Friday, November 6, 2015

How to Open a Pomegranate

Fall is here and with it comes some wonderful fall harvest produce, including pomegranates. Pomegranates are so different from any other fruit in that the "meat" of it is actually seeds--really juicy and delicious ones that can be used in a variety of recipes (including salads) or enjoyed on their own. Opening a pomegranate and extracting the seeds is a little tricky, but the result is worth it--I'm always amazed at how many seeds come out of just one pomegranate. The bounty usually lasts me a few days.

TIP: To select a good pomegranate, choose one that is uniformly firm with no or minimal bruising or scarring.

Items you'll need: 

paring knife
small bowl
cutting board

*Gloves and an apron are highly recommended to avoid staining your skin or clothes. Pomegranate juice can be a beast to get out.

Step 1: Use the paring knife to cut around the knob and pop it off. 

Step 2: Use the paring knife to gently score the pomegranate in three places coming down from the top.

Step 3: Break open the pomegranate with your hands.

Step 4: Continue to break apart the pomegranate and gently remove the seeds from the skin. Be patient. Go into your zen mode and get those seeds out. This usually takes me a good 10 minutes. It takes time, but it's worth out.

Step 5: Enjoy!

You know you've done a good job if the end result looks like a crime scene. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup

It FINALLY feels like fall in Las Vegas and I'm so ready for a change of pace and weather. I never thought I'd be so happy for summer to be over. It's without a doubt my favorite season in California, but this Vegas heat--man it's something else and I never realized how wonderful it is to just be able to stand outside whenever you want to. 

For a couple years now I've been looking for a butternut squash soup recipe and I think this is the one! The next time I make it I think I'm gonna try adding some chopped potatoes in with the butternut squash, but I think it's a keeper as is. 

Butternut Squash Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour


6 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 regular-sized squash)
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 8-ounce package cream cheese


In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until tender. Add butternut squash, chicken broth, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Use an immersion blender to puree squash and cream cheese until smooth. (Alternately, you may puree in batches using a blender or food processor.) Return to saucepan and heat through. Do not allow to boil. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Night at the Bellagio

We live quite close to the Las Vegas strip so last night, we decided to take advantage of our proximity and make a quick visit to the Bellagio, one of my favorite hotels (and also one of the more kid-friendly hotels on the strip).  The Bellagio has a beautiful conservatory which they change up according on the season and it's currently decorated with a fall theme. There is a giant water wheel, a big scarecrow, lots of pumpkins, and even a talking tree. Oh, and tons of flowers which makes the space smell amazing! After walking around there for a bit, we stepped outside to watch the famous Bellagio fountain show to the tune of "Time to Say Goodbye". While we enjoyed showing Petra all these different beautiful attractions, I think she was most amused by seeing all the faces of tourists walking around and snapping photos.  Either way, it was great to get out and enjoy some quality family time.

We decided that we should take more outings to visit these fancy hotel lobbies while we live close. I think next up will be the Venetian!

[Gold buildings against an ombre sky.]

[Cruising the strip]

[Bellagio conservatory decorated for fall]

[Breaking the rules and letting her touch the flowers.]

[Vegas baby!]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Petra's Nursery

Petra art print c/o Rifle Paper Co

As we've spent the last 8 months figuring out a new city, adjusting to a "non-travel" life, and running a new business, our lives have often felt muddled, with loose ends in just about every direction I look. While the chaos of life has felt completely overwhelming at times, I have been so grateful for this little space of earth, Petra's nursery, where everything feels right in the world. Petra is such a blessing and I want to remember this little corner of our house where so many joyful moments have occurred with our little girl.

There are still unfinished elements (like the hanging light I want to paint gold and the curtains I'd like to add), but I'm not sure if they will ever happen and I didn't want to miss the chance to document this space just because it's not "perfect". If there's one thing I'm learning since becoming a mother, it's that perfection is not something I create, it's a moment that happens when I'm in the right mindset.


Petra art print - Rifle Paper Co
Crib - IKEA
Stuffed Elephant - Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok)
Rug - Target
Dresser - craigslist find (re-painted white)
Mobile - DIY (from this tutorial)
Blankets on chair - IKEA
Hanging light - IKEA
Wooden elephant - somewhere in India
Frames - IKEA and Target
Heart print - DIY inspired by this Fluoro Heart Print
Bangkok print - Rifle Paper Co

Monday, October 19, 2015

Simple Rice Pudding

When I was in college, there was this awesome dessert place called "Pudding on the Rice" that served up all different flavors of rice pudding--chocolate, white chocolate/raspberry, vanilla bean...they were all so good. I've never been able to re-create the creamy goodness of their unique flavors, but every once in a while, I like to whip up a batch of this simple creamy rice pudding, with the perfect amount of butter and vanilla for flavoring. It feels indulgent, even though the ingredients are all quite basic.

Simple Rice Pudding
Yield 4 servings
Total Time: about 45 minutes


3/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is tender.

In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, and beaten egg. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2015

6 Tips for Backpacking Through Southeast Asia

When I think back on our 7 months of travel through South and Southeast Asia, in addition to the freedom I felt, I seem to remember most vividly all the difficult moments and challenges we encountered. Ha! Of course we had a gazillion amazing, "pinch me" moments as well, but the stories of miserable heat, getting lost (over and over again), walking into a horrible smelling hotel room, etc. are just so funny and, well, memorable.

While challenges are a definite part of the travel experience, it's still best to minimize them. I've put together a list of tips I learned while backpacking through Southeast Asia that can help anyone planning a travel adventure of their own.

1. Drink lots of water! The last thing you want when you're traveling in a foreign and underdeveloped country is to get sick and one of the easiest ways to do so is to get dehydrated. Everywhere I went in SE Asia, I always had a giant water bottle by my side. It may seem like a pain to lug it around with you, but you really forget about it and oh my gosh, it is so worth it.

2. Always carry a sarong or scarf with you. Behold, the most versatile article of clothing ever made...the sarong! I found this helpful to have with me at all times for many reasons. When I was cold, it acted as a blanket. When I was hot, it acted as a sweat rag. When I was tired, it acted as a pillow. When I was in a bathroom with no paper towels ( 99.9999 percent of the bathrooms in SE Asia), it acted as a hand towel. When I needed to cover up to enter a sacred temple, it acted as a skirt. So many uses! These things are so light and can be easily tied onto a bag so it's a no-brainer to just keep one with you.

3. Consider bringing a room spray. I didn't do this and you'll want to consider how much space you have in your backpack, but it may be worth it to bring a room spray. Sometimes rooms can have a certain smell to them and I think it does a lot for a person's mood and overall well-being to smell nice things. Room spray would be something that could easily turn a shabby, so-so room into a nice place to call home (well, as close to home as possible when you're in a very foreign land).

4. Pack light! Pack light!!! You seriously don't need much. A skirt, a pair of shorts, a handful of t-shirts, underwear, leggings, a light jacket (probably don't even need that in most countries), flip-flops, walking/hiking shoes, 1 pair of socks, a hat, a scarf, sunglasses, a guidebook, and light toiletries. Keep it simple and if you ever need something, just buy it wherever you are! I brought the ordinary school-size backpack you see below and it worked great!

5. Bargain for everything! Be kind and respectful to vendors and guesthouse owners, but don't be afraid to ask for a lower price. Some tips to remember: don't give a lower price...make them give you a lower price by saying "Hmmm....can you go lower?" with a quizzical look and small smile. If they're wavering or unsure about offering a lower price, try making small talk to divert the conversation to something more easy and fun, then come back to your original question. This may be just the break they need to come to their senses.

6. Google maps offline. I saved the best one for last. I didn't learn this one until about halfway through our travels and it was a total game changer! You can download maps for specific areas on google maps on your phone ahead of time so that you have the map when you arrive to a destination. Then, with location services enabled, you don't need wifi at all to use the map to help you get where you need to go. So, so helpful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

I hope everyone had a fabulous Labor Day weekend. One of my favorite parts of summer is all the outdoor BBQs. As summer comes to a close, I know the grill will be used less and less, however one of my favorite BBQ cheats is to make BBQ pulled pork in a slow cooker. You can make it year-round, but it always kinda feels like summer to me. This recipe is the best one I've tried.

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: about 9 hours


1 3-4-pound boneless pork loin
1 onion, sliced in half, then thinly sliced
1 12-oz. can cola (Dr. Pepper and Root Beer work too--Diet or Regular)
20 oz. of your favorite BBQ sauce (about 1/2 a large bottle)
Seasoned Salt


Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and place sliced onions in the bottom. Rinse pork loin and pat dry with paper towels. Coat pork with a layer of seasoned salt and pepper. Place on top of the onions.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the half bottle of BBQ sauce and the can of soda. Pour the fizzy concoction on top of the seasoned pork loin in the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until meat is fork tender. When the meat is tender, remove from slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Shred with two forks, then return to slow cooker and stir to combine with onions. Cook another 30 minutes.

Serve on your favorite buns and plate it up with all your favorite BBQ fixins' (baked beans, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob...). ENJOY!