Life + Entertainment

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When I was younger, every time I went on an adventure I would try to go somewhere a little off the main trail, telling myself that maybe, just maybe I was the first person ever to step on this particular piece of earth. Factually, I know now that that was highly unlikely – especially considering that my adventures most often took me to common vacation spots like the coast or Yosemite, not the Arctic or the Sahara Desert where there was a higher possibility of treading on previously untouched land – but now, so many years later, it’s almost like things have reversed. Instead of wanting to be the first, I’m fascinated by who has walked these streets before me, who else was here, what were they doing, what were they thinking, etc…

That’s probably why these “looking into the past” photos (cleverly done by photographers such as Jason Powell and Michael Hughes) resonate so much with me: such an interesting idea to bring together present and past to see how much things have changed, or sometimes even more surprisingly, how they haven’t. Might be a fun thing to do on your next vacation!

Below are some of my favorites:

Photos via Jason Powell, Michael HughesLisa, Hugo Cardoso, and this guy

May 28, 2013

Looking Into The Past

Style + Design

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It is officially spring in California and we are basking in the warm sunlit afternoons and the sweet smell of jasmine. We don’t mean to sound like a poem but, well, sometimes we can’t help it. When we are not enjoying the great outdoors (and by this we mean walking to the supermarket) we are trolling the internet (let’s be real, we mostly troll the internet). And while perusing this world wide web we came across these images. We swear if you squint hard enough, and imagine the light emanating from your computer is in fact real sunlight, you will feel like you are there.

Image Credits: 1/2/3/4/5/6

April 24, 2013

Squint and You are There

Life + Entertainment

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I’m planning a trip back home, yet another stressful flight, potentially carcinogenic body scans, and a terrible load of shit-tastic airport time. Now, I’m not especially well-traveled, and there are likely more experienced people who can comment on this topic, but I hope my humble little piece will prevent your accrual of bad karma for being THAT person. You know, that person. The person you can smell a mile away, hear them clanking and jostling, huffing and puffing. That person that drives a lapsed Catholic to mumble a quick, earnest prayer – a prayer that you are not in their security line or, God forbid, on their flight.

A list of some of the worst people at the airport:

1. I’m not sure if people who wear heavy perfume often are even capable of detecting the error of their ways. I’m sure that prolonged exposure to “aromatic” lab chemicals of this quantity has deadened their sense of smell. Or their reason for this exuberant usage is a sign of the deadened sense to begin with, unleashing a vicious cycle of irrational, unconscientious perfume abuse and dependence. It’s a chicken/egg situation, a debate left to the more litigious or stubborn. What is beyond debate is fuck you if you come on to the airplane wearing enough of the new Britney Spears’ perfume to destroy the appetite of a whole village of undernourished Ethiopians. We are in an enclosed space, a space where we cannot even select the people we sit next to for hours. You are a selfish ape shit for forcing us into a Biodome of your intense odors. What, are you planning on seducing someone on the plane? Even if a drunk and frisky Bradley Cooper is on your damn flight, you don’t need to read Cosmo to realize that smelling insanely like flowers and enraging the senses aren’t going to help you get into a fine man’s pants. And even if you did succeed, you’ll never know if Bradley loved you for your body, your personality, or your Paris Hilton cologne (provided you still delusionally think men prefer their women smelling like cotton candy).

2. Speaking of seducing people and delusions: you ladies wearing sky-high heels, Mardi Gras-style layers of necklaces, and those fancy belts, we can hear you coming a mile away, clanking and shit, parading and swinging your hips, chandelier earrings blowing in the breeze and getting tangled in your freshly styled hair. Our hate is not jealousy. We all “clean up” nicely too. What we don’t do is wear all our shit to the airport. Why? Because we want to clear security as quickly as possible. When you swing in, covered in mixed metals and in a complicated outfit, wearing shoes that make you a strained, slow-moving asshat, we are doing the math in our heads on how long it’ll take your butt to get through the metal detector.

3. Though not as ostentatious and self-serving, the overly high-maintenance parent with child is also a source of great fear and discontent. I am not intending to go all clichéd comedian on you and complain about babies on planes. Hey, they can’t help it; flying is scary and if my ears pop and often lead to a whole day of soreness, I can’t imagine how frustrating and painful it would be to a child not totally aware of what’s happening. This is about those parents that brought all kinds of crazy shit with them: their noisiest toys, their largest strollers, their largest diaper bag. It’s a 3 hour flight and they sell diapers everywhere. Is it really worthwhile to bring a week’s worth of diapers? Are diapers that much more expensive in Houston? What the hell?

4. This isn’t exclusive in airports, the odds of exposure are just high there: the loud foreigners. This isn’t racist or xenophobic, because my loathing knows no race or color. It’s for the group of people who share a language not commonly spoken at their current location and decide to speak it amongst themselves IN THE LOUDEST VOICE possible. Just because we don’t speak Korean/German/Swahili/Whatever, doesn’t mean you can abuse everyone’s eardrums by yelling. It’s as if you’re flaunting your ingroup secrecy in as grating a way as possible. This happened with a trio of Asian women in front of me at the US Airways security line in March. I don’t remember the last time I wanted to headbutt someone so intensely.

5. Actually, thinking over number four, people dead set on flaunting their ingroup status should also be on this list. They can be easily spotted by their matching shirts (sign of a bachelor party/school trip/athletic competition/etc), their herd-like clustering, and their boisterous enthusiasm and anticipation for their shared journey to begin. This group will likely be the hooting and hollering people on the plane as their cozy ingroup status has lead to a lowered fear of being despised/ostracized by the outgroup. This means they’re more likely to make hair-raising jokes to the TSA (“Why no, I didn’t pack my own bag. I had my Muslim roommate do it for me. Har, har, har! *wink at friends*) or will carry out their loud conversations laden with bravado and innuendo well into the flight.

All I know is if I am plummeting to my death from 25,000 feet, my last memories before the terror of our flight gone wrong better not be someone hooting “That’s what she said! Am I right, fellas?! Har, har har!” or an aggressive burst of lab-created night blooming jasmine. And if we crash into the ocean, that bitch in the spike heels and jagged jewelry better be miles away from my inflated lifejacket. She gets close to me, I’m seriously punching some implants.

Image Source

People + Places

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“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.”
-Pico Iyer 

This quote, or the idea at least, is an often repeated phrase in the world of wandering souls. While I would love to say that with each move to a new city and with each new travel adventure, I am finding myself a bit more (god, I hope that’s true), it’s really the first part of this quote that resonates with me. Sure, I have fun with being the new girl in town – using fake names at coffee shops, playing the “I was just confused, I’m new here” card when I don’t pay the right bus fare – but my favorite part of being new in town is only having to reveal as much of my backstory as I’m comfortable with. It’s freeing to not have everyone know my family history, my dating past, that embarrassing phase I went through where I crushed hard on guys with Jersey accents (yeah, it was going to come out at some point…), etc.

Often when I move to a new city or am traveling, I don’t know for how long I’m going to be there so, for a moment at least, I have the opportunity to make a new life for myself, uninhibited by the realities in my past or the uncertainties in my future. It’s kind of like starting with a clean slate – albeit, with the shadows of what had been written there still visible. My past is always going to be a part of who I am, but not all of it has to define who I become.

All Images by the amazing Randy P. Martin

April 9, 2013

Wandering Souls

Life + Entertainment

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My Oma and Opa emigrated from Germany after WWII. They settled in San Francisco, where my Opa started his own business as a carpenter. After many years in the bay, raising a family and maintaining a successful family business, they moved to a town about an hour north of the city. My Opa always dreamed of owning his own land and having a home where he could build his own garden and have chickens. On their little acre he did just that. He built every vegetable box himself and his garden was one of his favorite places in the world. When I was little, Opa’s garden was such a magical place to visit. There were raspberries and currents to pick (my favorites!), chickens to chase and the best walnut tree to climb. It holds so many special memories for me.

My Opa passed away in October of 2011 after struggling with Parkinson’s disease and dementia for many years. He couldn’t take care of the garden once he became sick, so it fell by the wayside. One evening, when I went to visit my Oma the following February, I decided to go back to the garden just to see what it looked like. The frames of the boxes were falling apart. There were discarded pieces of wood and wire fencing strewn throughout the beds. There were weeds everywhere. It hurt my heart. It felt hard to remember what a wonderful place it used to be when I looked at something that seemed so broken. But, I also saw that the framework and foundations were still there. I decided then that I wanted to revive the garden.

 

I had never been incredibly interested in gardening but before long I was knee-deep in it. Friends and family helped me repair the boxes, weed the beds, bring in new dirt, turn over the soil, and plant a variety of fruits and vegetables. I would stop by the garden after work everyday to water each plant by hand, and spend hours on the weekends weeding, watering, caring for the plants, and harvesting. Somewhere along the way I decided to create a blog on tumblr called Opa’s Garden. It was a way for me to visually document the revival of the garden from seed to harvest.

 

 

It was incredibly exciting to see what the garden could be again, and it was amazing to feel what the love of the garden could do for my soul. There is something so satisfying about being able to see and enjoy the products of your hard work. I finally understood why Opa loved his garden so much. By taking pictures of everything from the beginning to the very end of the season, I found myself becoming more and more appreciative of each detail.

 

 

Now it is spring once again. I’ve been spending time weeding the beds and starting to prep them for planting in a few weeks. I will be taking pictures and posting to Opa’s Garden again this year. If you are interested, I would love to have you follow along!

 

All photographs are property of Stephanie Pressler. You may only use the images with permission from the photographer.

March 19, 2013

My Opa’s Garden

People + Places

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There are few things as exciting as taking a break from your daily life in exchange for a weekend away, a foreign getaway, or a much needed vacation.  Yet sometimes the build up for such a trip: the planning, the preparing, the packing, can be a challenge not all of us are ready to face.

I’ve been lucky enough to be graced with the gift of packing: I can have everything I need for an overnighter in my purse, a weekend getaway in a backpack, and a three month trip to Europe in a small carry-on duffel. Unroll the pieces and they’re wrinkle-free and ready to wear!  However, what I’m still in the process of perfecting is how to make these basic pieces fashionable as well. While most of what I packed for Europe was great! and useful! and travel-ready! I cannot tell you how many times I yearned for a little black dress and some strappy heels.

There are tons of packing tips for traveling out there, some that seem to boil the process down to an exact science, and advice from seasoned travel veterans really does make for easy-stress free packing.

| Color-Schemes | Both J. Crew creative director, Jenna Lyons, and Glamour fashion development director, Susan Cernek, swear by packing in a pre-determined color scheme.  By packing a suitcase full of navies and creams (for example), you can be sure that you’re shoes, purse, jewelry, etc. will always match your outfit.  Bonus Tip: Pack a red dress or a bright scarf to add some color to your outfits and/or trip photos!

| Textiles | Ah, the wrinkled traveler.  An iconic image as old as travel itself, but you do not need to continue the pattern.  Make sure that whatever clothes you pack are wrinkle-free (sometimes things with a little synthetic thread help as well as choosing cotton over linen), don’t stretch out easily (I’m looking at you jeans that grow two sizes when I wear you more than two days in a row!), can hold their shape (no baggy sweaters allowed), and dry fast (you never know what might happen out there).

| Day-to-Night | These kind of outfits are talked about all the time on morning t.v. and fashion shows (believe me, I watch) but they really are important.  After a day exploring Grecian ruins or shopping along the Champs-Élysées, you might not have time to go back to your hostel before dinner.  So it’s nice to be able to run a damp cloth over your face, take off your sweater, and be ready to roll.  Alternatively, if you do have time to go back and change, it’s nice to have a LBD (that rolls up small and is wrinkle free because, let’s be honest, you may only use it once during the whole trip) and some nice flats (that aren’t the chacos you’ve been roaming around in all day) and actually look somewhat presentable to society.

| The Sarong | I know, I know, nobody ever talks about sarongs anymore unless you’re hanging out on the beaches of Maui, but when I was traveling, this was the one thing (alright, the one other thing, because I already mentioned the LBD) that I wished I had.  A sarong works as a towel after the shower if you’re hostel doesn’t provide one, something to lie on at the beach, a quick cover-up, and, if it rolls up small enough, can be used to cover your head/shoulders when going into churches.  It’s perfect.

| The Staples | Invest in a nice suitcase/duffel/roll-behind.  I personally like clam-shell designs because they keep things separate, but anything with good compartments works well.  I also pack my underwear/socks/accessories/etc in small dryer bags (but zip-lock bags work just as well with the added benefit that you can see what’s inside!) Also, an extra canvas bag is always a good idea.  You can use it for grocery shopping during your trip, and later to carry home all your extra goodies! Additionals: Waterbottle, flashlight, bold jewelry for a night out, a watch for those cell-phone-less days, and a purse that zips closed to make pick-pocketing more difficult.

If you are looking for a good advice site, Travel Fashion Girl is on of my favorites. Check it out for more tips and ideas!

Images Above from Things Organized Neatly (an awesome tumblr)

February 21, 2013

Pack Like a Pro

People + Places

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So I had a minor accident the other day (fell off a ladder) and as I was rummaging through my medicine cabinet for arnica and Advil (I’m an equal-opportunitist) I realized that a substantial percentage of my medical supplies are from other countries.  When people talk about traveling, they talk about all the romantic things: the adventures, the sights, the people they meet…and they leave out all the times they got sick, the scrapes and the bruises, and the trips to the pharmacy.  I, however, not only talk about these experiences, but have a whole cabinet full of mementos.  As I was going through these packages, tubes, and spray bottles, I was handling them lovingly, as if they were reminders of “the good times.”  Each one held a memory and a story, some of which I’m going to share with you here!

Q-Tips (Italy): I got my nose pierced in Italy with three girls I had met and gone on adventures with in Venice.  It was awesome, it was unplanned and yes, it hurt like hell.  Afterwards, the people at the parlor were trying to explain to us how to care for our new piercings, which was difficult, because none of us spoke the same language, but after acting out various techniques and supplies we were finally able to understand (“ohhh….Q-Tips!!”) and we dutifully trotted off to the pharmacy to stock up.

Antibacterial Creme (France):  I must not have completely understood the directions, because three countries and two weeks later, my piercing became infected.  I speak not a word of French, but it was pretty easy to walk into a pharmacy, point at my gross red nose, mime the look of pain, and be handed in return a tube of antibacterial creme.  Life savers, those French pharmacists…

Tums (Mexico): My second day in Mexico, I got sick (surprise, surprise).  However, I was not yet comfortable in my new home with 16 roomies to stay in bed in my shared room, periodically vomiting into a bucket.  So instead, I got myself out of bed, bought some Tums, took the bus to the town center, proudly walked into the fanciest hotel around (and the only one with air conditioning), and plopped myself down in the back lobby.  For the next six hours I periodically slept, puked in the public bathroom, and read my book on their courtesy couch overlooking the town square. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you pretend you know exactly what you are doing and are where you’re supposed to be.

Sunscreen (Spain):  Two weeks before I returned home from Spain, I ran out of sunscreen.  Now, sunscreen is surprisingly expensive in Spain and I was getting down to my last euros.  But then, joy of joys, while in the discount grocery store, I found a bottle of sunscreen.  Before hitting the beach the next day I smeared that baby all over my body…only to end up fried like a lobster.  Discount grocery stores are NOT the place to buy beauty products. (This bottle I tossed in the trash.)

Various “Salon Services”:  When you spend a lot of time abroad, basic beauty services become necessary (or at least recommended).  In Prague, I got my hair cut, and ended up with some weird bangs and a “chic” asymmetrical style.  In Mexico, Rose and I decided to wax our eyebrows and get a pedicure before our return to the States. We promised each other not to look too closely at the wax and allowed the woman to put fake nails on our TOES.

…oh, the good times.  But seriously, as much as I have enjoyed tours of foreign pharmacies, I don’t necessarily recommend them.  It’s a good idea to have at least some medical necessities on hand when you travel, so you’re prepared in case something happens. And if something does happen, and you need to go to the pharmacy, buy something with a pretty label.  Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up treasuring those funky little tubes and bottles from adventures abroad…

Image Source

Life + Entertainment

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Yes, it’s that time of year again. Tis’ the season when twinkling lights invade every street post and tree, when holiday tunes find their way into our heads like gum on the bottom of our shoe, and when our TVs are seemingly programed to play Love Actually on repeat through January. For the record, this last one I am not ashamed to admit, is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. I LOVE Love Actually… to an almost unhealthy level. If there were awards given for movie memorization, I would be a serious contender for gold, and if it were a team sport, my friends and I would be Olympic champions. Loveathletes so to speak. Let’s be honest, what’s not to love about a movie with 12 different heart-warming love stories in it? And the cast? I mean come on!

Not to mention, some of the finest conversation-worthy quotes can be pulled from this movie. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about let me provide you with a list of examples:

1. When you can’t believe what someone has just said, say: “There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?”

Example: Your friend just announced to you that she’s engaged. Being that she’s been engaged a couple times before and those relationships didn’t work out, you are struggling to believe that she’s engaged once again, so all you can come up with is “There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?” If she’s a “loveathlete” as well she’ll laugh, but if she gives you WTF-face, maybe just quickly add that what you meant to say was “Yay! Congrats!”… Whew, that was a close one.

 

2. When you don’t quite agree with someone, reply with: “Oooh, would we call her chubby?”

Watch the video for this quote here - this one couldn’t be embedded, sorry!

Example: A good friend mentions that the guy sitting three tables away from you looks JUST like Orlando Bloom, when really he’s more of Shia Labeouf circa 1999 (think Even Stevens years). An appropriate response, so as not to make your friend feel as though she has no sense of what humans look like, would be “Oooh, would we call her chubby?”… and leave it at that.

 

3. When someone is taking a really long time, try saying: “Are you going to dip it in yogurt? Cover it with chocolate buttons?”

Example: Your sister is at it again – taking her sweet time in the bathroom in front of the mirror when you really need to brush your teeth, make sure you look presentable to the world and get yourself to work on time. You painfully watch her curl her lashes, fill in her brows, blah, blah, blah. At some point, when you just can’t handle her shenanigans anymore, just glare and say “Are you going to dip it in yogurt? Cover it with chocolate buttons?” Hopefully she’ll get the message.

 

4. And, when you are bummed about anything (or everything?) just shout: “I hate Uncle Jamie!”

(Apologies for the poor quality video – it was the only one I could find for this quote.)

Example: When you miss your bus – “I hate Uncle Jamie!”… When it’s cold outside – “I hate Uncle Jamie!”… When you accidentally step in dog crap – “I hate Uncle Jamie!”… You get the idea. 

 

If you aren’t into Love Actually (and you’ve made it this far into my post) perhaps you can enjoy Hugh Grant bustin’ a move or two.

Whatever your holiday traditions might be, whether they are meeting with old friends, caroling around town or staying indoors and watching the same rom com on repeat for a whole month, I wish you all a wonderful, warm holiday season.

 

Featured Image via The Entertainment Bureau

People + Places

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Hello, fellow beginners! Guess what! I’m back in the good ol’ U.S. of A (actually for a couple of weeks now, though my backlog of Beginners’ posts may have made it seem otherwise…) but don’t worry, the travel posts don’t stop here. You see, in true wandering gypsy soul style, I’m already longing to hit the road again, and if not with my own two feet, then with my typing fingers and my trusty laptop. I’ve never spent Christmas abroad, but dear Lord, looking at these pictures of Christmas lights from around the world makes me wonder why not. There’s just something about Christmas lights that makes me feel warm and bubbly  - I love the way they immediately bring magic and enchantment to an otherwise normal street. And even more so when that otherwise normal street just happens to be in a foreign country…

| Venice |

| Rio de Janeiro |

| Moscow |

| Barcelona |

| Shah Alam |

| Warsaw |

| Madrid |

Featured Image, Post Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Life + Entertainment

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Band: Horse Feathers (check them out here!)
Date: Wednesday, December 12th @ 8pm
Location: The Independent in San Francisco
Price: $13 In advance / $15 at the door (the latter might not guarantee a ticket though)

I have seen Horse Feathers twice so far and I can confidently say that they are a gem among the likes of indie folk bands. Yes, full of emotion but also wonderful. The Oregon-based band is headed by Justin Ringle and vocally accompanied by the whole band - Nathan Crockett, Dustin Dybvig, Lauren Vidal, and Angie Kuzma - four incredibly talented percussion, string, and pretty much every-type-of-instrument players. I’m not much of a fan of twang in my music, but they balance their folky style with great additions like the saw mixed with deep tones from the cello and upbeat tambourine runs. Think Damien Rice meets Bon Iver meets the recently popularized Lumineers.

I first saw Horse Feathers at a small restaurant/bar called The Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, CA, which they frequent at least twice a year (if you are unable to see their show this month, definitely look for them in Santa Cruz). Not only did I find their music enchanting, they also seemed like really humble people. A charming crew of five! I think it might be an Oregon music thing or something. Both times I saw them their opening bands were great, I especially thought their tour with Y La Bamba was a double whammy of awesome music. I highly recommend seeing them live, and even coming early to check out their opening act. Seeing this group makes for a really great mellow and fun evening out on the town.

If you’re coming into San Francisco and would like a recommendation for dinner near the venue that night, some tasty places include: The Little Chihuahua, Little Star Pizza, and Nopa, if you’re willing to wait 8 years for a table.

See you at the show!

P.S. I should probably introduce myself. Hi! My name is Orlie. I’m an SF based artist and designer who fancies good small venue concerts, cats, tasty treats, and the perfect brew of coffee. Check back for my posts on local art, music, and doodles from the everyday life of a beginner!

Image Sources: Featured Image, Post Image

People + Places

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They say every journey begins with a single step.  A step down a road, or up a mountain, or towards a person we could someday love.  But sometimes, that step is a step up into a bus, where we sit back, relax, and let somebody else’s steps (or rather, the turning of wheels) carry us on our way.

I, however, hate buses.  Buses are not like trains with straight routes and clearly marked stops: buses wind their way in and out of narrow streets, pick up and drop off people on unmarked street corners, are distinguished by numbers not destinations, and are very rarely faster than your own car, a taxi, or (in some busy cities) your own two feet.

Last week, for example, I had been told to take bus 27 to the city park.  So I waited at the appropriate street corner for what seemed like hours watching pretty much every number in the known universe go by except 27.  So when 27a finally came around, I got on.  Sure, it wasn’t exactly what I had been told, but how different could it be?  It’s not like there was a bus 26 or 28 (yeah, I exaggerated about the whole “known universe” thing, what about it?) so if they had added a completely new route, why not use one of those numbers?

How wrong I was… Within twenty minutes I was completely lost, saw no landmarks nearby or in the distance with which to use to get my bearings, was far away from any sort of main highway AND completely alone.  Just me and the bus driver.

Feeling extremely embarrassed, but not wanting to accidentally end up at his house because it turns out the bus was going out of service for the lunch hour, I went up and asked him if he could please kindly directly me to the nearest main highway where I might be able to catch a taxi (or maybe even the real bus 27) to where I had originally wanted to go.  He assured me he would be going back the same route we had just come up, so if I wanted to wait, he could drop me off back down there.  You know…where I had started. Not wanting to prolong this awkward conversation any longer nor really caring where I ended up at this point, I agreed and sat back to enjoy the rest of the ride.

And it really was beautiful. Had I not gotten lost I would never have seen the quaint streets of Colonia Esmeralda or the cute pony in someone’s front yard.  The beautiful view of the volcano, nor the cute little boy who sat next to me for part of the ride.  Buses often take you to places you never would have seen otherwise, and give you a “real taste” of the city in which you live.  Also, had I not gotten lost, I would never have gotten the free Coke-a-Cola the bus driver bought for me, the poor lost little güera, on our way back down the mountain.

6 peso bus ticket + 8 peso soda + free tour of Colima?  I’d say I did pretty well for myself that day.

Image Source: 1961 Bus Photo

Food + Drink

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The fact that Philadelphia is a culinary destination worth of comparison to New York or San Fransisco doesn’t surprise locals or many industry insiders, but for the average non-Philadelphian, the city of Brotherly Love is known more for being the birth place of cheesesteaks, not home of James Beard award-winning restaurants.

Having lived there for five years, however, I have indulged in my fair share of Philly restaurants. Now, living seven hours away, I get weekly cravings for everything from Italian hoagies from my old corner deli to escargot served al fresco at Parc. Below are some of my favorite spots to hit up when I’m back in town:

Barbuzzo

110 South 13th Street
You know the part of Slaughterhouse 5 where Billy Pilgrim said, ‘Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt’? This is how I would describe eating at Barbuzzo. From the moment you enter the doors, a lovely hostess escorts you to a table, a thoughtful bartender recommends a drink. Then, the parade of small plates, each one leading me to explain, “But I didn’t know it could be that good!” I remember first biting into the Ouvo pizza and thinking, so this is how truffle oil is supposed to taste! Then, at the next course, I discovered that I never knew gnocchi could be so fluffy. With such an array of delightful small plates, it might be hard to save room for dessert. But you must save room for dessert. I could try to explan the salted caramel budino to you, but once you’ve had one bite, all words will fail.
Must Order: The Arancini, Caramel Budino, Ricotta with Fresh Figs, Ouvou Pizza, stuffed meatballs

Zahav
237 St James Place
Michael Solomonov’s Israeli restaurant is tucked away from street view in Old City, but its reputation looms large in a city of fantastic restaurants- and for good reason. When you sit down and order the tasting menu (and you should order the tasting menu), you are treated to a parade of salads, dips, meats, and vegetables, warming spices, and surprising flavors. I have been lucky enough to dine on everything from melt-in-your-mouth baklava to buttery hummus, but the greatest rewards are for the truly adventurous, such as the sweetbread schnitzel and grilled duck heart. 
Must Order: The Tasting Menu, Grilled Haloumi, Kofte

Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
800 N. 4th Street
The combo of Jewish and Southern food seems so obvious when brunch is in the mix– a latke and a biscuit? Hell yes. The perennial Northern Liberties favorite keeps the hipsters coming (and waiting) week after week with cheap, stick-to-your-ribs from-scratch fair. Maybe the best-kept secret? The non-breakfast items are just as good, and the lines are way shorter if you avoid brunch hours.
Must Order: Two eggs your way with biscuits and a latke, carrot cake

Underdogs
132 s. 17th st.  
There are two kinds of naysayers that could criticize a hotdog restaurant. The first may say, “How good could a hot dog be?,” the other,  “Can you even improve the humble hot dog?” Both critics are wrong. At Underdogs, located beneath the hub and bub of Rittenhouse Square, diners can choose from American Classics or “Haute Dogs” taking the topping creativity one step further by using turkey sausages to evoke a Thanksgiving meal or ground lamb for their Greek dog. To make it a total diet-buster, get their fresh-cut french fries, complete with a complimentary dipping sauce (choose from 12). BYO your favorite cheap beer after 5pm.
Must Order: The Chihuahua dog, The Adonis, french fries, sriracha mayo, garlic aioli

Paesanos
1017 South 9th Street,
Philly is a sandwich town, and while there are no shortage of great places to belly up for a hoagie or cheesesteak, Paesano’s is a perennial favorite for its creative, larger-than-life hoagies stuffed with all kinds of meats, peppers, and cheeses. The store itself embodies a kind of anti-ambiance where the quality of the sandwiches speak for itself- they do not accept credit cards and stock generic sodas, stools are a shortage so you might have to stand while you eat. But there is a reason the lines stay long – one bite of a true Philly-style sandwich will explain why the locals keep coming back
Must Order: Bolognese, Paesano

Philadelphia Pretzel Factory
Everywhere
It doesn’t get much cheaper than a pretzel-  For less than a dollar, you can buy your own freshly-baked, chewy, salty piece of Philadelphia- just make sure you cover it in spicy mustard, too.
Must Have: A Philly-style pretzel with mustard

Magpie
1622 South Street
How do you create a pie restaurant with a vintage feel that isn’t phony, a whimsical atmosphere that isn’t saccharine, and a trendy menu that could stand the test of time? Magpie, the aptly-named pie restaurant newly opened on South Street west of Broad, someone manages to be all those things. I suppose it is in part genius marketing and attention to detail that keeps this new restaurant from feeling like another flash-in-the-pan trend restaurant going the way of the cupcake, but in reality, it is the high quality of the pies served and attention to detail that will make this cozy new addition to the Center City scene stick around.
Must have: the Peanut Butter Mousse pie (weekends only) with a cup of La Colombe Coffee

DiBruno Brothers
1730 Chestnut Street
Its hard to know where to start at DiBruno Brothers – you could stare at the ready-made counter for a bit, deciding between a macaroni salad and a twice-baked potato for your dinner side. Or you could let yourself be convinced to buy a sandwich from one of four deli counters, or fantasize about buying one of their giant cookies or show-stopping cakes. Or you can do what I always do- beeline for the cheese counter and sample yourself silly. Whether you are looking for the stinkiest bleau or the most palate-pleasing cheddar, the knowledgeable cheesemongers are happy to help you sample your way to  a professional-quality cheese plate for your party and even just indulge your cheesy cravings. It’s the best free food you can get in Philadelphia.
Must Have: Cheese samples galore

Images: Barbuzzo, Treat Yo’ Self, Everyday Grub, Quick Bites (All design by Beginners)

November 29, 2012

My Favorite Philly Eats

Life + Entertainment

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I have always hated it when in the middle of a perfectly good rant sesh, someone interrupts with a “well, at least you don’t live in war-torn Afghanistan” or “at least you have food on the table” or, the ever popular, “at least you’re not dead.” While, yes, I agree that perspective is healthy and even necessary to live life as a non-jerk, I also believe that everyone has a right to be unhappy and maybe even more importantly, to complain about it.

While I might hate the “at least you don’t” perspective giving technique, I have truly learned to appreciate the “someone out there” method.  For example, “someone out there wishes they were as outgoing as you” or “someone out there is jealous of all that you’re doing.”   And sure, maybe I like this different take on perspective because it keeps the focus right where it should be (on you) but I also do truly think it’s helpful.  To be reminded that you are truly lucky (as opposed to that others are truly unlucky…see the difference?) really reminds you to be appreciative of what you have and what you’ve accomplished.

I learned the value of this technique really quite recently.  Not too long ago, I was sitting outside a bar in Guadalajara sobbing (I get sad when I drink, you should know that about me before you invite me out for a night of debauchery) lamenting to one of my fellow hostelers about how much I felt like I was struggling or how much I was missing out on to be here.  And the guy sat down on the ground right in front of me and said “Meghan, look at me.  Look at me and listen because I’m about to lay down some truth for you.” (he was from Santa Cruz, I can’t explain their surfer-dude dialect)  “Someone out there wishes they were right here where you are now.  That they were brave enough to move by themsleves to a foreign country instead of sitting behind a desk or slinging coffee.  Someone out there wishes they were lucky enough to be spending the evening with two awesome dudes from Santa Cruz listening to Maná on repeat.” (Surfer dude, remember?  He wasn’t going to go five whole minutes without talking about himself.)

Sure, at the time, these words of wisdom did not stop my sobbing, but now, almost a month later, I still remember them.  And any time I start feeling sorry for myself I just have to think of them and remember how lucky I truly am.  Because, yeah, I don’t live in war-torn Afghanistan (just drug-war blighted Mexico) and someone out there is jealous of that.

Image: Monologue Man by Dorothy Shoes

People + Places

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Moving to Mexico this fall was a little hard for me because it meant that I would be missing out on my favorite season. But when I realized it also meant I would be missing out on my least favorite holiday, Halloween, I was psyched! (Talk to any kid from a cold part of the country – Halloween was always, always the coldest night of the year and we would often have to wear parkas over our undoubtedly cute costumes)

But then I remembered Day of the Dead… while I know the celebration is different, the two holidays are linked in my mind, and I was still a little nervous that there would be dancing skeletons, glowing skulls, and scary ghouls all over the place.

It turns out that Day of the Dead is really more about a celebration of life, taking time to honor and remember love ones lost and spending time together as a family. Officially, this traditionally Mexican holiday might be called “Day of the Dead” but here in Patzcuaro, it’s all about the night.

The week before, trucks loaded down with marigolds rumble into the town, only to be quickly emptied as people carry the flowers off in baskets, by the armfuls, or even on their heads to use in alters, ofrendas, graves, or roadside displays. During the day, people work on the decorations, the food, and the offerings, all in attempt to be ready for the evenings’ festivities.

At midnight, the pilgrimage to the cemetery begins. One of the largest is located on the island in the middle of the lake, and boats appear afire with candles as they sail across. Once at the cemetery, there are candles and flowers as far as the eye can see and entire families sit quietly at the side of their love one’s graves, in contemplation. The smell of marigolds and pozole fill the air and the soft whispers of memories carry across with the wind. It’s really quite a lovely experience, and even though you’re spending the night in a cemetery, it’s anything but spooky.

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November 15, 2012

Night of the Dead

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