the circle | the vacationers | the fever | tiny beautiful things

up until a few years ago, i was one of those semi snooty people who deemed kindles irrelevant and unnecessary. i’d see people reading them on the beach, or toting them around on the train, and i’d feel like a bit of a literary savant as i lifted my giant 500-page hardcover library book out of my bag.

now, i look back at that girl, and i think, GIRL, WERE YOU SMOKING CRACK i scold myself for being a snot, and for thinking i was above an e-reader, because let me tell you, e-readers are the SHIT. there is something incredibly magical about being able to carry around HUNDREDS of books in the palm of your hand. i mean really, that’s some harry potter style stuff right there, is it not?

do i miss the scent of real books? of course. my kindle smells nothing like a library book (i’ve sniffed it). but the whole i don’t have to carry a heavy hardcover version of the goldfinch around each day thing? it’s kind of wonderful. as a girl who participates in not one but two book clubs, i’m constantly reading – i go through a  book or two a week, depending on length – so i love that my kindle allows me to tote my reads wherever i go, whether it’s sitting on a bench on west broadway while the sun sets or crammed into some guy’s smelly armpit on the 1 train.

as a somewhat unpopular child, i spent many an hour reading by myself in my room (it’s what all the cool kids do, trust), but these days, i’m lucky if i get an hour in bed before lights out to catch up on whatever i’m currently obsessed with. part of the reason i love beach vacations so much is because they’re the perfect excuse to do what my mother calls “gorking out” – aka, sitting on your butt while drinking a cocktail and reading ’til the cows come home. while in nicaragua last december, i made it through three whole novels that had been on my list for far too long. this summer, i’ve already made a hefty dent in my list, and i’ve happily got a beach getaway planned for every single weekend of august. you know what that means: kindle here i come!

above are four of my favorites from what i’ve read over the past 6 months. each book is different, but all have one thing in common: you won’t be able to put them down.

the circle is dave eggers latest, and it caused a whole lot of conflict in my book club. some of us loved it, others hated it, but all of us agreed on one thing: it hit just a little too close to home, especially for those of us who check our instagram feed more often than we’d like to admit. it’s the story of a girl who gets swallowed by social media. say no more.

the vacationers is the perfect beach read. it’s not too lofty, not too fancy, not even too literary – but it’s well-written, funny, and interesting; the story of a somewhat broken family who takes a two week trip to mallorca (you know, as families do when the shit’s hitting the fan). i loved it.

the fever is my latest book; i just finished it the other day. i read megan abbott’s dare me – a darker look at the world of high school cheerleading – a few years ago (WHEN is someone going to pounce on that ish and make it a movie? the PLL crowd would be all up in that grill) and loved it, and was psyched to see that she was the one who’d be taking on the challenge of fictionalizing the tale of the girls of le roy.

tiny beautiful things deserves a special spot on this list, because it’s not just one of my favorite recent reads. it’s one of my favorite things i’ve read, well, ever. cheryl strayed is an emotional genius, an advice giving machine, the sort of woman that every woman should strive to be. i’m kind of obsessed with her, if you can’t tell. this collection of columns, curated from her time spent as advice columnist “sugar” at the rumpus will make you laugh, cry, scream, and smile – maybe all at once.

and, just for fun, a few of my favorite books from last summer:

the love affairs of nathaniel p

where’d you go, bernadette?

gone girl (DUH)

the yonahlossee riding camp for girls

the fault in our stars (double duh)

beautiful ruins

wild (triple duh)

tell the wolves i’m home

the interestings

the paris wife

i could go on and on…

Lou Mora

{photo: lou mora}

the last time i took a vacation, a real vacation, was after i graduated college in 2008. i met my friend alex in barcelona, proceeded to have my first-ever panic attack (classy, sarah) (too many changes at once, i guess), and ended up only spending 3 days abroad before packing up and heading back home to regroup. since then, i’ve taken little trips, here and there – to florida for thanksgiving, home in the summers to see my family and eat too much herrell’s ice cream, to boston or san francisco. but a real, longer than a week vacation…that, i haven’t done in years.

this occurred to me yesterday as i was sitting at work, counting down the minutes until i leave for a long weekend in rhode island, feeling utterly burnt out and like the crevices of my mind were the edges of fraying sweater. for the past year, i’ve been regularly waking up at 6:30am to get to bar method by 7:15. i’ve been leaving work, for the most part, between 6:30 and 7, which means that, if i have no plans, i get home around 730. then i have to unpack my bag, repack for the next day, pick out my outfit, feed penny, make dinner…and by the time i’m sitting on my couch with a bowl of stir fry in hand, it’s somehow 9pm. and so while it’s by choice that i wake up bright and early, and work hard enough to be at the office late, lately, it’s been feeling like a lot. add onto that the fact that i freelance on the side, and that i’ve been promising myself that i’ll keep up this here blog, and that i mentor and i volunteer and i’ve been trying to exercise more and it just feels like life is so.damn.busy. and that’s not even including my somewhat meager social life!

people talk a lot about finding balance. about striking that perfect equilibrium between work and life and all the things in between. and you know what? it’s HARD. i do all the things i do because i like to do them – but when i write it all out, i do a lot. too much, maybe. i go to bar method 5, maybe 6 days a week. now i’m attempting to add 1-2 soul cycle rides to that schedule. i work approximately 9-7 each day, then i go home and do more (freelance) work. through my work with big brothers big sisters, i’m supposed to see my mentee every other weekend (this never happens). i try to volunteer every so often as a “floater” with kitty kind. i’m a part of not one, but two, book clubs.


and i love all these things. i’m obsessed with cats, i love to read, volunteering makes my heart feel bigger, my freelance work inspires me to push harder at my day job, and my blog keeps me sane.

but with all that, sometimes it feels like there’s very little room for me. not just room in terms of hours in the day, but in terms of space inside my brain, inside my heart. space for me to sit on my bed and read the elle that’s somehow been sitting on my dresser for 2 months now. space to eat gummy bears on the couch and watch a marathon of orange is the new black (which, let’s be real, is all i want to do right now). space to spend an evening browsing h&m, or pinning dream homes to pinterest.

my mother called last night on her way home from work. she was in the car, driving home from her office, at 9pm. and when the phone rang, i thought two things:

1) i’m watching pretty little liars and i’d like to screen this phone call

2) it’s 9pm and she’s just leaving work. what has the world come to?

my international friends always joke to me about how hard americans work. how we’re obsessed with being busy. how we don’t know how to relax.

and it’s true, isn’t it? it’s why i keep saying yes to book clubs, to volunteer gigs, to weekend trips and dinner dates and drinks – when all i really want to do is sit outside in the woods somewhere and read a book with a nice glass of white wine and my cat curled up at my feet.

i love this city, but sometimes i long for something simpler. i long for the kind of life where it’s not just accepted, but encouraged, to leave at 5pm each day. to go home and truly unplug, to revel in the making of homemade tomato sauce, bright red fruits bubbling up from the pan.

but then when i have that kind of life, even just a taste of it, i long for new york. for the fast pace, the crazy frenetic energy that makes me feel alive.

i guess what i need is balance. there it is again, that elusive beast.

in the spirit of the end of summer and hopefully soon, the beginning of my favorite season of all, i am going to try and find my balance – by doing the things that make me happy, by learning to say “no” sometimes, by not beating myself up for wanting to stay in and be alone with my thoughts on a saturday night. i need to learn to just be, and to be okay with that being.

i started finding my balance last night with a very simple step. at 5:15, i left the office. and i didn’t allow myself to feel guilty, to scold myself for leaving when others were still there. i just left. and i got on the subway down to chambers street, and stepped out onto the streets of tribeca and took a deep breath. and then i clicked into my bike at soul cycle, and for 45 minutes, i closed my eyes and rode along to the music, and i let my fears, and my worries, and my bad day dissipate into the steamy air around me. and when i was done, i took my sweaty self to whole foods, where i stocked up on good for the soul foods like tofu and fresh strawberries, shrimp and mixed greens. and then i hopped in a cab up the FDR and i stuck my head out the window and admired the view.

when i got home, i cooked myself a nice dinner. and i cuddled up on my couch with penny and watched pretty little liars and i didn’t turn on my phone, or my computer, once. i just let myself be.

and you know what? i slept better last night than i have in ages.

balance…i’m comin’ for you.

Imagegrowing up, i was always a chocolate person. i have this vivid memory of baking brownies one day and offering one to my next door neighbor scott, only to have him tell me he didn’t like chocolate, he liked vanilla. i’m pretty sure i almost dropped the brownie, i was so shocked. i mean, what kind of person doesn’t like chocolate? was scott an alien? was he trying to pull a fast one on me?

turns out, the kid just didn’t like chocolate. last summer, when he got married, there was no chocolate in the cake. he’s all vanilla, all the time. we’re no longer five years old and playing hopscotch on our driveway, and as i’ve aged, i’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of vanilla. vanilla extract is my secret baking weapon. i always add extra to everything i bake, and the results are pretty much always spectacular. i derive great pleasure from gutting vanilla beans and scooping out their fragrant insides. and yes, i even eat (and make) vanilla ice cream. which is what prompted this ice cream escapade, which utilizes recipes from david lebovitz’s the perfect scoop

the man is practically an ice cream god, so rest assured, this recipe is quite good. i’d never made cookie dough ice cream before, and so initially, i searched for a cookie dough ice cream recipe. turns out, there’s no real recipe for that. what you’re supposed to do instead is make your favorite vanilla ice cream, and then add special cookie dough (sans eggs) into it at the very end. well, color me educated in the ways of the ice cream elite.

i took both the vanilla bean ice cream and the cookie dough recipe from the perfect scoop, though i found an abundance of recipes on google that are probably just as good. the result is ice cream that’s so creamy you swear it’s melting the second you put the spoon to your mouth, and cookie dough that tastes pretty damn close to the real thing (hard to achieve without any eggs, let me tell you).

so, shall we? note: you’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe. i have this one from cuisinart. it was dirt cheap, and works like a charm.

The Recipe: Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup white sugar

2 cups heavy cream

pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

6 large egg yolks

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

to make, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. you don’t want it to boil, per se, so keep the burner somewhat low. scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk, and add the bean in there as well. when the milk is warm, cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

go give yourself an at home mani, or watch 1/2 of the latest episode of nashville while you wait. done?

good. now, pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top of it. in a medium bowl (i do this part in my stand mixer), whisk together the egg yolks. slowly pour the warmed vanilla milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly (this is where the stand mixer comes in handy; you can just set it on low), then scrape the warmed egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan. take care not to dump all your warmed  milk into the eggs at once, the last thing you want is for them to cook.

stir the egg/milk mixture over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. in my experience, this takes anywhere from 3-7 minutes. wondering if the mixture is ready? run your finger down the middle of the spatula. if the mixture parts like the dead sea and doesn’t run, it’s ready. not running? congratulations, you’ve just made custard!

pour your custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. put the vanilla bean into the mixture, add the vanilla extract, and put your bowl over an ice bath, stirring until cool.

chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge. usually, this takes about an hour or two. that’s enough time for two episodes of chicago fire or one episode of the voice’s blind auditions. there’s really no bad option – you either get hot firefighters or two hours of blake shelton wearing the hell out of a really great vest.

when the mixture is cold and ready to churn, pour it into your ice cream mixture and freeze according to your machine’s instructions. when the ice cream is almost done, add your cookie dough…

…which you can make by following the instructions below.

The Recipe: Egg-free Cookie Dough

5 tbsp salted butter, melted (if you only have unsalted butter, just throw some salt in it)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 semisweet chocolate chips (in retrospect, i wish i’d used mini chocolate chips)

to make, stir butter and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl until smooth. stir in the flour, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. form the dough into a 1/2″ thick disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. once chilled, unwrap the dough, and chop it into bite size pieces.

and there you have it, folks. now, go forth and make ice cream.

Loeffler Randall Starlalast summer, i fell in love…with a shoe. i’m a metallic addict with a hankering for anything celestial, so it’s no surprise that i fell hard for loeffler randall’s starla sandal. of course, by the time i saved my pennies to make the splurge ($175 for a sandal is a bit pricey for me), they were sold out. EVERYWHERE. Loeffler Randall Starla

but now. now loeffler randall is making them for a second season, and i don’t intend to let them get away again. i know, $175 is a lot. a LOT. for a shoe. that doesn’t even have much leather on it. but here’s the thing: i’ve had many a case of “why didn’t i buy that?” remorse, but rarely do i purchase something and wish i hadn’t. so this season, i’m taking no, and ordering these babies as soon as i get paid. summer here i COME.


a few days ago, in a fit of stress at work, i turned on some james taylor. ain’t no problem that man’s voice can’t solve, i tell you – he’s like a lubricant for the soul. was that gross? it was, wasn’t it? but you know what i mean, don’t you? mr. taylor is the master of his craft, and he’s got a voice like warm honey. his music tends to have a placebo effect on me; i turn it on and instantly, it’s like i popped some sort of magical calming pill, and everything stressing me out seems to melt away. at least, that’s what happens most of the time.

on this particular day, my itunes chose a song that dug up a deep memory for me: the beautiful love song, “something in the way she moves.” if you haven’t ever heard that song, a) have you been living under a rock and b) you can listen to it here. mind if i take you back in time a bit?

it’s the early august in the mid nineties. i’m spending my summer, as i’ve done for the last few years, at a picturesque, idyllic jewish camp about two hours north of portland. off a practically deserted state road, and down a long dirt drive, the sun sparkles off a perfectly blue lake (though it’s sandy and brown at the bottom, and i know that because i’ve reached the highest level of swimming ability and have been allowed to go in the deep end). the grass grows greener than anywhere i’ve ever seen, and across hundreds of acres, leagues of sunburnt children hit home runs on the softball field, and use their small, nimble fingers to mold mugs and bowls in the ceramics studio. the air smells of bug juice, sunscreen and the wood chips which cover the pathways outside our brown and white wooden bunks.

every morning at 7:30, a bell tongs, and we roll ourselves out of bed, all messy hair and oversized tshirts and flannel pants that drag in the misty grass, watching the sun rise higher above the lake, gathered around the flagpole for morning calisthenics and announcements. for eight weeks, we assemble sock people in arts and crafts (arts and farts, we call it). we eat overcooked kosher chicken in the dining hall, banging on tables covered in scratched red and white plaid fabric, cheering for our friends, our bunkmates, for girls and boys, splashing our plastic water glasses across the table, and begging for our counselors to get us a bunk night in the kitchen, where we can use oversized economy mixers to make cookie dough and throw flour at one another way past our bedtime. we gather on the field to watch movies on an oversized screen, we attend shabbat services every saturday morning, sitting indian style or rocking in our crazy creek chairs as we sing the prayers we’ve been singing since our first day at synagogue.

and every friday night, we gather for friday night singing. we pass around tattered songbooks, held together with inexpensive plastic binding, and we put our arms around each others shoulders and sing “the gambler” at the top of lungs, knowing nothing of kenny rogers, but knowing that if nothing else, you’ve gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to turn around, know when to run. our eyes shine bright as we belt out the james taylor tunes we know by heart, our tiny legs twist and turn as we act out jodi mitchell’s circle game. in these moments, we forget that we are awkward. we forget that we haven’t hit puberty yet, or we’ve hit puberty too soon. we forget our crushes and our cliques, and the fact that we heard bats flying around our bunk just two nights back. we forget that we’re terrified to go back to our big cities and our small towns, where life closes in on us. all we know is that we’re here in this moment, and we’re singing together, and we bang our fists and shake our shoulders and tap our feet, and we care not that we’re out of tune. because in these moments, there’s just the open road, and ice cream for dessert, and a sky that’s infinite and sprinkled with stars.

in late august, we’ll go our separate ways, and we’ll pack our army-sized duffel bags with tattered tees and socks that undoubtedly aren’t ours. and we’ll hug and cry and promise to return next summer, and swear that we’ll be friends forever. and some of us are. some of us aren’t. what do we take with us? each camper gets a songbook, all earmarked pages and tattered tears, and we pass them around like yearbooks, signing away our memories and our lives, telling our best friends that it’s surely forever and that no one could ever take their place.

what does this have to do with james taylor? one year, a boy in our brother bunk signed mine – and he signed it on mr. taylor’s ‘something in the way she moves.’ “it explains itself,” he wrote. short, and simple. and though i’d sung those lyrics many a time, sung my heart out, in fact, i had no idea what the message meant. if only i’d known, right? it’s quite possibly the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done for me. imagine that. a nine year old boy gave me the most romantic moment of my life, at a time when i couldn’t even interpret it, couldn’t see the sweetness in its simplicity, hadn’t a clue what it meant. i recall crowding over the page with my friends, our ponytails dripping onto the page as we studied it, trying to discern its meaning. did i move funny? did i look funny? did he just love james taylor?

small moments, small memories. but good ones. james taylor, i salute you, for writing a beautiful song that resonates with me still today. and to the man who left the message, i’ve never forgotten it. and i don’t think i ever will.


foodie confession: i hate seafood with a pretty intense passion. i make a small exception for shrimp (but i am very picky about the size and texture of a given shrimp) and in the past few years, for salmon, but other than that, i don’t go under the sea, ever. no lobster. no clams. oysters? gross. i’ll take my dinner without slurping down a slimy shell-filler, thank you very much. i have no interest in figuring out flounder, or appreciating escargot. it’s just not my thing. i hate the smell of fish; i gag when i walk down the street in chinatown. but in an effort to be more adventurous (remember my strawberry disaster in paris?), i’ve recently introduced salmon into my eating arsenal. i like it extremely well done (again, i don’t like slimy foods), and pretty much smothered in flavor so i can’t taste the fishiness.


“Color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!”

lucky for me, this recipe checks all of those boxes. by wrapping the salmon in parchment paper, you ensure that, while it doesn’t dry out, it cooks out all the slime. plus, it seals in the flavor. by topping it with the orgasmic combination that is sesame oil, soy sauce and grated ginger, you ensure that all the fishiness goes out the window, and by laying it on a bed of mushrooms, you get, well…shrooms. but who doesn’t love shrooms? especially when they’ve cooked down and are also smothered in sesame soy? color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!

this dinner was super easy to make, and it comes courtesy of miss martha stewart (duh). the queen has cometh down from her throne to share with us a salmon dish that makes even fish-haters salivate in excitement. martha’s recipe uses pea shoots and shiitake mushrooms, but i’m a cheapskate and had neither on hand, so i swapped arugula in place of the pea shoots and regular brown button and sliced portobello mushrooms in place of the shiitakes. i also may have added extra soy sauce and oil, but that’s because, as i said, i like my salmon positively drenched in flavor.

note: i generally cook for one or two – one serving for dinner, one for leftovers. someday, i hope i have a boyfriend or a husband and a cat and a family and a big kitchen with a giant island. then i can use the actual measurements and cook for a family of four. but right now, it’s just me and penny, and penny doesn’t like salmon (a gal after my own non-seafood heart, that feline is!). i also, as i said, like extra sauce – so my measurements are different than martha’s. but this is the sort of recipe where you can totally improvise, so just keep adding till your sauce tastes good. got too much sauce? girl, that’s what tupperware is for!

The Recipe

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (my fave brand is kikkoman)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (i used brown button and portobello)
  • 1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless salmon fillets, preferably wild sockeye
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons toasted-sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup arugula, loosely packed

to make, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. prepare your parchment paper by cutting a piece large enough to hold your salmon and then some, and folding it down the middle to create a crease. open it back up. essentially, what you’re doing is creating a little envelope/pocket sort of thing to keep your salmon in while it cooks.

next, mix the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and just a splash of sesame oil in a medium sized bowl, and toss with the sliced mushrooms. lay the mushrooms out on the parchment – you’re making a little bed for the salmon to lay on. now, place your salmon atop the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. drizzle with your remaining sesame oil (and feel free to add more if you feel so inclined).

tuck or gather the parchment paper so that your salmon fillet(s) are wrapped up. you want to keep the heat and flavors in that baby, so wrap it up tight.

bake for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets). remove, and season immediately with sesame seeds and top with arugula. i served mine with white rice and steamed broccoli, and it was DELISH.

Kale Parsley Pesto Pastaa few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.

let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.

which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community. 

i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.

it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.

what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.

so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?

note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.

The Recipe

About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)

1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)

1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve. 

throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.

note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?

Imageon days when it’s ninety million degrees out, there’s little that can possess me to turn on my oven and start cooking. which is why yesterday, when it was at least 90 but the humidity made it feel more like 100, i whipped up an easy version of a salad i learned from my mom, and threw it into a taco. it’s basically some black beans, some corn, some salsa, and some cilantro. and that’s it! can you say EASY? i can.

i’m generally a bit wary of taking recipes from my mom, mostly because she’s kind of a health freak and i’m kind of, well, not. i prefer baking s’mores brownies over eating weight watchers “brownies” (let’s face it, they’re not the real thing). growing up, my house was full of things like rice puffs (cereal) and fruit leathers (snacks) and carrot sticks and apple slices and maybe a slice or two of cheese. we didn’t buy frosted flakes, or captain crunch, or fruit roll ups or shark bites (all things i desperately wanted). here’s the thing: when you’re in elementary school and everyone else is either buying lunch or taking out a PB&J at the table, and you’ve got a series of stacking tupperware containers filled with leftover chicken breast and maybe some brown rice, all you want is to fit in. when everyone else is eating shock tarts at snack time and you’ve got a fruit leather, all you want is to fit in. to the point where you’ll sneak away after piano lessons to the local convenience store and spend the entirety of your $20 allowance on junk food so you can eat it alongside your fellow students in school, and also in your bed at night when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you know a king size package of reese’s cups will make all your problems go away.

i don’t assert that my parents stringent healthiness (which, by the way, eased up as i got older) was what made me turn to junk food – on the contrary, i think most of it was that i was unhappy, and i ate to feed my sadness – but i do think i wanted junk food more simply because i was deprived of it. everyone else got oreos, i got fig newtons (which, to this day, i still believe are disgusting and should be banned from the cookie aisle), and at a time in my life when i desperately wanted to be thin and pretty and cool and popular and instead was chubby and mousy and un-athletic and unpopular, having health food next to all my friend’s “cool” snacks just made things worse. 

that being said, as i’ve gotten older and my self-esteem has developed a bit more (god, you could not pay me to go back to middle school – or elementary school for that matter), my relationship with food has gotten much healthier, and in turn, i’ve come to really enjoy healthy food. which, in my opinion, this recipe is. so long as you don’t eat ten tacos. everything in moderation, folks. 

The Recipe

1 can black beans 

1 cup frozen corn (though fresh corn would be even better)

1 cup chunky salsa (i get mine at trader joe’s)

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

corn tortillas (i get mine at trader joe’s)

shredded mexican cheese

to make, combine corn, beans, salsa and cilantro in a bowl. put a scoop of corn mixture on each tortilla, top with shredded cheese and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. for extra oomph, add some sauteed taco meat. 



make lemonade. or, as i like to put it, when life hands you a 98 degree day with a “real feel” of 105, head to your nearest supermarket and pick up the biggest bag o’ lemons you can find. then go home and juice ’em and make slightly sweetened, oh so tangy lemonade with a hint of mint. and drink a big glass. and then another one. 

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not good with heat. 65, or even 60, is my ideal temperature. i like layers and crisp autumn air and the sort of slight chill that makes you wrap your leather jacket around you just a little bit tighter, the kind that makes you cross your arms over your chest. i love a white blanket of snow in winter and a big fluffy scarf wrapped ten times around your neck. what i don’t like? anything over 85 degrees, the slightest bit of humidity, the sort of weather where you can only wear a dress (preferably a strapless one) and you’ll probably still sweat your toxins out. Image

the past few days have been seriously H-O-T HOT here in new york – the kind of hot where nelly commands you to take off all your clothes (no, really, i saw a lot of shirtless people walking around the past few days) – and i’ve been seriously sweaty. i’m not the kind of girl who can breeze through the summer months in a sundress, with perfectly tousled hair and makeup that doesn’t budge. instead, i’m the girl holding her ice cold water bottle against her neck, praying for a cool breeze and wishing that the world was drenched in air conditioning and that her dress wasn’t sticking to her back. let’s be real – so long as you’re not in a hot yoga studio, sweat just isn’t cute. it’s not that i smell, it’s just that i tend to look a little shimmery (and that’s putting it lightly). so suffice it to say, summer’s not really my favorite season. i despise feeling sticky, and anytime the humidity goes over 50% and the temperature rises above 75, i’m pretty much sticky, all day, every day. NOT FUN.

what is fun, however, is making things like freshly squeezed lemonade. and going to the beach. i did one of these things yesterday, i’ll let you guess which one. Image

The Recipe 

7-8 large lemons, juiced

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup agave nectar or honey

1 cup water 

4 cups cold water

6 sprigs fresh mint

the key to making really yummy lemonade is simple syrup – otherwise known as sugar and water. many lemonade recipes call for an initial simple syrup made of 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. but that seems like a whole lotta sugar to me, so i cut the white sugar down to 1/2 cup and added 1/4 cup of agave, which i like to think is healthier than sugar. next time i make this, i’m going to try all agave, or maybe some orange blossom honey if i can find it. 

to start, halve and juice all your lemons. i juice all mine in a large bowl, then strain the liquid to get rid of seeds and pulp. doing it this way saves you from having to curse and pick out individual seeds each time they drop into the bowl. Image

set lemon juice aside and make your simple syrup. combine the sugar, agave and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until sugar and agave are dissolved in the water. 

remove sugar water from heat and combine with lemon juice in the the pitcher of your choice. i chose this pretty glass pitcher, which i picked up recently at ikea. now add your four cups of cold water and throw in your mint leaves. 

refrigerate for 30-40 minutes until cold; conversely, put some ice in a glass and drink immediately. serve with a few slices of fresh lemon and a fresh mint leaf or two. 

note: you can also use this lemonade to make lemon popsicles. YUM. or, you could add vodka and make yourself a dandy little cocktail.