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Happy Birthday Sissy!

15 Mar

Happy birthday to the best big sister in the world!!

I am so lucky to have such an amazing, smart, beautiful, funny, talented, impressive sister. I am grateful that you are there to guide me, let me dress you, and most importantly always have my back no matter what.

I will always look up to you, even when we are the same height.

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Will You Be My Valentine?

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day to my lovely reader(s)!

Highbrow Goals for 2011

4 Jan

Last year I decided for the first time ever to make a New Year’s resolution.

I decided that the number one thing I needed to do in 2010 was……quit reading Perez Hilton.

I know, I know… how could I ever do that? It was next to impossible, but I did it. Since December 31, 2009 I have not read that nasty blog and I feel much better for quitting that toxic dump.

This year I am going to try and aim a little higher but no less noble.

In no particular order I hope in 2011 to:

1. Poach an egg
2. Update this blog at least once a week
3. Cut down on online shopping
4. Travel some place incredible for a week or more
5. Create something that I am proud of

Have an egg-cellent New Year!

Hopefully these goals can all be interwoven into the creation of a course on egg poaching in a foreign locale, wearing clothes I already own and blogging about it…we’ll see.

Happy New Year!

How to Make Butter

12 Nov

Not sure if anyone has noticed – but I have an intense love of butter. Growing up we always used margarine and when we finally started using butter it opened up a whole new world of soluble fats for me.

When I was younger I attended a sleep away camp where we had Pioneer Days – a weekend full of old timey events like watermelon seed spitting and lighting a fire with sticks. And butter making. First team to churn the butter won. Oh man did I churn.

These memories all came flooding back to me when I came across the blog Not Without Salt, which is delightful read, with a a great little video on how to make butter. Enjoy!

PortuGALs – Cascais

15 Oct

When we were planning our trip, everyone kept saying you HAVE to go to the Algarve, it is the most beautiful beach area in the world. You just HAVE to!! Well, we didn’t.

Instead we chose to go to a beach town close to Lisbon so that later on in our trip we could go up north to the Duoro wine region.  Cascais is a beach town about 45 minutes by train (gosh I just love the Portuguese train system) that in recent years has become more popular with tourists.  Among the hotel options are larger resorts, hostels which Emily described as, “4 year old bedrooms rented out by families,” and a few boutique hotels. For boutique hotels I love searching Tablet’s inventory of gorgeous design hotels, click here to become a member.

I came across the Farol Design Hotel and I began pressuring Emily to stay there thrice daily. I knew the hotel was perfect for a mid-trip indulgence since it was right on the water with a slick design and filled with amenities, the only problem was it was a bit pricey.  When Emily finally relented I realized I had made a mistake and given her a rate that was only for two or more stays, when we were only going to be there for one night. Crushed I decided to email the hotel and see what I could do. After I begged the manager to let us stay there for a reduced rate because “we are two American girls looking to have fun”, (literally that is what I wrote) he relented and we stayed there on the cheap!

Once we arrived at the hotel I realized I would have given my left foot to stay there, it was so gorgeous. We basically laid out by the pool all day, playing scrabble and working on our tans.

View of Cascais from the Farol pool

Man fishing on the rocks, right off Farol pool

Scrabble and cocktails by the pool

Farol pool at dusk

After our day of basically doing nothing, we decided to head into town for dinner. There was a free outdoor music festival going on and after dinner we listened a popular Brazilian band perform. The best part of the trip into town was our stop at the famous Santini gelateria that our friend Victor from Lisbon gave us the “scoop” on. So many delicious flavors it was hard to make a decision that when I finally ordered I just asked the server to make a recommendation, he gave me raspberry and honeydew, so delicious!

Enjoying our gelato

All in all Cascais was an amazing stop, mostly because the Farol was insane and my skin turned the color of burnt cinnamon ice cream. As my sister always says, “tanning is the only currency on vacation” and I thoroughly ascribe to that mantra.  I would highly recommend stopping in Cascais if you only have a week in Portugal as we did and you want to get a little beach time in. Stay tuned for part 3 of our trip!

Part 1 – Lisbon and Sintra

Part 3 – Douro Valley

PortuGALs – Lisbon and Sintra

12 Oct

I have been wanting to go on a big vacation abroad for some time, but for whatever reason my international vacations have kept getting derailed at the last minute. This summer I was determined to go somewhere new, adventurous and off the beaten path and roped Emily, one of my best friends, into joining me. We initially planned on going to Morocco and almost booked our tickets before realizing that it was going to be Ramadan during our trip. Seeking to avoid an SATC2-esque disaster (which, shockingly I still have not seen) we decided to switch locales.

As the date of our August departure approached and with no destination in sight, we solicited friends and family for suggestions. Finally one afternoon we got together and made a very organized spreadsheet of all the places we wanted to go, and then eschewed all that planning to go to Portugal on a whim even though neither of us had done any research. The flight was leaving at the right time for the right price…it was as simple as that! Overall the trip was incredible and I strongly recommend going to Portugal over the usual European destinations of France, Italy and Spain.

Highlights from Lisboa

We arrived in Lisbon at 8 in the morning and thanks to some heavy pharmaceuticals I was well rested and ready to explore the city. We checked into our hotel, the fabulous Hotel Lisboa Plaza, which was conveniently located in the center of the city so we could explore sights and get around easily. The staff was so friendly and accommodating…they even gave us postcards and mailed them for us!

First we walked around the Alfama district which is very old and cobble stone-y, I can’t say much more than that since we chose not to pay for a castle tour which is the main highlight of the area. Instead we just moseyed around the narrow streets and took in the views, which were lovely.

Old tiled buildings in the Alfama

 

After walking around the Alfama to get our bearings and get into the Portuguese spirit, we had a light lunch and then headed to Belem district for some museums. We went to the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art which had a really intense Andy Warhol experimental video installation, and an exhibit similar to a children’s funhouse which was amazing.

Doesn't the funhouse look fun?!

We then went to the Jardin de Belem, a former monastery with  a beautiful garden and church.

Jardin Belem

Inside the church

Vaulted ceilings

That night we headed to the Barrio Alto, the an area with tons of bars and places to eat and hang out. We walked around until we found a suitable place that looked popular and yummy to have dinner. There were very few hosts or hostesses at the restaurants in Portugal, instead we learned you had to jockey for position among the other patrons to get the head waiter’s attention and beg for a seat. Once we got the hang of this we were seated but it took many attempts and bruises to my ego before I pushed my way into being seated.

Finally seated for dinner in the Barrio Alto

Day trip to Sintra

Our second day in Lisbon we actually spent in Sintra, an ancient town less than an hour train ride away. Sintra has several Moorish and Europen castles and is so high up in the mountains that much of our day was spent among the clouds. Lord Byron referred to Sintra as “glorious Eden” and with the breathtaking views I can see why. There are several tour buses that take passengers up the mountain to the major attractions, but we decided to take a taxi to the top and work our way down since we wanted to go on our own pace. This proved to be a pretty boneheaded move since almost everyone had their own car or was part of a bus tour…we saw no one else walking down this cold wet mountain in sandals, but you live and you learn and we made it down in one piece!

The castles offered spectacular views and were such a thrill to climb, although due to the rain I was terrified I was going to wipe out and plunge to my death. I preferred the Moorish castle which had been there since the 1400s instead of the European style castle.

Taking a break climbing the Moorish Castle

View of the European Castle from the Moorish Castle

After our hike down the mountain in Sintra, we returned to Lisbon for the night. We went to a restaurant that I forgot the name of sadly, but the chef was having a private party and invited us to join in celebrating his birthday. Another patron (Victor!) offered to drive us home and gave us a few pointers for the next leg of our trip in Cascais.

Part 2 – Cascais

Part 3 – Douro Valley

Salad Toss

13 Jul

As the three people who read this blog know, I do not rest until I find the perfect thing. Whether it be an apartment, bronzer (shout out to my friends Nars and Mystic Tan) or the ideal flight, I cannot rest until I find the right “one”.  So with this obsessiveness in mind, I have heavily researched, mulled over, and spent mucho dinero on…the quest for the perfect salad!

Recently in DC there have been a plethora of new salad joints, and since a great salad happens to be among my favorite meals, I have been overjoyed and at times overwhelmed by all the options. Currently there is mixt greens, Chop’t and Sweetgreen all within a few blocks from my office and apartment. I have tried them all and after careful consideration, chosen my favorite salad joint. Before the judging commences, let me give you a brief background on each option.

mixt is a chain that started in San Francisco and has several stores in DC. They are known for their gourmet ingredients and have a sustainable bent. There is both indoor and outdoor seating perfect for the lunchtime crowd. Unfortunately it is only open on weekdays from 11am – 8pm, crushing my dreams of a great weekend salad. I highly recommend the chicken caesar salad and the maui salad.

Chop’t is also a chain that has outposts all around the city. They are known for chopping, or if you are me – mincing, the salads to evenly incorporate all ingredients. I tend to go to Chop’t after the gym, so I am there very infrequently, since their portions sizes are bigger it is a great option after a workout. I enjoy making my own here, but do highly recommend the cobb salad if you want a caloric shock.

Sweetgreen is a chain started by Georgetown alums with several locations throughout DC. They are known for their local sustainable food sources, and their sweetflow mobile delivering salads and frozen yogurt around town. This was my original go-to for salads before the others started popping up and it is consistently good. They are also known for their frozen yogurt which I think tastes like breast milk (not that I know what that tastes like), but many people are quite fond of it so it should be noted. They recently changed their menu but my old standby made the cut – the santorini is like a taste of Greece, highly enjoyable!

Before announcing the winner, there are several criteria that I think are important in determining the victor.

  1. Price – How much does this bowl of lettuce cost?
  2. Quality – Are the ingredients fresh?
  3. Menu – Is there a variety of ingredients? Are there good pre-made and make-your-own options?
  4. Line Management – How efficient is the service during lunchtime rush?
  5. Nutritional Value – Should I just have gotten a burger instead?
  6. Loyalty Programs – When do I get my free salad?

Each criteria will be rated on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, with 60 points possible. Below are the results

Mixt

Price Quality Menu Line Management Nutritional Value Loyalty Programs Total
Mixt 8 10 10 8 7 8 51

I love Mixt’s quality ingredients and the overall gourmet experience. Unfortunately that experience is reflected in the highest prices. However perks like spa water, and real silverware and bowls when dining in, make the high price tag worth it.

Sweetgreen

Price Quality Menu Line Management Nutritional Value Loyalty Programs Total
Sweetgreen 9 7 7 10 8 9 50

I appreciate Sweetgreen’s localvore culture, but at times it can get a bit too hippie for me. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t want a bulgur wheat and beet salad. However the ingredients are fresh, the staff is friendly, the price is right, and frequently the Sweetgreen mobile stops right in front of my office.

Chop’t

Price Quality Menu Line Management Nutritional Value Loyalty Programs Total
Chop’t 9 6 8 9 5 0 37

Chop’t has fried chicken on the menu so it will always hold a place in my heart. However their salads will also give you heart disease, calorie laden and huge portions make for the least healthy salads. Another knock against them, no loyalty programs, the horror!!!

The Winner

So the winner is mixt by a hair (hopefully not in the salad!). I encourage everyone to try each of these salad places, but hopefully my extensive research will give you an idea of what you are getting into. Stay tuned for a burger challenge…

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