Thursday, October 31, 2013

Memories of PS1

Thursday, October 31, 2013
In elementary school I still lived in New York, so Halloween was always during cooler weather. The holidays never feel right in Florida because of this insatiable heat. Halloween is typically too warm to wear any intensive costume, Thanksgiving just barely cool enough to have the oven on all day, and Christmas is barely in boots.
I remember my elementary school in New York, P.S.1, used to put on a Halloween parade every year and all of us students would go to school dressed up in costume. My mom would meet my brother, cousin, and myself outside when it came time for the parade. She would walk with us around the block in this little parade to show off our costumes. The sky always had gloomy clouds this time of the year, and there were orange and yellow maple leaves in the gutter. It was absolutely perfect for Halloween.
I'm ready for more cool weather and sweaters and knitting and candles and tea. Bridget made a very good point in one of her recent posts. I love watching shows, no matter how light-hearted the plot lines are, that take place in a small town. I'd love to live in a big city, but I really do see myself settling down in a small town where I will most likely get to know my neighbors, where the leaves fall this time of the year and "get crunchy", where kids can walk to school, where community events go on all through the year, where holiday events are the most beautiful thing and something to look forward to, where shops are owned by families, and where fall happens before the holidays start. It never truly feels like Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas without a chill in the air and wearing sweaters cozied up with tea. My town right now, Winter Park, is not big enough of a city, and not small enough of a town for me. But right now, I'm enjoying it and the holiday events and the community thus far. 
Happy Halloween.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Camping

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
A few weekends ago, S went on a camping adventure for the weekend with his brother, friends, and my brother and cousin as well. I taught him a couple of things on my camera with my new lens and was very impressed with the photos he took! 
S also took some video footage for his friend to splice together a short film. Their last camping trip was to the same camp grounds, but they were less prepared the first time around. It turned out to be the coldest weekend of the year, and it was impossible to reschedule 10-20 attendees. Plus, it was S's bachelor party weekend with friends and they all took off of work to camp out. You can see that film here.
Not only were his photos great by bringing my camera this time around, but their menu sounded delicious. It was a shame that it was guys-only and I couldn't tag along to enjoy the dishes. Our friend who appreciates food like we do brought pork butt and smoked it on the fire for hours. They also had breakfast tacos, very much like what we had in Austin, TX! The day before, S made his grandmother's enchiladas and packed them up to warm the next night on the fire. S said they never went hungry that weekend!
This past weekend we visited home and it was so great to see family - as always. My grandparents left yesterday to go back to Brazil for a few months to finalize getting everything on the farm before they move here for good. We spent so much time with family this weekend and it gave me a little taste of what the winter holidays will be like again. I also received word that my aunt and cousin from New Jersey are coming down for Thanksgiving so that alone was a boost to my week! Knowing I'll be spending holidays with more family members is why I adore winter. 
I am so excited for Halloween and especially excited that this year many of my friends are dressing up and going out! Last year it seemed that no one was doing anything locally on a Wednesday night Halloween, so we stayed in and attempted to give out candy to trick-or-treaters. It really ended with us watching scary movies and eating the candy ourselves. This year, we are still watching scary movies all week and I'm reading my favorite Edgar Allan Poe stories here and there, but we'll be out downtown in costume celebrating! I've put together a black lace dress, a black fedora hat, black boots, and I picked up striped leggings and lace fingerless-gloves at the Halloween store. With my camera in hand, I'll be going as Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice! I'm most excited to have my camera as part of my costume to be able to tote it around all night! Is anyone else dressing up this year?
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

My favorite way to cook: braising

Thursday, October 24, 2013
With the weather cooler and the breeze through our windows, I felt it was finally time to shine up my copper pot for fall and winter. Autumn is when it's finally appropriate to use some of my favorite herbs like rosemary that are too hearty for Florida's hot summers. I love to use my copper pot for roasting and braising some hearty meals like sauteed multi-colored potatoes, and my mother's beef stew. 
My copper pot is one of my most prized kitchen possessions. My dad bought it during one of his first trips to Paris, France, an authentic Mauviel dimpled copper pot. He gave it as a gift to my grandmother, who is just as amazing in the kitchen as my dad is. Years later at Thanksgiving, my grandmother said she didn't use it much, and asked if I would use it. I had no idea at the time how in love with this pot I would become. I adore every meal that comes out of it, as if by magic it cannot produce one bad dish.
Ever since visiting my dad's house weeks earlier to have grilled whole sardines and mussels in a white wine sauce, I had been craving a dish with a white wine base. I myself had never made one, so it was about time I get to braising something. With some luck, I stumbled upon this dish, Coq au Riesling, on Pinterest.
It's a dish with chicken browned in the pot, then onions, bacon, and mushrooms sauteed. Later, white wine (I used Pinot Grigio instead of Riesling and skipped the cream for a thinner sauce) is added and everything braises on the stove top, filling the house with the most incredible scents. I served the dish not with pasta or rice, but instead with a simple loaf of crusty ciabatta bread for dipping and soaking up the extra sauce. It was the best new meal I have made at home in a long time. 
Since having a chaotic weekend of events at work and an emotional week of saying goodbye to my beagle, things feel like they are finally getting back to normal. We are visiting friends and family this weekend so it will be nice to hug my family and together commemorate the long and lazy life of our dog that we've loved for what seems like all of my life. 
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Better than you'll ever know

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
If you have seen my Instagram, then you know that we finally had to say goodbye to the beagle that I grew up with. I was a wreck with tears on Monday, and when I came home early from work yesterday, I slept so deep that when I woke up, I thought it was the next day. I skipped cooking dinner, I skipped yoga, and we went to see a movie instead. I do the same thing every year on 9/11 too; I spend some time in a dark theater with a massive screen to distract me. Work has also been a great distraction, but I am finally feeling better. I woke up this morning looking at Scout's picture and felt more calm and content than these previous days. I'll be back to my regular self in no time.
I'm writing this on my balcony with a steaming cup of coffee and the first cool breeze of autumn. When the weather matches my fall-spirit, I know it's going to be a good day. 
Lastly, thanks to all of my friends and readers that had such kind words to write about Scout on my Instagram. It made me feel better than you'll ever know.  
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brunch With Friends

Thursday, October 17, 2013
For months now, a friend has been planning to have a group of us over for brunch and mimosas to celebrate her birthday and housewarming. It took weeks, but we were finally able to all agree on a free weekend to get together. We started the morning just us in her kitchen with aprons on and popping things into the oven.
Being that I love to cook and bake, I offered to bring over some berry tarts for something sweet. It started with a simple egg wash on puff pastry, topped with blackberries and raspberries. We had a lovely menu of strawberries and bananas, as well as a souffle made with sourdough, cheese, turkey bacon, and eggs. The souffle was so good that I went back for seconds. 
It was also one of the first cooler weekends and a great excuse to start celebrating fall. My friend decorated with autumn leaves and assorted pumpkins and squash. She had lots of candles out as well, some fall scented and some that were the signature Anthropologie scent. Not only did it smell like fall, but my friend set out jars of candy corn and other chocolates to snack on in between conversations. 
We waited for our other friends with celebratory glasses of Moet, her favorite champagne. Although I love wine, I'm not a champagne aficionado like my friend. As we tasted she told me the differences she notices in Moet versus other renowned bottles of champagne. After discussing the subtle unique qualities only a fan could taste, it seemed like a shame to over shadow the flavors with orange juice for mimosas.
It was a really lovely day that carried on in laughs, chats both serious and silly, and the welcoming plan for a friend's new kitten that was a stray and now adopted. It was so nice to change my morning routine up a bit and have a breakfast date with friends. This weekend I plan on doing a little of the same thing. S will be gone for two nights while camping with his friends. I'm slightly jealous of their menu that they planned with enchiladas, pork butt, baked potatoes, and tacos. And s'mores, of course.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Our Fair City: Epcot Food + Wine Festival

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Two wonderful weekends in a row filled with good food. Last weekend we went to Disney World to enjoy Epcot's Food and Wine festival for the first time. We met up with my boss and her boyfriend, and our intern got us in since she works at Hollywood Studios (thanks Megan!). Although I am not a theme park kind of person (nor is S, we get antsy waiting in lines and large crowds) I have always wanted to attend the Food and Wine Festival.
Two years ago when I first started my Event Management classes, one of my intro classes had a guest speaker that actually plans the F+W festival every year. I remember her being incredibly passionate about food, so much so that she renovated her home in order to make half of it her kitchen. I was really envious of the thought of a huge kitchen like that. Since her presentation, it's an event I've always wanted to attend.
We started the day at Animal Kingdom since S had never been to that park. We saw tigers laying in the sun, baby monkeys jumping around the ropes, and a hippo that was doing laps around his pond area! We caught him at the perfect time and in the pond full of colorful fish, he'd swim right by the glass, slow and immense. 
We also saw these amazing giant bats that hung on ropes and stretched their translucent wings in the sunlight. They were about the size of a medium dog when all curled up, but even larger with their wings stretched out. 
If you've never been to Animal Kingdom, it's kind of beautiful with open land for the animals, without cage wires and barriers where they could go without them. Plenty of luscious land and hiding spots for the animals, as well as stone architecture with a vintage wash to make the area feel lived-in and overgrown. 
At 11:00 in the morning, Animal Kingdom was pretty packed and full of families. I was a little nervous that the longer we spent at Animal Kingdom, the more crowded Epcot was getting and the longer the lines were getting for food! But it turned out, Epcot wasn't overcrowded at all.
Our game plan was to start from the last country in the passport and work our way to the first - going counter-clockwise while most groups went clockwise. Whether it was our technique, or Disney's efficient system, we never waited in line more than five minutes. That's crucial when trying to try as many of the 30 destinations as possible. 
Some of the food and beverages we tried included starting with a craft beer from Abita with fall season flavors, a griddled cheese with pistachios and honey in Greece, seared rainbow trout with bacon, frisee, and maple vinaigrette in Canada, a kefta pocket from Morocco, and a delicious almond crusted blue cheese souffle with fig jam from the cheese destination. 
Each of the destinations had ethnobotanicals including figs, eggplants, cinnamon, peppers, and it goes on. I thought it was a lovely touch to add of where our food comes from. What was great was that the fig tree was near the cheese destination which had a dish incorporating fig jam, and the eggplant tree was near the Greece destination that served a dish with eggplant dip. It was a small detail that had a lasting impression on me.  
My absolute favorite dish of the day was the lemongrass chicken curry with coconut and jasmine rice from the Singapore destination. It was spicy and flavorful and left me craving curry for a week. 
Although in one afternoon I knew I wouldn't be able to try every destination, I wanted to have the entire experience and stamp my "passport" of all the destinations that we visited. What's even cuter, each destination has it's own stamp design. Even the discovery of the design was a part of the fun.
In Epcot there are small rides within each stationary country called the World Showcase like a viking-esque boat ride in Norway and a childish boat ride in Mexico. The lovely thing about Mexico is that the "town" representing it is indoors and gives a break from the heat, but more importantly, it's set as a night market and the close quarters really give the sense of a bustling market. France has the wonderful feeling of little cafes, perfume shops, and cobblestone streets. Germany has the gorgeous wooden architectural accents and trinkets for sale like beer steins, nutcrackers, and lots and lots of Werther's Orginal caramel candies. 
We started and ended our F+W exploration with the Spaceship Earth ride inside of the Epcot ball. It's one of S's favorite rides, taking the passenger through time from the burning of the Library of Alexander that really smells of cinders, to what alludes to Steve Jobs in his garage in California that really smells musty like an old garage. I'm so happy that we finally got to attend this event, and I loved it as much as I thought I would. I may even try to convince S that we need to go one more time before it ends in November. 
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Till Extinction Do Us Part

Thursday, October 10, 2013
I recently worked a wedding in which the bride and groom were the most creative and colorful people I've ever met. They came from the midwest just to get married at our museum, under our T-Rex, Stan. Most of  the time we have receptions in our dinosaur exhibit, but this time, they truly wanted their ceremony right under our T-Rex. 
The gorgeous lighting came from the DJ that did my very own wedding, MJ at Junction 88. He has these brand new uplights - that he calls his macdaddy lights - which envelope every inch of our pillars and ceilings. I'm such a proponent for uplights more so than any other audio/visual decor for weddings. They change every space into a gorgeous wedding reception space. 
This couple was so fun (and colorful which you can see if you scroll down) they had old school games like Hungry Hungry Hippo and Rockem Sockem boxers on their cocktail tables during cocktail hour in our universe exhibit room. Their photobooth backdrop was our large image of Mars, and they had their guests (who were equally creative) paint on tiny canvasses for them to make one large canvas for their basement at home. They were truly the epitome of a science museum couple.
Yesterday we booked our apartment in Buenos Aires for a week! We got a great deal on a little studio on AirBnB in the heart of Palermo. I chatted back and forth with the owner who was so prompt, sweet, and lives in Buenos Aires too so she can easily help with any transportation concerns I have. Plus, she writes in perfect English which is helpful to me (who only speak English and French). The next step is to apply for our Brazilian Visas which has turned out to be more complicated than expected. I will let you know how that story ends...
With the small glimpse of cooler weather that we received yesterday, my spirit is all about fall. I drive to the museum in the mornings with the windows down and jazz music playing. Jazz and big band music always reminds me of my grandparents house when we would go over for holidays. To me it's perfect for fall to make the atmosphere feel autumnal. While looking for a light bulb for our Japanese lantern to hang outside on our balcony, I found all of our fall decorations. The most Halloween-themed I get is a white ceramic pumpkin candle that I adore. Putting up these decorations with a baking dish of potatoes with spices like nutmeg in the oven really make me excited for the season ahead. I'm so looking forward to hearty ingredients like squashes, carrots, potatoes... I've had enough of summer vegetables - until of course next year. 
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Homely

Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Thank you to every one who had sweet thoughts for my dog, Scout, from last week. Over the weekend the vet analyzed his tests and it turns out he had a bladder infection. My mom said that within a few hours of taking the antibiotics he was back to himself. It's scary to see an old dog go to the vet for something unknown, but luckily he is a trooper and he is back to his lazy self.
The news of Scout feeling better was the best way I could start my weekend. I followed it with brunch with my friends at one of their houses - a late celebration of housewarming and birthday. Later, S and I biked to Whole Foods to make a delicious pasta dish for dinner, and after went to our favorite theater to see a comedy called In A World. The next day, we met up with my boss and her boyfriend at Epcot to enjoy the Food and Wine festival. For a weekend with so many good things, I was happy to start it off on a good note. More on all of that in later posts with photographs! 
A couple of weekends back we went to Ikea to change up our living room from cubed shelves to open and white shelves against our purple wall. A couple of our favorite things flank this wall like my very first thrift store purchase, a $15 Polaroid Land Camera - a big purchase to me at the time. Also, a collection of old school books from the early 1900's, one of S's first gifts to me. A photo of us in Paris, and a couple of Darumas stacked like Kashira from Spirited Away. 
Daruma dolls are used for good luck. You're supposed to color in one eye when you make a wish for the New Year. Once the wish comes true, you color in the other eye. The monk it is modeled after is said to have meditated for nine years straight. The discipline of Buddhist monks is something I would love to have more in my house. Yesterday is a good example of that. I was productive at work on nearly all of our October events just to come home and vacuum, clean the dishes and the bathroom, and even organize our studio/home office. For me, a glass of red wine was the reward. I haven't elevated to a non-reward system - that's the millenial in me! 
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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Silent Air Waves

Thursday, October 03, 2013
This morning I got ready like normal, had two cups of coffee, and caught up on some October issues of my favorite magazines. Only after my makeup was already done, did I get a call from my mom saying that she had to bring our dog to the vet. Our dog is a beagle and his name is Scout. We grew up with him, but he lives with my mom still since we've grown up and moved out. He's about 14 years old so we know he's up there in doggy-years, but the shock still hurts. He's currently at the vet getting some blood work and analysis done, so there is no word that today is his final day, but realistically I have to keep his comfort in mind. 
I took this picture during our weekend trip to the beach and that particular day it was cloudy and S was far away. It's exactly how my mind feels right now, cloudy and far away.
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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Little Autumn Treats

Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Recently one of my favorite bloggers and fellow Sunshine Bloggers (bloggers in Florida!) started up a jewelry shop! Kristyn from Milk and Crown started a shop by the same name and I fell in love with her aesthetic. Her designs are simple and feminine while not being too girly. 
One of my favorite pieces by her is the Harper necklace from her Etsy shop. For the month of August, Kristyn began a campaign to sell 30 pieces of jewelry in 30 days to benefit a charity. Her 30 in 30 project was definitely successful even if she didn't reach exactly 30. I knew that I had to participate and purchase the necklace that I admired for a while to support her jewelry line, her project, and her sense of giving.
As fall becomes more apparent, the time of giving gets closer. Although winter's holidays aren't only about gifts, the atmosphere that the time of year creates is completely unique. For the first day of October, it is almost as if a switch went off. Suddenly I have the urge to pick up the fall issues of magazines that normally collect dust on my dining room table. Suddenly I want to enjoy the cooler weather with cups of tea on my balcony in the evenings. Suddenly I want to pick up my knitting needles again. And suddenly I am so looking forward to all of the family gatherings that fall and winter brings. 
It will be nice to see the new crop at the farmers market of squashes and gourds instead of all the citrus and fruits that we normally bring home. To close summer, we gathered up an armful of oranges and made the freshest orange juice with them for the weekend. 
We are sticking to our routine of juicing regularly and attending hot yoga weekly. Our diet still includes old favorites like Italian sandwiches and dinners, meat and cheese plates, and even sweets - but we introduce a homemade juice here and there to get the burst of nutrition.
This sandwich was made with some of my favorite ingredients starting with ciabatta bread from Old Hearth Bread Co in central Florida. I layered roasted red peppers, chicken cutlets, arugula, and spicy mayo on this little treat of a weekend lunch. It's only Tuesday, and I'm already looking forward to another weekend of good food at home, exploring our town in the autumn season, and relaxing together.
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