Category Archives: Pondering

Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgic

nanis recipe books

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme over at The Daily Post is “Nostalgic” – these books, and their story below, are my take.

One of the few perks of being a child of divorce is the acquisition of additional grandparents. I was extremely lucky in this regard; my step-grandparents lovingly embraced me as one of their own from the very beginning. Following the death of my step-grandfather, my step-grandmother (whom we all called Nani – her spelling) moved to our sleepy coastal California town from her home in Rhode Island. I was thirteen. My brother and I would spend long afternoons at her house watching Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, playing chopsticks on the piano, learning to needlepoint (that was just me) and snatching up warm cookies right out of the oven, or snooping around the kitchen when we could smell her chili bubbling on the stove. Nani’s meals – served on sick days taken off from school, Saturday evenings when our parents were out being adults (every once in a while) and most every holiday – tasted like home. She clipped recipes of interest every month from her Bon Appetit and Gourmet subscriptions and sorted them into the collection of small, well-worn three-ring binders above. Once she tried them, she would rate her success with gold star stickers (one for ‘good’; two stars for ‘great’), and include notes of what to do or not to do, the next time around. Interspersed with those clipped magazine pages are her own recipes – tried and true family classics like her mother’s Danish Twist pastries that we all looked forward to on Christmas Morning, or the melty, gooey marshmallow rolls from her mother-in-law that Thanksgiving was never without. When Nani passed away in 2002, I had already transplanted myself to Boston for graduate school. One of the few things I asked be set aside for me were her ‘cookbooks’. Despite the 11 years it has taken me to return to California, my step-father continued to hold onto these precious collections for when I was ready and, once I settled into my home here, happily passed them along. His only request? Twists on Christmas.


Moderation (Whole30, reintroduction phase)

IMG_0355(Taco salad – complete with cheese and greek yogurt in place of sour cream)

At the completion of the Whole30, I believed the hardest days were behind me. I was wrong. Despite an intellectual awareness that these dietary changes (and the newfound feelings of health that came with them) were the first steps in a lifestyle overhaul, the cheese-loving glutton in me was waiting on the sidelines to shrug off the entire experiment. My inner critic had been silenced in those 30 days by a clear set of unbendable rules. Starting on Day 31, when moderation and self-experimentation came into play, I faced an entirely different set of demons – those of guilt and indulgence – which were much more threatening to my dedication to health than the sugar demon I had put behind me on Day 5.

IMG_0353(Mushroom, scallion, tomato and cheddar scramble – so rich with cheese!)

Re-introduction as a concept seems simple enough. The Whole30 continues for 12 more days, with only a few additions and substitutions made in the now regular meal plan to test for reactivity to the previously banned food groups. In reality, it has been a blur. There was The Bat’s birthday dinner on Day 32, and several meals with family and friends who had been patiently waiting patiently in the wings until we could indulge together. Ideally, I did not expect this to pose any more of a challenge that the previous 30 days – I had figured that out without much complication, right? Turns out I am my biggest enemy (not that surprising, I know).

IMG_0360(Ugly, but delicious. Braised shredded beef with tomatoes and red wine)

I have a very ‘all or nothing’ personality. It works out great when I need to put my nose to the grindstone to push through a list of tasks (particularly experiments); or when I need to follow a very strict set of rules. I dive in, I have my reasons and I get it done. The flip side to that is that when that driven focus is turned off, I am really off; when I ‘let things go’, they are all over the place. So, when we went to Korean BBQ for The Bat’s birthday celebration and I planned ahead to eat only the meat (which I expected to have sugar and soy – my two first introduction groups), it took about 15 minutes for me to drop all pretense. Instead I joined a party where nothing was off limits. Come the next morning however, I paid for the booze, the bites of cheesecake and the relishes and garnishes I consumed with vacuum-like intensity the evening before.

IMG_0362(BBQ chicken, artichokes – dipped in hummus! – orzo salad)

After such a glorious belly-flop off of the ‘eat clean’ wagon, I did some intense navel gazing. What I returned to again and again was guilt. I realized that I have a horrible habit – once that first misstep is taken, I assume all is lost and, now that I’ve screwed up, I might as well try one of everything. The idea of taking just one bite, or stopping after indulging just a bit seems completely foreign. The frustration of letting myself down from a previously set goal sets in, and now the eating has the dual function of feeding my ‘all-or-nothing’ compulsion and cushioning the guilt.

IMG_0368(Pork sausage, tomato, scallion scramble with Kartoffelpuffer – German potato pancake – and applesauce)

The Whole30 had all but destroyed this destructive emotional eating cycle – no weigh-ins to beat myself up about, no one-to-many-glasses-of-wine nights out with friends or late night nacho binges. I followed the rules to the letter, I lost 11 lbs. (yay!) and, by the end, it no longer felt like work. I was completely unprepared for the resurgence of those bad habits once I allowed ‘bad foods’ back into my life. I fought back – even returning to safety of the Whole30 rules for several days – to remind myself how satisfying it is to eat clean AND be in charge of my emotions (in hindsight, the reintroduction of soy and sugar maybe was not the best place to start for impulse control).

IMG_0374(How to test gluten without chemicals? The infamous No Knead Bread)

After a few days to regain some semblance of control, I returned to a proper re-introduction cycle. Here’s how it went:

Sugar/Sweetners – Sugar is horrible. This I knew before, but living without it for 30 days underscored the point. Once reintroduced, it caused headaches and bellyaches, general malaise and mood swings. No one needs that. I plan to go forward limiting this as much as possible, using honey if needed.

Soy – No obvious adverse effects upon reintro, and I am delighted to dip my sashimi and have The Bat’s secret stir-fry sauce again. That being said, I have a new appreciation to the extent to which many prepared foods are supplemented with soy products, something I would like to limit from here on out. So, I’m excited to eat tofu, but not in my tuna – and I will shop accordingly.

Alcohol – After a dedicated reintroduction, I was thrilled to learn that a glass of wine is still a viable option. It appears that sake and the occasional liquor are also ok (with the limits of no sweetened mixers, of course). Beer remains an outstanding question – although a few sips taken from The Bat’s pint last weekend suggest that this may be a sore spot. In honor of this week’s holiday our lab is visiting the Green Flash tasting room for happy hour tomorrow – no time like the present to find out, right?

Dairy and Gluten – These two are getting lumped together because my response to them was basically the same – ick. I have not found my missing link – it is a low-level malaise that sets in when I eat cheese or crackers. Both give me a sense of fullness, but in a bubbly, not-so-good-way. So, not horribly bad (which is a relief), but not how I want to feel constantly. Something I will knowingly indulge in occasionally, when I feel willing to take on the consequences.

Legumes (other than soy), non-gluten grains – Next on my list, although not horribly missed so I will take them as they come.

IMG_0379(Filet in red wine reduction, fresh bread with butter, artichoke with – wait for it – more butter)

With the exception of beer as a possible ‘silver bullet’, the self-experimentation about which I had been so interested was rather boring. My most interesting observation came post-dairy/post-gluten, when I realized that the sudden low-level ‘ick’ I was feeling was how I had been used to feeling day in, day out before the Whole30. Understanding that I now know how to feel really good on a daily basis provided me with a palpable sense of relief. After several weeks going without and realizing the true impact on my belly, the concept of treating bread and cheese as treats to be savored, rather than their own daily food groups, is much easier to swallow.

IMG_0383(Avocado egg salad atop No Knead Bread)

Although I haven’t quite identified my IBS trigger, I am pretty much convinced that the compounding of each ‘low-level icks’ could have been enough –  especially with the additional excess of chemicals in prepared foods I was not previously aware of that I am now avoiding by learning how to make my own staples (a topic for its own post sometime soon). Looking forward, I feel cautiously excited; rather than feeling deprived of tasty foods, I am (mostly) giving up things that are keeping me from being/feeling the best I can on a daily basis. In the end, it is fighting my inner emotional relationship with food, my compulsive ‘all-or-nothing’-ness that will be the real challenge. The Whole30 allowed me to hide behind my beloved rules for a bit, building up knowledge, motivation and pride that I will use to (eventually) silence the inner critic once and for all. For this, I would be really intersted to hear from you – how you recover from slipping up and motivate to get back on the wagon (whatever it may be – diet, exercise, work), and how you might suggest achieving balance as I move forward into the uncharted territory where I make my own rules?

IMG_0364(Omelet with salsa, avocado and andouille sausage)

Despite the challenges and chaos that comes from confronting my own weaknesses, I remain thrilled with the entire Whole30 process. To learn that after several decades dealing with a range of ‘belly issues’ that I could feel great on a daily basis and go weeks without even thinking about my health is a revelation on its own. Not to mention the pride and motivation that comes from achieving this in a way that is sustainable and tastes good. These are all goals that I would gladly give up bread (gasp!) and cheese (shudder!) – even beer (sigh!) – to achieve.

IMG_0385(Warm days call for CSA veggies with pesto olive oil mayo dip)

As always, feel free to contact me on Instagram @researchingsandiego!






Awareness (Whole30, week 4)

salmon and fouscous(Weekend meal: pan-sauteed sockeye salmon, homemade pesto (no cheese!) and cauliflower fous-cous)

I am so close. Almost there. Day 29. And yet, looking ahead, I am not feeling an incredible urge to change much of anything in the ‘new normal’ I have established in the past month. This happens to be a convenient attitude with which to approach the next phase of the Whole 30, a 10-12 ‘reintroduction’ period. During these follow-up week(s), single food types (dairy, legumes, grains) are introduced – in the context of an otherwise Whole30-approved diet – one after the other, in order to identify ‘problem’ foods that may have been hindering me from being the best I can be. In the beginning, the idea of this self-experimentation was one of the biggest selling points of the program; now, towards the end, I’m a bit more cautious.

eggs in baskets again (Eggs in red bell pepper ‘nests’, avocado and blueberries)

You know who is counting down impatiently? Batman*. He has been incredibly supportive, endlessly patient and up for all sorts of food experiments (he did not strictly follow the Whole30 with me, but did eat a lot of my food – in the interest of solidarity – I’m sure – and laziness/avoidance of cooking two meals each time ‘round). But, we both miss our ‘Stir-Friday’ tradition (no noodles, soy), and there is no way I would let his birthday pass this week without raising a (real) drink in his honor (no booze). Plus, that delicious steak he likes to make on Sunday afternoons? Even better with a red wine reduction/shallot sauce.

garlicky beef stew and squash(Weekday picnic – garlic beef stew, zucchinis tossed with pesto)

However, as in any disciplined venture coming to a close, I have engaged in some pretty intense navel-gazing about the process. Mostly to consider where I go from here and what are the lessons I want to take from the past four weeks. With the obvious caveat that I cannot speak to my personal issues with specific foods (I’m sure that post will be coming in a week or two), here are a few general things I’ve learned, which I aim to focus on in the coming weeks/months ahead:

pesto egg scramble (Tomato, turkey, pesto scramble, avocado, raspberries)

I can trust my mind (and my stomach) again. One of the key points made in It Starts With Food, was that, during the Whole30, participants eat what feels like a huge amount of food. Wholesome, real food is often not as caloric as its junky counterparts, so to ensure that our daily needs are met, we pile the vegetables high and do throw an extra half avocado on the side. Initially I was stuffing myself silly and was shocked to realize I could not tell when I was full (model case of leptin resistance). I slowed down, turned off the computer during meals and focused on making food worth eating at the dining table. Within a week, I was putting my fork down halfway through dinner, satiated and delighted to have finally found the connection between my brain and stomach. After almost a month, I trust that connection implicitly. I have to take care to go slow and pay attention, but when I do, I know how much is just right for me.

 kale and sausage(TraderJoe’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage, lemony garlic sauteed kale)

Anything can be a comfort food. I had no idea what to expect in regards to cravings when this began. I am a lover of all things cheese, bread and noodle-y – so I assumed my dreams would be filled with wheels of brie and I might have to be physically held back if someone around me was to serve up a plate of fettucini Alfredo. I could not have been more wrong. I had days when my (chubby) emotional eating devil would pop onto my shoulder and whisper sweet nothings of tuna melts and pizza into my ear – how comforting and delicious they would taste – justifying such a breach in protocol by exclaiming how hard the day had been. With my mind clear (point #1), it was almost embarrassing to note how many times I had previously fallen for this argument. Not this time. Instead, I’d make a savory, thick bowl of chili, or persuade The Bat to make me one of his out-of-this-world onion-jalapeno burgers, sweet potato fries on the side. I learned that my comfort food is anything that is delicious – irrespective of its carb/cheese content. And, if I ever want anything to taste more decadent, I just should dip it into some homemade olive oil mayo.

 salmon salad(Leftover salmon/fous-cous salad)

My willpower is strong. It is not undermining myself to say that I have never been known to be a woman with unwavering willpower. It’s dizzying how fast I can talk myself out of a morning jog, or into a day spent on the couch in my pajamas. But when it comes to food, I have found myself stronger in ways I never knew I could be. Mostly in the lunch room. And at Monday morning lab meetings. And Friday afternoon Journal Club/Happy Hours. The first week it was hard, passing the pastries and turning down a cold beer. Now I don’t even glance. Except when the pistachios come around.

sole (Dinner out at Fish Public – Petrale sole, almonds, green beans – partial cheating because of browned butter? Probably. And I am ok with that.)

I do not miss rice or legumes – or (shock!) bread. To be honest, the upcoming reintroduction phase scares me a bit. I would like to create a framework based on the past 30 days that would allow me to eat clean and maintain the confidence, pride and change in pants-size I have gained (or lost, as the case may be). Beyond that, I want to live in a way that allows me to not be dominated by my ‘belly issues’ – only recently a dream that has been made reality in the past few weeks. I am nervous about cutting out favorite foods (dairy, gluten), but have been pleasantly surprised at those things I have not missed – rice, beans, lentils or peanuts.  If I have not thought about those foods during the challenge, I see no need in rushing to introduce them now. Honestly, after discovering the wonder of cauliflower rice/fous-cous, I may gladly never eat rice again.

eggs and pesto zucchini (Over-easy eggs atop pesto-tossed roast squash, nectarine)

I must be kind to myself. At this point in my life I know my shortcomings. One of the worst (and most common, I suspect) is that I am simultaneously my harshest critic and an unrelenting perfectionist. That leads to a very ‘all or nothing’ personality in which I can rigidly control/plan/work in bursts, but the moment I allow for one pause, one donut – all is lost and I spiral downward into a mental vortex of guilt, elbows deep in the pastry box. It will take some time to devise a plan for moving forward from here – what I will eat with abandon, what I will save for special occasions and what are the foods that I will enjoy and suffer the consequence(s). Even after implementing that framework, I will stumble into excess every once in a while. In those moments, I need to acknowledge, pick up and get right back in it – not wallow in guilt and pasta. These are/will be difficult changes, but based on how good I feel now, the right ones for me. I need to remember that this was never about dieting per se, but to better my health permanently. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and all that. I just need to be kind to myself along the way.

pork and green chile stew(Pork and green chile stew, cauliflower rice)

I will do another Whole30. That goes without saying. Either to get me back on the wagon (see above) or just to re-focus on my long-term goals of health, energy, and mind-body connection. I am already intrigued if/how it will be different the second time around. It has been a great experience – one that I would recommend to anyone.

lunch salad(Lunch salad – lettuce, green onions, baby bell peppers, avocado, turkey, pine nuts, blueberries, balsamic vinegar)

One more day and then onto the next chapter!

fruit snack(Fruity interlude – when I forgot my picnic lunch during our Farm Tour last weekend, I shared some garden-fresh watermelon and tomatoes instead). 

*Calling my boyfriend “Batman” will never cease to crack me up. And we all know how annoying it is when people laugh at their own jokes.

sausage and eggs in a nest(Last egg of the week, alongside Artichoke and Garlic sausage and cantaloupe)

I have been/will continue to post my ‘clean eating’ on my Instagram (@researchingsandiego), which I am also looking forward to using for non-food photography purposes. Having that community has also been a huge perk and motivation in these past few weeks. Thanks to all of you for the kind words of support!

Weekly Travel Theme – Flow

falls the firstWhen I saw that Ailsa posted “Flow” as this week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack, my stomach sank a bit. As far as I could recall, I has used my favorite photos of rivers and beaches for last week’s “Peaceful” challenge. It took some time for memories of a day spent exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, to rise to the surface of my mind.


I spent eleven long days training at the Faculty of Medicine in Reijka, Croatia as part of an international workshop in viral immunology; on the twelfth day, our hard work was rewarded when we were treated to a hiking tour of the most stunning lake country I have ever seen. The color of the many linked pools seemed almost  an opaque turquoise from afar, in the sunlight. But once near the shore or on the water itself, I realized it was crystal clear  (filled with fish) and that the hue seen from a distance was a trick of the limestone and chalk basins.

falls the second

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes are comprised of >16 lakes, separated by natural dams but connected by waterfalls of all sizes. Our small group had the privilege of a guided tour from one end of the valley, winding around (and through!) the lakes and making our way through the surrounding forests to an overlook at the other end.


Each corner of the path brought with it new surprises – towering waterfalls, quiet, still pools, fallen trees reclaimed by the waters, and dark caves leading into the surrounding mountains. Although our group was only a small fraction of the total people in the park that day, the valley was mostly silent, minus the roar of the surrounding falls. There was a visible sense of awe and wonder in each face and very little was said,out of respect for the grandiose, sacred beauty that surrounded us. When we did speak, the words almost always emerged as a whisper.

falls the fifth

I learned later that the precipitation and deposition of calcium carbonate via the flow of the falls and rivers moving through the valley resulted in the eventual natural damming of the lakes and establishment of this extremely unique geological formation. The power of flow to both build and erode was abundantly clear throughout our exploration of the park.


Yet, as with last week, I found these waters to also be peaceful – not only the calm aquamarine pools of the upper valley, but also the thundering cascades. Something about that power, pounding (virtually) throughout eternity reminded me how insignificant my current worries were, how little impact the flow of my life has on the bigger picture – that nature has been carving out these hidden jewels long before I entered the world, and will continue long after I leave.  What a wonderful thought.

falls the fourth


falls the third

pools and falls

Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting

Although it has been more than six months since I returned from Paris to San Diego, on lazy Sunday afternoons my mind turns to long, winding, warm Parisian evenings with friends – enjoying aperitifs on terraces and picnics in parks. For much of my time there, my camera was my constant companion – to ensure that I would capturing everything that I could miss from the other side of the world. In an odd twist of fate, so much of my time was spent behind that lens that, often, I don’t have actual memories – only a series of mental snapshots that recall particular occasions. Bastille Day 2011 was one of those. I vividly recall laughing with friends while sprawled on the Champs de Mars, dancing the can-can at sunset and the “superheroes” that joined us. The fireworks, however? Luckily I have the photos, which captured each fleeting, vibrant burst of color as the explosion lit up the Eiffel Tower and the night sky in front of me.


This week’s photo challenge, “Fleeting” was prompted by The Daily Post

Opening Up (Whole30, week 1)

rogan josh(Rogan Josh atop roasted cauliflower)

First, I want to apologize for disappearing off the grid for more than a few days – between grant deadlines, manuscript revisions, transcontinental weekend getaways (amidst tornado season) and everyday distractions, time just slipped through my fingers. On top of that I have been ill. Not flu-sick or a common cold, but a more insidious discomfort that has been growing steadily over the course of several months and has finally gotten to a point that I can no longer ignore.

eggplant with spicy meat(Fried egg with spicy meat sauce, mango and blueberries)

Funny enough, when things get a bit tough here on the ground, I tend to shy away from talking about them on the blog. I very much like a safe distance between my blog life and reality. Plus, opening up about uncomfortable things – especially here – can be downright terrifying. Despite my inhibitions, I find myself searching out other bloggers opening up about details of their life – looking for someone with whom I can relate – and the relief is palpable when I read that my experiences are not unique, that others have tread this path before me and I can follow in their stead. Seems about time to pay it forward in the same way, right?

salad nicoise(Salad niçoise – the tuna has since been banned, see soy complaint below)

A few months ago I was diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), which for me manifests as a low-grade persistent nausea, bloating and, at its worse, abdominal spasms. Back in March my doctor suggested that I up my consumption of fruits and veggies (ha! I thought – my CSA would cure all!) and implement a more regular exercise routine.  Maybe those changes (and a fiber supplement) would most likely do me all sorts of good.

scramble(Veggie scramble)

I started eating giant salads regularly. I severely cut back my alcohol consumption. I enrolled in a ‘Boot Camp’ class on campus (think this, but for 45 minutes straight – it is still kicking my butt 7 weeks in). But things have not changed. In fact, the nausea has gotten worse, as has the cramping. Not to mention the many pounds I have somehow acquired since my return from Paris (some of it easily explained – Taco Tuesday AHEM – some of it definitely due to ‘belly issues’, as we call them in my house). And then, after spending the vast majority of our flight back from DC curled into a ball of nauseous pain (changing ambient pressure during air travel is NOT my belly’s friend), I decided I needed to do something more.

simple (Keeping it simple – hard boiled eggs, avocado and mango)

Now do not get me wrong. I know that, in the spectrum of what I could be dealing with, I am toward the low end. I have close friends with various advanced intestinal disorders; they have to occasionally contemplate life without feet of their colon to alleviate the pain. In fact, I am sure they are reading this and smiling condescendingly right now. But I firmly believe that there is no point to not take our health into our own hands and try to better it in any way possible. I refuse to be one of those people who wince and bear it saying, “Oh, it is OK, I just get horrible, debilitating cramps regularly, they’ll pass” (because most of the times, thankfully, they do). I think that is dumb and, frankly, I’m way too much of a wimp to deal with it stoically.

czech meatballs (Czech meatballs on a bed of cider vinegar braised cabbage)

So I started poking around the Interwebs, a dubious place to start for sure. And, through a quick introduction by The Wednesday Chef (one of my all-time favorite blogs), I found the Whole30. The Whole30 is a ‘eat real food’-type regimen that focuses on consuming those foods proposed to restore psychological, hormonal, gut and immune balance to one’s system. I read, “It Starts With Food”, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s bestseller that introduces the program, and drank up testimonial after testimonial claiming weight loss and the disappearance of all sorts of symptoms after following their 30 day plan.

Before anyone interrupts with that knowing smirk, I am aware of how biased testimonials are – anyone will say anything for 15 minutes of fame (or their words forever etched in a book), but the more I read of their scientific justification, the more I was convinced it was worth a try. I am always game for a challenge.

egg and cabbage(Softly fried egg with this braised cabbage – so good)

And it is quite the challenge. For 30 days, eat real food – high quality proteins, vegetables and fruit. Do not eat: added sugars, alcohol, dairy, soy, legumes or grains. Eat your meals with intent, and eat as much as it takes to fill up, no more. Importantly (for my incredibly compulsive nature) – no counting calories, weighing, measuring or otherwise assessing progress besides how I feel for the entirety of the next 30 days.

craving fresh (Plenty of fresh salads with gooey avocado and tangy balsamic)

So, how I am I feeling? Good. I have not had any of the headaches or lethargy that some participants feel. I am not entirely sick of eggs and meat yet. Shockingly. This is good, because I’m only finishing up Day 7 this evening. 23 days to go.  My belly has calmed down, although whether that is due to lessening stress/travel or the diet is unclear. I swear my pants fit a bit looser, but I am known to have an overactive imagination.

egg and chard, spicy pork(Rainbow chard and spicy pork fry, topped with an egg)

We will see. It certainly cannot hurt. What I have interspersed my story with today are my meals from the first week. I am learning to cook all sorts of new dishes (meat!!!) and I do find myself craving those giant, fresh salads. I also find myself dreaming about cheese and bread, but we’ll ignore that for now. With each day, I feel like I am becoming more aware of when I am ‘full’ – and I have found myself stopping halfway through meals, saving the rest for the next day without any hesitation, something that I would have never done previously when shoveling dinner into my mouth unawares. I am also much more aware of what is actually in the food I consider ‘whole’ – why does my canned tuna contain soy? And why does my deli ham include red algae by-products (and wouldn’t you expect it would be the other way around)?

moroccan meatballs(Moroccan meatballs, seriously this cookbook has been essential so far)

My favorite part about the entire plan (somewhat tellingly) is the ‘self-experimentation’ at the end, when I get to add back the individual food groups, assessing how they make me feel in order to identify the possible culprits exacerbating my IBS. So, while Tuesday tacos are forbidden to me (tortillas! beans! cheese!), I am taking you all on a Whole30 ride, as I am actually quite proud of how I have adapted thus far.  And, while I have all sorts of hypotheses about what the culprits will be, right now I am focused on making it through the next 23 days and it will take all the help I can get. One egg at a time.

I am keeping track of my meals on Instagram – find me and help me keep going! @researchingsandiego








Leibster Award!


According to my calendar, I was originally scheduled to write about my April Aurora project, the Honey Cowl. As with the socks before it, however, the emerald cowl is not quite ready-for-prime-time (despite some pretty frantic knitting as of late). So, it was with a great sigh of relief and growing sense of excitement that I realized Not Merely Living had nominated me for the Liebster Award on Monday, providing ample procrastination motivation and pretty flattering all around. Thanks, Mere! I’m so excited to be a part of this!

Share 11 Things About Yourself:

1. I have not had cable (or working TV) in over 4 years! It is amazing how much I can do now that I have reclaimed my evenings (and lazy Sunday afternoons) from the boob tube (like this blog! And knitting! And this soup, which is the only thing I plan on doing this Sunday!)

2. I have two Bachelor’s degrees from UCSD – a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Microbiology. I was a much better student in history than in science. One professor summed it up perfectly, “you can do science during the week and history on the weekends, but you cannot do the reverse.” I chose science and rarely look back.

3. I dislike the (lack of) taste of water. Yet, I am determined to drink my 6-9 8oz. glasses each day. To resolve this, I add just a pinch of Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light to each thermos-full. This provides just enough sweet tartness to keep me coming back all day.

4. Despite living in San Diego going on five (non-consecutive) years, I have never crossed the border to visit Mexico.

jaw crop

5. I had surgery in 2005 to realign both my upper and lower jaws, fixing a pretty extreme overbite and halting TMJ development. I now have 43 screws implanted throughout my skull (that is my xray above), as well as a chin plate – one of them can be felt alongside my nose – greatest party trick ever! The only glitch? The center of my bottom lip is permanently numb – that nerve never recovered.

6. When life is going really well, I celebrate by dancing it out. I come home, filled with joy, turn the music up loud, lights off (curtains shut), eyes closed and boogie around the living room until I am exhausted, satisfied and completely content.

7. Consistency is my challenge (bane?) – I have always worked/lived/blogged in fits and starts. I do not like it. Real progress is made one step at a time, as long as one is walking each day. To this end (and inspired by Mere), I have made a May blogging calendar and, at least 3 days in (I started on Monday), it’s going great!

punch(Punch Brothers, my current favorite, on tour at Belly Up Tavern in Dec, 2012)

8. Music is the most direct line to my soul. Whether that is dancing it out, checking out live shows or singing along angrily with a break-up song on the radio. I have playlists for every chapter of my life and songs for each person that has passed through. When a beat drops, I cannot NOT move.

9. I need a view. In each city I have lived, I have found a place that looks out over the surrounding landscape where I can sit, breathe, think and process. I get so wound up in my own head sometimes that I literally need to see the big picture laid out in front of me to snap out of it.

paris from rooftops

10. I am a hands person. Maybe it is because mine are so teeny tiny – hands are the first things I notice about a new person I meet. I also love to do things with my hands – cooking, knitting, science-ing – all very similar when it comes down to it.

11. I am (still) a hopeless romantic. I believe in all the clichés – about loving yourself first before anyone else can, about finding the right one when you stop looking and, most importantly, that perfect matches (friends and lovers) are out there – everywhere – if you just open yourself up to the experience and opportunity.

Answers to the 11 Questions You Were Given:


What’s your favorite season? Spring. Still blustry and stormy enough to enjoy afternoons cuddled up with a great book (or blog) and steaming mug of tea, but you can feel the tide turning, the days getting longer and life emerging from it’s long winter’s nap. So much hope and beauty.

What did you want to be when you grew up? The first thing I can remember wanting to be was an astronaut. I got my first set of glasses in sixth grade and those hopes were dashed (not to mention my abysmal performance in math).

potato tart(Potato carmelized onion tart – amazingly delicious)

Sweet or savory? Savory. No question.

Favorite Boy Band? Do the Punch Brothers count? But pop-stravagant Boy Band? New Kids On The Block. Forever.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? While I really appreciate quality non-fiction (Mary Roach and Christopher Hitchens are favorites), I like to read to escape the real world, so fiction almost always wins out. Due to The Bat’s influence, I am starting to branch into Science Fiction and Fantasy for the first time and am loving every page of it.


If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be? Cleopatra. I want to hear her story from the source (a very close contender would be Mary Magdalene, for the same reason).

What is one secret goal or dream you have for yourself? I dream of taking my writing and photography to the next level – making them more of a priority, focusing on learning the skills (and forging the connections) that would allow me to travel, write and take pictures professionally. I am thinking it’s a pretty competitive gig.

beach3(San Simeon coastline, CA)

What is the one thing you do/place you go that gets you refocused and energized? I go to the ocean. I inhale the salt air deeply and listen to the waves pound endlessly against the shore. Something about that power, the wind in my hair, and the wild, untamed beauty of the Pacific always sets things right. That, and I make a big pot of minestrone soup and garlic bread. There are very few problems that a walk on the beach and a steamy bowl of soup cannot solve.


(My brother’s dog, Moose, as a puppy)

What is your spirit animal? Labrador retriever. Cuddly, soft (ha), unconditionally loving, fiercely loyal, trustworthy, easily distracted and, while not the smartest of the bunch, willing to work as hard as it takes.

What are you most proud of today? That I truly love myself, exactly the way that I am. Sure, there are a few pounds I could lose and so many projects that I am saving for a rainy day. In the end, I am proud and excited about who I am, how I spend my time, where I focus my energy and the person I have become.

self portrait

What is one resolution for 2013 you want to be sure to stick to for the rest of the year? Consistency here, continuing to use writing and photography to explore who I am, how I eat and what is next for me.

Nominate 5 Bloggers

Camille of Croque Camille

Catherine of Ciao Down!

Margaret of Destination : Macaron

Marie of Meandering Eats

Tammy of Agrigirl’s Blog


11 Questions for the Nominee to Answer

1. What is your go-to, most comforting meal?

2. Top 5 destinations you hope to travel to some day?

3. Top 5 places you have already visited?

4. What song takes you back to your senior year in high school like it was yesterday?

5. What was your first car?

6. Coffee or tea?

7. What is your favorite thing to cook?

8. Favorite thing about blogging?

9. Three pieces of advice you would give younger you?

10. What would be your perfect date?

11. Could you recommend 2 books that moved you (any genre)?

Thanks again, Mere, for such a fun post! For those of you reading – I would love to learn more about you as well! Please, drop a quick comment about where you are from, what brought you to ResarchingSanDiego and what question would you ask your favorite bloggers?