If someone asked me the question ‘do you like meatloaf?’ I truly would not be able to respond yes or no, it’s much more complicated than that. Generally I do not like meatloaf, and by that I mean as it is traditionally prepared. A giant chunk of mushy beef with ketchup only belongs in a burger with bacon and onions in my opinion. James, however, loves meatloaf (coincidentally his first concert ever was musician Meatloaf when he was a pre-teen, but that’s another story). Oftentimes at restaurants he will order meatloaf if it’s on the menu, but I will only have a taste at most. The reason for my disdain towards traditional meatloaf is simple, I have been spoiled (and accustomed) by my mothers meatloaf, filled with vegetables and flavor. Like most American dishes, my mother took the basic structure and idea of the meal, and made-up what she believed was in it (or what she thought would make it taste good). Having grown up in Guatemala, my parents did not experience American cuisine until they moved to this country when they were in their mid-twenties. Therefore, my own initial exposure to American food came in whatever form my mother adapted it. As a result, I now find myself opting for my mothers version and dismissing most other forms. Luckily, James happily accepted my slightly varied meatloaf and thoroughly enjoys it each time I make it. This version is very low in fat, sodium, and you can add any variety of additional vegetables. I like to pair it with even more vegetables on the side (here I roasted squash), but you can make mashed potatoes or rice if you’re looking for something different.
1 lb lean ground beef
3 cups collard greens (that is what I happened to have this time, I also like to use spinach, kale, and chard)
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan, saute onions and garlic with heated olive oil until onions are translucent. In a bowl mix salt, pepper, egg, and ground beef. Chop greens into small pieces and add to ground beef along with onions, garlic, bell pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly.
Place mixture into a glass bread pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until meat is cooked through but still moist and juicy.
Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with your favorite meatloaf side dish and enjoy.
Like many couples, I’m sure, James and I love taking weekend getaway trips. Living in Southern California means that most of the time these trips are to local areas that we can drive to in a matter of a few hours. There are so many places in the area we have yet to visit (Hearst Castle, San Luis Obispo, Pebble Beach – here’s looking at you), but we have made it to at least a few. Here are some photos from a couple of our adventures in Southern California thus far.
We have been to San Diego twice now, which I suppose is relatively a very small number considering Los Angeles is so nearby. We most certainly intend to go many more times (we’ve heard the Zoo is a must), as we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Not surprisingly for us we enjoyed the scenic parts of the city much more than the trending metropolitan areas. These photos are specifically from our first trip to the city in 2012.
One of our first stops as soon as we arrived in San Diego was Balboa Park, which was by far our favorite part of the weekend. We spent several hours in the park roaming through the structures and gardens, taking in sunlight, and admiring everything it had to offer.
As expected the park was filled with families enjoying their weekends and playing by the koi ponds.
The detailing on all of the buildings was something to marvel at.
Every single building, big or small, had an incredible amount of detail to contribute to the beauty of the park.
After Balboa Park we walked back to our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. We stayed in a lovely hotel where we had rooftop access to admire the downtown area from above.
We spent the rest of that evening exploring the area.
The next morning we headed to Petco Park before heading back to Los Angeles. It has become a tradition to visit the sports complexes of every city we visit, we hope to see many more across the country on our travels.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO:
On a different trip south of Los Angeles we decided to stop by San Juan Capistrano. We did not stay for very long but were very glad to have the opportunity to visit the mission. If you ever find yourself in the area we strongly encourage a stop. We decided to pay for the audio guide tour as we walked through the entire mission.
We are not particularly religious people by any means, but happily admired and reflected upon the hauntingly beautiful history of the mission.
This year with wedding planning it’s likely that we won’t be taking as many weekend getaways but we hope to find time at some point to explore at least a couple of new places in the upcoming months.
Ok – a lot of people have wine and cheese night, or at least have an opinion on whether or not they would ever want to have a wine and cheese night. We have several friends who don’t care much for wine and would call a wine and cheese evening pretentious/snobby. I however, love wine, love cheese, and think indulging in these delicious combinations is more than acceptable and in fact strongly encourage it. Now, wine and cheese can each get pretty expensive if you happen to be very particular about it. We, however, like to keep it simple, relatively inexpensive, and experimental.
We invited a couple of friends over a few weeks ago and instead of going out for the evening we decided to stay in with some treats. It’s turned into a fun evening of chatting away and trying new delectable combinations, and oh what a feast we had.
For the most part we took a ‘poor-mans’ approach to our selections. We wanted to have food that tasted good, even if the true connoisseurs would not agree. For the wines we choose a few different ones from Trader Joes that ranged from $2.00 to $20.00 – I am a true believer that wine does not have to be expensive to taste good. Personally, I am a red wine drinker, but we decided to stick to lighter wines this time around to experiment with flavors while keeping it cohesive.
We wanted an array of textures when it came to the cheeses – we decided on: gouda, sharp cheddar, brie, goat cheese, and burrata, which are all easily found at any super market.
We put a lot of emphasis on the sides to accompany our wine and cheese. These were the real secret ingredients that made the night a success. We had a lot of variety from pates, grilled vegetables, pickles, savory jams, and a selection of sliced deli meats. These are all especially important if any participants are lactose intolerable or sensitive so they may still thoroughly enjoy the food. We used baguette slices and peppered crackers as the bases for all the fun combinations.
The best part for us as hosts was being able to fill up and relax at home knowing that we wouldn’t have to drive home at the end of the night. We will definitely have many more ‘wine and cheese’ nights.
Last night it rained for the first time in months in Los Angeles. While most of the country suffers with cold and snow we have been lucky to enjoy a relatively sunny winter. I was personally very happy with the rain, even though it only lasted a couple of hours it was a pleasant reminder of what other weather feels like. It also reminded me of the last time I felt truly cold to the bone, which happened to be just about a year ago on our trip to Seattle. I go back to New England every winter and it has been cold, but Seattle last year felt icier than New England had the previous month. Nevertheless, we bundled up and had a lovely weekend there.
We went with my soon to be brother in law and his now fiance as we were in town for the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival where our short ‘Cats in Space,’ was screening. As expected for Seattle in January it was cold and foggy the entire weekend which meant that we were only able to see the top of the space needle for brief time periods.
We walked around a lot both days we were there when ever we did not have film festival obligations.
Of course – us being us – meant that after the Space Needle we were most excited about Seattle’s monorail. We were able to take the Monorail near our hotel room making the lack of vehicle that much easier during our stay. Sigh, if only Los Angeles had a monorail for public transportation…if only indeed.
Our second morning there we headed toward Pike Place (home of the first Starbucks location) to fuel up for our day of tourist sight seeing.
We found much more at Pike Place than we would have initially expected. The Public Market had a wonderful variety of produce/fish stands and novelty stores – one at which we found a great print of the Seattle Worlds Fair poster that has been waiting for it’s perfect frame before going up in our apartment.
After Pike Place we went exploring around the city, as is our custom whenever visiting a new place.
I could not have been more impressed by their public library. A tall intricate building featuring interesting architecture while providing a pleasant atmosphere for its users.
We ended our last night in Seattle by going back to the Space Needle and celebrating the end of the trip and the positive reaction to our short film at the festival. We had a lovely dinner at the Space Needle that night, but unfortunately it was far too foggy to have any view whatsoever. Which brings us back to Los Angeles, and some of the reasons I’m glad to make my home in a sunny city. Seattle, you were wonderful – but I think we can just be friends.
We have officially registered for our wedding. We were hesitant at first since we don’t really need anything but decided that it would be the most convenient route for some friends and family. Of course we are not the type of couple who feel entitled to a gift from our guests – their company for the celebration of our union is more than enough. However, we know many will want to give us a gift so rather than having them struggle to figure out what we would want/need we made it a bit simpler for them with a wedding registry.
This past year we went to two weddings for close friends and were in a situation where we had to figure out the perfect gift for each couple. One of the couples did not have a registry at all and the other couple had a limited amount of items left by the time we got to the registry list; besides, we wanted their gifts to be more personal, as they are good friends. Therefore, we decided to make their gifts. My skills with crafting lie primarily with textiles so I knew I would be taking that approach.
For the first wedding we decided to make aprons for the couple. They cook a lot so we thought it would make for a nice gift to make them aprons in their favorite colors and hand embroider their last name onto the aprons.
For her apron I used two kinds of fabric, a print and a solid, along with a patterned purple ribbon to line some of the edges. I modeled it after an apron I have (seen hanging in the back after it went through a messy cooking session earlier). I did not use a pre-cut pattern for either apron. Instead, I took measurements roughly based on my existing apron for hers and used James as my model for his.
For the second handmade wedding gift we fabricated this past year we made hand embroidered kitchen towels featuring some of the couples favorite logos. They had a very unique and comic book themed wedding in October so it felt like a fitting and personal gift.We included several images representing their favorite films, comics, places and hobbies.
James took on the challenge of hand drawing all of the images and then I embroidered them all as carefully as I could.
Admittedly these project take a lot more time and devotion than purchasing a gift but every once in a while it’s worth the effort to provide that special handmade touch. We will be pleased to receive anything from our registry, but whole heartedly welcome unique special gifts as well.
James and I both absolutely love playing with Legos. It’s safe to say that we subscribe to the idea that, ‘adults are only kids grown-up, anyway,’ and greatly value the importance of having fun however we see fit. We have a few bins in our closet dedicated to several lego collections including some from James’ childhood. We also have a few models on display throughout our apartment such as The Millenium Falcon, The Back to the Future DeLorean, and several mini-figs. A couple of months ago we decided to splurge on the Lego Architecture Studio set to add to our ever growing Lego collection. We knew that this was something we could have a lot of fun with and that it would continuously challenge our creativity. Happily, we haven’t regretted this purchase for a second. Here are some of the models we have created so far:
The scale of this one was determined by the steps. In theory this is only the front of the building as creating the entire concept for the building would have taken a lot more time and pieces. This is perhaps the largest one we have made so far.
These three were some of the very first structures we made. They were mostly arbitrary as we had fun learning how all the different types of pieces worked together.
This piece directly modeled after a tile from the Ennis House is much more complex than it may appear; James used an intricate series of small plates to create the shapes inside the square. Unfortunately, the end product was still rather simplified from the ideal since we did not have enough pieces to make a larger fully detailed version.
This weekend James and I purchased our honeymoon flights. This is an instance where words really cannot convey our excitement. We are having fun with our wedding planning and are very much looking forward to our special day but now have one big item checked off the planning list – and with that a big sigh of relief. We chose our wedding date based on our anniversary. We feel that as important as our wedding anniversary will be, the anniversary of our first date will always hold a heavier significance as the true beginning of our relationship so we wanted both dates to be relatively close. The past three anniversary’s we have decided to celebrate by taking weekend trips; it has quickly become a tradition that we plan to continue. Our honeymoon, which begins the day after the wedding, will also celebrate our four year anniversary. After purchasing our flights I started to look back at previous anniversary trips – the most recent which was our trip to Quebec city. Here are some pictures from our first and second year anniversary trips – we look forward to adding many more wonderful trips in the happy years to come.
For our first year anniversary James got us tickets for a ride on the Fillmore and Western Railway steam engine train. I had actually never been on a train in general until this day (living in Rhode Island most of my life doesn’t really call for riding trains) so it was a wonderful treat. What better way to ride a train for the first time?!
The train ride took us through the farm lands of Fillmore and had two stops. The first stop was in Santa Paula where we were able to walk around and grab some lunch and the second at an emporium where we were able to shop from local farmers.
We sat in a booth all to ourselves and enjoyed refreshments from the concession counter in the train.
One of my favorite details of the day were the tickets, complete with stamps and hole punches marking the date (which helped inspire our save the dates). It seemed a great touch on their behalf to adequately create a steam engine train experience.
For our second anniversary celebration we went away to Santa Barbara for the weekend. That year our anniversary fell right on Labor Day weekend so we were able to spend a lovely weekend exploring the little town.
This was the view from the top of the court house. We realized after the trip that we somehow forgot to take a picture in front the beautiful court house itself – which really just means we have another excuse to go again sometime.
This was outside our hotel room. We found a very pretty and pleasant hotel in the outskirts of downtown Santa Barbara which made it quiet enough to rest and close enough to walk to everything we wanted to see.
We did manage to take a picture of the entrance to the courthouse.
After a full day and night in Santa Barbara we decided to head to Solvang for a few hours before making our way back to Los Angeles. This little city proved to be quite the surprise as we were not expecting something so lovely and detailed. We have decided that Solvang will need a whole weekend to itself for our exploration someday.
Over the holiday break I indulged in far too many delicious foods. My best friend’s mother makes some of the best desserts I’ve ever had and this cake was an instant winner in my books. I personally am not the biggest fan of sweets – I like some but not all and I especially do not care much for cake. This cake however, is not too too sweet, it’s light in texture, and feels like an ideal summer dessert which was a nice contrast to the heavier winter treats I had been having that week. Now that I’m back in Los Angeles I decided to give it a try and altered some of the ingredients to make them a tad healthier. The original cake had strawberries on the top layer but I used pineapple and blueberries on each layer to add more fruit and make it almost refreshing. The best part: super easy and no baking required!
Ingredients (for one 9 inch round dish):
2 packets of soft lady fingers (about 24 fingers/packet)
1 package of light cream cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 cups blueberries
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
Beat the heavy cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form (this part was a lot of fun).
In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the sugar and beat until fully mixed.Add the cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Line the dish with lady fingers all around the edge and add lady fingers to bottom of dish for bottom layer. Add a couple scoops of cream mixture, as much fruit/layer as desired, and then another layer of lady fingers. Repeat layering until you reach the top of the cake. For the last layer spread the cream mixture and decorate with fruit pieces as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.