Friday, August 7, 2009

In search of Circadian Rhythm

I've always had trouble with sleep. As young as 5 years old, when my parents divorced, I had terrifying nightmares that disrupted my rest. When I was 12, I even saw a doctor because my insomnia was so bad. I've had good years and bad years, and last year was a bad year.

I've tried a range of remedies. Some have helped. A chiropractor suggested a concussion I had at 11 (from a head-first bike accident) may have disrupted my hypothalamus. The treatment she gave me did make a notable difference, but it didn't erase the problem. I have a history also of slight hypothyroidism (resulting in a slow metabolism). My insomnia seems to be related to hormonal cycles. Melatonin sometimes helps. Exercise sometimes helps. But I still have nights where I can only sleep half the night.

Earlier this week, I read a blog post intended for travelers changing time zones. A Harvard researcher discovered that in addition to light, food intake affects the body's rhythms as well. Clifford Saper suggests that fasting for 16 hours can reset the sleep/wake cycle. I'm trying it out, and it does seem to make a difference. I haven't been falling asleep earlier, but I have been waking up clear-headed and alert when I am usually sluggish and sleepy. I've gone 2 nights so far. We'll see if it actually shifts my sleep/wake cycle enough to fall asleep earlier.

(The nifty biological clock illustration is by YassineMrabet, posted on Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Light Summer Salad

Recently, I've been putting some intention towards really sensing and caring for my physical well being. After all, our bodies are, in a sense, our most consistent "home" in this life.

Regular exercise, focused breathing, and good food are my main body-care activities right now. I've been considering a "cleanse"; a semi-fast to purify the body. I haven't taken that plunge yet, but today I did try a recipe from Adina Niemerow's book Super Cleanse, with some adaptations.

Watermelon Salad with Zippy Lime Dressing
(my version, adapted from Adina Niemerow)
- watermelon
- julienned arugula & pea shoots
- chopped toasted pistachios
tossed with:
- flax oil
- lime juice
- fresh cilantro
- good quality chili powder
- sea salt

Yummy, light summer eating!
This would make a great lunch with a light protein, maybe a broiled white fish or roasted chicken.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breakfast of (f)unemployment

I'm officially (f)unemployed! I volunteered to have my position eliminated. I'm thinking of it as a sabbatical. Today is the first day that I don't have anything scheduled.

I slept in, then made myself a fabulous breakfast!
Soft-boiled eggs over a bed of sauteed onions, spinach, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes, with buttered walnut sourdough toast, and a nice steaming cup of coffee. Most of the ingredients are from Sunday's farmers' market (everything but the eggs, butter, cream for the coffee). It's amazing to live in a place where good fresh food is so readily available.

Too bad I didn't take a picture!

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Covet List

after moving into my new home with L, I decided I would be leaving my job. Both for personal reasons and because of the economy, I expect to be unemployed for a while. So all of my original fantasies about how I wanted to set up our space had to be re-thought. Now that I'm on the frugal living track, I'm collecting a list of home items that I really want, but am not allowing myself to buy (yet).

- Deck Tiles: we have three balconies! With views! But they are a bit stark and windy. They also have some special finish that needs to be treated carefully because they are actually roof decks. So, I'd love to put in some wood or bamboo deck tiles. has some decent options.

- Planters: again, make the roof decks feel more hospitable. I'd love to have big, rectangular ones around the edges of at least one deck. Then the question is; edibles, or ornamental grasses?

- A ModKat Litter Box: these are so much better looking than your typical plastic litter box, plus the top-entry means the dog won't get into it.

- A wall-mounted bookcase for my office space, such as this one at CB2.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Party Food!

So it turns out I'm not much of a blogger. This post is sooo way overdue!

We had a housewarming party! It was fabulous and festive, and did the trick of filling our home with cheer. It was 3-7pm on a Saturday in May. It was a beautiful day, during a heat wave. We had all of the doors open and the fan on high, and it stayed nice inside.

I planned the menu for weeks. OK, maybe just one week. I wanted food that I could make ahead, that could sit out all afternoon, that would be super yummy, relatively healthy, and would go well together.

Here's what I came up with:

- Toasted baguette with artichoke antipasto; fresh baguette sliced into small pieces, drizzled with olive oil & toasted in the oven, plus artichoke dip from Trader Joe's.
- Pita crackers with white bean hummus; Trader Joe's all the way. I love the pita crackers; they're a round cracker out of pita bread, super light.
- Crudites with roasted eggplant-garlic yogurt sauce; carrots, celery, radishes, with a sauce made from Trader Joe's roasted eggplant-garlic dip with greek yogurt mixed in.
- Feta-stuffed olives from Berkeley Bowl.
- Rosemary-cayenne walnuts; from a Chow recipe, except that I used maple syrup instead of sugar and added cayenne pepper. Super yummy!

- Lamb meatballs w/ lemon-cumin yogurt; recipe from chow. These were a super big hit and gone almost instantly. I wish I had made more!
- Lentils in endive leaves; I used the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe's, spooned into individual endive leaves, garnished with a leaf of fresh oregano.
- "Caprese bites", using pre-marinated mozzarella balls from Genova Deli, fresh basil, and sugar plum tomatoes, on toothpicks for easy munching. Yum!
- Paprika-roasted cauliflower; inspired by another Chow recipe, except I followed some of the commenters' suggestions to make it with balsamic & olive oil with salt, and I added paprika for a "Mediterranean" theme.

- Dates with chevre & pistachios drizzled with honey; my mom used to make dates with goat cheese for parties. I added the pistachios & honey. Big hit, even from a former pastry chef.
- Fresh fruit; grapes, on the stem, snipped into party-sized bites & strawberries.
- Almond cookies from Trader Joe's; light, just sweet enough.

Rosemary-ginger lemonade, both a hard version (with Vodka) and a juice-only version. I used frozen lemonade concentrate (a good organic kind from Berkeley Bowl), and with one of the cans I put it in a saucepan with ginger & fresh rosemary to simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the water and the two other cans of concentrate. I also added some fresh squeezed lemons to add more tart (I find lemonade from concentrate to be too sweet!). I used three cans of concentrate, maybe six lemons (?) . About a third of it I reserved as unmixed, and mixed 1.75ml vodka into the rest.

People stayed well past 7pm, and all of the food was gone! I had expected leftovers! The only things left were a small amount of lemonade (virgin), some of the walnuts, and a few radishes with some eggplant dip.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

1st Brunch!

I've been scheming about brunch menus since we first found out we got the place. Something about the big windows, and the location (walking distance to the farmer's market, good coffee). But today was the first time we actually made it happen though, and it was wonderful!

Beautiful rainy day outside. Great company. Also, our puppy, Elmo, just came home with us Friday night. She's learning quickly and spent the whole meal sleeping contentedly in her crate. She's a chihuahua-jack russell mix (we think), and a total sweetheart.

The menu:
- Alderwood smoked salmon & pita crackers with a range of topping options: creme fraiche, fresh dill, chopped chives, capers.
- Asparagus & Crab egg cups: fresh asparagus, canned crab, spring onions, beaten egg, paprika, salt & pepper in little ramekins (about one egg per cup). Baked 30 minutes with the crisp.
- Roasted potatoes (following this Chow recipe, but parboiling the potatoes before roasting)
- Strawberry-Apple Crisp, again based on the maple-wanut apple crisp with half strawberries, (though it takes more than 30 minutes to brown!)
- A double recipe of white sangria with the addition of a granny smith apple & Grand Marnier (in addition to the brandy mentioned in the recipe), soaked overnight. This was my first time making this, and I did half the simple syrup called for, which was perfect. If I were doing it again in the spring, I would probably use lemons & strawberries, instead of lime & raspberries (which were delicious but more summery). I used frozen raspberries this time around.
- Fresh coffee!


Monday, April 20, 2009

"Home" Cluster

Love this: the graphic charting of the various meaning of words. From

My weekend

It's Spring!

This weekend:

- 2 new (to me) restaurants: 900 Grayson (loved it) & Ozumo (liked it & will try it again). Had breakfast at 900 Grayson. The space itself was cozy, like a french farmhouse kitchen. I just had a basic breakfast, but everything was super high quality and fresh. Plus, our waiter was super-cute and attentive, I felt like a guest in someone's home. I can't believe I haven't been here before! Later, on to Ozumo, the new sushi spot in Uptown Oakland. We just stopped by for a snack and a cocktail, and it was tasty! The bar space is nicely styled (industrial-japanese luxe) but a bit cavernous. I liked it enough to go back again sometime.

- L & I adopted a puppy! Through "CURE". She's a little itty bit: she'll be 15lbs full grown. Part Chihuahua, but mixed with...? Square jaw, white fur with orange patches. Super snuggle bug! She's too young to come home with us yet; we have to wait 2 weeks! Now, searching for a name.

- Farmer's market! Highlights: strawberries, "breakfast pizza", baby onions & leeks, organic artichokes (mmm!), English Peas, red snapper under $9/lb.

Monday, March 30, 2009

1st Dinner Party

Successful 1st dinner party (cooking for guests in the new pad).

A very seasonal menu:
- Garlic Loaf from Feel Good Bakery
- Spinach & Pea Soup
- Artichokes with a mustard-aioli dip
- Seared Sea Bass with Garlic Sauce (substitute dry sherry for dry vermouth)
- Couscous
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Strawberry-Apple Crisp, which was essentially a maple-wanut apple crisp with a few substitutions: half the fruit was strawberries, half the syrup was blood orange bitters, and pecans instead of walnuts.

The soup & the crisp were both particularly delicious. But really everything, including the company, and having friends over in our home, was lovely!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chufas in Oakland!

Barlata, a new Tapas bar, just opened in Temescal.

L & I went for a drink last night... and discovered they only have beer & wine. Well, ok.

The place was packed! We squeezed into the only spot left at the bar, and got some wine. The wine list features Spanish wines. I had a white (can't tell you which one), she had a red (the Mas Donis). They were both tasty. The restaurant smelled great. The decor is a bit sparse but beautiful (wood on the floor and the ceiling, black tile by the kitchen, nice deep colors), with some playful touches (toys on the shelves by the bar, giant prints featuring cans of food, or latas).

But here is what I'm most excited about: the menu features Horchata de Valencia! I asked the bartender; does that mean with Tiger Nuts? She was confused: "isn't Horchata from rice?". Well, it's their 2nd day open, fine. The owner came by, and she asked him. Yes! He's importing chufas from Spain & also imported an Horhata-making machine that looks like a giant juicer. They didn't have it running yet, but I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oaktown Mexican Food

The torta that L brought home for Monday night's dinner inspired this post:

My favorite Mexican spots in Oakland.

With three caveats:
1) This is not based on an exhaustive survey of all the options. I have not spent a huge amount of time in Fruitvale, and someone who has might have some much better tips!
2) Related to #1; this is not a chart of the taco trucks! Others have done that, such as this one, on Chowhound. I used to have a favorite taco truck, but it dissapeared, and I never put in the work to find another one I'd like as much.
3) I don't eat beef. No Carne Asada for me.

My faves:
- La Calaca Loca (Temescal): Good quality, fresh ingredients, light & crispy chips, killer jicama/avocado salad. They've got a tasty breakfast for a good price, too. My one complaint; you have to order chips separtely if you want them, and then you have to take a full basket. Can't I just have a few chips with my taco without paying extra? Please? My favorites: the jicama salad, fish taco, chicken taco especial, chilequiles. Decent guac.
- Los Contaros (Grand Ave/Adams Point + other locations, see Again, good quality, fresh ingredients, plus tasty chips. And theirs are included with every order (thank you!). Big menu, beyond your typical burrito joint. Specials on the weekends. My favorites: prawn taco, carnitas tacos, chicken mole burrito. Yummy guac.
- Mariscos La Costa (Fruitvale): Ceviche! Yum yum yum. Tostadas piled high with seafood. Plus avocado. What's not to like? The cocktails are also a yummy option.

Sit-down places, for more than a taco:
- Tamarindo (Old town): Fresh, good quality, tasty, yummy sangria. A bit spendy. But good.
- Dona Tomas (Temescal): Even more spendy, not really better than tamarindo (slightly different spin though; more southern mexico, more... formal?). There are other places I like better at this price-point, but they're not Mexican so they don't make this list.
- Casa Vallarta (Eastlake? By the parkway theater): Don't want to spend all that dough on beans & rice? Come here. This one made the list because it's like the family-style, family-run mexican joints of my childhood in rural CA. Old school, not afraid of the grease but everything is fresh. Makes my mouth water even as I write this!

Just fine for a quick bite, but nothin special:
- Gerardo's (Laurel District): Not worth going out of your way, but if you need a bite & you'r in the Laurel, it's simple and tasty. I wish someone would come teach them how to make more than one burrito/taco at a time... but it's good for a basic meal.
- Baja Taqueria (Piedmont Ave): Tacos as interpreted by white hippies. Nothing special, but fresh.
- El Farolito (Fruitvale): Some people rave about this place. Maybe they're all beef eaters. Their chicken stuff is just ok.

I wouldn't bother:
- Mexicali Rose: Creepy environment, bad quality food. No.
- La Estrellita: Better than mexicali rose, but really the only reason to go here in my opinion is the full bar.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Champion Cobalt

beforeThis was the weekend project. The room is not "done" by any means, but the walls are beautiful!

"Before" on the left.

"After" below.

It's like a beautiful, soothing cave. Makes me want to lay in bed all day!
Thanks to Leah @ More Ways to Waste Time for the blue wall inspiration.

Next steps: paint lamps white. Hang owl prints from boygirlparty in silver frames on either side of bed. Find taller bedside tables.

Also, new duvet cover... still deciding on color. Considering (from lowest-cost to highest cost):
Ikea Jorun Form or Jorun Vaxt, Marimekko Tamara (but probably this is too yellow), or Eileen Fisher Platinum Sateen (too spendy!).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Starting Seeds

I'm trying out growing some veggies from seed, for a container garden on my 5th floor balcony. I started the first batch today; "Gardener's Delight" cherry tomatoes, to start inside.
I got my seeds from Bountiful Gardens.
Now comes the waiting!