Pike Place: Seattle Market Series, Part One


Pike Place Market is one of the more famous landmarks in Seattle.  The iconic “Public Market Place” sign and clock mark the entrance off of Pike Street, it’s namesake.  A popular tourist destination, the market is also one of the best places for locals to go and find that perfect filet of fish or ‘rare’ italian ingredient. (How truly rare are things in this globalized world?)

Pike Place Public Market is the first place I take any out-of-towners.  With beautiful views of Elliot Bay, handfuls of places to grab unique and delicious street food, and Victor Steinbruek Park to sit and take it all in…it easily wows.

The tour I give is the same market habit I personally have. It begins with traveling by bus to Westlake station with a purse full of reusable grocery bags, a reusable (always stay green in the Emerald city!) water bottle, and an appetite.  We walk down 4th Ave and make a right onto Pike Street.  From there it’s just three blocks to the iconic entrance I mentioned earlier, and foodie overload.


The best way to see and enjoy the market? Walk walk walk! Walk towards the main entrance, but turn right before you cross the street.  Admire all of the fruit and vegetables laid out with such precision.  Take advantage of the vendors offering you a slice of the best Honey Crisp apples in the market; a slice of an “Oh-my-god” peach; a small cup of Market Creamery yogurt; a smidge of Beecher’s Handmade cheese; and a sample of coffee.  Buy and slurp a raw oyster shooter.

Then plan your picnic.  I insist on buying a few pieces of seasonable local fruit.  Get a small hunk of your favorite cheese from Beecher’s (mine are the flagship or fresh curds) or maybe go all in and get a cup of their “World’s Best” Mac n’ Cheese.  Pick out some vegetables if you like them raw.  Buy a savory piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky (my favorite is the smoked salmon pate).  Walk along Pike Place towards Pine Street until you get to Victor Steinbrueck Park.  Grab a bench or sit in the grass, and enjoy your feast while overlooking the beautiful piers jutting out into the sound.  On a sunny day you can see Bainbridge Island across the way and the Olympic Mountains to the North.

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Is it raining?  You should still do the picnic. But if you’re one of those rare people actually made of sugar, you could avoid melting by eating as you peruse the stalls. Grab a piroshky and eat it along the way.  Then a piece of fruit.  Perhaps have a drink at Lowell’s at a window booth in the bar – it’s the best view of the sound from indoors. Don’t worry about overeating, there’s a lot of walking to be done. Follow the whimsical signs to the infamous gum wall (second germiest place in the world, according to Trip Advisor), grab a beer at the Alibi Room to maybe kill some of those germs.


Then take the stairs down down down to the waterfront and walk up and down the piers. Check out the Seattle Great Wheel, and maybe take a ride. I’ll admit I’ve been in the wheel and not the needle, but it was pretty great, especially on a clear day.


Views from the Great Wheel


Head back up the stairs and walk through the market one more time. Pick up any treats that are MUST HAVES and groceries for a special dinner later. Don’t resist buying an amazing $5 bouquet from the flower section. They’re incredible.


Finally, walk down cobblestoned Pike Place and make a right up Pine Street. Stop in at Cupcake Royale and ask for a cone with two scoops:  Stumptown Coffee & Burnt Caramel Sea Salt. If they have some, get a bacon crack sample. Don’t like coffee or caramel? Not to worry (or maybe worry a little because you straight loco) honey sinckerdoodle, fresh strawberry, all the flavors are delicious. Best ice cream in Seattle? Probably not, but it’s way better than any B&J’s, Haagen Dazs nonsense. It’s also the perfect ending to your afternoon (morning? evening?) at the market.

I’m on the very important mission of discovering the best ice cream. I have a long list, including goat milk gelato. This could get rough, so I expect your full support.

IMG_2800The dinner we made with our market finds (00 flour, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese = homemade east coast style ‘za!)

Ciao ciao,



Do the Can Can

I’ve been a bit of a failure at updating ALREADY.  I’m sorry.  My new job has taken over (not really) and exhausted me beyond belief (actually true).  So here are some quick tidbits about my life now.

I have to climb out of a hole to get anywhere.  Truly, our home is at the bottom of four different GIANT hills and I am constantly out-of-breath going anywhere:  the bus stop, the gas station, the local bar, etc!  When I get to the top, though, I can see far out to the Cascade mountains and it really just takes what little breath I have left away. Pictures can never capture it so I’m sorry you’ll just have to visit to see!

I have forgotten how to drink water.  I have no desire to drink any water whatsover which is the WEIRDEST thing, as I could finish about three 32 oz bobbles a day back in Jersey.

I have gone on a run once and it was 1.5 miles downhill and then 1.6 miles back uphill.  I actually gained 200 ft in elevation in less than a mile.  Phew.  I now feel like training for a marathon is possible.  A really, really flat marathon.

I experienced my first Seattle rain, while waiting for the bus with close to fifty pounds of groceries hanging out on my shoulders.

I have supervised and assisted in the making of 1,000 organic local canned goods.  Yes!


EVERY SINGLE BUS DRIVER HAS TOLD ME TO HAVE A REALLY NICE DAY.  People, you are so friendly, it confuses me.  Keep it up.

I have been to Pike’s place twice.

I have made three friends.

And now I must sleep.  I leave for work extra early…6am!

For those looking for stories of adventure…

Hi World.  I’ve been a bit lacking on the adventurous side of my blog.  For that I’m sorry.  Give me dollars to go places and I will wow you on here with stories of them😉.  But in the meantime, while you’re writing that check, check out Fran’s blog.  Fran and I WWOOFed together in Italy, and she is one of my favorite people who just happens to be doing awesome adventurous things and eating lots of good food while doing them.


Fran & Chelle, Italy 2011

Like cycling from the UK to Romania following the Danube, and perhaps onwards.  Follow her blog for tidbits from her travels, pictures of the great food she eats, and general awe of a young woman cycling solo 3000 km.  Maybe a little bike ride commuting to work now and again won’t seem so hard, eh?

Ciao ciao,


Bites of Energy so your afternoon doesn’t bite


I like looking at my stats.  They make me feel very global.  I have views from five, that’s right, FIVE continents.  And I only know people living in three!  What’s up, Asia & Europe, how you doin’?  Thanks for making me feel special.  Africa, OZ, and North America, you make me feel pretty special too, though damn if I don’t know who you are usually.  You never know, I could have a follower in Morocco that isn’t my best friend.

Anyway, I’ve been working on some healthy recipes for post-workout snacks/recovery meals.  It was hard, but I just had to sample them all.  Quality control, you know?  Michael used his rock powers for good and had a little 5k race for charity and asked me to supply some goods.  So I diligently (AKA the night before) worked on getting something together for people to eat after their run.  Now Michael requested these bacon jalapeno muffins I made for us when we hiked the AT.  So I made them, with the adjustment to Juli’s recipe being I used jalapeno instead of chives, because I LIKE THE SPIIIIIICE.  So do other normal people.  Juli also makes a shrimp/jalapeno version for anyone that likes shrimp.  Alas, I do not.

But after running 3.1 miles on a hot humid day – I personally do not want to eat muffins or baked goods.  So I sliced up some fresh watermelon and pineapple.  Refreshing AND thirst quenching.

In addition, I’ve been obsessing over small bites of high-protein, low-sugar food.  I work 6-8 hours twice a week over 400 degree griddles, and when I get five to ten (usually three) minutes of time to grab some “lunch” I want instant food belly gratification.  I want tasty, but I need efficient.  In the past I have relied HEAVILY on Clif bars.  They are delicious but have a lot of sugar.  A chocolate chip peanut crunch Clif bar has A LOT of ingredients listed on the back, not to mention 21g sugar.  Woah.  I’m trying to get through my day, not climb a mountain.  But I like the idea (and many of the natural ingredients) so I made my own version.  Now I’ve looked at a lot of “Clif” bar recipes, but what it basically comes down to is throwing your favorite things in a food processor, processing it until it forms a nice crumbly consistency, yet sticks when you roll it into a ball, and then trying not to eat it right out of the bowl.  Nom.

The two I came up with?  (Also Cynthia as she assists me at 9pm on a weeknight while I crazily make batches of food)…

Chocolate Coffee and Almond Cranilla.  Oh that coffee gives a nice zing when 2pm hits and you haven’t eaten AND you’re exhausted AND have a headache.

Chocolate Coffee Bites 

1 c. dried figs (remove & discard stems)

1/2 c. dates

1/4 c. almond butter

1/4 c. cocoa powder

1/4 c. almonds

1 tbsp. espresso powder

1/4 c. vegan chocolate chips (optional)

1/4 c. ground coffee (optional, for outside)

Process figs and dates until in tiny pieces and forms a ‘ball’ of ‘dough’.  Add almond butter and process until blended consistency.  Go ahead and throw in your cocoa, espresso, chocolate chips, and almonds.  Process until mixed and almond chunks are desired size.   Pick up a handful of the dough and roll into ball.  Repeat with rest of dough.  Roll finished bites in coffee grounds (optional).  Freeze for ten minutes then pack away in an airtight tupperware and store in fridge.

I went ahead and threw in a few tablespoons of hemp seed – you can add whatever seeds/nut butters you prefer, substitute sunbutter or peanut butter instead if you like.

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Almond Cranilla Bites

1 c. dried figs (remove & discard stems)

1/2 c. dates

1/4 c. almond butter

1/2 c. craisins

1/4 c. almonds

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. flax seed meal (optional)

Process figs and dates until in tiny pieces and forms a ‘ball’ of ‘dough’.  Add almond butter and process until blended consistency.  Go ahead and throw in your vanilla, craisins, cinnamon, and almonds.  Process until mixed and almond chunks are desired size.   Pick up a handful of the dough and roll into ball.  Repeat with rest of dough.  Roll finished bites in ground flax seed (optional).  Freeze for ten minutes then pack away in an airtight tupperware and store in fridge.

You can add honey if you want them to be a little sweeter – or more cinnamon/vanilla if you like either a lot.  If the dough does not stick to form in balls, add just a little walnut oil, or nut oil, and process until it starts to form a ball.


So that’s it.  Really simple and there are a million and one other recipes out there for these types of things.  I just had to go ahead and put my two cents in.

Ciao ciao,


Our 5am Hike on the AT

Our thoughts were optimistic for this section of the Appalachian trail.  When I mentioned the hike, many people responded with, “Oh, that is the most beautiful part.  Really, you’ll absolutely love it.  I’m very jealous.”

The last experience left us a little broken:  we overpacked, and underestimated the distances.  We got lost during the very last mile, in a cornfield of all places.  We brought faulty equipment.  But it seems none of that was enough to keep us away.  Itching for more abuse, we packed our bags last minute and took off for a better, more organized hike.  Or so we thought.

A little after 9am Chuck dropped us off at the trailhead in Culver’s Gap, with some on point advice, “If it stops being fun, then you should stop.”  We heard him, agreed, and then tromped merrily along.

The hike started fantastic.  It was cool and a little damp, but none of this affected us as we hiked up up up, climbing to the top of a ridge which we would then follow up and down for around ten miles.  The paths were fairly rocky, our least favorite aspect of hiking in PA, but it didn’t matter as we were making great time and enjoying the endorphins.  Plus, how many people get to take a long weekend to hike!  I felt pretty quickly that this time would be better than last – our packs were so light and my endurance had obviously increased since beginning crossfit.  Spirits were high.

Around 1pm we began a descent off of a ridge where we had eaten a quick lunch.  The trail was soft, leaf-covered, with only a few embedded rocks that were easily avoided.  Down, down, down we went.  Over a swamp and small stream where we refilled our water.  At some point, I began to question the softness and width of the trail.  It seemed too…..easy.  Something was off.  I started looking for white blazes.  Every few minutes I would think I saw one until I got close enough to realize it was just lichen.  Finally I voiced what I was desperately hoping wasn’t true.  We were lost.  We promptly turned around and began hiking back up up up, thinking we had seen a blaze near the stream we crossed over.  Or maybe it was the swamp right before it?  Surely we had seen one near that funky tree formation?  We certainly could not have walked two plus miles out of our way?

We did.  Downhill.  Which meant the hour it took us to chat ourselves lost, was almost doubled on our hike back.  Michael, who was much farther ahead of me on the ‘trail’ and understandable aggravated, raised his arms and shouted a few obscenities.  He eventually disappeared around a curve.  While I was approaching the curve, I heard a man’s voice, much too deep and scratchy to be Michael.  Still, I asked tentatively, “Michael?”  No answer.  I stood quiet.  Again, a man’s voice, this time sounding like it was right behind me.  “Michael?!” I asked, my voice wavering with obvious fear.  Why was this person hiding?  “Michael???” I asked a final time, sounding so incredibly fearful and pathetic, that finally someone decided to put me out of my misery.  “Err, I think he’s a little ahead of you on the trail,” the same male voice said, which directed my vision through the brush.  I finally could make the outlines of a group of four men, who were sitting on a rock sipping from their canteens.  Embarrassed for acting like such a ninny, I quickly thanked them and continued on.  It was not until I was several paces away that I had realized they must have been on the AT trail, just slightly parallel but completely hidden from the trail we were on.  We had finally found it.  Then it started raining.

The soft rain didn’t bother us, but the cloud cover shrouded the ‘beautiful views’ we were promised.  We hiked on, through a forest still dead from the brutal winter.  We were slower and defeated by our mistake – we needed to keep hiking until late evening, if we hoped to make any sort of distance for our first day.  By 5:30 we were exhausted and ready to find a site and eat dinner.  Tent pitched, we ate pad thai while sitting on a rock fifty feet from our camp.  It was too chilly to sit for long and really enjoy a hot meal.

As I was hanging our food and food-tinged clothes from a tree, darkness began to set in, and with that darkness, fog.  A deep gray mist settled on the earth, basking everything in a creepy glow.  Our lack of movement began to make it clear that it was quite cold out.  And very damp.  We layered on the few clothes we had available and got into the sleeping bags, preparing for an early nights rest.  Within ten minutes it was apparent that the cold wet ground was seeping through the tent, and also right through our sleeping bags.  Michael pulled out the emergency heating blanket Cynthia gave me for Christmas, and laid it on the floor of the tent, under our sleeping bags.  Sweet warmth reflected back at us.  From the darkness of our sleeping bags we used my phone’s google map app, and routed ourselves to Delaware Water gap, knowing we could not handle another night of cold.  Especially since thunderstorms and heavy rain were predicted for the next evening.  We had to make it to town the next day.  Our little tent was no match for thunderstorms.  When the map determined it was 18 miles to town, I knew we were fine.  Last time around we hiked 18 miles our second day even with incredibly heavy packs and little experience backpacking.  It would take some effort, but we could definitely do it.

We spent the night huddling together in our small two person tent.  Or more realistically, I spent the night cuddling Michael as he snored softly.  His body heat was enough to help quell my shaking, but not enough to allow for peaceful sleep.  The heating blanket became covered in dew, making it ineffective at keeping me warm.  Plus our water proof pack covers were outside covering our boots, and every time the wind shuffled them, I pictured a bear sniffing out the pad thai.  Eventually I decided that if I were a bear, there would be no way I would be that far from town, where the apple pie shop and huge glorious dumpsters lived.  Fact about bears, they LOVE apple pie.

Michael woke us around 4am – I felt like I had bear-ly slept a wink.  I was resistant to leaving my sleeping bag, especially since it was pitch black out still.  Lucky me, Michael gathered the bear bag and our shoes so I could stay in the tent and pack up the sleeping bags.  We hit the trail not long after waking, our headlights tilted downwards so we could plan each step carefully.  The rocks were back in full force and had the added benefit of being slick with dew.  Once we were moving I warmed up.  We poured some instant coffee into a canteen and hoped that plus what water I had left would get us a good distance.

Late morning, we ran into Matt, a fellow we met at the apple pie shop the morning before.  He briefly complained about Mohegan Sun campground ($40 for a bunk filled with rat feces, $9 for a picnic table), and told us what to expect along the next section of the trail.  When we told him we were headed for town that day, he indicated it would be an easy hike.  I was relieved.  I knew we could hike 18 miles, but having someone who just walked it confirm it, really soothed me.

We continued on, passing Mohegan Sun camp around lunch time, reaching Sunfish pond not long after.  Everyone had raved about this particular feature, and maybe if I had the time (or desire) to swim I would have found it extra-beautiful, but otherwise it was just a pond with a squishy bottom.  Surrounded by rocks.  Which we had to climb over.  Ugh.  Not enjoyable.  We were so tired of the rocks, I had to pull out an emergency pack of honey-lemon cough drops to cheer us up.  At this point, we decided that we were, in fact, no longer having fun.  Thank you, Chuck.  I fear what would have happened had you not left us with that tidbit of advice.  At Del. Water Gap we would call it quits.  Eighteen miles in one day was adventurous enough, we had no need to hike the last 9 miles to our car the next morning, especially since it was still supposed to be cloudy and drizzly.

A few miles from town, we hit a lush down hill path that followed along a beautiful stream – Turtle Beach.  Hey, Turtle Beach, you were way more lovely than Sunfish pond.  Stream>Pond.  Why did no one tell me how beautiful Turtle beach would be?  Why did anyone bother with Sunfish pond?  Yeesh.  Here it is everyone:  Turtle Beach is WAY prettier, cooler (temp), interesting, etc.

Our last mile, which seemed to last forever, involved crossing a huge I-80 bridge from Jersey to Pennsy.  The ambiance of Turtle Beach quickly dissipated as we dodged gravel flicked up by the semi’s passing us at 65 mph.  Pedestrian section or not, I felt far too close to those eighteen wheelers.  Thankfully, humanity prevailed in this situation:  not one person honked their horn at us.

We finally ‘took an exit’ into Delaware Water Gap, and promptly found the ice cream shop.  I ate a bowl of chocolate ice cream with marshmallow sauce the size of my head.  You may not know this, but my head is quite large.  Does chocolate ice cream make me feel better?  Emotionally, yes.  We slept like old men in the soft folds of a hotel bed that night.  Hey, if you walk 18 miles of the Pennsy. AT then you feel you’ve earned the right to sleep in a comfy bed too.

That’s it.  That’s our story.  Hopefully one day we’ll have the chance for a redo, when weather is more permitting.

Obligatory couple photo.

Obligatory awkward face selfie.
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We climbed down a crazy rock face.  Best part of the hike.

So dead for April.  Trees were bare, no green but moss.  Still pretty, just vacant.


Michael got to wear a cool bandana – his father wore it while climbing the White Mountains in NH.DSC01960

A Sugarless, Breadless, Carb-less, yet fruitful 3 Weeks

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have a difficult time balancing my desire for insanely healthy (and borderline bitter-tasting) food and utter indulgence.  I want every meal to be special and enjoyable.  Lately I’ve been trying to find a balance between eating to help my body be its most efficient and yet not being a obsessively picky eater.  With Easter, birthday celebrations, and visits with friends I don’t get to see that often, it has taken a lot of self-control to allow myself indulgence, but to also recognize empty food.  I told a co-worker recently that eating pretzels for a snack is like buying a cheap purse.  It’s not going to last even half as long as something of better quality, so you’re kind of wasting that money.  My body needs food that lasts, that isn’t cheap.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give up sugar and carbohydrates for twenty-one days.  After telling people that I was giving up sugar and carbs, a lot of them responded with ‘I could never do that, I live on bread’.  Or, ‘Why?  Are you trying to lose weight?’  And most generally, ‘Why?’

Why?  Why not?  1. I like science.  2. I like my body.  I like it even more when it’s efficient and not running on caffeine and daydreams of twelve hours of sleep at night.  I’ve started to put a lot of time into Crossfit which requires a lot of energy.  Especially when you go after a full day of work.   3. I’m not trying to lose weight.  I’m trying to become stronger, which actually requires gaining weight while you convert fat to dense muscle.  4. You don’t live on bread, you love bread.  You’ll get over it.  I love bread.  It makes me feel awful, but I still love it.

I utilized the 21 Day Sugar Detox program to aid me in my journey, but once I looked into it, this was all just stuff I already knew, yet refused to heed.  The recipes included are worth it though.  As requested, this is just a brief idea of what I ate over those 21 days.


EGGS.  Eggs.  Eggs.  Hard-boil them.  Scramble them.  Fry them.  Make egg ‘muffins’.  Make quiche without a crust.  Get creative.

FULL-FAT DAIRY.  Plain 4% Greek yogurt with chopped nuts, almond butter, hemp seed, flax meal, chopped green bananas, etc.  4% cottage cheese with cinnamon, sliced almonds, unsweetened coconut flakes and pumpkin puree.

AVOCADO.  Mmmm, my favorite, blended with some spinach, plain unsweetened almond milk, a green banana, and some unsweetened cocoa baking powder.

LEFTOVERS.  Leftovers are the BEST breakfast.  One morning I had leftover salad with chicken breast.


SALAD.  Everything but the kitchen sink.  Every single veggie I had available, on a spinach and arugula base, with toasted walnuts, chopped olives, sometimes avocado, sometimes an egg.  Baked kale provided crunch.

LEFTOVERS.  Meat usually.  A piece of salmon from the night before.  Tuna salad made with hummus instead of mayo.  Sliced chicken breast over greens.  Piles of whatever veggies I had leftover.

FULL-FAT DAIRY.  The same thing I made for breakfast some days, I ate for lunch or dinner others.  Yogurt with nuts and cinnamon.


ALMOND BUTTER.  1 tbsp. for dipping with carrots, celery, fennel.

MIXED NUTS.  No peanuts, but a serving size of almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, etc.

DEVIL’S EYEBALLS.  Like a deviled egg, but you fill the hollow yolk spot with hummus and top it with an olive.

MUFFINS. Made with coconut flour, coconut oil, etc.



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CELERY STICKS.  Filled with hummus, and again topped with olives.


SALAD.  I really like salad.  Same as for lunch, always with some form of protein and fat.  (Salmon and avocado, usually.)

SWEET POTATO.  Three nights a week I’m unable to eat dinner until really late because of crossfit/climbing.  Those nights I usually have a big snack before my workout (generally nuts or yogurt) and then when I get home I pop a sweet potato in the microwave, top it with butter and eat it.  If that’s not enough, I’ll have steamed veggies, olives, a fried egg, etc with it.

MEAT.  A chicken breast with roasted veggies.  Etc.

Basically, you eat a lot of veggies, protein, and good fats.  Avoid anything with added sugar, whether it’s natural or not.  No carbohydrates, so: no bread, no flour, no white potatoes, no fruit (unless it’s a green banana or green apple, and only in moderation).  No booze, no grains.

What did I learn from this experience?

1.  It is possible to go an entire day, an ENTIRE WEEK without eating bread or sugar.  I had already limited my sugar intake to one day a week, so that was a little easier to give up.  But I thought for sure I would be craving bread.  Not the case.

2.  I learned how to be more creative with my meals.  It’s important to not get bored with your food!

3. Preparation is key.  It would be impossible to stick to it without having good foods ALWAYS on hand and preparing foods in bulk for the week ahead.  When all you have to do is open the fridge and find it, you’re much more likely to choose healthy food over empty snacks.

What did I gain from this experience?

1.  I feel great.  SO MUCH ENERGY.  So few naps!

2.  My skin is the clearest it’s been ever.  Granted, I burnt my chin today at work, but otherwise, it’s great.

3.  I know now that when I do eat bread, cheap carbs, grains, sugars, I feel like junk.  So I’m more likely to avoid those foods the majority of the time now.

4.  I have so much more stamina at crossfit and climbing.

Now, I’ll admit, there were some days I didn’t follow my rules exactly.  But I’m never going to be one of those obsessively picky eaters that freak out about sugar.  I had a glass of great red wine at an Italian restaurant for my Dad’s birthday.  I ate black mission fig and prosciutto pizza in DC.  Where, I might add, I also drank margaritas and yuenglings.  I had wine this past weekend when visiting friends.  But when we all went to a diner for breakfast, I chose an omelette and sweet potatoes instead of homefries, and gave up the toast.  I’d rather splurge and drink a glass of wine, or a beer, than eat bread.

Now that it’s over, what do I do?  I think I’ll stick to it as much as possible.  It’s pretty easy most of the time, it just gets hard when there’s a major event or your attending parties, or going away for the weekend.  Sometimes, nothing beats drinking a beer on someone’s back porch while giggling with friends you never get to see.  Even if it does make you tired.


This also taught me that ice cream is always the best dessert, and any other dessert item is really just a vehicle for ice creamy goodness. I ate about 2 gallons of ice cream in the last few weeks trying to recreate the perfect chocolate peanut butter combination that I had at Merrymead farm right after this experiment.   After finally admitting it wasn’t possible, I’m back to no sugar, very very few carbs.  Last night I had rarebit.  YOLO.

Meals to Cure Nostalgia & Postpone Wanderlust

As I am sure is the case with many other travelers out there, I frequently find myself nostalgic for a country, city, or day from past travels.  Running at dusk along rows of nebbiolo grapes on Via Strada Bozzola in Quargnento with a little scruffy dog pushing me along.  Walking switchback roads in Canale, eating fresh figs and persimmons right off the neighbors trees, again with a dog, but this one MUCH larger.  Hiking Valle d’Aosta.  Axe-picking the earth in Ponce with Angelo – forming terraced beds in the dry season heat.  Exploring the cliff walk along the Old Nice Harbor.  Wandering the cafe shops of Berlin in search of the perfect cold cure.

I have been to so many places in the last few years, and I truly miss so many of them that sometimes it hurts a little bit to know that I may never make it back to these places or see the people I lived with.  After all, there are so many things I want to see in this world.  So to take the edge off, I’ve come up with a few meals that I had in many of these places.  Some are as simple as four ingredients.  I usually only cook for two, so that’s what these serving sizes will be.

Strada Bozzola – WWOOFing in Quargnento, Italy

Cure:  Pasta & Pesto with Broccoli

Classic lunch meal after a hard morning’s work.

4 oz. rotini dried pasta

1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets

4 tbsp. pesto



Cook pasta until al dente, in salted water.  During the last minute, drop broccoli florets into the boiling water.  Strain pasta and broccoli, reserving a tbsp. of the starchy water.  Mix this tbsp. with pesto and spoon on top of pasta.  Mix with a fork until pesto has coated pasta, and season to taste.  Serve.


My scruffy little host doggy

Canale, Italy – Walking the hills with Arsenico


Arsenico, overlooking the Roero

Cure:  Spicy Garlic Spaghetti

4 oz. dry spaghetti

1/4 c. olive oil

5 garlic cloves

1 chili pepper, seeded and minced

Parmagiano reggianno or similar table cheese

Cook spaghetti to al dente in salted water.  While the spaghetti is cooking, mash garlic with the bottom of a jar or glass.  Heat garlic, olive oil, and minced chili (peperoncino) in a non-stick skillet, over low heat.  Olive oil and garlic can burn quickly so keep an eye on it.  In only a few minutes, you’ll start to see that the olive oil carries a red tint, from the peperoncino.  It’s ready!  When the spaghetti is done, drain it and toss it with the olive oil, in the skillet.  Grate parmagiano overtop and serve.  You’re going to want bread with this one, to soak up whatever spicy olive oil there is left on your plate.

Gardening and Living on the Finca – Ponce


Plantains & Yam stew after a hard day’s work


Cure:  Plantain and Yam Stew

2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced into medium chunks

3 green or deep yellow plantains, rinsed and sliced into 3/4 ince pieces, peeled

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 c. adobo seasoning

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 avocado, sliced

In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil, just enough to cover the yams and plantains.  When water is at a rolling boil add yams and plantains.  Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes minutes at a simmer until tender (can be pierced easily with a fork).  Drain most of the water, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add onions, adobo seasoning, and broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook until onions are desired softness. Spoon into bowls, mash with a fork, and top with olive oil and sliced avocado.

Angelo dug up all of the yams from the Finca, traded a friend for an avocado, and foraged plantains from the forest to feed us this meal.  It was so filling – a good thing as it had to feed three grown men, including Michael who is a notorious nommer.

Cliff Walk, Nice

Cure:  Socca

I’m going to be a cheat and just link you to a Socca recipe.  It’s simple enough, one part water to one part garbanzo flour, with a titch of olive oil.  I follow the recipe, but I start it on the stove top in an iron skillet, and then finish it under the broiler.  When I was in Nice, Socca paired with a beer was the perfect street food meal – cheap, salty, and filling.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate a lot of fancy food in Nice – but the moment I’m most nostalgic for is the one where I was sitting under gray skies, eating Socca so hot it burnt my fingers with cracked black pepper piled on top.  I had a whole afternoon to do with what I wanted, and no one to report back to.  Total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants solo traveling moment indeed.

Definitely put black pepper on top, some salt, and parmigiano cheese.  Eat it with olives or some arugula or both.  I added tomato jam to mine too, but I’m a tomato fiend and work at a place that is willing to send me home with products to test.  Like jam, made of plump plum tomatoes.  LUCKY!


So that’s it for now.  I have a few more meals to add to cure my nostalgia, so this can be part one in the series.  Part Deux will include:  Marrakesh, Berlin, Puerto Jimenez, and Mondaino.

Ciao Ciao,


Climbing, Crossfit and my Protein Dilemma


Sometimes I forget just how addicted to endorphins I am.  I am the first to admit that I become a total crazy person if I go more than a few days without doing something active.  And each new thing I try, I quickly become obsessed with.  First was running, an activity that I will never give up.  Yes, sometimes I can run 13 miles, and sometimes my mileage is a measly 3, but I will always get back out there.  Next was cycling – Mer got me into adult cycling when we lived in DC.  We started commuting to work along the Capital Crescent trail and taking spin classes at the Y.  She helped me buy my first and current road bicycle (Bumblebee!)  I paid it forward, sort of, and made MDK buy a bicycle this summer.Image

In the last year I’ve gotten really into climbing – indoors at the rock gym and outdoors when it’s warm.  Though I know it takes strength and muscles to run a half-marathon, I’ve never felt as strong as I do now.  Plus, I just love it:  the chalk on my hands; the bouncy floors; the way my wrists tremble while I hold on to a sloper; managing a really difficult route with a lot of crimps; and challenging myself to keep pushing for harder and harder routes.  I like that when I don’t give up, I generally succeed.


In hopes of becoming stronger for climbing, I’ve started doing hot yoga, inspired by my brother.  Yoga is something I’ve done on and off since college, but hot yoga is something I think I’ll stick with, and not just because it has helped me with balance when I’m climbing, but also because it centers me.  But the balance thing IS pretty awesome:  I now find it easier to turn awkward and unbalanced reaches into mid-air yoga.  Yoga definitely makes me a better climber.  And since I want to keep that train chugging along, I decided to give crossfit a try, because the stronger I am, the better a climber I can be.  Plus if I ever truly want to climb El Capitan, which has become sort of a secret dream of mine, I need to be much stronger.

So I started Crossfit five days ago.  It is HARD.  But it is so rewarding.  My first class, I thought I’d fall over from wall ball squats and air squats.  Then I looked to my right and the girl next to me was clearly exhausted but still killing it, which encouraged me to keep going.  I could hardly walk Sunday, but there I was again, Monday night ready for more.  I was frustrated we were doing more squats, and burpees had my arms aching before I even got home that night.  I hated the bar choking me during front squats.  But I already felt stronger climbing on Tuesday.  My legs were bricks when I went for a run Wednesday, but worked out all the soreness, and by this morning, my legs felt fine.

Tonight I went to class, even though I was so tired.  There is just something so enticing about a varied workout.  I love that we start with jump rope because I rule at jump rope.  And we learn how to stretch our hips and our instructor goes, “See, look at her, this is what you want to strive for, perfect hips,” because I can put my shin flat against the wall whilst flattening my butt and lower back along it (THANKS YOGA!).  The guy next to me is wincing, laughing “Trying to show me up, huh!”  But really, all of the ladies kill it.  Then we do pushups and I can’t even do one!  And the same guy shows me how to correct my form and modify so that I can at least start building up to a regular one.  I even suck at the modified one.  And then for 8 minutes we do 8 burpees, 8 air squats, and 8 kettle bell swings.  Some people go through them fast, with perfect form.  I struggle, just trying to finish the burpees each time without throwing up.

I’m getting carried away.  I love Crossfit.  I love how hard it is.  I love that I excel at certain things, but can barely do others.  I love that I was exhausted going in there tonight, but energetic leaving at 10 pm on a Thursday.  I love that I have already made friends.

The problem I’m having is my diet.  I am currently 70% vegetarian.  I eat meat, but only the happy, free-run free-range, no hormone no antibiotic types, which are expensive.  Plus, I don’t think it’s healthy to eat meat every single day.  I know myself, and it just doesn’t work for my body.  I try to eat a lot of protein, but it isn’t as easy when you’re not consuming meat.  This is an issue.  Crossfit makes me incredibly sore, and the way to battle sore muscles is hydration, protein, and potassium.  My solution?  Find a way to get way more protein into my diet without compromising my commitment to free-range ‘happy’ meats.  For starters?  A lean green banana machine smoothie, after evening workouts.  Soy milk, almond milk, non-fat plain greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, spinach, and peanut butter, all blended up, provides me with about 13 grams of protein and 40 mg of potassium (nanas and spinach).  Unfortunately, it’s also got a lot of sugar, but I’m working these things out as I go along!

I’ve also flirted with protein pancakes this week.  I resisted at first, because I actually really dislike pancakes.  I could probably give you a two-thousand word essay on why I find pancakes so awful, but it is truly not important.  With a lot of crepe mix experience under my belt, I pulled some things from the refrigerator that I’ve seen in recipes for ‘healthy pancakes’ and set to work blending them up.  Oats, red quinoa, cottage cheese, yogurt, egg whites, and the tiniest bit of whole wheat flour.  And you know what?  These are pretty delicious.  Nothing like traditional pancakes, these are dense, moist, and chewy.  They are really filling and have something like 20g of protein!  Which is the other thing about crossfit – it makes me HUNGRY, and I’m already a pretty hungry gal.  So the protein aspect is really important.

Smoothies I think everyone gets the gist of, but I’ll put my ‘recipe’ for the pancakes below.  Try them.  Yes they are a bit weird if you are not the type of person to use applesauce instead of oil in a cookie recipe.  Yes, I think you can get over it.  I’m excited for MDK to try them because he has the lock-down on scrambled eggs/omelets.  Hopefully I can corner the market on protein pancakes.

1/2 c. cooked red quinoa (or white, the red is just what we normally have)

1/3 c. oats, old fashioned (dry)

3 tbsp. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. cottage cheese, low-fat

1/4 c. plain greek yogurt, non-fat

3 egg whites

Cooking oil

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until mixture reaches a ‘batter’ consistency.  It’s ok, and for me preferable, if some of the quinoa and oats are still whole.  Heat a non-stick skillet and lightly grease with cooking oil (spray, or butter, whichever).  Pour batter onto hot skillet in small circles, like you would with regular pancake batter.  The batter can be a bit thick so make sure it spreads and is less than a cm thick.  These take longer to cook than regular pancakes, but the same principles apply for flipping.  When the edges start to brown, flip them.  When both sides are done, serve!  I actually made a whole batch one night, then let them cool and packed them in an air tight container so I could reheat them for breakfast for a few days.


Protein pancake with tomato jam. Delicious.

The Batter


Smeared with peanut butter, and topped with chopped apples, cinnamon and honey, these were WAY filling.

I like them with peanut butter, chopped fruit, honey, cottage cheese, yogurt, jam, etc.  Next time I’ll try them with a savory twist – turmeric, garlic, onion in the batter and perhaps just a drizzle of olive oil for serving.  The first attemptNice and brownImage

Anyway, my apologies to anyone hoping for another Costa Rica post.  I’m just too pumped on Crossfit.  Next time I promise a bit more eloquence🙂.



Sirena Station to Carate – Our 4am Hike Out of Corcovado

A warm breeze is floating through the trees.  It carries the buzzing tymbal of cicadas and deep gutteral hoots of howler monkeys.  “Shush shush” is the only sound we contribute to this orchestra, our boots sinking in the sand with each step, crushing palm and leaf decay.  This primitive forest is enrobed in blackness in the early morning:  the new moon provides little light and the stars are impossible to glimpse through the treetops.

The light from our headlamps bounces along the strangler trees, giving each drooping branch the appearance of boa constrictors, lying in wait.  William stops abruptly, turns around, whispers, “We are to move very quickly underneath this tree:  it is dangerous.”  “Okay,” I reply.  I do not voice my inner alarm which is screaming dangerous, why?  I move hastily underneath the tree, my heart beating in my throat, sure this is the moment that boa constrictor is waiting for.

I clear the tree.  “What did he say?”  Michael asks, after clearing the tree himself.  “He said we need to move fast underneath that tree, it’s dangerous.” I tell him.  William, listening to our exchange, laughs, “Little help to tell him now!  He’s already passed it.  But that tree could have fallen on him.”  We each break into giggles – I’m not quite sure what Michael or William are giggling about, but I know my giggles are of the hysterical variety.  Not a lurking boa constrictor!  Just an unstable tree!  Who would have thought!



We are ‘shush shush’ing along, moving quickly down the trail when William stops again.  “Turn off your lights,” he tells us.  I click through the different settings on my headlamp until it finally clicks off – it is very dark now.  “Listen to the forest at night.”

We stand, silent, straining.  I am actively listening.  I am searching for the hiss of the snake, the careful footsteps of the puma.  I only hear the cicadas, the howlers, the soft rumble of low tide.  I see nothing.  I am sure there are darker places in the world, but at this moment, I cannot envisage them.  This is the darkest I have ever experienced.  I am not sure how much time has passed since I have seen the light.  William clicks his flashlight on, thirty feet from where I saw him last, “Let’s go.”

Shush shush, shush shush, it seems like we are not making much noise, but to any living creature within a square mile, I am sure we sound like a horde of tapirs.  All at once, our lights stop dancing along the trees and illuminate a sandy beach, instead.  The lagoon.  The same place where we saw a crocodile two days earlier.  I flip through the wildlife files in my brain, stopping on crocodile:  sharp teeth, big, fast, scaly, carnivorous, definitely nocturnal.  William flashes his light over the lagoon.  He points with his laser, “Crocodile eyes – see?”

Michael and I reply, real casual, “Oh.  Yeah.”  We start to walk along the water.  My inner alarm sounds again, louder this time:   Are we really walking toward it?  Why are we walking toward it!  Where did it go?  WHERE DID IT GO!  I’m turning my head every which way, flashing my light erratically along the beach and shoreline, convinced every piece of driftwood, and there are many, is a croc thirsting for my blood.  Out of nowhere, a swarm of gnats surround us, similarly thirsty.  They are everywhere.  My light flashes on my arms, it has become the gruesome site of a gnat massacre.  I’m breathing them; at least three have died in my nostrils.  “Turn off your light!”  Michael advises.  Crocs forgotten, I switch my light off.

And then absolutely nothing matters.  Not bloodthirsty crocs, not gnats, not even boa constrictors, because we are out from under the tree cover and the sky is absolutely drunk with stars.  All I can think is how I finally understand….”The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet,” and how my feet must be wearing space shoes.  I am astonished.  I am flying.  These incandescent bodies are twinkling wildly, like they are communicating with whomever is willing to witness it.    I imagine what they are saying.  I try to come up with something totally transcendent, but the only thing that comes mind is, “Stop worrying about snakes and crocodiles!”  I wonder if they say something different to everyone.  I wonder what they are saying to Michael.  I am very small, and acknowledging this makes me feel very big.

I wish I could remove my pack and lie down in the sand and submit to these celestial beings.  We could hold hands and listen to what the stars have to say until dawn arrives.  When will we have this chance again?

Instead, we remove our boots and socks, roll up our pant legs, and ford the river where lagoon quickly becomes the sea.  Without removing my pack, I balance on one leg while I dry my foot on my pant leg.  I pull my sock on, followed by my boot, and repeat the process with my other foot.  We shush shush on.

This part of the trail is all squishy sand.  I start to hear the clicking of hermit crabs searching for food.  The sky begins to lighten; first a titch of lavender on the horizon, then peach, followed by orange.  William spots a tapir bathing in the surf, a quarter of a mile ahead of us.  He advises Michael to run ahead to get some pictures.  Michael runs off, chugging along in his thick boots.  We continue to walk and watch as he approaches the tapir, snapping pictures, closer, closer, until the tapir finally walks into the woods, interested in losing Michael.  When we reach him, William tells me to follow him, in hopes of finding the Tapir in the forest.  It’s too late, he’s definitely gone.  We continue along the beach.



I have no idea how long we have been walking.  I hear a resounding thud.  William walks up to the tree line and picks up a coconut.  He quickly chops the top off and hands it to me.  “Drink.”  He doesn’t have to tell me twice.  I am quite thirsty.  I slurp up the cool coconut water, and hand the remainder to Michael.  He slurps.  We continue.


The lightening pale blue sky and chattering of several scarlet Macaws snacking in the almond trees above us, confirm that the day has officially started.  We approach a grove of almond trees with several scarlet Macaws, and as I point and gasp in awe, one takes flight swooping out towards us and then back to the same bough, as if he were greeting us, “Hello!  Good Morning! Welcome!”.  I am giddy with delight.  William says, “That was just for you.”


We sit under some almond trees not much further down, and watch as the leftover lime green almond shells fall to the ground, discarded after a quick snap of the beak.  William finds two more coconuts and chops off the tops with his machete.  Again he hands them over and Michael and I drink.  We offer one to William, but he declines, “No, I like the really green coconuts, they taste so sweet and fresh.  These coconuts still taste good to you, but I’ve had the best.”  I respect this immensely.  I feel this way about most food.



After our short coconut break, we continue along the beach.  William promises “lunch” in about an hour, which would make it about 8am.  We hike back into the woods, admiring all of the things we can now recognize.  “Lunch” comes quickly.  We set up on some rocks and dig into leftover vegan chili with tortilla.

It quickly becomes apparent that a four hour hike plus coffee plus chili equals bathroom time.  William recommends I head back up the trail.  I follow his advice, and find the ‘cleanest’ place I can, and get down to business.  I am calmly squatting amongst young coconut palms when I hear a rustle.  I think, Oh shit!  What was that!? as I look up directly into dark brown eyes staring at me from ten feet away.  Is that a wild pig?  It’s clear this little guy is thinking, Oh shit, what IS that!?  More rustling, and I break eye contact to look up and  see at least fifteen more wild pigs, including two tiny little baby piglets.  All of them are shuffling through the leaves, searching for meaty grubs and Halloween crabs.  My staring contest buddy has moved along.  I finish what I’m doing and head quickly back to Michael and William to tell them about my find.  We run back up the trail to find them, and follow them through the forest a bit.  We watch one gnaw on some wild fungi.  We turn back.  William has promised us bats and we are also on a time limit.



We follow him over giant boulder rocks, and repeat his footwork to avoid injuries.  Inside the cave we hear the quiet hum of hundreds of tiny sleeping bats.  William points out a mama sleeping wrapped up with its baby.  I am amazed.  I am also remembering Ace Ventura, and how bats fly into your hair.  A few are whizzing around our heads.  I duck lower.  Michael is able to get a few snapshots without his flash.  We exit the cave.





It isn’t even 8:30am and I already cannot believe the day I have had.  Michael and I share this look, this, Can you even believe this? type glance, and then voice our disbelief.  Continuing along the beach we cut a lot of time off of our original hike.  We get some water pumped into our bottles, and Michael leaves for his bathroom time.  I’ve been pouring sweat – I feel dehydrated.  William offers me a peanut butter cracker sandwich, and I eat it, savoring the salt.  I’ve chugged half of my bottle of water by the time Michael returns.  We start down a hill and I see the flirty tail of a Coati.  Their tails stick almost straight up as they walk, making it much easier to spot them.  It’s alone, which means it is a male.  This is the first male we’ve seen – every other time it has been a large group of females.

Female Coati from first day

DSC01679 DSC01688

About an hour from the La Leona station, William starts to point out areas where the brush is cleared away.  He tells us a puma has been here, this is its piss.  Shortly after, he finds a dead gray necked wood rail, a bird I’ve only seen walking, never flying.  All that is left is the skeleton.  “This is from the puma,” he tells us, “Probably sometime yesterday.”


We stop for a short swim at the river we first crossed on our way to Sirena Station.  The cool water is so refreshing – it is hot and all we’ve been doing is sweating.  I try to repeat the balancing foot boot act, but I have a blister on my toe, and William, noticing my plight, plops a large rock down right behind me for me to sit on.  Michael changes and then we begin the last leg of our hike.  We reach La Leona station not long after, passing a few fellow hikers along the way.


After La Leona, all that’s left is a 3k hike along the beach back to Carate, where we are parked.  It is now 10:40.  Though it doesn’t seem possible, it has gotten hotter.  We trudge along.  I am starting to get grumpy when we come upon a giant empty turtle shell.


Finally, we reach Carate.  Our Corcovado adventure is over.  We still have two and a half hours of driving on the worst roads we’ve ever been on.  But before we start that next journey, we stop at William’s Uncle’s restaurant, just 30 minutes from Carate, and order comida tipico and an ice cold Coca Cola.  Michael orders coffee.  We feast on rice, beans, pickled carrots, cabbage, fresh cheese, and plantains.  Food has never tasted so good.



Thanks, Michael, for a lot, but mostly for taking most of these pictures.  Except this one…I took this one😉.


**A quick note.  This is about our trip from Puerto Jimenez, to Carate by car, to La Leona by foot, to Sirena by foot, AND BACK.  Corcovado National Park is relatively secluded, and Osa Peninsula as a whole is pretty isolated.  We hired a guide to hike with us to Sirena station and back.  William was an amazing guide – he grew up within the hills outside of Puerto Jimenez, and knows SO MUCH about Corcovado.  What he didn’t have an answer for, he found out.  If you are interested in a similar trip, please contact me.  I am happy to put anyone in touch with William, or give any advice.  I also found this post on another blogger’s site.  Check it out, the information is great.  Hiking into Corcovado.