Hiking the Hills

Today I took a break from working and spent the morning with an old friend, hiking through the hills of Berkeley, CA. No, this won’t be a post about the merits of hiking, or the picturesque nature of the Berkeley hills, or even the best foods for post-workout. This will just be a post about my enjoyable morning hike and good company. 🙂

Having lived in LA for a few years, something everyone seems to love doing is hiking. The Hollywood sign, Griffith park, Escondido Falls – all places that LA-ers love to adventure through on their weekend mornings. And I can’t lie, I’ve definitely caught the hiking bug too. There’s something wonderful about waking up and starting out your day with a hike through nature. The world is still waking up, it’s quiet, the air is crisp and clear, the sun is just starting to warm up – it’s absolutely one of the best times of day. Some people like to wake up and go running, but I’ve never been one of those people to enjoy running, so a hike is the perfect easy morning workout for me. Not only is it a great way to get in your 10,000 steps but it’s a workout that you can do at your own pace, pushing yourself to a tough pace and taking trails with inclines and rough terrain, or taking more of a relaxing stroll to just enjoy good company or nature.

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Anyway, my friend and I ventured along a moderate 2-mile path up to this amazing lookout with 360° views of the distant San Francisco bay and our own rolling East Bay hills. We sat there and talked as the day started to heat up, enjoying the amazing view, until we walked back the 2 miles and got lunch. And ice cream. (Who said hiking couldn’t have its tasty rewards?) Aka the perfect morning! Enjoy the photos from the top of our lookout and tell me about your favorite hiking spot or your favorite way to start your day in the comments!

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Happy weekend and happy hiking!

 

Nom noms: Lettuce Wraps

Happy Hump Day!! So, it’s the middle of the week and cooking is becoming a drag. You’re about ready to just boil some water and eat some starchy pasta. Or worse, grab some grapes, eat Cheetos straight out of the bag, and call it a modern salad. STOP! NO! We can eat good food and it won’t be that hard! I promise! Because today -drumroll- we make lettuce wraps!

You groan. Lettuce wraps. It sounds disgustingly healthy and also difficult to make. But don’t judge a food by it’s name until you’ve tasted it! This is a perfectly simple, 10-minute recipe, perfect for the lazy cook, like myself, annnnnnd still healthy without gagging you with lettuce. Lettuce wraps can be a really easy healthy twist on some of your favorite foods and you can stuff them with almost anything. Plus, they can be a light snack or a full meal and are a great summer food, even on a hot day. Follow along for my favorite lettuce wrap recipe and, unlike motorcycle stunts, DO try this at home!

STEP 1: Ingredients ingredients ingredients! One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a lazy cook is get all your ingredients together before you start cooking. That way you can just sit around and watch your food cook without you having to scramble around the kitchen getting whatever is needed next in the recipe. If you’re going to mimic my every move in this recipe then make sure to get the following (tsp = teaspoons; tbsp = tablespoons):

  • Ground beef – 1 lb
  • Veggie oil – 2 tsps
  • Mushrooms – approx. 8
  • Green onions (aka “scallions” if you’re fancy) – approx. 3
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (or ginger paste) – 2 tsps
  • Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
  • Soy sauce – 2 tbsp
  • Hoisin sauce – ¼ cup
  • Lettuce – one head

For these lettuce wraps I used some pretty traditional ingredients but I definitely encourage you to experiment! Try chipotle sauce instead of red pepper flakes or add carrots and peppers! Be creative! Cooking can be an art, it can be a science, or it can just be a crazy fun time in the kitchen – just get loose and go with the flow.

prep

STEP 2: Cut allllll the things! Chop your mushrooms, your green onions, your garlic, and whatever other ingredients you may have chosen to include that require cutting. If it seems like you have a disproportionate amount of mushrooms to everything else, don’t fret – as they cook, the mushrooms tend to shrink until they are much less noticeable. If, however, you are not a huge mushroom fan, cut down on your mushrooms until you’re comfortable with your chopped pile.

cut veggies

STEP 3: Now don’t get scared… but turn on the stove. Yes, I know, we’re using fire, things are getting a little intense but just stay calm and keep the flame on a medium-high and all will be well. Take a pan and place it over the flame on the stove. Yes, easy there, you’re doing fine! Now, should you choose to, add in the veggie oil and let it heat. If you want to be uber-healthy then you can skip the veggie oil entirely. You’ll know the veggie oil is hot when you can move the pan and it runs around really quickly, rather than slowly like oil usually moves.

oil

STEP 4: Throw in your meat! Don’t worry about breaking it up beforehand, just dump it in and as you stir it, it will break up in tiny bits. Keep stirring it until every last little meaty morsel is a nice earthy brown color. No pink meat! I don’t care if pink is your favorite color, pink meat bad! Once your meat is fully cooked (aka all brown) turn down the stove to a low-medium/low. If you feel like your meat is kind of oily or greasy, you can drain it off using a simple pasta strainer.

meat cooking

STEP 5: Toss in all your other ingredients! Mix, mix, mix your mushrooms, green onions, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce all together. Let the whole yummy mixture cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until your mushrooms (or other add-in ingredients) taste cooked! Then turn the heat off and we’re almost ready to eat!

almost done

STEP 6: Now to tackle the lettuce. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a head of lettuce that is easy to peel and can pull off large leaves to act as your lettuce wrap. If you’re not so lucky, you can still pull off small chunks and make bite-size lettuce wraps. I actually prefer the smaller ones since they’re much easier to manage and a little less messy. Or more messy, depending on how you eat. One tip: if you cut off the stem on the bottom of the lettuce, it’s sometimes easier to peel off the individual leaves.

lettuce pic

STEP 7: Add as much of your lovely meat mixture to your lettuce leaves, wrap or fold them up as best you can, and NOM! These can get a bit messy if you’re not careful so don’t expect to impress any company with your eating skills with this dinner!

FIN

I dunno about you, but I ate about four of these for dinner and am now so pleasantly stuffed I don’t know if I’ll ever move again. Even better, I have leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow too! I hope you’re as stuffed as I am and let me know about any modifications or experimentations you did for your own lettuce wraps! Nom on!!

Liebster Award

EXCITEMENT! Today something super special has happened! My wonderful friend Erika from Bearika Rose has nominated me for the Liebster Award! At first I didn’t really know what this was, but after some internet trawling, I’ve discovered that the Liebster Award is an on-going award for bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Essentially, the award aims to give smaller, newer, younger blogs a bit more exposure and help readers (like you) discover such blogs (like me). I’m definitely still new to the blogosphere but I’m loving it so far and I’m so thankful to Erika for nominating me! Erika was one of my inspirations for starting this blog so I’m so glad that she’s enjoyed reading my posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Now to pass this award along!

Liebester Award

The Rules for the Liebster Award:

  1. Thank and link the person who nominated you. (Done!)
  2. Write the rules and display the award. (Done-zo!)
  3. Answer 11 questions and write 11 of your own.
  4. Nominate 11 other bloggers (with less than 200 followers) and don’t forget to let them know.
  5. Write 11 facts about yourself.

11 Questions from Erika:

1. How did you come upon the name of your blog?

I feel like this is the question every person comes across at some point in their life, whether it’s choosing a username, a title, or even naming your cat. Originally, when I was toying with the idea of starting this blog, I was just finishing up #100happydays on my Instagram and was getting a little nostalgic about soon not taking pictures every day so I first came up with the idea of a photo-oriented blog. Then, the more I thought about blogging and what blogging really is, I realized it’s sort of like writing letters and sending them to the entire world. As someone who originally aspired to be a creative writer, I definitely wanted to incorporate writing into my blog as well. So, ultimately, I combined the two concepts and creates Pixels (for photos) and Prints (for words). And alliteration because who doesn’t love some alliteration?

2. What’s your favorite number and why?

This is probably a really stupid reason, but my favorite number is 2 because I like things that come in pairs, it adds and multiples itself to the same number, it’s even, and it’s prime. I’m a nerd.

3. If you could pick a day to relive, what day would it be?

I’ve thought about this question for a while now and I think I’ve decided that I wouldn’t relive any day. I’ve enjoyed so many days in my life that it’s impossible to pick just one and it just makes me strive more to have even more exciting and wonderful days to come.

4. What do you think is your best piece of writing to date?

This is a toss-up between two completely different pieces. One is this short story I wrote a few years ago about a young kid growing up in a gang-controlled metropolitan jungle. It was a really fluid story that just seemed to flow out of me and fit. I haven’t been able to touch it since the new words don’t seem right. The other is an analytical essay about Freud’s Oedipus complex as seen in Murdoch’s A Severed Head. Yep, incest. My professor said it was the best paper he’d read since he started teaching. So apparently I’m good at writing about incest. Woo?

5. How do you wake up in the morning? Easily? With an alarm clock? In the afternoon?

Unfortunately, since I’ve entered the working world, I’ve become uncomfortably used to waking up at 6:45 every morning. Despite this, I am still not a morning person so don’t expect me to be civil before I’ve had a shower and brushed my teeth. During the school year, my sleep schedule tends to lean much closer to noon though. If only the workplace would let me work late and wake late, then I’d be living the dream.

6. What’s your favorite piece of clothing?

Oddly enough, it’s this patterned summer hi-lo dress (that I’m actually wearing in my picture up there on the right). It’s super comfy and easy to wear and looks cute no matter how ugly I’m feeling that day. Although I guess I should say my yoga pants are my favorite piece of clothing since I probably wear those more than anything else – whoops.

7. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Ke$ha. Yes, judge away, Ke$ha is my inspiration and sings the songs of my life. So to choose a theme song: “We R Who We R”.

8. Advice to your younger self?

Don’t be mean to your mum! She’s the most lovely human ever and she’s not out to make your life miserable, I promise. Trust me, she’s going to be your best friend in a few years, so might as well jump start the process and become friends now!

9. You can eat for free at one restaurant for the rest of your life, what restaurant?

Oooooo, this is hard. In’n’out? Noah’s bagels? Chipotle? No, no, I think I’d have to pick Urth Cafe. Foodie haven, complete with coffee foam art.

10. What film are you most looking forward to seeing this summer?

Hands down, The Fault in Our Stars. It is easily one of my all-time favorite books and I have heard amazing things about the film that I simply can’t wait to see it. Buuuuut, I’m planning to wait until it’s out of theaters to watch it so that I won’t publicly humiliate myself with the amount of tears I shed during the movie.

11. Who do you need to thank more in your life?

My friends. I love them all so much and I’ve recently realized exactly how much they’ve helped me and supported me through some of the toughest times in my life. If you’re reading this, friends, I love you all and can’t thank you enough for being so awesome and incredible!

11 Questions from me:

  1. What’s one thing on your bucket list?
  2. If you could go to any country where would you go and why?
  3. Who’s your favorite superhero?
  4. Would you ever hitchhike and if so, where?
  5. What’s your favorite ice cream flavour?
  6. If you could magically acquire any skill, what would it be?
  7. Nutella or peanut butter?
  8. What’s your weirdest expression or habit?
  9. Did you have any inspiration when you started your blog?
  10. What’s your guilty pleasure?
  11. You just won the lottery, what do you do?

11 Bloggers I Nominate:

Megan from Catty Fashion

Tricia from 50 Shades of Flavour (It’s my mum!)

…and unfortunately I haven’t been in the blogosphere long enough to know many more blogs that fit the category of this award. The ones I’ve listed are awesome though!

11 Facts about me:

  1. A few years ago, I taught myself ukulele. I’ve forgotten most of it now but I’m planning to pick it up again soon!
  2. I have two adorable, sassy cats who I’m casually obsessed with. (They’re both sleeping next to me as I blog this!)
  3. I watch an unhealthy amount of Foot Network TV and am obsessed with Chopped.
  4. As of recent, I’ve become very focused on fitness and I love working out but I can’t run more than 2 miles without sounding like I’m getting asphyxiated.
  5. Instead of collecting knick-knacks from different places, I tend to bring back postcards because they’re cheap and are still a good memory.
  6. I tend to spell and pronounce words the British way sometimes since I grew up thinking they were the normal, correct way due to my Irish mum.
  7. Unlike most 15-year-olds who cherish their luscious locks, I cut off all my hair and donated it to Locks of Love.
  8. I have never broken a bone or broken my phone.
  9. I have a permanently tilted knee cap due to a tight IT band in my left thigh, meaning I dislocate my knee on a regular basis.
  10. I am mildly lactose allergic, an unfortunate allergy I inherited from my mother that makes me either have a stomach ache or pass out after binging on ice cream.
  11. Annnnd I can’t whistle (yes, I’ve tried and every person and their mother has tried to teach me).

Wow that was long. Well, now that you know lots of random information about me, pass on this award to others! Or if you’re just a kind reader, then thanks for bearing with me through this mayhem of random facts. It’s like any award show where they don’t have timed speeches – the recipient just rambles on and on and on and… Anyway. Tell me about an interesting award you’ve won in the comments!

You’ve Got Mail

You know what needs to make a comeback? Postcards.

Remember that feeling when you were a kid and you got mail? Literally any mail at all and you instantly felt important. Someone had taken the time to write you a letter, stick it in an envelope, stick a stamp on it, and drop it in the mailbox. That was special. Blue’s Clues said it best when they invented the “Mail Time” song. And then you grew up and you were just excited to receive anything but mail, because mail usually meant bank statements or utility bills. But don’t lie – you still get excited whenever you get some non-adult-like items in the mail, whether it be a holiday card or even a coupon from BevMo.

So what about postcards? Yes, if you don’t have friends traveling abroad, or just friends in general, receiving postcards might not be something that happens to you very often. And then there’s the whole advent of technology and cell phones that you can just get a text or facebook from your traveling buddies, rather than have them take the time to buy, write, stamp, and send a dinky old postcard. Blah blah blah but postcards!!

Why am I ranting about postcards? Well, today I received a postcard from one of my dearest friends who is currently country-hopping across Europe and I was so excited by it. Not only was I receiving fun mail, but it was so nice to have a glimpse into my friend’s life! True, she probably wrote the post card two weeks ago and is probably no where near Seville anymore but I still loved receiving this little memento of her journey.

postcard from bijou

I’ve already tacked the postcard up in my sparse little cubicle at work (to remind me that there is a world outside of those tiny grey padded walls?) and I’ve probably read it about seven times now. It’s nice to have a departure from the usual facebook, text, email and know that my friend was thinking of me while she’s adventuring and took some times to share her adventures with me. I mean, it’s a picture and a personal message all in one – what’s not to love?

Maybe bills would be more appealing if they came in postcard form? Maybe not.

Receiving this postcard has rejuvenated me to write postcards to my friends who aren’t here with me this summer. Or, you know, even to those who are. Beware, friends, postcards are coming your way! Let me know about your last postcard or any thoughts you have on this old fashioned form of communication in the comments!

Nom noms: Guacamole

Raise your hand if you’re hungry all the time. Now raise your hand if you suck at cooking. Well, it seems like we are at an impasse.

Fear not! I–a frugal, health-nut, inclined-to-setting-things-on-fire-using-stoves-and-ovens, always-munching, college student–am here to help!

One of the best things to munch on when you’re bored/working/hanging out is chips and salsa. But why not mix it up a bit and make some guacamole instead? It may not be the healthiest thing on the block, but hey, it has some fruits so it’s gotta have some benefits right? Which I guess are cancelled out with the addition of chips. But whatever. Today, I’m going to walk you through my favorite easy recipe for guacamole, step by baby step, for all us out there who struggle with even opening a banana. Credit goes to my college roommate for this recipe and for inspiring my guacamole tastebuds!

STEP 1: Assembleeeeeeeee your ingredients. For an average size bowl of guac, I tend to use the following ingredients, but definitely adjust quantities to your preferences:

  • 1 and ½ avocados
  • ½ a tomato
  • lemon
  • lime
  • garlic

begin

STEP 2: Cut open your avocado! For those of you who have never cut an avocado (don’t worry, I was one of you until very recently), I’m going to walk you through the process. First, get a knife – it doesn’t need to be too sharp, it just needs to be able to cut things. Line it up vertically with the avocado (as shown!) and then cut all the way around the avocado, cutting up until the pit in the center. Once you’ve done that, simple twist the two halves in opposite directions and the avocado should pop apart into two halves! If it doesn’t, then I’m sorry you’ve done something terribly wrong and I don’t know how to help you anymore.

avoooo

STEP 3: Mush it all up. The avocado should remove easily from it’s black skin-shell-thing using your utensil of choice. Set the pit aside for now (don’t throw it out!). Then dump all your avocado in a bowl and just mush it all up. I’ve found that a fork works well for this, but for those of you who want some extra creamy guac (I’m looking at you roomie), pull out your Magic Bullet (or what ever other blender type device you have) and blend your avocado until you’re satisfied with its smoothness.

guac 1

STEP 4: Chop your tomato! Yes, I am going through every tiny little step. I apologize to those of you who think this is too obvious. Anyway, cut up your tomato into tiny pieces, maybe the size of the fingernail on your pinky (unless you have giant fingernails… then just make small pieces). Next, throw all your diced tomatoes into your mushy avocado and mix it all up. If you’re like me and love tomatoes then feel free to add even more tomato to give your guac some more acidity. Or, if you’re like my best friend and hate tomatoes, then just skip this step entirely.

tomatoooo

STEP 5: Add some flavor! My choice flavor ingredients are lemon juice, lime zest, and garlic, but the great thing about guacamole is that you can add just about anything – onions, peppers, chilis, etc.

For the lemon juice, cut the lemon in half and then squeeeeeeeze one lemon half until you see a nice pool of lemon juice on top of your guac. This usually uses about half the juice you can get out of one lemon half. Again, you may choose to add more or less lemon depending on how tangy you like your guac.

For the lime zest, if you have a zester-tool-thing (pictured) then simple scrape that against your lime to get some good, fresh lime zest. Or, if you’re a broke college student like I am usually (my mother supplied the zester-thing) and can’t afford fancy kitchen tools, follow the instructions above for lemon juice and add a few drops of lime juice.

Finally, for the garlic, if you have a garlic crusher (again, my mother) crush one clove of garlic into your mixture. If you don’t have the fancy gadget, then simply cut up a clove of garlic into as tiny pieces as you can (don’t forget to remove the flakey peel first!).

flavorrrrr

STEP 6: Once you’ve added all your desired ingredients, mix it all up, grab your favorite bag of tortilla chips, and ENJOY!!

guac final

Pro-Tip: Adding the pit back to the guac should help prevent your guac from browning too quickly! And it makes it look fancy!

Well, now that I’m stuffing my face with my own guacamole, I hope you’ve enjoyed this guacamole adventure and will go on to experiment with your own twists on this recipe. Comment below with some of your own favorite ingredients and twists! Nom on!!

The City of Second Chances

If you’re any type of TV-watcher (and no, I don’t mean Netflix on your computer – I mean a good, old, television set), you may have seen the ads for Discover L.A., a site promoting tourism in Los Angeles, CA, using some eye-catching, artsy graphics and deep, metaphorical voiceovers. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, search “what’s your LA story” in YouTube or try this one out for a taste.) The ads are short – maybe 15 seconds on average – and feature different well known parts of LA: Venice, LACMA, beaches, the Hollywood sign, and the chance to run into celebrities in random coffee shops.

As someone who has now lived in LA, albeit the ghetto of LA, for the last three years, I’ve always had a fond distaste for the city. Yes, it has it’s appeals, it’s special places, and it’s shiny exterior, but I’ve always focused on the worst of LA: the smoggy “haze” that constantly hangs over the city and is now even a weather classification there; the depressingly excessive homeless population on Skid Row that the city pretends doesn’t exist; and the arrogant, I’m-more-entitled-than-thou attitude and lifestyle that everyone seems to carry around with them.

LA is a city that people come to with dreams the size of rocket ships and pockets with only a bit of spare change, hoping to make something of themselves, start some new and exciting life chapter, and hopefully, one day, see their name up in lights. As they say in the movie Pretty Woman, “Everyone comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams.” And it’s true. If you walk down any street in LA, any time of day, I guarantee you won’t find a more eclectic mix of people anywhere else in the world (except perhaps Berkeley, but that’s a different story).

Watching these ads for LA, I originally scoffed. Very clearly, the ads romanticize LA, highlighting it’s wonderful assets and the sunny beauty of the southern California area while ignoring the dingy and dirty streets that surround these small tourist oases. But the more I watched these ads this summer from my northern California hometown, the more I felt something tug inside me.

Then, tonight, I saw the movie Chef with my lovely mum. First of all, the movie itself is great – nothing overly exciting but a great story of a chef turned food-truck-rogue and his relationship with food and family. I definitely recommend it. The movie is ultimately set in LA, with small scenes taking place on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and at various identifiable LA farmer’s markets. Throughout the entire movie, I leaned over to whisper to my mum where all these places were (sorry Mum!). Not only that, but as a small-time foodie, I have embraced the food truck culture, tied to exotic, creative, and sometimes just plain weird street cuisine. Watching it all play out on a screen somehow brought it all home for me: I miss LA.

Despite it’s dark sides, it’s broken dreams, it’s dirt, I have now realized that LA holds a little part in my heart and my life. I’ve had some crazy experiences in LA, some of which I could never replicate anywhere else. And while LA might drop you to the ground time and time again, the people of LA are fighters – they are determined to find out what makes them special, what makes them shine like the Hollywood lights at night. LA offers them a chance to do just that. It’s a city of second chances. A city filled with food trucks, artists, color, diversity, celebrities, special sights, dreams, and adventure.

I never thought I would be swayed to let LA into my heart (and don’t worry San Francisco, you’ll always be the city for me), but here I am writing a sappy post about missing LA. So LA, thanks for letting me give you a second chance, and that, folks, is my L.A. story.