Spring.

Welcome spring! While I know it’s terrible, I find winter so difficult to appreciate after the holidays. And I really try! Thick socks are cozy! The fireplace (that needs to be burning all the time) is so charming! But really, I am just refreshing my weather app hoping to sight the first breach of 50 degrees in the forecast while also praying that the gas bill doesn’t break the bank. It must have developed after my move from Iowa to Kansas because I don’t remember dreading winter as much growing up. As an adult, though, sunshine, birds, and open windows speak far more to my soul than snow ever could. I am a sunshine kinda girl.

So here we are. New house, new city. New appreciation for the suburbs? Still developing. Yet, as far as suburban homes go, we found our perfect one. Homeownership bliss!

materials

Since we moved in late fall after most of our yard had turned over for the year, we had limited knowledge of what types of plants existed on our property, let alone whether they were healthy or not. Every new day brings a new discovery. There is a crabapple tree in our backyard that is blooming beautiful, tiny purple and yellow buds. I am still waiting on some bushes alongside the fence, but am holding hope that they are lilacs. I convinced a certain loved one not to dig up the struggling hydrangea bushes in the front yard when we moved in this fall in hopes that I might be able to nurse them back to health. The little troopers are budding bright green at their bases, and I am thrilled.

fenceBed construction

I know how cliche it is, but spring always provides me so much encouragement. Encouragement to embrace what cultivates joy and gently let go of guilt and that which casts doubt or negativity. Going back to school has provided a sense of spring all year. I’ve noticed how much easier it is to laugh at, instead of dwelling on, my own shortcomings and forcefully pursue the unfamiliar instead. School, like spring, is an invitation to lean in to something new and truly believe in capabilities we have yet to demonstrate.

One of our current projects is the construction of beautiful raised beds that will house our first vegetable garden. In between construction, our breaks have consisted of watching our beloved Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament. While it’s a different kind of blessing than the arrival of spring, having a team that is reliably in the tournament every year is pretty sweet blessing. There is another game tonight, and I am already my standard mix of excited and anxious. I love how KU has become such an engrained rhythm in our lives between school and basketball. It’s truly a special place.

Jayhawk Mantle

sunsetSee, the sunset is even beautiful in the suburbs! 🙂 Go outside. And rock chalk!

See you soon.

Back to School Style

It’s that time of year again! And this year is a special one for me. I am returning to school full-time as a graduate student and I am already hard at work preparing for my workload and responsibilities as a TA. It will be strange getting used to studying again on the weekends instead of attending marching band competitions and pep band responsibilities, but I am really looking forward to the change of pace!

When it comes to work and school clothing, I definitely gravitate towards timeless, classic style. Some of my favorite pieces in my closet are things I’ve had since my undergrad days, or even things of my grandmothers that she gave to me in high school. Quality pieces should last for years, and are often worth the extra penny.

Above are tried and true styles that I have carried with me throughout the years. If I don’t own the identical piece, I own something similar from a prior year. And nobody says you have to buy quality items straight from the vendors. I have found terrific pieces at thrift stores that look practically new – Brooks Brothers button downs and Ralph Lauren Collection boots – that are examples of quality pieces I would never allow myself to buy at full price.

Also. School starting means FALL is just around the corner! My AC is begging for a break, and I’m ready for some football and cider.

back to school collage

Clothing

Accessories

See you soon.

Preserved Lemon Roast Chicken

table view

Have you ever cooked with preserved lemons? I read about them this fall in A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus (highly recommend for recipes organized by season!) and was surprised that I had never even heard of them before. Preserved lemons are basically pickled lemons – you store them tightly in a jar covered in their own juices and then douse with salt and seasonings. I used bay leaves and a single stick of cinnamon when making my own batch.

preserved lemons

I had my lemons in their jar for about two months and decided it was time to put them to use. One of my favorite dishes to make at home is roast chicken. There is something so comforting about warm chicken from the oven with savory spices. While I sometimes elect to roast chicken thighs out of convenience, I get a lot of joy from roasting a whole chicken. The process takes a bit longer, giving me a greater appreciation for the meal. And it’s just so beautiful once done!

Another cookbook I’ve turned to a lot over the past year is The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci. I have always adored Mr. Tucci in movies like The Devil Wears Prada, Big Night, and Julie and Julia. I think he is witty and utterly charming. My dad gifted The Tucci Table to me for Christmas in celebration of our common admiration of the actor. The cookbook is so fantastic. It centers around Tucci’s Italian heritage and offers an array of dishes using simple ingredients prepared with care to create something beautiful.

cutting board and lemons

Ive turned to his roast chicken recipe many times. It is simple and allows the flavor of the chicken to shine as it is complimented by some good ole butter. In combination with my sweet and salty preserved lemons, the chicken was quite the treat.

dutch oven

melted butter

cutting board

wine

chicken in pot

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 preserved lemon, cut into quarters
  • 4lb whole chicken
  • 1/2 whole yellow onion, roughly cut
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup white wine

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Heat 6 tbs butter over low heat in small saucepan. Once totally melted, add shallot, garlic, 2 sprigs finely chopped rosemary and 1 quarter of roughly chopped preserved lemon.
  3. Once shallot and garlic have softened, take butter off heat to cool. If you’re impatient like me, put it in the freezer for one minute or in the refrigerator for about ten minutes.
  4. While butter is cooling, prepare your chicken.Remove any contents of the inside of the chicken and freeze for stock. Trim any unwanted fat and pat the outside of the chicken dry. Carefully separate the skin over the breast meat and use a sharp knife to cut open a pocket across the chicken.
  5. Once butter is softened, use your hands or a wooden spoon to put the herbed lemon butter underneath the chicken skin. Do this to both sides of the chicken.
  6. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside with the rest of the preserved lemons (rind and pulp), full rosemary sprigs, onion and garlic. Tie the legs with kitchen twine and use toothpicks to further close up the chicken if desired.
  7. Layer the entire outside of the chicken with the leftover butter and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan or dutch oven atop roasting rack. If you’re like me and keep forgetting to buy a roasting rack, use the foolproof method described below. Pour wine in bottom of pan. Then, go grab your favorite wine glass and treat-yo-self.
  8. Place chicken in oven uncovered for approximately 2 hours. Baste chicken every 20 minutes or whenever you remember to. If you think the top of the chicken is browning too quickly, place a piece of tin foil over the top of the bird. When internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes.
  9. Enjoy you dinner! For additional flavor, mash one of the preserved lemons onto your plate and garnish the chicken and onions with each bite.

table final.jpg

Foolproof, cheap-o roasting rack: cut a long piece of tin foil and roll into long rope. Bend to create a spiral shape and place in the bottom of your pan. If you want extra height, place a few chopsticks over your tin foil. Promise yourself to buy a baking rack the next time you’re at Target. Drink your wine and continue to forget.

rack

See you soon.

El Dorado Royale.

from dock

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We stayed at the beautiful El Dorado Royale all-inclusive resort located about 20 minutes outside Cancun. We chose this resort because the picturesque beaches and high ratings on TripAdvisor for resorts under the Karisma Hotels and Resorts name. We’ve had many family members and friends close to us ask for a thorough review of the resort in preparation for their own travels, so I’ve compiled everything here. Get ready, it’s a long post!

Another reason we chose this specific resort is because of its unique all-inclusive features. The resort prides itself on being a “gourmet all-inclusive,” meaning meals are served as a multi-course experience rather than the tradition buffet-style at a typical all-inclusive. We knew we wanted this vacation to be based around relaxation, so an all-inclusive made the most sense. We were sold by the unique approach by Karisma resorts.

lobby

Upon arrival at the resort, we were greeted with sparkling wine by Alfonso, our personal concierge for the week. He discussed with us our hopes for the trip and walked us through the resort’s many restaurant and bar options on the property. Based on our conversation, he booked reservations for us at four restaurants, a dinner on the beach, and  a dinnertime shuttle to Playa del Carmen mid-week. We found his expertise to be valuable throughout the week and were thankful to have someone to turn to when we had a question about our stay.

z window

Our room was a third-floor junior suite in building 42 close to the southern most edge of the resort. We were thrilled with the location of our room as we were close to both the beach and quieter pools. While we were farther from the main pool, bars and lobby, we really didn’t mind because of how peaceful the surrounding areas were. As a recommendation for future travelers, we would recommend either a third-floor room for the privacy and quiet or a first-floor room for the swim-up entry to your patio. Building 55 has an oceanfront location and would be perfect. If you stay in the Casita portion of the resort, there are third-floor rooms with pools on each patio, which is the best of both worlds.

main path

spa

walking

swing bar

dock from base

There are three separate resorts on the extensive property. Our resort, the El Dorado Royale is the largest of the three resorts and has the most pools, bars and restaurants. It caters to those looking for a getaway in paradise, as it has a beach spa and is for adults only. Winding paths snake around the expansive resort and the beautiful grounds are manicured daily. The staff always address you with a courteous “hola!” when they pass you, and golf cart rides are available when you want a ride across the property. There are various patios, docks and beaches constructed for events and weddings. We saw weddings happening at the resort every day of our trip!

The El Dorado Royale Casitas resort (also adults only) is a more intimate experience, with nicer rooms featuring outdoor showers, vaulted ceilings and the option for a swim-up patio regardless of which floor you stay on. The Casitas are organized in “pods” each having their own pool and swim-up bar. For couples looking for a more romantic experience, we highly encourage a trip to the Casitas. The family resort on the property is called Generations Riviera Maya and has a more-typical resort layout where every room has a beach view and balcony infinity pool. There are daily activities for children and a stunning rooftop for events. All three resorts are all-inclusive. Guests from Royale and Casitas are welcome to the Generation’s property and restaurants and pools, but the Royale and Casitas are reserved for adults only.

tour

beach

beds

beach with rocks

We found a lovely beach near the presidential suites that we went to almost every day. It had beach beds that we never had a problem reserving, as well as a bar with friendly bartenders and a small buffet lunch selection beginning at 11. We loved that it was quiet and everyone was so friendly. A quick walk down the beach would lead you to an enclosed salt water pool where you could snorkel and see small fish and crabs. While the beaches of Cozumel are probably a better bet than Cancun for snorkeling, this salt water pool ensured you could get snorkeling time in daily regardless of the tide.

main pool

main pool 2

iguana

We also enjoyed the pools during our experience. Each salt water pool has its own swim-up bar where you can get anything from a piña colada to a scotch on the rocks. We found two pools closer to our room that were connected by a lazy river. When we were looking for something to do, we would bar hop from pool to pool, making lots of friends along the way. We truly enjoyed getting to know people from all over the world. While the main pool is surrounded by some of the best restaurants and most beautiful bars, we decided to devote our time to rest and relaxation. If you are looking for a perfect bachelor/bachelorette weekend or party experience, the main pool and bar is perfect. But if you are looking for something more relaxing, there are plenty of experiences available for you as well.

In addition to beaches and pools, there are daily activities you can partake in throughout the day. There is morning yoga, bike rides, cooking classes, tequila tastings and crafts throughout the week. Every evening there is live music and a show that you can attend to meet lots of people. We were there for a Michael Jackson tribute band, a karaoke evening and a fire show on the beach.

beach dinner z

beach dinner e

We tested almost all of the restaurants and felt we left with a good impression of the “gourmet inclusive” experience.

Breakfast: Most mornings, we chose to have our meal at Cocotal, the only restaurant on the grounds that serves a buffet-style meal all day. Cocotal is centrally located underneath the lobby. There is a massive buffet complete with fresh omelets, cold and hot options and a mimosa/bloody mary bar. We ordered room service two mornings and while we loved having breakfast on our patio, the quality of the food is better in the restaurants.

Lunch: We elected to have all our lunches at outdoor restaurants. At the Health Bar, we enjoyed fresh juice, the chilled carrot ginger soup and the beautiful ocean view. The Pizza Bar was more what you would expect from a pool bar – flat bread pizzas, burgers, nachos -and while convenient, was quite hot as it was guarded from the ocean breeze. Our favorite lunch spot was JoJo’s, a seafood grill located beside the beach. We went three times and always ordered the ceviche to share. The menu was extensive, and any type of fish we ordered was always good.

martini bar

Evening: You split your options between restaurants that require reservations and those that do not. Certain bars stay open late for you to enjoy drinks after dinner or while you’re waiting for your table. Our favorite restaurant that didn’t require reservation was Kampai, the Japanese restaurant, because of the freshness of the food and hospitality of the wait staff. We especially enjoyed the spring rolls, sushi and fried ice cream. Our favorite bar was recommended to us by our concierge and friends whom honeymooned at the resort a few years back. While not typically my type of drink, I have to say that the chocolate martini at Martinis was the best drink of the week.

A note to wine drinkers: While there is an extensive wine list in the restaurants if you are willing to pay extra, we only encountered three included wines in the all inclusive package: a chardonnay that wasn’t heavily oaky or buttery, a pinot noir and a sweet sparkling wine. After tasting everything, we stuck to the chardonnay throughout the week as it better suited most of our food and it was hot as hell outside. Beer and hard liquor are included and are served at all restaurants. Some restaurants had special drinks you could get at their location (i.e. the Japanese restaurant served Sapporo). This might be something to consider though if you wish to have nicer wines with your dinner.

happy holiday

We were scheduled for a dinner on the beach, but the location was changed due to a storm. The beach meal is typically a more romantic experience that most people save for a special evening. Nobody knew quite what to make of the two of us the entire trip, seeing as we were simply vacationing and weren’t celebrating an engagement or honeymoon or birthday or anniversary. Our waiter seemed mildly devastated when we explained to him we weren’t honeymooners, and we didn’t understand his reaction until this dessert came out. I could not stop laughing! I think I’ll make it our Christmas card.

culinary theater

culinary menu

If you are looking for a truly spectacular experience, the Fuentes Culinary Theater cannot be beat. The restaurant features a five-course meal alongside optional wine pairings for $40 per person. While you are served your meal, a chef walks you through the cooking process of your food, as well as the cultural meaning behind your dish. Cameras project live video of the chef to four large screens easily visible from all parts of the restaurant. After the cooking presentation is complete, a sommelier explains the wine pairings in terms that are approachable and practical. While I was initially hesitant to include the wine pairing with my meal, I am so glad I did! It seemed silly to me to spend additional money atop our prepaid all-inclusive fees, but the wine pairings enhanced the experience making it so worthwhile. We actually enjoyed the final pairing – a tequila creme – so much that we purchased a bottle to share with family back home. Reservations are required at Fuentes and the menu changes every two days. Our single regret was that we only booked one evening here!

pre playa

We decided to take a shuttle to Playa del Carmen for one evening outside of the resort. While we were initially excited to get away, I think we simply took the wrong approach. The part of Playa we were in was extremely touristy. I kept telling Zach that I felt we were back in midtown Manhattan! We received a restaurant recommendation from someone at our hotel but were fairly underwhelmed by our meal. Next time, I think I’ll ask for recommendations from friends on Facebook and strive for a more authentic experience.

beach rocks centered

Overall, we found our experience at the El Dorado Royale to be quite positive. We enjoyed how the extensive grounds allowed you any experience you want, whether that be a party with new friends or peace and quiet. If you get tired of the formality of the multi-course dinners, there are more casual options and room service available at all points of the day. For us, the beautiful beaches and pools were enough to make us mopey on check-out day. They were just so perfect! If we were to return, we hope to bring friends along to share in the experience. To enhance our stay even more, we know now to stay in the Casitas and ask for a swim up room. Until next time, Mexico. Thank you, El Dorado Royale for a terrific week!

palm trees

See you soon.

The Jungle Gym.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

We are home from Mexico! I was thrilled to walk into our creaky old house at 1am feeling a balance of appreciation for both the time away and a warm home to return to. While I am feeling quite inspired by our travels, my energy level is much lower than I hoped upon our return. As I recover (quickly) I did want to comment on some thought-provoking reading I did while away.

I am approximately four years late to the trend, but I finally got around to reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I feel that I have chosen to read this collection of ideas and arguments at a seemingly crucial part of my young adult life. Her writings are honest and intelligent, and I appreciate the level of detail and research she presents when supplying supplemental readings for her arguments. I find myself diving deeper and deeper down the Google rabbit hole when referring to her many references.

There are many ideas she reinforces that I identify with, but I choose now to focus on a simple phrase that I heavily underlined in blue pen: “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

Of course they are! Why do we still believe in the traditional “climbing the ladder” idea of a career? Why should we be restricted to exactly what we already do? Where is the creativity, the growth, the expansion? The jungle gym metaphor strikes true with me as I leap from one branch of my field to another as I leave my job and begin graduate work. I was troubled  when some colleagues did not understand my decision this spring to pursue something I have less experience in. For me, I acknowledge that there is a high amount of risk in essentially pursuing something new, but the potential for reward is great when you consider the vast amount of knowledge you can gain when pursuing a new path.

Another aspect of the jungle gym metaphor I like is the option to personalize your career. The next step of a career does not need to be a cookie-cutter version of someone else’s experience. With the jungle gym metaphor, there is freedom to step to the side and try something new. And those sidesteps can be big or small. They can include leaving a field entirely. And they most certainly can include leaving temporarily to have children. The beauty of this approach is whichever path you take, there is always opportunity to reach further for the top. You just have to be willing to work harder and work smarter. I guess an accurate metaphor could be a rock-climbing wall, too! But now I digress.

19JPTIER_SPAN-jumbo

It’s a simple idea, but I was thrilled to read it. It was a reminder that you can choose to refine your skills in whichever way you choose, and that growth and success can be shared by all of us simultaneously. The most important thing is to move forward confidently and work hard for whatever the top of your jungle gym may be.

Ms. Sandberg also spoke as keynote speaker this spring at UC Berkeley’s Commencement. Her speech went viral, and for good reason. You can find her address to the graduates here.

See you soon.

Vacation to Mexico

EDR5

We decided a few months ago to schedule a trip to close out summer before the school year begins again. After lots and lots of research we decided on the beautiful El Dorado Royale resort on Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast. We thought the pictures of the pools and beaches looked so relaxing, which was a priority for this particular trip. I’ve actually never been to Mexico before, so I’m looking forward to experiencing something new. In addition to the resort, there are options to go on day trips to see ruins in Tulum, as well boating and snorkeling options on the water. I’m so excited to go!

Below are a few items I plan on packing for our trip. I haven’t done much in preparation, which I’m sure will catch up to me soon. I would love recommendations for the Riviera Maya area if you have any!

  1. Writings from The Paris Review
  2. Magic
  3. What She Knew
  4. Levi Cutoffs
  5. BP Boater Hat
  6. Gingham High Waist Swimsuit
  7. My favorite sunscreen
  8. Gold Sandals
  9. Wayfarers
  10. Gold Hoops
  11. Insulated Water Bottle
  12. Orange/Red Lipstick
  13. Bright Orange Earrings
  14. Also. While certainly not glamorous, lots and lots of Deep Woods bug repellent.

EDR2

See you soon.

A Weekend to Breathe.

porch

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou

It’s funny how change can be. How easy it is to get swept up in the excitement of it only to draw back to the comfort and simplicity of the familiar. How appreciation can ebb and flow dramatically, and sometimes you just have to wait for the sun to come up to forget what you’re scared of. And simultaneously the world seems to be falling apart from corner to corner and there are so many bigger issues in the world, but it doesn’t negate the thoughts in your head, no matter how small. So you try to balance everything. And sometimes prioritizing gets confusing and we all get a little lost. Or at least I do.

So we took this weekend to breathe. And it was wonderful.

pickles

We took a trip to the farmers market on Saturday and bought lots of goodies that only barely made it through the weekend. Local heirloom tomatoes made for perfect summer BLT’s for lunch and caprese for dinner. After naps, I made my first ever batch of homemade pickles based off a recipe from my grandfather and we went for a long walk before the sun went down. I also did some vintage shopping this weekend, which has turned into quite the hobby of mine. Some green glass vases and light washed Levi’s were my prize finds this round.

levis

We also started watching Friday Night Lights, which I am having no problem moving through large series of episodes per day. I usually feel guilty when I watch more than an hour of tv, but I could watch this all day. Tami and Eric Taylor might be my favorite TV couple of all time. Their bickering cracks me up. And it’s always totally obvious who is going to win each game, but I still get excited every fourth-and-inches play that gets the job done for the Panthers. They always go for it, and I just love it.

local pig

On Sunday, we decided against brunch and went to The Local Pig for Pigwich sandwiches instead, followed by a leisurely drive back through Kansas City to the house. Lots more Tami and Coach Taylor. Lots of coffee. Lots of sunshine. And I woke up the calmest I’ve been on a Monday morning in weeks. I have a habit of taking this simple life of mine and overanalyzing every little thing to insanity, so it was necessary to stop, breathe and just appreciate it. Because it’s absolutely silly not to.

windows

See you soon.