Summer Malaise-y Days


I don't know what it is, but for the past couple of weeks I have been dragging. At first I thought maybe I was just not getting enough iron in my diet or something. Then I wondered if it was a delayed comedown from the marathon / abrupt end to my regular running. But last night, after yet another nap, I decided that it's just summer.

I mean, it's hard to shake the schedule I was on for the first 20 or so years of my life: school for 9 months of the year followed by 3 months of sleeping until noon, then sitting in the AC watching MTV and eating Cheez-Its or laying outside on the lawn with Sun-In in my hair, drinking Surge. Those were the good old days and they offer some insight into why I make a beeline for the couch when I get home from work and spend the weekends there marathoning Lost with Ryan (neither of us have seen it before, so, shhh, no spoilers!).  And even those things require almost too much energy!

Hazy, lazy days of summer make me want to do more of the mindless things and far less of the things I actually need to do. Like, workout. And go grocery shopping so we can cook at home more. And cross some things off my mile-long to-do list. And clean. And, and, and...

Instead I just want to nap and crochet and watch Lost and cuddle with the dogs and go out with friends and go to the beach and do fun stuff all day instead of work or think or doing anything that makes it feel hotter than it already is (cooking and working out fall into that category).

On the bright side, I am making some major progress on what I've been calling my "starfish afghan." 25% of the squares are done so I'm hoping to finish those by the end of August and then start sewing them all together in time to actually use it this winter. I'm so excited for that. It's two years in the making!

San Diego Music: Danny and the Tramp "All In" Album Review


In another life, I did a lot of freelance writing for music blogs and local magazines. I interviewed bands like Best Coast and Neon Trees long before they had hits on the radio and had a pretty uncanny ability to predict the future of an album after one listen to the review copy. I say this because you should believe me when I tell you that Danny and the Tramp's new record "All In" should be the soundtrack to your summer.

Disclaimer: I'm a little biased - but I swear, only a little. Brandon, DNT's drummer and resident Aero Club bartender, is our good friend and one of the coolest dudes I know. I would add that he's also one of the nicest guys I know, but I don't want to tarnish his rock and roll image. And, funny story, after seeing them play at the Belly Up, Danny (fellow East Coast-er, lead singer and co-founder of the band) and I realized we work in the same building. This fact also ended up explaining that guy who'd spent months walking around the corporate park with his headphones on during lunch hour: it was Danny, listening to cuts of the album... further evidence of the band's dedication to their music. These are some pretty badass good guys. Their music is even better.

Thanks to their early years as a cover band, Danny and the Tramp can play practically any genre of music and make it sound easy. That musical range is on display in "All In," their first full-length album following their debut release, "The American Dream EP." "All In" kicks off with "Downtown," a love song about a very complicated relationship: that between San Diegans and their party scene. Lines like "We got the spins // we got the shakes // yeah, we got banned from Mission Beach" and "We're going downtown // I hope these nights don't end // we're going downtown // to do it all again" accurately capture an average Wednesday night here. The dance party then segues into "Matter of Time" which has the big sound and energy of a CAKE single.

As bright and encouraging as a sunrise the morning after, "A Resolution" is the perfect track to max out your car stereo on the drive of shame home. And the next two songs, "Talk About It" and "Catch Fire" are what I imagine a bromance between twangy Texas country and 90s alt-rock sounds like. Things slow down a bit a couple of tracks later with "Mind F@#$ (She's My Love)," a song reminiscent of the easygoing beats of Pepper's beachier jams, only to pick right back up again in "Hipster Funeral" which covers mustaches and PBR during some Kid Rock-esque talk rap.

"Day Drinking" is short little acoustic anthem about my favorite weekend pastime: "Day drinking and it feels so good // I don't  know if we''ll make it to the night // Which bars are open? // What's the time? // I've got nothing left to lose // Raging's what I got on my mind." It's so good because it's true: I'm pretty sure I've tweeted those same phrases on any given Sunday Funday. But DNT saves two of the best for last: "Moonshine" is an impossibly catchy tune that could have been on the soundtrack for any film from the American Pie franchise (except American Reunion because that was just terrible). And "How to Run" closes "All In" on a note of pop rock perfection.

You don't have to take my word for it. Check out the link to the video for album teaser below or go see them live. Danny and the Tramp put on the most fun local show I've ever been to, hands down. I hate when I go to see bands I don't know and have to pay a cover for what ends up being a lame night. But a DNT show means cheap beer, Fireball shots, dancing your face off and an all-around guaranteed good time. Go check them out during their CD Release Party at 710 Beach Club on August 3rd or at Gallagher's Irish Pub in OB on August 16th (no cover!) and prepare to be entertained by your new favorite local band.

Restaurant Review: Studio Diner, San Diego, CA


Back on the east coast, you couldn't drive 5 miles without running into a diner. Diners were always open 24/7 and the first place you went after a soccer tournament, after prom, after the bar closed, and after you woke up with an unbearable hangover. We love our diners in Connecticut.

Out here in San Diego, before this weekend I'd been to exactly one diner in the past 3 years and it's an overpriced dive in Hillcrest with terrible food. I'd more or less given up on ever eating good or even so-bad-it's-good diner food  again until I heard about Studio Diner in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego.

Studio Diner is right next to the only working film studio in San Diego. Veronica Mars is probably the most notable thing that was filmed there, but still it's pretty neat. The diner was built as a 24/7 stop so that the studio workers could have a place to eat into the wee hours of filming. Inside it's a kitschy, 40's movie-themed diner with film strips lining the plates and film reels used as condiment holders. There's old cameras hanging above the tables and a LOT of chrome.

Ever since I learned about it I had been meaning to go there for breakfast, but Kearny Mesa is at least a 15 minute drive from my house and so not a convenient place to go for food in general. But this past Saturday, I was headed to the area for another reason (to buy a new car!) and decided to finally get breakfast there beforehand. I sidled up to the counter to avoid the wait for a table (Comic Con is in town, hence the message on the marquee) and my friends Bonnie and Jason met me there shortly after.

The food was perfection. Greasy, buttery goodness that is just what you need when you go to a diner. I ordered the Cinnamon Swirl Studio Toast (which is their French toast), a side of bacon, and after, the best Chili Cheese Fries I've ever had.

I wish it wasn't so out of the way because this is where I'd want to get dinner with friends after the bar (like the East Coast diner fiend that I am). I definitely want to go back and try some of their sandwiches and items from the dinner menu like their Chicken Pot Pie. This is a San Diego hidden gem! Totally worth the hike for good food and service with a side of kitsch.

"Are you doing anything with your MFA?"


Hunter Fiction Writing Workshop, Spring 2010

Ahhhh, my least favorite question: "Are you still writing?"

Sure! Job descriptions, emails to candidates, LinkedIn status updates. I'm a recruiter. I was before I went to Hunter's Fiction MFA program and during and after. I love what I do for a living. But I also have an MFA from what I believe is the best creative writing program in New York City and yeah, I'll say it, the world (Iowa, schmiowa).

I'm super proud of my degree and my time there and equally, if not more, I am humbled by it. I drank with and studied under Booker Prize- and National Book Award-winning writers: Colum McCann ("Let the Great World Spin"), Peter Carey ("The True History of the Kelly Gang"), Nathan Englander ("What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank"), and Claire Messud ("The Emperor's Children"). I workshopped alongside classmates who have now published awesome fiction and/or have book deals on the way. These were WRITERS that I spent my New York City nights with. And I was a recruiter who spent my days hiding my shitty thesis word doc file underneath PDFs of resumes. For two years I was constantly worried that they would spot the fraud. Then we graduated: myself and the 5 classmates who were in my year, the people who I'd become closest to, the people who I had been the most vulnerable and naked around, my best friends and inspirations. And immediately I was really exposed.

Except it wasn't that dramatic in any way shape or form, even though it sure felt like that. They all had post-MFA writing plans. They were all headed to writer's colonies or were finishing a novel or were getting published in short fiction magazines and me? Stripped of my secret nighttime identity, I was back to being just a recruiter. Sure, they had day jobs too, but they were actual writers first and editors / coordinators / teachers second.

I moved to the west coast two weeks after graduation and whenever I talked to my classmates (which was daily for some time), I was reminded that they were writing and I was... re-watching The OC in it's entirety on Netflix while I ate $0.50 cent cans of Spaghetti-os for dinner and drank a LOT of Two Buck Chuck. I was broke and adjusting to my new life in SD and honestly? I needed a break from writing and the groupthink of Hunter to find my voice again.

Unfortunately that break turned into 3 years and soon it was hard to keep talking to my Hunter friends. The conversations we did have were spaced apart enough that asking me if I was writing anything was an acceptable question every time. It was also one that I wanted to avoid so badly that I eventually stopped talking to them almost altogether.

I started this blog in large part as a way to ease back into it. This is me, for six months strong now, toeing the writing waters. I've lost my touch, that much is evident. By touch I mean vocabulary, by evident I mean a reliance on adverbs and simple language. But for the most part, it's been the best way to start getting excited about writing again. And to practice discipline.

It's also been a way to take the pressure off. I think my biggest obstacle with writing was that I was so broke and so financially desperate and so utterly aware of it for so long living in Manhattan that writing seemed an impossible, financially-suicidal endeavor. I mean, there was a point in my life where at parties I'd wait until people were drunk enough to ask them how much they sold their book for or got for their essay. I was in a program where the writers believed the best, most ideal option was to pursue your writing full-time and that TERRIFIED me. If I was going to do that it had to be good, no, the best, because it was tied to income and thus, survival. I spent more time mentally strategizing how I could monetize a writing career than I did actually writing. That romantic notion was the most detrimental thing to happen to my love for writing and it took getting out of the city and becoming financially comfortable to destroy it.

Releasing the imaginary, looming burden of supporting myself with writing has been huge. I don't have to stress out about living in California, so far away from all the literary parties and readings I'd be tempted to network at. I don't have to turn up my nose at self-publishing or blogging for that matter because I'm worried of what "people" will think. So much of a relief that lately, I can't stop thinking about what I want to write as I find my voice again. Is it fiction? If so, a novel? Short stories? Screenplays? Is is non-fiction? Essays? Personal or cultural? Is it only this blog, but more and better? I'm an extremely collaborative person - is it working on something with other local San Diego bloggers? I don't know. But these are the questions that have been swirling around in my head for the past month or two.

I think it will be a while before I find my voice still and I'm trying hard to be OK with that and not think about how much more successful my friends are. I should clarify that being happy for them and proud of them has never been an issue: they are amazing and talented and wonderful people. It's not jealousy by any means because I believe they are deserving of their success. It's more like overwhelming and intimidating anxiety when I think of trying to accomplish what they have: publishing fiction under a major NYC publishing house. And the thing is, I don't even want that anymore. Which leads me to this post.

I want to do something with my MFA. I want to call myself a writer (by night) again and this time not feel like a fraud. I want to share my writing and mostly I want find a way to inspire people - whether it's to inspire them to move across the country or to chase what they love or to adopt a dog. I want to be proof that you can pursue a creative life successfully while being grounded in the real world where you still have to work a full time job. I don't want to lose writing from my life and most motivating of all? I don't want to have to answer this dreaded question from my kids in 20 years. Because worse than not being a writer anymore would be having to admit to them that I'm a quitter instead, right?

Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack!


Even though I only officially moved to San Diego three years ago, this is my fourth summer here. The first year I didn't know what was going on. I was so busy falling in love with this city that I hardly noticed all of the summer staples that were happening around me: Comic Con, PRIDE festival, OTL, the county fair and of course, Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetracks. Add to that the fact that I didn't have a car that summer... I think I'm off the hook.

For the past two years, however, I haven't had an excuse. Which is why my friends and co-workers were usually surprised when I told them that I had never been to the tracks, let alone Opening Day, one of the most fabulous and fabulously crazy events of the summer. Yes, it is always on a Wednesday, so I suppose I could blame work. But when I found out that I would be able to leave work early enough to catch most of the races this year, I knew I would be officially out of excuses if I didn't take the chance. So I picked up a fancy hat at Village Hat Shop, pulled my seersucker out of the back of my closet, and strapped on some heels. I met Ryan on the Coaster and then we met his mom and stepdad and their friend at the track.

Opening Day is more than just a sporting event (and by "sporting," I mean the Olympics-esque drinking,  not the races). It's a herald back to vintage Hollywood glamour, a total fashion show where you'll often see couture outfits and incomprehensibly expensive hats. Of course, I was too preoccupied with betting (and winning!) to take pictures, but honestly, it's better viewed in person.

We stayed until the last race (when I won my biggest haul... $35!) and then managed to successfully navigate the hordes of drunk, barefoot girls and guys on our way out. I am still so impressed by Ryan and I's transportation situation. We called Uber and used a $20 promo code I had to hitch a ride away from the gridlock traffic and back to the Sorrento Valley train station where I'd left my car. It felt so awesome to duck into a town car in the midst of that crowd and avoid all the walking and traffic that was awaiting everyone else.

Anyway, what a fun day. My co-workers and I will be heading back there at the end of August for a team building event, but I have a feeling that Ryan and I will be back before then. And if we ever go back for Opening Day, I now know a few things for sure: 1. Always take the Coaster, even if it means you have to leave early, 2. Bring flats or flip flops, and 3. Not to break any rules, but... we saw a lot of flasks popping out of bags and back pockets...  Something for us to think about next year! ;)

Restaurant Review: Beachgrass Cafe, Encinitas, CA


Now that we're only 5 months away from the 3-Day 60 Mile Susan G. Komen walk here in San Diego, our Team Tit for Tat captain thought it would be a good idea to get together for brunch and start discussing training and fundraising. Picking a brunch place that was equidistant to all of us was difficult, but Marisa found a restaurant in Encinitas with great reviews: Beachgrass Cafe.

Usually I'm not a fan of sweet things for breakfast, so I was leaning towards Scramble #3 which has asparagus, green onions, red & green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, feta and avocado. AKA, all of my favorite things (except avocado, not such a fan, probably an east coast thing). But then I saw their Oatmeal Pancakes with roasted pears and marshmallow cream on top and I was sold.

A full size of the oatmeal pancakes, a side of crispy bacon, and two (large) grapefruit mimosas later, I'd had one of the best brunches ever. But it got even better when we learned that the restaurant had just tweeted the link to our Team Tit for Tat fundraising page in support! Nothing beats a restaurant with good food and drinks that actually cares about its customers. Thanks for having us, Beachgrass Cafe!

My lovely coworkers / half of our 3 Day team!

Countdown to Del Mar: The Village Hat Shop


Like any good San Diegan, I like to wait until the last minute and battle huge crowds for my Halloween costumes, sparkly New Year's dresses, and of course, the Ugly Christmas Sweater party season. Getting my fancy hat for Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack was obviously not an exception.

What IS exceptional is that this is my first time going to the racetracks, let alone Opening Day! It falls on a Wednesday every year and so I've never been able to make it. But as I found out last week, this year I'll get out of work early enough to meet Ryan and his parents at the tracks and that meant I needed a hat.

Fancy hats are a huge part of the Del Mar Racetrack experience, but never is it as extreme as during Opening Day. And THE place to get your Opening Day hat in San Diego is The Village Hat Shop. The Village Hat Shop has a huge selection online, but more important for procrastinators like me are their store locations in San Diego. I'm lucky enough to not only have their online store's warehouse as my neighbor, but to live about a mile and half away from their Hillcrest location. So tonight, I rushed over after work to pick out my hat. As predicted, the store was buzzing with girls in the same boat as me. I claimed a mirror and got to work.

I tried on at least a dozen hats, most of which were adorable, some of which were just for fun, but as is typical for me and pressure shopping, I ended up falling for the first hat I saw. Now I just have to find a dress to match! Another first for me: planning an outfit around an accessory and not the other way around.

As for the hat I picked out, I'll wait until Opening Day to show it off. In the meantime, if you're anything like me and you waited until the last minute to get your hat, head over to The Village Hat Shop tomorrow or Wednesday to pick it up before the races! See you at the track, San Diego!!!

Sincerely Sweet


So I found my new online shopping obsession. Sincerely Sweet Boutique is an online store based up the coast in Orange County and I am in love with all of their clothes and accessories. This strapless maxi dress that I recently got from SSB is just one example of how perfectly they match my style. Though the best part about this dress has to be the top. It's not always easy for me to find maxi dresses with support, but this one has a flattering top (with some padding!) that I'm not constantly yanking up. Literally, impossible for me to find anywhere else. And not to mention, $47! All of their stuff is so affordable! Obsessed.

Last night we went out for drinks and to see "This is the End" in Mission Valley. Freaks and Geeks alumni / Apatow's homies always make me laugh, but I had some doubts about this one and I was totally wrong. It was hilarious. Especially because if you watch a lot of "their" movies (Superbad, Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Hot Tub Time Machine, etc.), "This is the End" kind of feels like an inside joke with your friends. Definitely a good laugh, but to be on the safe side, have a few drinks beforehand. ;)

So seriously guys, head over to Sincerely Sweet Boutique and tell me how freaking adorable you think all of their clothes are. What's your favorite??

May and June Reads


buy: 1 | 2 
I'm almost embarrassed to write this bimonthly '50 Books' wrap up. My choice of summer reading material has been more or less dictated by whatever I can read while drinking sangria or lying on the beach. So, let's just say these two reads won't win me any intelligence points...

My Crazy Beautiful Life by Ke$ha - There are two reasons why I am justified in buying Ke$ha's sort-of memoir in hardcover. 1. I love Ke$ha. 2. I thought it would make a fun coffee table book. And surprisingly, over the course of several Saturdays I actually read it cover to cover while lazing about my house (and drinking sangria). If it was possible for me to love Ke$ha even more, I did with every page. Sure, it's not the best writing in the world, but her energy, creative spirit, and outlook on life is always inspiring to me. I also really loved learning about her family and how she grew up, though I wish she had more in there about her early years as an artist in LA. Most importantly however, there were pictures. Lots of pictures. Which, I've learned, is key if you're picking books to read while drinking. :) 

Rockettes, Rockstars, & Rockbottom by Keltie Colleen - I don't quite remember how I learned about Keltie Colleen or why I thought her memoir would be a guilty pleasure for summertime, but yet there I was, lying on the beach in Coronado, shaking my head at the abysmal writing that littered the page. Sure, I wasn't expecting her to be the next Mary Karr, but I guess I expected something from a book that made it to an actual publisher (however independent). Well anyway, apparently RR&R rose from the ashes of 3 failed relationships with musicians: Nic Perri (Christina Perri's brother), Butch Walker and Ryan Ross (Panic at the Disco). Her breakup with Ross was particularly devastating ("rockbottom" was her passing out at work from hypoglycemia / not eating much after the breakup) and supposedly the final nail in the coffin of the young 20's naïveté that was responsible for her terrible taste in dudes. But you know what? I've been there, so overall, I'll say that the book is a noble endeavor. Writing about loss and pain in order to get past it and maybe even to help someone who is going through the same thing is something I can get behind. On that front, Keltie wrote an emotional book with a positive message that any young girl going through a bad breakup would probably devour. Everyone else should absolutely skip it. 

'50 Books' Progress: 7/50

Sweet Summer Quinoa Salad


I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to eat on super hot summer days is a hot meal. The warmer weather means I'm craving cooler recipes, which is how this little salad came about. I created it when I was trying to come up with a filling, healthy snack to bring to a beach bonfire a week ago and was really happy with the results. 

Truth be told, I'm still trying to perfect the balsamic glaze for this recipe, so the adjustments to the dressing I've made in the instructions below are still untested! However, I think they're a lot closer than my most recent attempt, which had over two cups of vinegar (hence the dark brown quinoa). But it was still a sweet and tasty dish at our most recent picnic in Balboa Park and made for yummy leftovers the next day too. :)

  • 1.5 cups of uncooked quinoa
  • 1 lb of cherry tomatoes (I used a package of TJ's Organic Mixed Medley)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • feta cheese
  • 2 tsps. basil (I used dried herbs, but fresh would have been better)

1. Rinse the quinoa in a rice strainer and prepare according to package instructions. I recommend using a rice cooker, which is usually two parts water to one part quinoa (so 3 cups of water would be needed for this recipe). 
2. While the quinoa is cooking, start the balsamic glaze dressing. Mix the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. When it starts to boil, turn it down to low heat and let it simmer and reduce for 15-20 minutes. When it's complete, it should coat the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat and let cool. 
3. Dice the red onion and halve all of the cherry tomatoes. The flavor seems to come out in the salad more if you cut the tomatoes in half. 
4. When the quinoa is done, mix in the tomatoes, onions, basil and balsamic glaze. The salad is best served chilled, so put the bowl in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
5. Before serving, add feta cheese to your preference. 

Bedroom Makeover


I've finally recovered enough from our 4th of July festivities to get back in the swing of things! Phew, was this Independence Day a rough one. A lot of fun was had for sure - we had friends in town and a fantastic BBQ to go to, but I more or less supernova-ed from red wine and Fireball shots and went to sleep right after the fireworks. It took pizza AND grilled cheese to revive me yesterday.

A few posts will come out of this wonderful long weekend, including a recipe for the No-Mayo Potato Salad I entered in our friends' annual potato salad competition, but first up, I am happy to finally share the finished pictures from our bedroom makeover! Ryan and I painted the room a shade of turquoise this past weekend, hung up some curtains and threw on a new duvet cover and it has made such a difference. We still need to get some stuff on the walls but painting was a huge first step! The bedroom has sort of taken a back seat to decorating the kitchen and the living over the past year and I'm so relieved to feel like we've finally put an effort into it.

duvet cover, shams, grey pillow, curtains: urban outfitters // mid-century dresser: rusty gold vintage // nightstand, window frame, vintage hat rack: thrifted around san diego // bedskirt: anthropologie // turkish bath towel runner: bathtowel // lamp, mirror: ikea // rug: target

Happy July!


I can't believe it's July already - June just flew by! After kicking it off with the marathon, the rest of the month was pretty crazy. But it ended with a great and jam-packed weekend. Friday night we had a bonfire and mini-picnic at the beach and watched the SeaWorld fireworks. I made a yummy quinoa salad with red onions, heirloom tomatoes, feta and a balsamic dressing that I can't wait to post the recipe for.

Saturday we went to Coronado beach for a little while and got some frisbee time in. Playing frisbee in the surf is one of my favorite things to do in San Diego during the summer. It reminds me of my first summer here when that was all we did, literally almost every day. I also started a new book on the beach that is mind-blowingly bad. It's a self-published book by a marginally famous internet and TV personality and I can't help but be shocked at how terrible it is. After the beach, we went to see The Bling Ring in a hot theater because apparently air-conditioning is no longer included in ticket prices.

And then yesterday, as you can see in the video above, we painted our bedroom. All day. After we put a couple of final touches on it, I'll post pics of the remodel. I can't wait to get home today and put everything back in our bedroom!

PS - Motivation Monday will be back .... eventually. :)