It’s a weird day over here in the Bay Area! It was HOT this afternoon and then raining with thunder and lighting when I got home from work. It’s stormy and gloomy without the cold. All of my windows are open, along with the patio door. The smell of rain is filling my apartment (that, and the smell of a musky candle I have burning too). My lemon tree is happy for the drops of rain. It’s a cozy Monday afternoon. Perfect for experimenting in the kitchen!
Mike and I avoid meat whenever we can. Veg burgers are on regular rotation over here and although there are some good brands out there (Dr. Praegar’s is my favorite!), I love making my own with only a few ingredients. This recipe was super easy with only 2 main ingredients and some spices and condiments. It can easily be a “kitchen sink” recipe by subbing out the Great Northern beans and rice for whatever you have on hand (quinoa and black beans would be great as well).
Plus you make now and freeze them for later. I actually find that they heat up better this way because they are frozen into place before pan-frying.
If you’re doing this, I suggest doubling the batch to get the most of your time. 🙂
I found this water bottle on sale a few weekends ago and have been loving it! It was only $10 so cheap compared to other trendy water bottles shaped the same. It keeps my water cold all day. I’m using less plastic bottles. And it’s my favorite color. All around wins.
Everything but the Bagel and Onion Salt spices
When Melissa was here she tipped me off to the Everything but the Bagel trend that is gripping Trader Joe’s fans (🙋). So, when I was shopping and saw it last week I was sure to pick up one. The Onion Salt also caught my eye and I thought, why not? I’ve only tried Everything but the Bagel and if it’s any indicator of the Onion Salt… I’m a fan.
Simpler Times canned white wine
Another TJ’s gem! This wine is cute, sparkly, and cheap. I heard they sell out fast so I grabbed two the other day and will probably be making it a regular shopping list item. At only $3.99 (the same price as my beloved Spindrift sparking waters, mind you) it’s a steal. Side note: I also love that it is teal.
I love lemons from friends who have overgrown trees. Look at all these beauts Mike got from a friend!
My Breville espresso maker
Mike surprised me with this baby years ago and it is still of my favorite gifts ever. I’ve made countless coffees for myself, friends, and family. It’s something I would likely never buy for myself because of the price but it’s been such a great investment I might rethink that if this one ever stops working (touch wood).
Does anyone else go to bed excitedly anticipating their coffee the next morning?? asking for a friend
Our new, redone office space
About a month ago, Mike and I redid our office to reduce clutter and open the space up.
What we nixed:
2/3 of our L shape desk that rarely never got any use
surround sound speakers
a printer (that we didn’t even have ink for)
What we bought:
3 cube organizer shelf to go under the TV and keep our DVD player on (something that used to sit on part of the desk)
3 cube storage bins to put things like games, workout DVDs, workout bands, etc. in (I personally don’t like things to be too matchy-matchy so we went with 2 gray and 1 navy and put the navy on the far right vs. the more common middle place)
This and this storage basket to put our yoga mats, foam roller, weights, etc. in – these aren’t the cutest baskets but they are functional and were cheap; plus they are casual enough for the space vs. the other rustic baskets they had
A throw pillow similar to this one but I bought it on sale at Ross (i.e. no link)
Disassembled our desk and took 2/3 down to the garage.
We now have a desk that takes up half the space and a window that’s a lot more accessible and visible. I love it.
Put the 3 cube storage together and organized small items inside the bins.
Arranged our mats and weights between the 2 baskets (I think this is my favorite addition because everything is easily accessible but it doesn’t look scattered like it used to with our mats just propped up against the walls and the weights in an old laundry basket!)
Added a new pillow to our futon to tie in the gray strips on the basket to something else in the room.
So far we are loving the new look! In the end, the project cost more money than I thought it would but the pieces we got can easily be used again when we move. I wish I took a before picture but I didn’t think about it… Here are some after shots though!
Mike turned 33 on Monday and we celebrated the weekend with a group of friends in Las Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas once before about 4 years ago so was due for a trip back; a trip that started luxuriously because we splurged and flew first class. Holy leg room!
We arrived in Vegas around 10:30am and took a Lyft to the Mandalay Bay. Our friends Ben and Sandra had arrived a few days before so we met in their room to drop off our stuff until we could check in. Our other friends Lauren and Ian had also flew in that morning and were already there waiting for us. The gang was together again.
After a few AM tequila shots (#vegas) we headed to the pool. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was! Luckily we had access to a private(ish) pool that didn’t have as many people. We dumped our stuff on a lounge chair, piled on sunscreen, and got in for a dip. Lunch wasn’t that great. We ordered chicken tenders, fries, chips, and guacamole. I tried to get at least one green, healthy food in there with the guac but was still disappointed overall.
After some time spent in the wave pool (endless entertainment!), it was time to check in. One of my favorite parts of vacations are hotel rooms. I love them! Mandalay Bay has pretty nice rooms so I was happy to get there and unpack. Then it was a quick shower and NAP TIME! A little sleep was much needed …especially with how late we ended up staying out that night.
We went off the strip for dinner to a place called Marrakech that Ben has been to a few times. They serve a fixed 6 course fusion of Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines. The night started with washing our hands in warm rose water and ended with Moroccan mint tea and a decadent banana, chocolate, and walnut dessert; shrimp in garlic butter, plenty of bread, hummus, and belly dancing highlighting in-between. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Vegas!
Stuffed and ready for more drinks, Mike and I spilt from the group and went to Fremont street, in downtown Las Vegas. Our first stop was Commonwealth for a round of cocktails. The bar had a pre-Prohibition feel with its dark ambiance and hidden nooks to sit in.
Something about Vegas made me uneasy at this point in the trip. Call it taking the “sin” in “sin city” too seriously but suddenly I wasn’t having the best time being there. Everything felt cheap and sad to me. I was having a bit of anxiety by the time we stopped at the next bar. We ordered beers and I tried to snap out of it but I was in a funk. I felt bad for being a drag during Mike’s birthday weekend but, luckily, Mike is the sweetest guy I know and took time to chat with me. I felt better after and was excited to meet back up with everyone to continue the night. Mike always makes me feel better.
We stayed at The LINQ for the next few hours; drinking, gambling (or, in my case, watching gambling), taking pictures, and laughing. So.many.good.laughs, especially between myself, Lauren, and Sandra (and a certain purple zebra #insidejoke). And the best part was everyone had won money by the end of the night!
We left the casino around 3:30am (what!?) and I was like, I NEED FOOD NOW. Sadly, In n’ Out was closed (I was craving their grilled cheese on the secret menu) so we got food at the only place open in our hotel. Mike and I ordered potato skins to go, devoured them in our room, and went to right to bed (after I showered because, even drunk, I need to shower before bed!).
Everyone in our group slept in on Sunday and lazily met for coffee around 11:30am. Mike and I spilt banana bread that was more filling than I thought it would be. We all spilt up again after to do our own things before a fancy dinner that night. Mike and I ended up walking the strip down to The Venetian (a hot, long walk!) for a small lunch and round of $5 margaritas.
After that it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The day flies when you sleep through the first half of it! Lauren made reservations at Bardor Brasserie for Mike’s birthday dinner. They had great cocktails (perfect for the birthday boy!), fresh baked bread to start, and really good food. Mike and I started with an endives, walnut, and blue cheese salad and each ordered a fish dish (rhyme) for our mains.
Next up was BRITNEY, BITCH! Lauren and I walked to Planet Hollywood to see Britney Spears at The AXIS &omg I loved every second of it. (We all know Brit lip syncs but I don’t care!) Of course Lauren and I knew every word to all of her old songs – I have to admit I didn’t know a few newer ones – and danced on booties off. Our feet were killing us by the end of the show but it was worth it.
The guys and Sandra meet us after for a few last drinks and rounds of gambling. Unfortunately, everyone lost money this time around. And the tram closed before we thought so we walked back through 3 hotels. We were all in bed much earlier than the night before but still managed to stay out until 2am.
Everyone left on Monday – Mike’s actual birthday* – expect for the two of us. We woke up around 9am and headed straight for the wave pool to kick of the day. After a few loops around the lazy river, we were back at the hotel getting ready and packing up. Post check-out, we walked to Mandarin Oriental for afternoon tea. Mike loves tea so I thought it would be a perfect birthday present for him. The tea lounge was relaxing but I thought our table was placed a little awkwardly right behind another table, which completely blocked the view of the strip.
I ordered the Mandarin Orange Blend, a black tea, and it was really good! I’m typically more of a coffee drinker but this tea was bold enough to satisfy me. The food included freshly baked scones, tea sandwiches, and a pretty plate of desserts. Sadly, we didn’t eat a single dessert because we were too full (and, honestly anything sweet didn’t sound appetizing after so much drinking). We took them all to go but they melted quickly in the Vegas heat so we ended up throwing them away. 😦
After tea, we walked to the Bellagio to check out the conservatory and botanical gardens, a display that seasonally changes. Next we walked through New York-New York for a slice of greasy pizza for me and a hotdog for Mike (hangover food!). Then it was time to grab our stuff from our hotel and Lyft to the airport.
We recently both got TSA pre-check so security was a breeze. We also had first class status on the way home again. Extra legroom and free drinks, holler!
I have a serious case of the Monday Blues today because our weekend was so fun with some of my favorite company.
We kicked things off on Thursday when Melissa, a good friend of ours from Toronto, flew in to visit. Mike and I headed up to San Francisco after work to meet her at the hotel we were staying at. We got a room for 2 nights at Hotel Whitcomb on Market street (more on that disaster later…), which was a short walk from Hayes Valley.
Hayes Valley is a super cute area in SF with a lot of unique stores and delicious looking restaurants. We went straight to Little Gem where they focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients. It’s an open space that still manages to feel cozy with candles, succulents, and dim lighting.
We started with glasses of wine, sparkling, and beer plus an order of their hummus with NON bread. I could’ve just ate this all night. It was so good. For my main though, I ordered the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms on Beans & Rice bowl (talk about a wordy title!) with the mushrooms on the side (because I am picky about my mushrooms – it’s a texture thing). The rice and beans were good but filing. I ended up only eating about half and taking the rest to-go.
After dinner we walked back to our hotel, which looked a horror/ghost movie was filmed in. We spilt a bottle of wine, caught up, listened to music, and went to bed… blissfully unaware of what else was lurking in the room with us.
On Friday morning I walked to the work, opting to work in from the SF office that day. I wouldn’t want to live in the city but it was a nice change of pace to be there for a few days. There’s an energy you can’t deny in San Francisco.
While eating breakfast I got a call from Mike and I thought, weird, he almost never calls me. Maybe he just wants to make sure I made it to the office alright?
I answered the phone and he told me the disgusting news that him and Melissa had found a bedbug in our hotel room. I immediately felt itchy. Melissa had woken up with bites (not fun!) and was suspect of bedbugs. Luckily, they found a live one to show to the hotel staff. It was gross but without the little crawler as proof, we probably wouldn’t have gotten a refund.
Melissa and Mike had to spend the next few hours checking us into a new hotel (the Hyatt!) and being sure Hotel Whitcomb refunded our money, cleaned our clothes, luggage, etc. Total bummer for the start of a vacation (!) but they eventually got out and enjoyed the city. I requested pictures of their adventures and got these ones of the Painted Ladies and the Full House house.
After work I walked to the Hyatt to meet them at our new hotel. Man, I love the Hyatt. It was unfortunate that we had to deal with bedbugs but the sliver lining was staying in the Hyatt. It’s such a luxurious hotel.
Melissa has been out to California to visit us 3 times and each trip we get a bottle of champs to drink in Union Square. Keeping up with tradition, we walked to Union Square for some bubbles next. Kicking off Friday right!
Dinner was next at Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen. We ordered drinks and the Oh Canada! poutine (fitting), pomegranate organic chicken breast with kale and quinoa, and the mac n’ cheese. The drinks were strong and the food was drool-worthy! We even ordered a second mac n ‘ cheese for dessert. 😉
On Saturday we trekked across the Bay to Berkeley. We went to Marker’s Common for lunch (more mac n’ cheese and avo toast) and popped into a few stores in downtown. It was really hot and I just wasn’t all too impressed with downtown Berkeley so we didn’t spend too much time there. Next time I’ll have to do more research on local spots before.
The heat was worse in the south bay but we popped into Whole Foods for adult essentials: crackers, cheese, berries, and wine before going back to our house. We promptly threw our clothes in the washer – despite the hotel cleaning them – to double protect against the Whitcomb bedbugs. Then we chilled out for a few hours before a BBQ at our house.
Because of the fight on Saturday, dinner reservations for our friend Shelby’s birthday were impossible. Instead we offered to host a BBQ at our house because we have a big outdoor space. We host Canadian Thanksgiving here every year (read about 2015 and 2016) and it’s the perfect spot with multiple BBQs, picnic tables, shade, and outlets to play music.
Everyone left after 10pm and Mike, Melissa, and I went back to our house where Melissa and I stayed up until 5am. The last time I pulled an all nighter was in high school! I’m usually a stickler for getting good sleep every night but was happy to make an exception.
On Sunday we woke up at 11am, showered and went to Los Gatos for coffee and lunch. It was another hot day and we were running on little sleep so things were slow moving. Around 4pm we dropped Melissa off at the airport and I had to fight back tears. It was so good to have her in town for the weekend. We’re already texting each other talking about separation anxiety…
The countdown is on for when we’ll see her again in December when we go to Toronto for Christmas.
There’s still dirt under my fingernails as I type this and I don’t care in the slightest. For the second year in a row, Mike and I joined in on an annual Yosemite trip our friend Ben puts together. (You can read about last year here.) We arrived in the early evening on Friday, greeted with beers from Ben. The great thing about Ben is he always has a beer specifically for you; an IPA for me, a wheat beer for Mike, etc.
After meeting a few new faces, we toured the grounds with our friends Lauren and Ian as it was their first time in Yosemite. It’s safe to say, Lauren and I talked about how freakin’ gorgeous the park is at least once a hour for the rest of the weekend.
Lauren, Ian, Mike and were I sharing a canvas tent cabin so we headed over to check in and drop off our stuff before dinner. Last year, Mike and I stayed in the Housekeeping camp with everyone but, this year, there were more people on the trip so we stayed about a mile away in Half Dome Village. The room was tiny (as to be expected) with 2 twin beds on one side (facing head to toe) and a double bed on the other. There was a shelf and some hooks but besides that, it was sparse.
It was a fine place to sleep in but campfires or cooking aren’t allowed there (what?) so really only suitable if you’re hiking all day and just need a place to sleep. Nonetheless, it worked out for us because we spent all of our time in Housekeeping with everyone else (where fires and cooking are allowed).
Same as last year, each couple is tasked with making one meal during the trip for everyone camping. On Friday night the menu included chicken sausage with a nom orzo, cucumber, and feta salad. The orzo salad alone would make a great, simple weekday dinner. Maybe I will recreate it soon… stay tuned.
After dinner we sang songs around the fire; Miley Cyrus, Journey, and Whitney were all included on the playlist. At 10pm we had to move the party over to the amphitheater, where we didn’t have to worry about being loud.
Then, after a few ghost stories, it was a short walk to where we were staying for a restful night of deep sleep. (I think everyone sleeps better out in nature.)
We were back at Housekeeping early on Saturday in time for a chia pudding breakfast bar. I ate a lot of chia pudding when we visited Australia a few years ago and forgot how much I like it! Paired with fruit, nuts, and coconut shavings, we had a great vegan breakfast that kept me full for hours.
Next up was a hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, although I didn’t make it into the water. The waterfall was much more active this year and the midst was doing a fine job at keeping me cool. Unlike last year, when it was scorching hot up there – with a barely there waterfall flowing – and getting in to swim was a lot easier.
We enjoyed a spread of sammies after our hike and then walked straight to the river for an afternoon of drinking, playing games, and floating. It was nice not being on a schedule or worrying about what time it is. For a type A+ person like myself, disconnecting from the grind of planning is a nice change of pace every now and then.
Saturday night was spent making dinner, drinking wine, and playing more games. It was our turn to cook for everyone. We stayed simple with a salad, pasta, and breadsticks.
Nature, friends, vino, and carbohydrates is a good combination, if you ask me.
We ended the weekend at brunch at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Call me a food snob but a traditional breakfast doesn’t do it for me anymore! Where’s the avo toast or poached eggs on bruschetta?! ..Not at the Majestic. I ordered scrambled eggs with hash browns and ham and it was meh.
Lucky for me, before brunch, Lauren ordered me an iced almond milk latte so, at least I had some millennial, boujee-ness going for me. 😉 Nothing says friendship like knowing someone’s coffee order!
Everyone packed up and left after brunch but Mike and I stayed to bike around through the park. First we rode up to Mirror Lake. This place was gorgeous, although the sand rocky and the water freezing. Then we headed to the Swinging Bridge for great views and the start of a bucket list next year:
Jump off Swinging Bridge
Rent a raft to float down the river (we saw a lot of people doing this on our ride)
Claim a spot at Mirror Lake; bring wine + friends; have a picnic
It was getting later and hotter in the afternoon so we left shortly after checking out the bridge. On the way home we stopped for Mexican, about a hour outside of the park. It was a hole in the wall place that we ate at a few years ago with my family after horseback riding in Yosemite. Good patio? Great food? Check and check. I think we’ll be making it a tradition to eat here every year.
We also stopped at an off the road fruit stand closer to home and I got 2 organic zucchini and 2 huge nectarines for $3. Such a good deal. And, by the way, if you haven’t sliced and froze nectarines to eat as a summer snack or dessert, you’re missing out!
I try to incorporate veg into every meal and while it doesn’t always happen for breakfast, or sometimes lunch, you can bet there are making an appearance for dinner. Every night. Without fail, we have something green to eat (or red or purple or orange, you get it).
I’ve found buying organic frozen vegetables is a very sustainable way to do this. I alternate between broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas (my favorite!), and sometimes corn.
I also love roasted veggies but don’t love all of the oil needed to get them nice and crispy. Happily, I’ve found the ice/water from the frozen vegetable can drastically reduce the amount of oil you need to roast them.
Another reason to stock up and love on frozen vegetables!
All I do is spray my cooking sheet with an organic Spanish olive oil, pour the veggies on, and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how toasty you like them! (I like mine extra charred so they’re in there for a while.)
Sprinkle with some pink Himalayan sea salt and there you go; all of the nom, way less of the oil.
End note: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against some good olive oil however, I typically have a generous amount of it at lunch on my salad so prefer to stay away from more at dinner.
I bought this stuff a few months ago and can’t stop talking about it. The coverage is INSANE and you only need the tiniest amount (literally like a dab the size of a pencil eraser is more than enough). I’ve been mixing it with a little vitamin E oil for an extra dewey look. A favorite for sure!
I’ve posted about YouTube workout videos but this app is close to pulling rank on my favorite list. The workouts are short (a necessity for me but if you like them longer you can string 2 or 3 together). They are self-paced. The app tracks what you’ve done so far and lets you add notes at the end. Plus they have a music option with actual hits, not rando music that you’ve never heard before. Working out made fun, friends!
OMG I am obsessed with this girl. Bebe has an incredible voice and she writes her own songs and songs for other artists. Bad bitch, I’m telling you! I’ve been playing her music videos on loop. My favorite rn is Back To You with Louis Tomlinson.
I’ve also been loving Slow Hands for a while now so I might be the only person fully supportive of One Direction splitting up.
Side note: my friend Morgan and Bebe Rexha remind me of each other and I love it.
My friend Lydia says “Ashley likes her drinks cold without any sweet.” She gathered this intel from the many coffee runs we used to take when we worked together and I would often clarify “absolutely no sugar.”
I could drink my beloved iced coffee when it’s cold out but I just don’t. So the second the weather is warmer, I’m like gimme all of dat iced coffee.
I’m going to say fall is my favorite season (#basic) but summer is a close contender because, well, ICED CAFFEINE!
Speaking of warmer weather… most days lately have been perfect weather to throw on a summer dress and call it a day. I love wearing dresses because all you have to worry about it what shoes to wear and you’re done. Plus, I snagged some really cute dresses in Bali that people have been complimenting. High impact, minimal effort. All about it.
The Skimm (still)
I finally got to Skimmbassador status aka got my Skimm tote and it’s actually my favorite bag. Almost too good to use (unless you’re having your friend take pictures of you at the local farmers market and you strategically stage it to be in the photos). #notsorry