Friday, July 24, 2015

Greek Pasta Salad

Summertime in Las Vegas means it is H-O-T HOT! And hot weather does not go too well with cooking over a stove, or having your oven on at all. So for the summertime, I crave cold pasta salads and this one is a winner. It would be a perfect side dish for any summer BBQ or potluck. For some extra protein, you can easily add cooked chicken to the salad.

Greek Pasta Salad
From Just A Taste
Yield: about 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

{For the pasta}


2 1/2 cups uncooked pasta, such as penne or rotini
2/3 cup sliced red onions
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup diced cucumbers
3/4 cup sliced olives (optional)
3/4 cup diced green peppers (optional)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

{For the vinaigrette}

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Make the pasta salad. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook it until al dente. Strain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl to cool slightly. While the pasta cools, make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and oregano. While whisking, stream in the olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, green peppers, and feta cheese to the bowl with the pasta. Pour the dressing over the pasta, tossing to combine, then cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

When ready to serve, toss the pasta salad again and enjoy cold or at room temperature. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chennai and My Beating Heart

The other day Bradford reminded me that we have been home from our SE Asian adventure longer than we were there. And that made me sad. We've had so many huge changes in our life since returning home that I've hardly had time to reflect on our travels. But slowly, I will document India.

By far, India was the most memorable and powerful country we visited and it all started in Chennai. 

Since we were coming from Thailand, we entered India via the South, specifically Chennai. I was so nervous and excited to go to India. I had heard so much about it and I thought I would love it, but I also was a bit apprehensive about some of the stories of dirt, filth, and overall poverty. Well, it turns out the "excited" half of me was correct because I pretty much fell in love with India within 24 hours of arriving. 

We actually spent our first night in Chennai at a fancy-schmancy hotel, using some credit card points. Since our flight arrived late at night, we figured it would be a smart way to get our bearings and stay safe before backpacking into the cheap parts of town. It was great, but....





...I'll never forget the feeling when we hit the real India, walking the streets of Chennai to find our $5/night hotel room. I actually felt this sense of home. Something about India just felt familiar to me. Perhaps it was a result of having Indian neighbors as a kid, perhaps it was my love for the Middle East and feeling a bit of that in the culture. Whatever it was, it felt right and happy and good. 

There are so many different emotions in India. Highs and lows. One minute you're eating the most delicious, flavorful meal you've ever had and speaking with the kindest, warmhearted family thinking to yourself "YES! This is what travel is all about!" and the next, you're stepping into a giant pile of cow&*!# and waiting three hours in the hot sun for a bus that you're not sure will ever come. HAHA. Oh, India. 

I'll always love Chennai because it was my first impression of this country that is so amazing. 


I'll never forget the way I felt entering my first Hindu temple in Chennai. I was so interested and excited to see Hindu worship and as I entered this temple barefoot all my years of dreaming about India all exploded into this moment of reality---REAL INDIA. I was here. Now. This moment. The flowers were brighter than I had expected, the music more interesting, the people more human. Everything was exceeding my expectations and then I cried. I was so overwhelmed in the most beautiful way. It was the heartbeat of travel, the burning pulse that opens your soul in the best way possible informing you that there is another way to live, that you can change, that you can choose your life. 

We made a lot of sacrifices while traveling, did just about everything the hard way, saving a penny anywhere we could. I'm sad to admit that I often compared myself to other travelers, wishing I could stay in a nicer hotel, eat a nicer meal, take a nicer bus (or no bus at all and fly). And then you see India. You see all the people who live there. You see the man who happily bathes himself with a bucket of cold water on the side of a busy street, right next to fresh concrete that has just been poured. There is chaos all around, but he is clean and he is happy. And you realize, how can I not be happy? How can I not be happy when I have a full bottle of clean drinking water? How can I not be happy when I have a camera to capture beautiful things around me with? How can I not be happy when I have the ability to hop on a bus or train and go wherever I want? How can I not be happy for the simple fact that I was born in America, which feels like the land of milk and honey compared to India and other places?

Oh, but the beauty that lies within the filth. Even the poorest women wear the brightest saris. They are so bright and so beautiful. There is charity happening all around. There is chaos and cheating too. There is good and there is bad. 

Pictures give such a small fraction of what the country is really like, I'm hesitant to include any at all. A day in India is like a year elsewhere. 








Friday, July 10, 2015

Vitality


Ever since I fell in love with the sport of beach volleyball as a teenager, I've had a major girl crush on Gabrielle Reece. As an adult, my respect for her remains high as she stands as an inspiration for keeping both body and mind healthy. I love seeing the authentic way Gabrielle and Laird Hamilton interact in this interview for the ESPN Body Issue--how they joke that they're still together and how they talk about the importance of caring for your body. 

One of my favorite quotes from Gabrielle: 

"I really like that, overall, when someone sees me, I probably look like I have some vitality. I know people that are much older than I am that are loaded with vitality, and I know people much younger than me that are not. For me, it's a very powerful measure."



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Old-Fashioned Pancakes









To me, pancakes mean home, love, comfort. I have so many fond memories of my Mom making pancakes for me on Saturday mornings and I'd like to pass on those feelings of love and comfort to my own daughter as well. I found this recipe for old-fashioned pancakes a few years back and it has become my hands-down favorite. It's got just the right texture, thickness and delicious buttery flavor. YUM!

*From allrecipes.com

Yield 9-12 pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot with buttermilk syrup.

Monday, June 1, 2015

FEST: Baby Favorites


When I was pregnant, one of the most overwhelming things for me was trying to wrap my head around all the STUFF we needed to prepare for a baby. I spent the first six months of my pregnancy traveling with nothing but a school-sized backpack and had really grown to love such a minimalist approach to possessions. Creating a baby registry for me was a labor of balance: I wanted to be prepared with the things I needed to care for my daughter, but I didn't want to get things that would never be used or were superfluous. 

Now that Petra is born and I have a few months of mommyhood under my belt, I'd like to share a few baby items that I really love and would recommend to anyone having a baby. These are the things that make me oh-so-very-happy anytime I use them.

1. Nuna Pipa Car Seat - $299.95
2. Aden + Anais Swaddleplus Blankets - $34.99
3. Fawn Design The Doe Diaper Bag - $129.95
4. Solly Baby Wrap - $65.00
5. IKEA Leka Baby Gym - $24.99
6. Sophie la Girafe Teether - $24.99
7, Baby Jogger City Mini GT Single Stroller - $349.99
8. Puj Tub - $44.99
9. Johnson & Johnson Vanilla Oatmeal Wash - $6.29
and Baby Bedtime Lotion - $8.09
10. Carter's White 4 Pack Long Sleeve Bodysuits - $15.60


In addition to these items, I thought it'd be helpful to create a list of EVERYTHING I've used since Petra was born that I would recommend a new mom arm herself with before baby comes:
  • Crib
  • Crib mattress
  • Crib mattress pad
  • Crib sheets
  • Dresser
  • Changing pad
  • Changing pad cover
  • Changing pad liners
  • Wipes dispenser
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Humidifier 
  • Baby washcloths
  • Baby hooded towel
  • Nursing pads
  • Lanolin
  • Maxi pads
  • Sleepers
  • Comfortable chair
  • Pacifier
  • Breast pump
  • Bottle
  • Space heater
  • Newborn baby mittens
  • Infant healthcare & grooming kit (mainly need the nail clippers and thermometer)
  • Bouncy seat
  • Burp cloths (I used cloth diapers)
  • Baby hangers

I hope this helps someone out there and to anyone preparing to have a baby, get ready to have your heart burst out of your chest over and over and over. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

5 Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was easily one of the top highlights from our entire 7-month journey to Southeast Asia. This vast, never ending collection of ancient temples is fun, mesmerizing, inspiring, and educational. It's an amazing experience for people of all ages and a very worthy bucket-list adventure. 

There were a few things I learned while visiting that can help make anyone's experience more rich and enjoyable so I'd like to share my 5 tips for visiting Angkor Wat. 

[The three different outfits I wore on the three different days we visited Angkor Wat.}

1. Dress Modestly. This may be obvious to some people but you need to dress modestly while visiting the temples, meaning no exposed knees or shoulders. Prior to going, I swear I had seen photos of people exploring these temples in shorts and tank tops due to the heat. While yes, it is hot in Cambodia, these are holy temples and it is important to respect their sanctity with appropriate dress and action. Furthermore, you may be prohibited from entering certain temples if you're not dressed appropriately as many have guards monitoring this very thing. So bust out your knee-length skirts and short sleeve tees for this one and if all else fails, you can always buy some elephant pants!

[Brad bargaining with a restaurant owner while kids try to sell him magnets and flutes.]

2. You can get 50% off your meals and drinks at restaurants within the complex. One thing you'll learn quickly about Cambodia is that meals are really cheap, about $1-3 in the city of Siem Reap. Within the Angkor Wat complex, however, these prices double (at least). I was shocked when on our first day at the complex, my husband started bargaining with the restaurant owners at lunchtime. Even more shocking was how quickly they dropped their prices! At first I felt guilty about this but once I realized how low the cost of living is for these people and that they are still making a big profit when you eat at their restaurant (as opposed to one of the 20 different restaurants right next to them), the guilt quickly faded. 


3. Take time to sit at each of the temples. These are amazing man made wonders and you'll want to remember how you felt at each of the temples. When you get home, people will ask you about your time here and you want to have a good answer, so take the time you need to reflect on your thoughts and feelings at the temples. It's easy to get caught up in the rush if trying to see all the temples and going through the motions (especially if you have a tour guide with you). Avoid the temptation to squeeze in one more temple and instead, take time to wander as slowly as you'd like and think about where you are. It's one of the coolest places you'll ever be so make it last. 

[Yes, they're adorable, but don't support child labor.]

4. Don't buy anything from the young children. There will be many locals outside all the temples trying to sell you trinkets and goods. Buy as much as you want from the adults but avoid buying from children, as cute as they may be (and as low of a price as they may offer you). Interact with them, ask them how high they can count, laugh with them but don't give them any money. Parents should work. Children should play (and go to school).


5. Visit the incredible tree at Ta Som. There is a lesser known temple called Ta Som that is well worth making a visit to if for nothing else but the tree at the back entrance. Many people will tell you that Ta Prohm (the Angelina Jolie temple) is the best example of trees fighting against stone. Ta Prohm is the biggest, but the back entrance of Ta Som is the best. My favorite spot in the whole complex. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Petra Elizabeth

On February 23, 2015, the best thing happened to us. Our daughter was born! In the last year, we've done and seen some amazing things, but all of that pales in comparison to the joy our Petra Elizabeth brings us everyday. It's incredible how something so small can bring so much happiness. She's currently only 11 pounds and fits easily in our lap, but the fact that she is a living, breathing creature that was created from nothing is just incredible. She blows my mind every day by simply being. And the sweetness of holding her while she sleeps on my chest? Don't get me started. I don't think there's a better high in the world.