My best friend just moved into a new apartment with a porch off of the kitchen.  For a fleeting moment, I considered moving there, as well, and when I went to see the apartment for myself, I walked out to the porch and saw a hammock hanging from two of the vertical posts. I immediately got a good feeling and thought of my childhood, much of which was spent swinging in one of two hammocks on my parents' porch.

Me, milk-drunk, my Mum and sister, 1979

My mother has said that feeding me while swinging slowly in the hammock was the only way to get me to sleep as a baby. The hammock above is long gone, but I still remember the way it felt and smelled. You could take a nap for hours wrapped up in its tight embrace which was surprisingly comfortable, and this thing was enormous. I think all four of us (maybe even five when my brother came along) were able to fit!

Here are some inspiring images of hammocks from around the web.


A website called alibaba.com seems to have cornered the market on hammocks with tassels (at least it feels that way), but there are some cool ones on hammocks.com like these (sorry for the poor image quality):

I also found this one on Ebay.

 Of course, if you're feeling very ambitious, you can macrame your own hammock like this:



In less than a week, I'm moving away from my home of almost four years in Beacon Hill. Other than the house where I was raised, this the longest I've ever lived anywhere. As I sit surrounded by half-packed boxes, empty walls, glowing in a quiet light coming through my curtains, I'm reminded of dozens, maybe hundreds, of the reasons I love this neighborhood. Leaving it gives me so much sadness, but I hope some day my path will bring me back to this special place. These are the things I will miss most:

+ Rouvalis Flowers' sidewalk displays

+ Living steps away from the river
+ Light posts wrapped in garlands during Christmas
+ John and Paul at The Sevens Ale House
+ Entertaining on my roof against views of Boston and Cambridge
+ Springtime window boxes
+ Figs Oliver Pizza with extra sauce and arugula
+ My neighbors (even the unfriendly ones)
+ Riding Blanca along the Charles
+ Walking to the Kendall Square Cinema
+ My big, deep bath tub
+ Passing friends on the street
+ My favorite shops, Good and Koo de Kir
+ The mail slot on the bottom of my door
+ Dominic at Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits
+ Mike the homeless man who calls me "Mama" and always asks for a green tea outside Starbucks
+ The way my fireplace smells when it's warm outside
+ The sound of chopping from the kitchen at Lala Rokh
+ Sun filtering in through my bathroom window
+ Shopping for my niece and nephews at The Red Wagon
+ The staff at Cafe Vanille
+ Total calm in the middle of the city


easy and healthy

On my way out of Vermont a couple of weekends ago, I stopped at a farm stand and left with some beautiful collard greens and other fresh produce. I hadn't used most of it by the time I went to Cape Cod last weekend, so I brought them along with me with this easy and delicious beach snack in mind.

Before I share this with you, I have to make a confession. While the recipes I create are usually so simple it's embarrassing, I've learned through writing this blog that I actually HATE to write out the recipes, tell you the quantities and then describe the steps. As I head to culinary school in a little over a month, this could be a problem. I'm hoping it 's something I'll get over (or at least get better at), but until then, here is, yet again, another dumbed down recipe for your experimental pleasure.

Quinoa and Fresh Vegetable Green Wraps

Collard greens (about the size of your open hands, side by side - nothing too monstrous)

1 cup cooked quinoa (I think red is nuttier/more flavorful and a bit more al dente than regular quinoa)
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced bell pepper
Diced scallion
Simple vinaigrette (below)

Other nice additions if you have them:

* cilantro

* avocado
* tomato
* hummus
* jalapeno
* feta
* toasted pine nuts

And away we go:

Flip over a collard green leaf and, using a paring knife, run the blade along the rib of the leaf to remove some of the thickness of the stem. Use the same method you would when skinning a fish. This will help the leaf bend without cracking when you roll it up later. Repeat with however many other leaves ya got.

Boil some water in a kettle, and place 2-3 collard leaves in a baking dish (depending on their size). Pour the boiling water over the leaves to blanch them. Once they've turned a lovely, bright green color (10 seconds maybe?), remove the leaves and run under cold water or place in an ice bath.

Lightly season your quinoa. I normally cook quinoa with vegetable broth to give it a bit of flavor, but for a quinoa/veggie mixture like this, I like to whip up a basic vinaigrette of the following ingredients. Note that I recommend you season the quinoa lightly. It should not be wet, just have enough of this mixture in it to give it some flavor.

2/3 parts olive oil

1/3 part fresh lemon juice (or apple cider or rice vinegar)
Dijon mustard to taste (1/2 tsp maybe)
honey, agave or maple syrup to taste (1/2 tsp or more)
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne

Begin to assemble your wraps a-la burrito style. Collard greens are surprisingly resilient, and after blanching them they become almost stretchy. I like to roll mine nice 'n tight.
 Start with a big spoonful of the quinoa, then layer your choice of fresh vegetables and roll away.


Place your wraps in a plastic bag or tin foil and throw them in your beach cooler. These crunchy treats are non-perishable so there's no reason to worry if you don't have a cooler. The collard greens stay intact, so if you don't finish them all the day you make them, they'll keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.


well I'll be damned

Look what I saw at J. Crew last night! Looks a little familiar, no? But for $36? And this was the last one.

If you're into this look, go buy a $8 length of bright silk ribbon and a few $0.98 small brass nuts from Home Depot (google that term - it's fun) and you're in business for less than half the price.



easy, sexy, cheap!


why oh why

must the weekend end.

Sunday Sunset, Dowses Beach

Stay tuned for a healthy beach snack recipe.


a couple things

I need more of this in my life.

love her hair

love her teeth

love her voice

love her name

love her spirit

Join me in doing something nice for a stranger this weekend!


oh dear god, yes.

I recently discovered that my liquor store carries my favorite IPA.

Come to mama.


the formula

Tuesday has barely begun, and here I sit making plans for the weekend. I have a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to how I spend my weekends in the summer. Every chance I get, I drive to my parents' home on Cape Cod where my days revolve almost entirely around going to the beach. I also like to throw in an easy bike ride, leisurely meals and family time for good measure, but time in the sand and surf is certainly my priority.

 Relaxing with sweet Bella on the patio

I can pack my L.L. Bean tote bag blindfolded (long handles are a must), and these days I keep it ready to go so I can toss it in my bike basket and ride to the beach. I think of this whole routine as a formula, and so I thought it would be fun to share a list of my summertime beach essentials.
I have a trusty Souleiado bandana that I use to keep my hair out of my face at the beach or when I'm driving with the sunroof open. It's also great for drying off your face when you get out of the water.
As an unabashed sun worshipper, I typically like to get as much color on my face as possible. I know this is a terrible thing to admit, I just feel so much healthier and prettier with a good glow. Despite the fact that I risk getting melanoma, I do tend to worry about chemicals in the products I use, so I've been depending on natural Badger SPF 15 (smells like lavender and stays on), as well as these two Kiehl's products of late.

When I decide that I need added sun protection on my face, I wear this paper (yes, paper) fedora from Target. Not bad for $12.99, huh? I think it's sold out. Sorry.

Let's talk sunglasses. I have these Sunclouds in two different colors. They are polarized, inexpensive and a great shape. I can't tell you how many compliments I've received on them (thanks, Jen, for the introduction!), and they offer good protection if you're worried about wrinkles or crow's feet.

Hydration at the beach is key (especially considering how much sauvingnon blanc I typically consume on summer evenings), so I never leave home without my Klean Kanteen, whose opening is wide enough to fit ice cubes for my water when it is extra hot.

A sarong of some kind is always in my bag, and I have a half dozen different printed sarongs that I alternate and use to wrap around myself when I'm running to the bathroom, cushion my head when I'm lying down, or cover my chest when I feel like I'm getting a little too much sun. I've found many of these on sale at the Gap, Old Navy, and thrift stores. Here is a pretty one from Calypso:

My bikini of choice usually comes from J. Crew, this being the one I've had for the past year. No visible tan lines and a flattering shade of slate that matches everything. I always check the sale rack at Old Navy in the summer because I've been able to score some cute bikini separates there, some for as little as $1.99! Rarely do they match, but I think that's part of the fun.

Depending on whether I'm walking or taking my bike, I either wear my Vans Slip-Ons or Birkenstock Sparta's.

I tend to follow a pretty regimented 30 minutes on my back, 30 minutes on my belly tanning routine.

When I'm not lying on a towel, I choose to sit in one of these great WearEver foldable chairs. It can be carried as a backpack and has an extra huge pocket for storing things like a towel or a book. It has an adjustable neck bolster! It also has a cup holder! Yes, I know you can get these almost everywhere now, but when I found them in California years ago, I thought they were the greatest things and bought two. To this day I'm very protective of them and worry that someone will borrow them and leave them on the beach where they'll be stolen!
Last but not least, throw in a good magazine like Vanity Fair and some snacks like almonds, sliced apple, celery and hummus, and you are good to go.

This has been so fun I think I will start working on a summer wish list post. What are your beach/summer essentials?


vermont wildflowers

I felt a bit guilty picking these flowers on my hike in Vermont this weekend, but I just couldn't resist. Unfortunately, I lost a few of them on the ride home, but the rest are in a pretty jar on my windowsill in the bathroom. Just look at that sky! It was an absolutely perfect weekend.

My sister always says that she prefers irises when they haven't fully bloomed, and after seeing these in their natural environment, I have to agree. It's hard to make them out but there are a few still in their tight buds behind those that have bloomed. Yes, I know. This series of photos illustrates my need for a new camera.

Buttercups and orange dandelions in every direction.

Berries hid under ferns lining the path where we hiked. So tiny and sweet, they melted like jam in my mouth.

My perfect summer dessert
Serves 2

1 cup vanilla bean ice cream
1/2 cup Vermont strawberries
1 tablespoon minced basil

Scoop ice cream into dishes and sprinkle with strawberries and basil. It's okay if you want to mash it up a little.


decoding plu stickers

You know those little stickers on the fruits and veggies we buy? The annoying plastic-y ones that are nearly impossible to peel off of things like tomatoes? I've never really paid much attention to them except to see the origin of the item, where it says in small print "Product of Mexico", for example.

Recently I've been considering going back to school for integrative nutrition, and while poking around the Hippocrates Health Institute website, I came across this interesting article about PLU codes and what they really mean. A link to the article can be found here, and it discusses in depth the risks associated with consuming food that has been chemically or genetically treated. Allow me to provide you with the main points.

According to the article "The PLU sticker was designed by the Produce Marketing Association and the International Federation for Produce Coding not only as a way to facilitate food identification and source of origin, but also to enable a quicker check out. Most importantly, it tells you exactly how that produce was grown".

To summarize: If you care about eating food that has been grown free of chemicals or pesticides, the number to remember is 9.  If you'd rather not eat something that has been genetically modified (and my dear, I hope you wouldn't), you should pass on anything that starts with an 8.

Here are the rules:

1. Four digit number, usually beginning with a 4 or a 3 = conventionally grown, ie., sprayed with toxic synthetic chemicals including pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

2. Five digit number, beginning with an 8 = genetically modified and can also be sprayed with the above toxic chemicals.

3. Five digit number, beginning with a 9 = organically grown; cannot be genetically modified and cannot use toxic chemicals of any kind.

The article provides a good example using a banana.

94011 - organic banana
4011 - banana has been sprayed with chemicals
84011 - banana has been genetically modified (and most likely also sprayed with chemicals)

I know I was surprised by what I learned on the Hippocrates site, not just in this article. I definitely encourage clicking through and reading some of their resources.

On a related note, one of my favorite resources on eating the best produce possible is the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list, found on Environmental Working Group's site here