Monday, September 8, 2014

Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder

I love recipes that let me walk away from the dish for a little while! It gives me time to get drinks and silverware ready, and to put away whatever dishes were air-drying next to the sink. We have a house rule that whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes, which means that Andy does the dishes most nights. It’s so nice!

I first made this soup earlier in the year, and Andy’s mentioned it several times since then. A couple weeks ago I was racking my brain trying to think of what to make for dinner, and then it hit me (Boston accent and all): chow-daah. It’s really easy, but it tastes like it was a lot of work. I tweaked the original recipe to make it less thick, but it’s still definitely a chowder and not a soup. If you like a broth-y soup, either use less shrimp, corn and potatoes or double the liquids. You’ll need to tweak the seasonings if you make those changes (but it wouldn’t be difficult). You could also use one small yukon gold potato and one small sweet potato, instead of two yukon gold. I’ve never served it with any toppings, though I bet it’s delicious that way! If you like the taste of curry powder and you like shrimp, I bet you’ll go crazy over this dish.

Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Buffy Hargett

Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder
adapted from
serves 4
total time to prep and cook: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large Yukon gold potatoes (14 oz.), peeled and diced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, don’t thaw)
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
1 13.5 oz.can unsweetened lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
Suggested toppings: toasted coconut, thinly sliced green onions, coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or any large pot) over medium. Add diced onion and cook for about five minutes or until tender.
2. Stir in chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add potatoes and next 6 ingredients (corn, liquids and seasoning). Bring to a boil while stirring often.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
5. Stir in shrimp; cook 4 to 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.
6. Add more seasoning if needed, spoon into bowls and serve on its own or with toppings.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

a PSA on my grief

Why is this what there is for me to write about? Why does this have to touch EVERY little aspect of my life? I often feel I’m stuck in a Groundhog Day-like replay of tragic realities. Each morning when I wake up I’m reminded that I’m not pregnant, that I’ve lost not one but two babies, that my junk room is still a junk room and has never been a nursery.

You cannot possibly know how I’m feeling or what I’m needing at any given minute. I can’t expect you to say the right things or do the right things at all the right times. We’re both in tough positions. Navigating what to say and where to go from here is uncomfortable and painful for me, too. I wrote about how to help a grieving a friend after I lost John, but some of my own suggestions don’t apply to where I’m at in my current grief.

Yeah. It’s complicated.

Here’s what you need to know:

I don’t really know how to tell you how I’m doing. (This is how I’m doing.) I don’t know how to tell you how Andy’s doing. All I know is that we’re sad and angry on the inside but that we are trying to make life as tolerable as possible for one another. One minute we might be doubled-over laughing and the next minute I might be ugly crying. I believe there were three days in August that were free of tears. August was a miserable month.

I can’t be in charge of keeping our friendship afloat. I am often the person who pursues, who keeps conversations going. I can’t do that right now. If you could see inside my head you would be all, giiiiirl, let me get you some chocolate and a pillow. Cut me a LOT of slack, and step up! I need you more than ever.

Most social situations give me anxiety right now. Getting me to come to any event might be like pulling teeth. Don’t take offense—even being around my own family is difficult for me sometimes. I think I look normal and functional on the outside, but on the inside my brain is screaming my babies are dead! I hate my life! It’s exhausting being me right now.

Yes, I know therapy is an option. Yes, I’ve thought about it. Right now that’s all I want to discuss on that topic. (It’s not that I’m resistant to therapy. I’m just resistant to talking about it. Again, cut me some slack.)

And since I’m already on a roll here… I really don’t like being asked what “my plan” is. I don’t feel capable of forming a plan right now. My basic plan is to get through each day.

I know. This is a lot to take in. Blog readers be like wut.

(Notice I’ve used the phrase “right now” five times. I don’t know how long it will take for these feelings and frustrations to fade, but I know some day it won’t be quite as hard as it is right now.)

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be "healing." A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to "get through it," rise to the occasion, exhibit the "strength" that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief was we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.” 
― Joan Didion, "The Year of Magical Thinking"

Monday, August 18, 2014

notes on traveling

Number one: talk to strangers. Maybe you’ll wind up sitting next to a middle-aged woman who is on her way to Berkeley to film a cooking show. She looks and talks just like Catherine Keener, but she’s not Catherine Keener. She’ll tell you about her fiancé, who she knew in college and eventually reunited with after both of their first marriages ended. “He proposed on our second date,” she’ll say, laughing. You’ll talk about food and cooking shows and the Virgin Islands (because of course, her fiancé lives on a private island in the VI) and eventually you’ll stammer out that you just lost a baby and are on your would-be babymoon.

Maybe she’ll say, “We had one of those, too…a babymoon after losing a baby. We went to London.”
Maybe she’ll say, “It never stops hurting.”

And maybe, just maybe, when you turn back to your book or movie or whatever you were doing before, you’ll feel a bit goosebump-y, and you’ll think, we were meant to meet. 

bus stop snuggles
On a lighter note, two: treat yo self. I smiled over my new bag dozens of times during our flight to/from San Francisco, and right now anything that makes me smile is a winner. Extra points if your splurge can hold two books (this and this), a wallet, a makeup bag, a sweater, a BOX of tissues, a bottle of water, multiple receipts and random pieces of paper, several tea bags, a bag of nuts, a bag of chocolates and a full-size bag of white cheddar popcorn.

Three: do something relaxing and preferably non-tourist-y. I can’t recommend this one enough! Even doing something that you would normally do at home can be a refreshing change of pace, especially if you’re in a place that is often crowded with visitors. We've played mini-golf in Chicago, shopped at a farmers market in Waimea, Hawaii and taken in a movie at an independent theater in San Francisco. Some friends of ours say their favorite thing to do when they travel is to simply sit in a coffee shop and relish having alone time. (Can you tell they have kids?)

Four: set aside small amounts of time to be on your phone/laptop. Andy and I only took our phones out a few times each day during our trip in San Francisco, and we’d do so at the same time. We would spend anywhere from five to twenty minutes editing pics, scrolling through Twitter, checking emails, etc. I used my phone a lot for taking pictures and checking GPS, but I’d put it right back in my purse when I was done. We never made an agreement beforehand to do this…it just happened! It was brilliant, though. We both appreciated that the majority of our trip was spent giving one another our full attention.

Five: if you’re into lots of coffee and snacks, maybe stick to only two big meals a day. This has worked well for us both in Chicago and San Francisco. Otherwise, you won’t be hungry enough to enjoy multiple scoops of ice cream that you waited half an hour in line for, or a ginormous hot dog smothered in relish and hot peppers that called your name from a stand outside of a museum! And if you’re lucky, all the walking you do on your trip will make up for the constant eating. :)

For five MORE traveling tips, check out the guest post I wrote for my friend Amber’s blog back in April ’12. Apparently I cared just as much about relaxing back then as I do now!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco/Marin County

**Some of these links will take you to pictures on my Instagram account. :)

Picking up where I left off yesterday

We had a late breakfast on Saturday morning at Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles, which was a short walk from our hotel and the perfect halfway point between our hotel and Alamo Square Park. We both got chicken and waffles, because, duh. Also, eggs scrambled with cheese and green onions, and an appetizer of cheesy grit cakes with jalapeño and artichoke sauce. Are your arteries clogging up as you read? The grit cakes were good but not great. The eggs, chicken and waffles, though…I mean, come on. This meal is going to haunt my dreams.

On to Alamo Square Park, home to the fabulous “Painted Ladies." Even if you could care less about the houses, the park is absolutely worth going to if you’re nearby. (Unless you’re scared of dogs.) Plus, The Mill coffee shop is only a couple blocks away. If you’re into gorgeous spaces and hipster coffee, GO. Andy had to practically drag me out of the place! (BTW, Andy whistled the song from “Full House” all morning. I adore him.)

not Postcard Row, but equally (in my opinion) stunning houses on Alamo Square
We took our coffees on the bus and headed to Golden Gate Park to check out the California Academy of Sciences, which I have to say was a bit disappointing. Now, I say this as someone who has been to the Smithsonian museums multiple times, as well as the aquarium in Baltimore and Chicago. I did think that the building itself was spectacular, and a few of the exhibits were really cool. One thing we accidentally missed was the planetarium. I bet we would have enjoyed that.

We could have gone to the DeYoung museum with our pass, but the day was passing quickly and I wanted to see the Japanese Tea Garden before we left the park. We didn’t realize you have to pay to go into the gardens! Tickets aren’t expensive, but I knew we would have to walk through quickly and I didn’t want to pay and not be able to fully enjoy the area. Plus, the line for admission was long. Oh well!

It took us a while to get to our next destination (the Mission neighborhood), but the bus ride gave us amazing views of the city. We drove through several colorful neighborhoods, including Upper Haight, which is where you see a lot of tie-dye and record shops. I loved getting a driving tour of the various areas of the city that I knew we didn’t have time to explore. 

Getting ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery was a must for me. The line is long, but so worth it! I have major FOMO when it comes to food, and it was torture trying to only pick three flavors. I eventually settled on salted caramel, roasted banana and ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle pieces). Andy had salted caramel, brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl, and malted vanilla with peanut brittle and chocolate. OH MY WORD. Can we go back, please? 

We endured a steep walk to the top of Dolores Park to take in yet another stunning view of the city. The people watching in this park is like no other people watching experience! We saw a group of guys playing beer pong on a table they had somehow lugged over. Lots of kites. Lots of picnics. Lots of people making out. Lots of marijuana being smoked. At least one speedo. I was having a great time, but after we left Andy pointed out that all that drinking and drug use was going on at a park, not far from a playground.
:-/ His face says it all here:

We walked around the neighborhood (bought some pretty earrings) and had dinner at La Taqueria. My pork taco was out of control and hands down the best taco I’ve ever had. My one mistake was ordering a watermelon agua fresca. It was delicious, but my stomach doesn’t handle super-sugary drinks very well. (This is um, foreshadowing to what happened later.)

We headed back to our hotel for a few minutes to freshen up before walking to Sundance Kabuki, an indie movie theater. We saw “Boyhood” and let me tell you, that is one spectacular film. We both couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. You know it’s a good movie if you have to vomit the entire time you’re watching but you stay in your seat because you don’t want to miss a thing.

We rented a car and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County (while sipping coffee and eating croissants, in case you weren’t jealous enough already) where we hopped on a shuttle to Muir Woods. We hadn’t planned on using a shuttle to get to the park, but the $5 ticket was worth paying considering some visitors have to park over a mile away from the entrance! The drive to the park was beautiful (and a bit scary/thrilling). The park itself was fantastic. Those redwoods! We had a blast.

We spent about an hour and a half in the park before taking the shuttle back to our car and heading to HERE IT IS PEOPLE a chain restaurant! Andy’s one requirement of our weekend was that we hit up In-N-Out, and I’ll admit—I was excited to try it, too. We got our burgers and fries animal style. (I love that Andy’s hand managed to sneak into two of my food pics). I don’t think I would have been impressed if we had gotten plain burgers and fries. The animal sauce was what made both items, in my humble opinion. Hey babe, let’s host an In-N-Out party!

We still had a couple hours before needing to return our rental car, so we drove to both Tiburon and Sausalito. Both towns were incredibly picturesque! I’d recommend Tiburon if you want to relax and Sausalito if you want to shop and take pictures of San Francisco from across the bay. Sausalito was PACKED with people. We had minds blown by mint mojito iced coffees at Philz, so make sure to go there if you’re in the area. It turns out Philz is a chain! I would have never guessed. The one in Sausalito has a very casual, comfortable “local coffee house” vibe.

Both of us were worn out by the time we got back to our hotel around 4. We didn’t have to leave the city until 7:30, but neither one of us was up to doing much. We explored the area around our hotel some, though sadly many places were closed because of the day and time. Andy got to pick dinner (from my list of choices, hehe) and he picked Shanghai Dumpling King. He picked right again! Even though it was WAY out of the way, we figured we might as well go since we had nothing else planned before leaving the city. Unfortunately, In-N-Out and our iced coffees had filled us up so we only got three items. There were tons of items we didn’t get to try that we thought sounded amazing. FOMO! Andy had his first xiao long bao experience and he talked about those soup dumplings long after left the restaurant! I was sooo relieved that he liked him considering we had gone out of our way. We also had fantastic mongolian beef and THE BEST green beans I’ve ever had in my life. This picture is only showing half of the beef and green beans because I had already put some on both of our plates. Well, we crushed everything. I’ve never eaten so many green beans in one sitting!

We got to the airport with just enough time for me to browse a bookstore, grab some chocolate-coated salted caramel almonds and have a glass of sangria before boarding began. If only every airport experience was that wonderful!

If you ever decide to head to San Francisco, hit me up! I used recommendations from friends and a few bloggers I follow, as well as this SUPER helpful neighborhood map. We definitely didn’t see/do/eat everything, but I’m pleased with what we managed to pack in. Thanks for reading! You all deserve an award for bearing with these longs posts!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Friday in San Francisco

The last time I vacationed alone with my handsome devil of a husband was on our honeymoon six years ago! We’ve made great memories traveling with friends and family since then, but it was wonderful to have Andy all to myself. The weekend felt like one long date!

(One long date in which my nose began to run non-stop and my throat closed up before we even got to the city, I threw up for a solid half hour the next night, slept maybe four hours total over the course of two nights in the hotel and had to go to a pharmacy twice for tissues, medicine, cough drops and vaseline.)

Thinking about how insane that all was makes me giggle now.

Despite the sickies and the exhaustion, I truly had a fantastic weekend. My body managed to function on sheer adrenaline, and it didn’t hurt that Andy kept me laughing the whole time. He also held my hand all weekend and made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world instead of a girl with a drippy nose and tired eyes.

There was a time on Friday when I was far from happy, though. We had just arrived downtown and Andy was ready to find a spot to have lunch. We were having a hard time finding our way to the bus that we needed to get on in order to get to our hotel in Japantown. There were people everywhere, it smelled like urine, my nose was running and I only had one tissue in my purse. The horror! Also, my plan was for us to bus to our hotel, drop off our stuff and THEN head to lunch…which was going to be about a half hour bus ride from our hotel. :-/ Yeah, I didn’t plan that out very well. (Oh, and we never ate breakfast. Fools!)

Andy put his foot down and said he needed to eat before his hangry-ness got out of control. He spotted a Super Duper Burgers and made a bee line for it, and I tried not to burst into tears. I mean, I love burgers…but it was a chain! We were in a city with a million jillion restaurants! Not only that, but I had plans for us to have burgers at *cough* a chain restaurant on Sunday! THIS WAS NOT IN MY PLAN!

(“This” including being confused by the map and feeling sick—it wasn’t just the burger thing that made me almost cry. Haha.)

It took a reassuring text from my mom, a lot of deep breaths and a surprisingly fantastic burger for me to realize that holding on to my plans was pointless if it was causing stress. I decided to swap my plans for the afternoon with the ones I had made for Saturday, which ended up being a clutch decision. We headed to the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero after checking into our hotel and loaded up on tissues. We explored one half of the building before picking up iced coffees from Blue Bottle Coffee to sip in between smooching (!!!) on a bench facing the bay. Then we poked around the remaining shops and ended our visit with a basket of beignets from Boulettes Larder. I was still finding cinnamon sugar on my face hours later.

After the Ferry Building we headed to The Exploratorium, which was a lot of fun. (We bought City Passes, since I knew I wanted to do the cable car thang, California Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium and a Bay cruise.) My favorite activities were making our own stop motion video, freaking out over a scary head made out of doll parts and tinkering with an interactive clock. I liked making the people drink coffee. :)

Next—bay cruise! We got a great view of the sea lions on Pier 39 without having to deal with the insane crowds. I loved seeing the city, bridges and Alcatraz from the water. Didn’t love embarrassing myself in front of everyone...I was clicking away and got caught off guard when the wind suddenly blew my dress up MULTIPLE times! I was dyyyying. I couldn’t hold my dress and hold my camera and hold onto the railing! I finally had Andy stand behind me and hold me steady while I knotted my dress against my calves. The knotting ended up being kind of genius, actually. Andy complimented how much he liked the knot multiple times that evening!

Once the boat docked we left the Embarcadero to take a cable car ride up Hyde Street. I wanted to see the famous section of Lombard Street that zig-zags downhill. It took a lot of time to get there between walking, bussing and waiting in line to get on a cable car, but we were both glad we went. The view was phenomenal! Plus, hanging on the sides of the cable car was an experience in its own right.

It occurred to me after we left Lombard that we could have seen the Bay Lights from there if we had waited a little longer, but truthfully we were both starving at that point. I gave Andy a few restaurants to choose from and he picked Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights. I was hoping he would! I had read about the restaurant on my friend Amber’s blog and thought the house-made fennel sausage pizza she ate on her honeymoon sounded amazing. She wrote, "I was eating the pizza and saying I craved it at the same time.” Girl, now I know exactly what you’re talking about!

Dinner ended up being my favorite part of our day—not because I didn’t love everything else, but because something about being there felt so right. Maybe it was the wine? ;) The music, the conversation, the food…it was all perfect. We ordered two pizzas, several drinks and a sundae with vanilla gelato, amarena cherries, pistachios and dark chocolate sauce. Our dishes were practically licked clean! After dinner we walked hand-in-hand from the restaurant to our hotel. It was a lovely way to end the day.

Up next, Saturday and Sunday! Aren’t you sooo excited? :) Don’t worry, I’ll consolidate them into one post. Also, I took pictures of everything, but I’m trying to spread them out between social media so you aren’t completely bombarded with photos from our trip.