This past week has been freezing in the Bay Area. Like, we got snow in some areas cold. Not used to it and not really about it.
My Canadian fiance, of course, jokes that I don’t know what cold is and to this I ask, is it possible that coldness is relative? I’m not used to the frigid weather – where he is experienced in frosty temps – so it must be actually colder for me, right? RIGHT??
Anyway, the (only) good thing about chilly nights (past Christmas when it’s festive, not cold) is soup. Comforting, yummy soup. So, to warm up tonight we made a vegan French onion soup.
Actually, decidedly it was just onion soup since we didn’t add the bread or cheese. We are getting married in almost 3 months after all…… (Shred before the wed)
This soup is good but I’m not going to lie to you, the cheese and bread are the best parts of French onion soup.
With my favorite meal in Chicago as my muse, we paired our soup with a mezze platter of sorts. The hummus, fluffy pita bread, Greek salad, and turkey meatballs really rounded out the meal this time. However, if I make this soup again I will definitely be adding some gooey cheese and carby bread.
All in all this recipe is worth the work. It’s a nice way to end the weekend and warm up. Give it a try!
3 large white onions
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or another oil with a high smoke point
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups water
Slice 3 onions and add to heated soup pot with 1 tablespoon of oil
Add dried thyme and the other tbsp of oil on top of the onions, stirring occasionally for the next 45 minutes to 1 hour until the onions are caramelized (a nice golden brown color) *note: I didn’t realize my thyme didn’t have a cap with holes on it and accidentally put too much of in the pot. I’m actually unsure how much you should put in but I would guess about one teaspoon…
After after onions are caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar to continue caramelizing for about 15 minutes and to add a greater depth of golden brown to the onions
It’s been a busy few weeks for us because, as the title of this post suggests, WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!
We’ve been searching for about a year, putting in offers here and there, but sadly always got outbid; upwards of $100K! Bay Area real estate, man!!
I’ve heard time and time again that moving in winter is the cheapest time since most people don’t want to move in the cold, or they have kids and don’t want to uproot them in the middle of the school year. Well, based on our experience, I’m saying this is true. We finally had an offer expected in late December!
We were over the moon at the prospect of owning our first home, and even better, in the city and location we’ve been pinning for. A lot of the initial paperwork we had to do was when we were in Canada visiting Mike’s family for the holidays. I’m sure all of the forms would have been relatively stressful even if we were home, but having to deal with it all while traveling with a lot (for Mike! I really didn’t do much when it came to securing the loan, getting home insurance, etc).
We knew there was the possibility of everything falling through but, brimming with excitement, we basically told everyone we were in the stages of buying a house over the holidays. What a blow it would have been if it didn’t work out!
Luckily everything went through (THANK YOU MIKE!) and we closed on January 9th, not even a month after we found out of offer was accepted. Suffice to say with the general madness of the holidays and the added To Dos of buying a house, it’s been hectic. (Hectic in the most exciting way, of course.)
We are officially out of our condo now and mostly unpacked. We’re getting used to living in a place with 2 floors (“damn, I left my cellphone upstairs again“) and having 2 bathrooms (so much storage space!). We’re constantly talking about renovations and all of the things we have to do. We’ve already had to deal with 2 leaking pipes but we’ve also had a lovely evening having a glass of wine with a neighbor. This weekend we hosted our first overnight guests and spent a cozy Saturday curled up by the fire (we have a gas fireplace, win!) and watching YouTube videos (we also have pretty poor WiFi for some reason and have to use Chromecast vs. our regular smart TV in the living room). We went for a bike ride this morning on a nearby trail and will be hitting up the Farmer’s Market next week. Our carpets are shaggier that I would like (can’t wait for that reno!) and the garage needs a rescue mission but I’m delighted that we own a home.
To celebrate our first night in the new house, I pulled inspiration from my trip to Spain and made us a meal of potatoes with spicy vegan cheese*, melon and prosciutto, and Spanish cheese. It was easy to prep this ahead, which was important mid-move, and a nice splurge with seemingly hundreds of boxes surrounding us. Of course we also toasted with a nice bottle of champagne and really just basked in our purchase.
We’re looking forward to having our friends over for a house warming / “before” party to showcase the new digs / show what it looks like before we tear up everything and bring our house into the current era. 😉
I’m particularly looking forward to a costume closet and a cozy little library-inspired nook in our bedroom. Stay tuned for Before and After pics. 🙂
*I followed Oh She Glows All-Purpose Vegan Cheese Sauce basically step by step but added paprika to give it some kick. This was the last thing I made in our condo the Friday before we moved, so I can vet that is stores and reheats well.
The new year. January first. So many aspirations and goals tied to one day.
It seems like people are generally moving away from setting up huge year-long goals of drastic change and personal renovation. Instead, we’re doing things like intention setting and focusing on more realistic, small self improvements.
In the era of Wellness Warriors – where self love, understanding, and forgiveness are the new ways of life; along with mediation and warm morning lemon water – we are still constantly striving to be better but also allowing for large doses of grace and acceptance when we inevitably slip up.
Gone are the days of swearing off sugar for 365 days and setting alarm clocks to sound before the sun for a workout. We want consistency and manageability now. At least I do.
Today is just like tomorrow will be. There isn’t the same novelty to the first day of the new year anymore. Each day is simply another chance at being better. Of course there will be some days when a second glass of wine will be poured or a savasana will be missed. More often than we’d like, living in the moment will fall under the shadow of impatience. Judgment and negativity will sneak into our lives when we are tired and feeling scattered.
There will be back-stepping but hopefully mostly forward moving. Hopefully, with strategic and achievable goals in mind, your progress will be better than you’ll believe. (…Literally like this pasta sauce recipe. I thought it would be too thick with little flavor but it turned out to be a dream!)
Better-than-you’ll-believe creamy squash pasta sauce
This sauce is vegan, diary and gluten free. The coconut milk and roasted delicate squash blended together make it creamy-dreamy. The roasted garlic adds a comforting savoriness. Serve over your pasta of choice with an added green for a complete meal.
1 medium delicate squash
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water (or as needed for consistency)
4 -5 garlic gloves (still in bulb to roast)
2 – 3 Tbs of avocado oil
Salt and pepper
Cut delicate squash into 1/2 inch pieces (not you don’t need to peel the skin off of delicate squash) and coat with avocado oil, salt + pepper, and nutmeg to taste
Spread squash out on a baking sheet and add your garlic bulb in tinfoil with a small amount to avocado oil drizzled on the top to the same sheet
Roast both at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
Once roasted, transfer into your blender with 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water (adding more if needed)
Blend and scrape down the sides as needed until creamy (remember to vent your blender for the steam to escape)
The week after Portland I flew to Chicago for work. Oh, what a town! The food scene there is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Every.single.thing. I ate was delicious. I probably came home a few lbs heavier but there are no regrets (just mourning for the yummy pasta and pizza and burgers and burrata (so much burrata)).
I touched down Tuesday evening and immediately meet my manager/friend for dinner at the hotel we were both staying at, The Ace Chicago. Inside, we found an equally chic and cozy restaurant called City Mouse, where we split an order of grilled carrots, burrata, fried artichoke, and octopus. 😋
We had a productive working session as a team on Wednesday, complete with another yummy lunch. That evening I got to try RPM Italian, Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s restaurant. This might not be cool to say, but I love celebs. I’m not into reading trashy magazines about them but I do like following my faves on instagram and going to their restaurants when I can!
In theme with Chicago itself, everything I had at RPM was delicious. We started with the Giuliana salad (will have to recreate), and an order of the burrata and fried artichokes. For our main meals, we tried the lobster ravioli and the chicken parmesan. The standout for me was how good and fresh the pasta was that came with the chicken parm. In all honesty though, the whole meal was carb-y, cheesy bliss.
Ok, so aside from all the nom food… it was COLD in Chicago. I know, I know, when I went it wasn’t even as bad as it is going to get BUT this California girl was freezing nonetheless. That night I actually went to bed thinking, well at least it isn’t snowing…
And, of course, guess what I woke up to on Thursday morning… snow.
We spent the day working from City Mouse; with a pretty view, hot tea, and cozy soup and a grain bowl for lunch. Not too shabby!
I worked a half day on Friday and then MIKE ARRIVED! Our first stop was the bean (or Cloud Gate). I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to see this landmark but there is just something appealing to me about that steel shaped giant bean! It was so cool to see it in person. Next time I’m in CHI, I’m making another stop here but in the early morning when it isn’t so crowded.
Also, it was freezing…! So we left after about 5 minutes. Hmm.. maybe a summer trip is in store?
Next up was a drink at Cindy’s in the Chicago Alethic Association Hotel. Cindy’s is a convenient ~5 minute walk from the bean. We didn’t have a reservation (I learned resos are key in CHI) but luckily were able to slip into two seats in the back.
This is another place that seems like it would be cool in the summer, with their rooftop patio and gorgeous views. Although there was a fire pit outside, we opted to stay indoors. The cocktails at Cindy’s were good but the company was better. It was good to see Mike after a few nights away!
Like I mentioned, Chicago is a reservation city! (Which I actually prefer because, based on my experience, they do sit you within five minutes when you have one – unlike California where reservations don’t really mean anything.) It was still early but I knew we had to figure out dinner. Mike did some Googling and found this place called The Deerborn, which was recommended to us (by the big G) because it was “similar to OCK” (our favorite restaurant at home). Let me just say, Google can have ALL OF MY DATA just for this recommendation alone.
I don’t know enough adjectives to rave about this place with due justice.
In classic Ashley and Mike form, we ordered a few things to spilt. Starting with the French onion soup (which we now want to make at home) and the mezze platter, that included dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, babaganoush, and the best flatbread to soak up all the dips in. It was basically my dream … on a platter.
To be sure we were nice and full, next we ordered the mac and cheese and maple fried chicken. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Also, we’ll be saying screw it to the turkey next year for Thanksgiving. We’re making maple fried chicken (and mac n cheese, and an epic mezze platter, and onion soup).
On Saturday we walked to a cafe nearby to caffeinate for the day. My go-to, to-go order is an almond milk cafe au lait and, as to be expected in the magical city of all good food and drinks, wasn’t disappointed once. I’m also a huge almond milk snob and ask to see which one they use before placing my order soooo double points to Chi-town.
Next we decided to bear the rain and hit up the Christmas market. What a mistake! We didn’t even do a full loop before we left and sought shelter in the mall nearby. Ok it was time for pizza. DEEP DISH PIZZA.
Everyone I asked recommended I go to Lou Malnati’s for the best deep dish in town. We got there around 11:30am and I’m glad we did! It takes about 40 minutes for them to make your pizza (which is expected for deep dish) but when we left, the waiting area was packed.
We ordered a pie with spinach and mushrooms, despite the menu mentioning it isn’t truly deep dish unless there is sausage on it. Which I can say, I wholeheartedly disagree. Our pizza was deep-dish-delicious sans sausage. It was ooey and gooey and buttery crusty. Oh, and the tomatoes on it. Perfection in every bite.
Ok, we’ve made it to the part of the blog post program that I am going to stop talking about how frickin’ good all of the food was and tell you my favorite part of the trip (if you can believe it wasn’t the noshes).
Two words: Paper Machete
Actually, four words for more context: Green Mill Paper Machete
The Paper Machete at Green Mill was recommended to me by a colleague. When I was bummed that Second City tickets were sold out, she told me to go here and to be early!
The show starts at 3pm. We got there at 2:07pm and snagged the last open table by the stage. One beer for Mike. One martini for me; gin please.
The band rehearsed. I complained about how loud it was (I have v sensitive ears) and started to wonder if this was really the best use of out last afternoon in the city…
The showed started and before the first act was over, I knew. I knew it was going to be real good and real raw. I was ready for the ride.
The Paper Machete was a 2 (ish) hour live magazine where performers acted out various current events. The first was a monologue my the First Lady, Melania; so good and so funny and such a relief to know most of the audience was Democratic.
There was also a pianist, a trio of female singers, a few other skits sprinkled in between, and the headlining band (which I still think was a little too loud but it was fine). Mike and I were belly laughing almost the whole time. I also fanned out at the end and asked to take a picture with the girl band (one of the members had already gone home though, boo!).
Buzzed (from both the martini but also creatively from being around such talent) we left hungry and ready for dinner. Remember when I said Chicago is a reservation city? Well, we didn’t have any for dinner that night. Whomp, whomp.
We tried a few places near the hotel but most had a 2 hour wait. A little defeated we walked up the stairs in the SoHo house to the Chicken & Farm Shop. They sat us immediately and I was nothing short of suspect… Why wasn’t there a wait?
I still can’t answer that question because um, this place was reason enough to go back to Chicago. We ordered the collard greens, chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese, and the best burger I’ve ever had that was infused with bone marrow that should be how all burgers are ever made…!
On our last morning in Chicago, we got ultra touristy and went to the Skydeck. Basically we stood in line for 1.5 hours and paid $50 for 60 seconds in a glass box 110 stories up.
I was a little nervous I would be scared to step out onto the glass floor, but felt so rushed I didn’t have to think about it. We shared the box with another party and we were both trying to cram as many pictures in one minutes as possible. It’s actually pretty chaotic. I wouldn’t do the Skydeck again but it was worth trying something new!
After that, it was a wrap. We hurried back to the hotel to pack, hit up Ballast Point for one last pint, and we were on our way to the airport.
Chicago, you stole my heart (my stomach and my skinny jeans). I can’t wait to see you again.
The best birthdays I’ve had have been the no-fuss kinds; filled with good food, friends, and family. Throw in a weekend away and it’s golden.
I turned 29 last Wednesday and, after celebrating with Mike, a bottle of wine, and stuffed pasta shells, we were on our way to Portland early Thursday morning. Friends from Santa Cruz flew in later that night and friends from Washington drove in on Friday morning.
Since we all wanted to stay together, we opted to stay in an airbnb in Vancouver, WA vs. staying directly in Portland. Our airbnb was pretty baller but with 6 people and all the money we spent on XL Lyfts, I’m not sure I would pick suburbia over downtown again.
After some avo toast at home base, Mike and I headed into the city to enjoy our day together. Our first stop was a gem that my manger recommended called Knot Springs. You. Guys. This place. An oasis in the outskirts.
We treated ourselves to a 2 hour “soak,” forgoing any spa treatments or workout classes that are also offered there. We were greeted with plush, trendy patterned towels and a cup of hot custom blended tea. Then we showered (required before getting in) and were given a tour of the tubs. The whole idea is to alternate between warm, hot, and cold water to revitalize your system. (There are a whole bunch of other benefits they list but I forget them!) We spent the next few hours dipping in different temperatures of water, trying our hand at some light yoga in the sauna, and enjoying the industrial views (I know that sounds like a contradiction). Not a bad way to spend a Thursday afternoon!
We stopped for beers and fried pickle spears at Wayfinder after. Mike is picky about his fried pickles and prefers spears to chips. So, whenever we see spears on the menu, you can bet we’re going to get them. Wayfinder had good beer and looked like a cool spot to go to in the summer but it had nothing compared to our next stop, Product Row Cafe.
Mike and I love a good food crawl, and initially, that was our plan for the night – small noshes at multiple restaurants – until we sat on the enclosed patio at Produce Row Cafe…
The twinkle lights were dreamy. The wooden tables and wall paneling gave the place a rustic feel. The DJ playing mellow tunes set the right vibe.
…Plus, the cocktails and the company … intoxicating. 😉
We left full of nom food and good spirits.
The next morning we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings. I love when I find local spots that use good ingredients like this place did. I ordered a coconut milk cafe au lait and sipped it on our walk back. It was creamy dreamy and had the added bonus of keeping my hands warm while we got our steps in on the walk back. It was a chilly weekend up north!
Caffeinated and dressed in layers, it was time to head into the city for some sours. I love a good sour beer, and they paired perfectly with the baked brie we ordered as a snack.
We stopped at one more place (with legendary artwork in the bathroom, pictured below) for another round before walking to an event called My People’s Market that celebrated a diverse marketplace of multicultural vendors.
At the market we sampled wine, tasted ginger cotton candy, and browsed different booths with things from T shirts with political messages to essential oil rocks.
Next we filled up on bread, fresh olive oil, pasta, soup, salad, and all good Italian things at Nostrana.
On Saturday morning we explored the Japanese Gardens, which was as gorgeous as expected (and also had the biggest leafs I’ve ever seen). Aside from the chilly weather, it was fun to wonder around the gardens together, with plenty of pictures sprinkled throughout the adventure. 🙂
Next up it was time to warm up. …with sake and sushi (staying in theme of the day, obviously). We made our way to Bamboo Sushi and I had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had. The honey miso roll… drooling just thinking about it. Plus, what’s better than miso soup on a cold day?
We ended our day with adult slushies and karaoke at one bar (as you do) and then at dinner at Bye and Bye, a vegan restaurant that I was pretty stoked to go to. I ordered the BBQ platter that came with BBQ tofu, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. The food was good (!) but I think the atmosphere would have been better for lunch as it was pretty dark in there.
One more XL Lyft ride and we were back at the airbnb ready to hit the sheets (hi, weekends with late 20/mid 30 year olds!).
We’ll all be reunited again at mine and Mike’s WEDDING! ……in 6 months… what? time is flying. …should we have adult slushies at the wedding? 🙂
My friend Kiera does my hair and she’s the bessst. I only go about 2x/year to get my hair colored. Every time she blends the perfect blonde for me, but also makes sure it is low maintenance enough not to be back in the salon chair every 6 weeks.
I went a little blonder this time and, although my timing is off (right before fall instead of summer), I’m liking it. 💁
Voting with fam
I think mostly everyone knows the midterm elections are on November 6th. And if you’re like me, your ballot usually remains unopened in the stack to To Dos for far too long. I knew my deadline was quickly approaching to get that baby filled out and mailed back, which is why I jumped on the opportunity to have a little “voting party” with my dad and grandma earlier this week.
I recommend doing this with the obvious disclaimer that things might get a little tense. Politics and family… what a combo! At least I got something checked off my to do list 😉
We had our annual women’s summit this month (talk about inspiration and empowerment) and the day ended with a fun bottling wine activity. You’ll find us all opening our bottles together mid-December; the earliest we can break out the corkscrews . 🙂
Veg-vibes is about to get some upgraded photos BECAUSE I HAVE THE NEW PIXEL. So far, love.
Stay tuned for more pictures.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October in Canada, so every year we host Canadian Thanksgiving at our house to get together with friends and enjoy some favorites from the great white north. This year we had dill pickle and all dressed chips, Canadian beer and whiskey, a poutine bar, and nanaimo bars. A day filled of buddies and lots of butter. 🙂
the GREEN CREAM
I got this face cream in my bi-monthly Love Goodly box and it is lovely. It is infused with broccoli, avocado, coconut, olive, aloe & fresh herbs.
I use it every night before I go to bed and it feels luxurious. Also, as the bottle suggests, “a salad for your face? ” All about all of it.
Woah. It has been a busy 2 months. Mike and I have attended 3 friends weddings, I went to Spain in September, exciting things have been happening at work, we’re looking at houses on the weekends, you get it.
I didn’t get a chance to post my Friday Favorites in August, which is kind of annoying because I’ve done it every month this year. Oh, well! Read on to see what I’ve been loving over the past 2 months.
We were lucky to celebrate 3 beautiful couples getting married this year (coincidentally all within 6 weeks). I love weddings and seeing all of the individual touches that reflect the couple.
Our first wedding was in August on a sunny afternoon in Half Moon Bay. It was a gorgeous garden wedding, followed by the best food in a cute restaurant.
In early September, we headed over the hill to Santa Cruz and to toast Lauren and Ian (who we’ve been to Vegas, Yosemite, and many other places with over the years). Every detail of this wedding was immaculate and beautiful.
Just last weekend we witnessed our friends and neighbors get married at a cathedral in downtown. The celebration continued at a local winery. It was the sweetest venue with bistro lights and a cozy, fall vibe.
All 3 weddings were a blast!
Vegan coffee creamers
I forgot how good Nut pods was until we went camping in early August. I brought this creamer because I knew I liked it and figured it would keep relatively well in the cooler. It’s so creamy dreamy, I can’t get enough.
I’ve also been loving Califia’s Better Half. If you know me, you know I love anything Wiz (…get it? A playon to Wiz Khalifa? Ok, ok, inside joke… 👋 Michelle;)
Flirting with Fall
HELLO FALL! Pumpkin everything (I said it). And cute falling leaf window decals. All about all of it.
My patio lettuce
My mama Llama gifted me a romaine plant for my patio. It’s very convenient when you want to add a pop of green to your meal and don’t have a ton of food in the house. It’s actually the lettuce you see in my cheap & easy BBQ jackfruit post.
It’s also a delicious addition to veg hummus wraps.