent, though a photo proved I had fun. This time, I’ll remember the vacation. Colorado is completely stunning.

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The conference was still ongoing when I arrived mid-week, so I roamed along the 16th Street Mall for most of the afternoon, and relaxed on the banks of Confluence Park. (Travel tip: Getting to downtown from the distant Denver International Airport is incredibly easy and doesn’t require an expensive taxi. A public bus runs about every hour, and is only $11, exact change required. A free shuttle along the 16th Street Mall dropped me off right by the hotel.)

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

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A quick search online will yield an overwhelming number of strawberry spinach salads. Some have cheese, some slivered onions. But I think this one is best.

It’s one my mom pulled from the Washington Post ages ago, but I haven’t been able to find it on their website. The salad is quick to pull together, yet impressive enough for parties, where my mom has served it, several times. Share it with a few friends at a pool party, or just enjoy for a weekday lunch.

A tangy-sweet dressing, specked with poppy and sesame seeds clings to the spinach leaves. Almond slivers add a crunch, and the strawberries, of course, offer a sweet and colorful bite.

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Molly Wizenberg’s Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula and Goat Cheese

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Books are piling up on the shelf and beside my bed again this summer. It’s nice–I’ve missed them. Many are related to food, others are thriftstore finds, and two are quick picks meant to fill the hours on my recent cross-country flight to visit my family for the Fourth.

My favorites so far–and if you’ve read them, you’ll understand–are Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life and the just-published Delancey, which chronicles the birth of their Seattle pizza restaurant. Recipes mix with stories of family, love, challenges and of course, food. So many pages are now dogeared, but the first recipe I tried was a simple one, a mealtime salad, one that reaffirms that salad shouldn’t be a swear word. “It’s handsome, delicious, and a little messy, like most good things in this life.”

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Blood Orange Margaritas & surviving the first months in San Diego

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When you’re working more than full-time for an erratic cafe owner with a weak grasp of the English language, standing on a concrete floor for such long hours that your hips start to burn, getting yelled at for turning away customers at 11:55 p.m. because you and the other overworked girl were ready to close up for the night, then San Diego isn’t quite the vacation that it had seemed on previous visits. It becomes real life.

I’m sorry that I’ve been missing from this space. I’ve jotted down many blog post ideas over the past weeks–months, actually–that I’ve been living out here. I’ve eaten lots and lots of good food, both at home and at restaurants, gotten sunburnt and bought bags full of blood oranges and avocados at markets.

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Day 4: Driving Across Texas

Before leaving San Antonio that Monday morning at the end of February, we had to get another good Mexican meal in our stomachs. The west of Texas was waiting; we better be prepared.

Taco Taco is a small taco shop that’s been featured on Food Network and in national food magazines. Bon Appetit proclaimed it to have the best tacos in America. The interior and food is nothing fancy–seat yourself at one of the small tables, so close together that your chair may be touching another customer’s. While we opted for breakfast plates rather than tacos, our dishes still came with the soft, warm homemade tortillas, served in a cast iron comal. My dad ordered huevos mexicanos, while I enjoyed my huevos rancheros. While not as spicy as some may hope for, the food was flavorful and fresh.

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Day 3: San Antonio

Don’t let the title of this post fool you. Texas didn’t swallow the three of us up, with it’s sky-sized flags and cowboy hats. We made it to San Diego long ago–I have a job! It’s sunny! We need to buy furniture!–but first, I want to finish telling you about how my dad and I got here.

After leaving snowy Virginia, driving through flat Mississippi and eating tasty fried seafood in Baton Rouge, my dad, dog and I began the drive into Texas. Let me tell you, it’s a huge state, more than a day’s drive across. I-10 keeps going and going and going. Luckily, this first day wasn’t too bad, for we only drove 5 hours from Lake Charles, Louisiana (home to many oil refineries) to San Antonio.

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