Monday, April 27, 2009

to do: sunday afternoon at the park

tightroper + girl | meridien hill | april 26 2009

more photos from a hot weekend in dc. i've posted and photographed about meridien hill park before, but it's the quintessential dc sunday funday event. drums, picnics, sun and good people.

the expert | meridien hill | april 26 2009

expert in training | meridien hill | april 26 2009

the crazy yoga | meridien hill | april 26 2009

more crazy yoga | meridien hill | april 26 2009

good blessings | meridien hill | april 26 2009

the usual suspects | meridien hill | april 26 2009
sunset and whistles | meridien hill | april 26 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

summer lovin'

high school & college regattas/practice on the potomac
dc hit the 90's this weekend. a friend and i decided to hit up an old haunt to watch the locals as they emerge from the hibernation of winter (dc totally skipped spring this year). we didn't document much since we spent most of the time drinking and wishing we had a boat but it was fun none-the-less.

these people make me want a boat.

yup, that's a wifebeater tan.

no drama kinda day. thanks diddy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

to do: make my own alcohol infusion

wall of infusions at poste brasserie

a few weeks ago, wen and i decided to grab a drink at poste in penn quarter. as we were catching up, i noticed a collection of bottles on the wall and a bartender making a fuss. i realized quickly that he was hand creating the infusions that poste boasts in their signature cocktails. my curiosity got the best of me and i spent the better of 15 minutes peppering the poor guy with questions on how to do it, how long it lasts, the best fruits/spices to use etc.

vintage grape crusher thingie

when i was in philly for miss anna's birthday, i found out that my friends make homemade wine. j is a second generation italian and his family has been making homemade wine for over 25 years. they own cranks and crushers and make everything from grapes on their own. i was grateful that they sent me home with a couple bottles. one was made by someone in the family a long time ago (70's maybe?) and another is from their 2006 batch. i haven't yet tasted it but i'm hoping to have an occasion to open the bottle soon.

the garage set-up (30+ gallons of vino)

with all the unique things i've tasted in dc and philly, the processes i've learned, i've been inspired to create my own infusion for a summer cocktail.

hopefully, soon, i can tell you how it goes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

To do: discover Philadelphia

philly's love park (photo from

This weekend, I discovered Philly. Being from DC and a frequenter of NYC, Philly was always one of those stopover towns. It’s where everyone went to college or where everyone grew up but where no one ever stays. I never understood why people love this city so much. At first glance, it’s not the prettiest, it’s crowded, and it’s not known for much besides Rocky, some cray-cray sports fans, a guy that likes to fly kites in the rain and of course, that famous broken bell.

Well, was I pleasantly surprised! For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting a few friends that have recently moved to Philly from DC (i call them abandoners). It’s always been a quick jaunt out to dinner or to someone’s house for an event. Don’t get me wrong, those things are all fun but there was never any time to really feel the brotherly love.

kayakers on the schuykill river near boathouse row

(photo from the official visitor site of greater philadelphia)

This Saturday, I had a window open, ipod blasting, singing at the top of my lungs, drive up 95 (the weather helped with the good mood). The city was in full swing with routes 76 and 676 being packed like sardines. I had to take a detour to get to my friend’s house and drove though the museum area and down Kelly Drive. For those that don’t know, Kelly Drive is home to boat house row and follows the Schuykill River. It’s pretty much a huge riverfront park. There were tons of bikers, walkers, families, dogs, and rowers out and it was a pretty nice drive despite the traffic. Recommendation: take a walk along Kelly Drive and watch a regatta.

Soon after I arrived in Manayunk, we hopped on the bus to get into Center City to eat near Rittenhouse Square. Rittenhouse Square is a pretty large park area and the surrounding streets are home to some good shopping and some good living. The plaza was buzzing with people with no visible spots to sit by the time we got there. There were people laying out, listening to the street musicians, or just reading a book in the sun.

basilia cocktail at Parc

We decided on getting an outdoor table at Steven Starr’s Parc adjacent to the square. Steven Starr is well known for reviving the foodie scene in Philly. His restaurants are known for great food and a great vibe; Parc happens to be his homage to a French brasserie with great outdoor seating. Spent quite a while here just hanging out. I’ve eaten brunch here before and it’s probably one of the best brunches I’ve had. For a late lunch in the sun at Parc, I recommend: tuna tartare (friend raved about it) and the basilia cocktail (elderflower liquor and vodka with fresh basil and cucumber).

town hall with ben penn (inside joke)

After drinking and noshing at Parc, we decided to move onto Market East to hit up the Apothecary Bar + Lounge roof deck. Apothecary is kind of a trendy, themed restaurant with strange medical sounding ingredients in their cocktails. I spent a lot of time looking up terms on Wikipedia to decipher what I was imbibing. For some fun, adventurous drinks, go to Apothecary and try: a Booty Collins - a spicy drink with green tea infused gin, passionfruit, yohimbe, valerian root, and cayenne. It’s noted as not being for the faint of heart so I only had one.

An hour or so into a long conversation about Crank (the movie, not the drug after much confusion), we actually got kicked off the APO rooftop because of a private function but decided we weren’t done enjoying the weather.

sunset from jeff's bainbridge street roof deck

We walked to a friend’s house (passing the Broad street and its neighborhood block parties in full effect on the way) to see his rooftop deck before moving on to a late dinner. After literally climbing a ladder through his sky light/sunroof-esque “door” --a challenge with a beer in one hand, a camera in another and a while wearing a dress -- we end up upstairs staring at Philly’s skyline at sunset. Recommendation: find a friend with a roofdeck.

With the sun set, and more than a few drinks under our belt, we hit the road again to get a real meal at the Pub and Kitchen. We grabbed more drinks, discussed their logo (a pabbit!), and had a wonderful dinner. Friends raved about the pulled pork sandwiches and frites with truffle dijonnaise. I had the pub salad (you can never go wrong with apples, goat cheese, walnuts and homemade dressing) and the perfect - so perfect - scallops w/ morels. Also, this is great place to hit up for late night drinks -- nice setting, not overly crowded or pretentious, and they play 80’s music (hee!). My recommendation: just go to the Pub and Kitchen. You can’t go wrong.

All-in-all, it was a perfect Saturday in a gorgeous, totally underrated city. I recommend a visit soon!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

a KISS for anna

keeping it simple for anna's 2nd birthday (with a placeholder pic of me)

in high school, i had an engineering teacher who probably taught me one of the best tidbits of advice: KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid

i've noticed that i'm not the only one who has reverted to living simply. and while some of you may read that as deprivation of the luxuries of life, i'd like to think that people understand that life is more than things. the trendy new bag or the cool, new electronic gadget will soon be out of style or obsolete and i'm learning that while i'm instantly gratified, the wow factor doesn't last more than a few weeks before i want a new thing. trust me, i struggle with this - i like nice things just as much as the next person.

even though i'm still learning to use KISS in my daily life, i do understand the notion of keeping it simple. i've always been touched by heartfelt, creative ways to show someone you care including a nice homemade meal, personalizing and handmaking gifts, or just simply sending a real letter (or embarrassing pictures) to an old friend.

i'm going to philly this weekend to see an old college roommate that i haven't seen in six years. before that we hadn't seen each other since graduation day, in may 2002 (gah, that was a long time ago). her daughter, anna, is turning two and i'm going to the birthday party.

k and her hubby have always been very level-headed, caring people and i shouldn't have been surprised to hear that instead of gifts for their daughter's birthday, they requested that family and friends create a scrapbook page for anna's birthday book.

so instead of having the latest dora toy that she won't remember and that won't hold any value once she runs it into the ground, anna now will have memories of all the people that she touched as a baby. while that doesn't seem like much right now, fifty years from now, she'll have an awesome, semi-"vintage", handmade, invaluable, book to cherish. how pretty is that?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

the princess and the pea. soup.

pea soup w/ sour cream and pancetta

so i've been the doing the healthy living thing. and i plan to keep it up after easter (with a few cheat days here and there - natch). and by healthy living i've been - buying less, cleaning like a crazy woman, trying to work out more, eating more nutritiously, and generally, just living simply.

to an extent, most of these things i've been doing already. however, the biggest change has been the healthy eating coupled with cutting down on spending -- which is a challenge since healthier (and organic) food is definitely more expensive. i've not just cut out bad food (high fructose corn syrup - begone!) i've also tried to eat more nutritious foods including eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. fruit and veggies have always been part of my diet, but probably not in the recommended quantities. so squeezing another few servings of vegetables and fruit in my usual routine has been an exercise of creativity.

for lunch this week, i've had sandwiches of smoked turkey on whole grain bread with lettuce. and since it's been so unseasonably cold, i've been craving soup. the other day, i opted for a pre-made creamy tomato (which i ended up ditching after i realized it had 24 grams of sugar in it. tomato soup + h.f.c.syrup = gag). so, i decided for the next day, i'd make a healthy, cheap soup. somehow.

i realized that i had frozen peas leftover from a foray into indo-pakastani cuisine the other day. pea soup is nutritious, simple to make, and not going to put me into the red after buying a whole produce section just for simmering. as an added bonus, it can be made in smaller batches (someone really needs to create a singles recipe and food line- but that’s another post).

in the past, you couldn’t pay me to eat pea soup. so i was naturally hesitant that i might waste my time and money on this. as a compromise, i decided that if i'm going to eat the equivalent of what is essentially one cup of peas as part of a meal, that i would nudge the taste with some sprinklings of pancetta and a dollop of fat free sour cream. ends up just the tiniest add-on makes a world of difference to the taste. and since they were added in such small quantities, it’s a pretty insignificant add-on to the calorie intake (and cost).

so here's my take on pea soup (i didn't follow a formal recipe per se, so this is my best guess after skimming some recipes on the internet)

  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into thin half rings
  • 2 -2.5ish cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ inchish slice of pancetta, cut into a mini dice(optional)
  • 1 dollop of fat free sour cream (optional)

1) heat up just a little extra virgin olive oil (1 teaspoonish, the pancetta will add the rest) in soup pot.

2) sautee pancetta until golden and crispy. scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3) sautee onions until clear.

4) add chicken broth. bring to a rolling simmer.

5) add peas. heat through until the peas are defrosted and it comes to a rolling boil. turn off the heat! stop while you’re ahead, you want a pretty lime green pea soup, not a dull puke green color.

6) carefully use an immersion blender to blend into a puree. (or dump in batches into a regular blender. don’t forget to open the blow hole for the steam to escape or else you will burn yourself and make a mess in the kitchen!)

7) plate into a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of pancetta (just a pinch).

8) enjoy!

this tasted awesome and is surprisingly filling!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

wedding season packaging

cherry blossoms 2009

love is in bloom and wedding season is upon us! my family members and friends are all taking the plunge. if you've read liveleah before you know that i live in a studio and have no room for storage. except for shoes. there is always room for shoes.

as in the past, i've been sticking to the classic brown craft paper and use embellishments to personalize and pretty things up.

for my soon to be cousin-in-law's bridal shower, her sister sent these pretty invitations:

with a few sheets of paper, and a ribbon to match her wedding colors, here is her present:
... oh and it's green too! yay.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

insert cyndi lyric here.

"i am riding the mexican train!" - leah, after lots of bourbon slushies

a few girls and i have started a monthly or so domino night. but before you point and laugh at the lameness, it's actually a lot of fun and results in some pretty & yummy food, bourbon slushies and some good old fashion trash talking.

girls + bourbon = trash talking. how
could that not be fun?

i lose most of the time but that's probably because i really like
bourbon slushies. alot.

my contribution | endives with almonds, cranberries & goat cheese topped w/ champagne vinaigrette

this last get together, miss m was gracious enough to make dessert on the spot.

apple+ cinnamon + sugar + beer batter + frying + powdered sugar = yum

i did taste just the tiniest piece of this to be polite for the hard work of standing in front of the hot fryer while i sat on my bum and drank more bourbon slushie. after STT, i'll feel more inclined to try another piece.

the making of a good dutch appleflappen

i want one right now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

in like a lion... out like a lamb

march has been pretty hectic in my world. i have lots of fun plans in the works but mostly, i've been on a spring cleaning blitz - in more ways than one.

for lent, i gave up almost any kind of junk food besides coffee and alcohol (must not be completely insufferable). it's not a completely crazy catholic thing (as you people roll your eyes)... it's partly because it was healthy improvement -- i like dessert too much. that and i'm going to st thomas in 1 month. need i say more? healthy is still pretty though...

my recent "dessert" (still miss chocolate)