life lately 12/17/14

by Nicole on December 17, 2014

Wow, the last few months have just flown by. So let’s catch up, yeah?


We’ve started a new Saturday routine, and it’s made the weekends so enjoyable lately. First thing in the morning, we head out to Boggy Creek Farm, which is so much more peaceful than going to a farmers’ market. We get produce (always some kind of greens, some kind of starch, plus a few more vegetables), eggs, and maybe some fun pantry goods like smoked tomatoes or strawberry-fig jam. Then we drive to Dai Due to pick up meat. We particularly love their sausages, stocks, and chicken liver mousse, but all of their meat is great. From there, we walk to In.gredients, a fairly small little store that specializes in local items, and we’ll pick up whatever we need to round out our meals for the week–dried goods like oats or spices, locally-made tortillas and cheeses, maybe a bottle of local cider or some beer. Somewhere in there we stop for breakfast and coffee (new discoveries include Sawyer & Co., Sa-Ten, and Brew & Brew). We then go home and prep as much as we can for the week, usually spending a few hours in the kitchen. The new routine has given us each a surge of cooking inspiration, and it’s a great feeling to know you have tons of healthy, delicious, local food waiting in your fridge for you throughout the week!

I’m still in the routine of meditating each morning using Headspace, and it just gets better and better. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I cannot recommend it enough because it helps in ways you wouldn’t even think of. Not only are you more mindful in a world where it can be very hard to be, but it’s an excellent way to relieve stress, and an excellent way to improve the way you react to the world and to others.

We’re also still playing tennis (working our way back up to our usual 4-5/week after we both caught sucky colds). Afterwards, Darius plays basketball for about 5-10 minutes while I do a short run.

I feel in some ways as if I’ve finally cracked the code of the perfect routine for me. I think I am happiest when I feel healthy, strong, and vibrant in both body and mind. I’ve realized what’s actually going on in life doesn’t matter quite as much. So it’s become more important to me lately to eat well, exercise, meditate, and engage only in what actually feels fulfilling to me.


In case you didn’t see on Instagram, I got a new sewing machine as a very early Christmas present! And shortly thereafter, I picked up a serger during an Amazon sale (only $140 for a Brother 1034D!!).

So you’d think I’d be sewing like 24/7 now, right? WRONG. Immediately after I got my new machine, I took my first stab at being a tester for a new sewing pattern. Nothing against the pattern, but I quickly realized that the testing process is just not for me. I don’t like sewing things I’m not really feeling or that are frustrating me, and my first muslin showed I’d need a lot of changes to get a good fit, and even then, I didn’t actually like the style on me once I saw the garment. Ultimately, I decided to drop out of the testing process. I felt bad about changing my mind on them, but my free time is just worth so much to me that I didn’t want to slog my way through something that wasn’t making me happy. The experience gave me a tiny feeling of burnout, so my machines have been pretty much untouched for the past two weeks. But now I know myself better, and I can indeed say THANK YOU to all you selfless souls who are willing to put all that effort into testing!

(Photo from Closet Case Files)

The good news is that I’m off work all next week, and hope to spend a chunk of that time in my sewing room SEWING JEANS. Literally five seconds after reading about Heather Lou’s new Ginger Jeans pattern, I purchased one of the kits. The pattern is literally my perfect jeans pattern! (Can I say LITERALLY again? I mean, I’ve already said it twice in two sentences…) I’ve never made jeans before, so I’m a little scared, but I know the instructions will be great and the sewalong will be super helpful. I also bought a ton of stretch denim on sale for $4/yard–enough for six pairs, actually, so there will be plenty left over after muslins too!


After a huge hiatus, we rediscovered Pandemic and have been playing several times per week. Seriously, best board game ever.


By this point, I’m sure you have all heard of Serial. If not, you definitely need to check it out, but only if you are prepared to be ruined on podcasts forever because nothing else will ever compare again. I don’t want to say much about the podcast, other than that it’s a true life murder mystery that plays out little by little each week (and actually, tomorrow is the final episode). And if you like it, donate towards the second season!

I used to love Pandora, but had to take a break from it because it seemed it was always playing the same songs over and over again. I recently heard about Songza and have been playing around with it’s “Concierge” feature. You tell it what you’re doing, like working, then drill in with options like “cleaning out your inbox: pumped-up hits” or “playing office DJ: indie” and then it gives you three different playlist options. There are also stations by activity (like “being creative”, “going for a bike ride”, and “waking up on the right side of the bed”), and playlists by mood.


(Photo from Louie Schwartzberg’s TED talk.)

This TED talk on nature, beauty, and gratitude is such a good reminder.

If you want something stupidly hilarious, you need to watch Nathan For You. Comedy Central describes it as, “A man armed with a business degree thinks he can give advice to people with struggling businesses.” Nathan’s advice is SO funny, but the reactions of the people he is “helping” are even funnier. Both seasons are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and you might be able to find it on Comedy Central On-Demand too.

Darius and I re-watched Samsara recently, and I cannot recommend this movie enough. The scenes themselves are gorgeous, but the movie is also really moving and stays with you long after it’s over. You come away with a sense of how strange and connected and beautiful and weird our world is. Here’s the IMDB description: “Filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and shot on seventy-millimetre film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders.”


Currently, I’m reading Oryx and Crake (which my mom got me for my birthday) and Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper (which my in-laws Jess & Mat got me for my birthday).

And my to-read list never ends. High on the list are The Cuckoo’s Calling, Casual Vacancy, I Am Malala, The Year of Magical Thinking, Wool, and What Alice Forgot. And I’ve sent a ton of samples to my Kindle recently that I can’t even remember.

food rituals: writer, editor, food-lover, and “chief of stuff” crystal esquivel

by Nicole on December 1, 2014

Today’s installment of “food rituals” features Crystal Esquivel of Poco-Cocoa. Although we’ve only met in person once, I’ve followed her blog and Instagram for years. I’m sure she’d tell you her life is far from perfect, but you’d never know it from her gorgeous images. She lives a life full of thoughtfully prepared home-cooking, amazing restaurants, and adorable cats…who WOULDN’T want that life!?! She also has a spectacularly balanced view on food:

“I think there is a time and place for every type of food. I will eat anything that sounds good, from green smoothies to IKEA hot dogs. Of course now, as a dietitian and food writer, I know much more about food sourcing and organics and sustainability and all that. But along with my organic apple, I don’t mind having a few Cheetos.”


First off, tell us a little bit about you.
Let’s see… I’ve lived in Austin for 11 years, though I was born and raised in New Mexico. My husband, Justin, and I live in Clarksville with our two cats, Roux and Little.

I’m still having a hard time describing my work life – I kind of balance several things at once. I am Chief of Stuff for Foreign & Domestic and  Indie Chefs Week, as well as a freelance copywriter, copyeditor, web content manager, and reluctant social media consultant.

Justin and I work in a shared studio space on the east side, and we share a lot of projects. He’s a designer, and has done work with Uchi/Uchiko, JuiceLand, Casa Brasil, Foreign & Domestic, Indie Chefs Week, Contigo, Ace Tailors, etc etc etc. He’s kind of a badass.

A friend once told me that I live a charmed life. I quite like that.


What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Since we work freelance, we have no schedule. I’m usually up by 9ish, I might work from home or at the studio, I might be home by 4PM or 7PM, and it’s hard to tell weekday from weekend. So I guess there’s not really a typical day.

If I have breakfast, it’ll be a mocha or chai from Starbucks, oatmeal with cinnamon sugar and berries, an acai bowl, leftovers, or maybe a cappuccino at Figure 8. When Justin takes a day off (usually Sundays), he’ll make scrambled eggs with cheese and potatoes. His are really the only scrambled eggs I like.

If I have lunch (usually only if I haven’t had breakfast), it might be a can of chicken noodle soup, an apple with cheese, leftovers, a smoothie, or something out and about, lately on the east side since that’s where our studio is.

Dinner is the only constant – always together, either in or out. I’ll cook random things to use up our Farmhouse Delivery veggies – roasted veggie pizza, rice with greens and beef broth, soba noodles with greens and sesame, giant salads, veggie bowls, or some old favorites like spaghetti with meat sauce or pasta with broccoli. Otherwise, we go out. And we go out a lot.

Snacks are usually something simple like seed crackers, chips and salsa, pear & cheese, something I baked (pumpkin doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies, sweet potato pie, etc.), or a mini-Kit Kat.


How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
Too often! Some weeks it’s 4 – 5 times (across lunch and dinner), some weeks it’s twice. We’re at F&D, Bufalina, Joe’s Bakery, and Elizabeth Street quite a bit. We also do a lot of early happy hours (benefits of a freelance schedule!) at places like Takoba, El Sapo, and El Alma. I think those are the usuals, but less often we eat at Fabi + Rosi, Justine’s, Odd Duck, LENOIR, Matt’s… Okay, we eat out a lot.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
This is going to sound really uncool, but ground beef! My mom used to make so many things with it – sopas, tacos, enchiladas, casseroles – and it’s kind of my favorite thing. So at home I like to make chili beans (this bean/meat thing my mom makes that’s not really chili), spaghetti and meat sauce, etc. Also, avocados.

I order different things based on the restaurant we go to. At F&D I almost always order the fish, because Ned & crew are amazing at getting that perfect crispy skin. I love pasta, and guacamole, and steak, and pork chops, and beans. I rarely order salads. But I’d say pizza is my favorite.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
Hmm… I think I mostly snack when Justin’s not here. Leftovers, or maybe fruit and cheese, or a frozen Amy’s burrito, or toast and jam, or crackers, or a quesadilla.


How do you take your coffee/tea?
I don’t drink coffee every day, but what I drink depends on where I am. (Do you see a theme here? I don’t think I have any set rules or routines.) At home I’ll have a tiny cup with half-and-half and sugar. At a coffee shop (my current favorite is Figure 8) I’ll get a cappuccino, or a mocha or chai latte at Starbucks.

 I drink lots of tea. Mostly it’s just black, but if it’s chai or PG Tips, I add a little half-and-half.

Condiment of choice?
Does avocado count?


 Are there any foods you dislike?
I hate disliking foods. I will try a food over and over again until I like it! I used to hate olives and goat cheese and blue cheese, but I tried them so many times that now I like them. I still don’t really like chipotles or mescal (smoky stuff), or weird textured things (uni, bubble tea, chia pudding). I can’t think of much else I don’t like. (GIMME ALL THE FOODS)

 Do you have any weird food quirks?
Justin says I eat very carefully. I make each bite a perfect bite, mixing things on the plate just so. I tend to save the best for last, so I’ll eat the cake and leave the icing for the end, or eat the greens first and end on the mashed potatoes.


 Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
All of them. I do love a good craft cocktail (tiki being my favorite, or those I make at home), but lately I’ve been ordering wine. Rosé bubbly, regular bubbly, or a cold, crisp white is my thing at the moment. I’m not a red wine or beer lover.

 Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?

 Note: All photos in this post are copyright of Poco-Cocoa/Crystal Esquivel.


Previous installments of “food rituals”:
nicole morgan
luisa weiss
hannah peterson

food rituals: mother and nurse hannah peterson

by Nicole on November 24, 2014

Today’s installment of “food rituals” features one of my little sisters, Hannah Peterson. Hannah is a 20-something first-time mom and is also studying to become a nurse. 

First off, tell us a little bit about you.
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I live with my Russian fiance, Kosta, and our 15 month old son, Ansem. I work at Jordan Valley Hospital in the Laboratory. I process and result an array of laboratory exams as well as provide Venipuncture services to patients all over the hospital grounds including surgery and ER traumas. I am currently pursuing my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I consider motherhood a second job in itself. I never get a day off work, even if I’m not at the hospital. When I do have any free time, I enjoy DIY projects and scrapbooking in my son’s baby book.

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
On days that I work at the hospital, coffee is usually my only breakfast and either I bring a homemade lunch, or grab something from the hospital cafeteria (which has surprisingly delicious food!) If I make my own lunch, I usually bring a sandwich and Triscuits, sometimes a Lean Cuisine if I’m in a hurry. The cafeteria’s menu at the hospital changes daily, but my favorite is their grilled chicken and avocado wrap.

How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
I LOVE to go out to eat. I’m the least picky eater you’ll find. Kosta is a sushi fanatic and our local sushi joint is usually his pick. One of my favorite places in the valley is Chipotle. I’ve eaten there since I was a kid in Katy, TX and their barbacoa burritos never get old! I also really enjoy Mimi’s Cafe, which is a French-style food restaurant in Utah that serves breakfast and lunch. Most importantly, we choose where we go out based on their family-friendly settings and entree options for our little one.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
I love Mexican food. I love to make it. I love to eat it. A Mexican joint is usually my first pick for enjoying a night out at a restaurant. A margarita and fajitas really hit the spot! At home, my specialties usually involve Mexican cuisine, whether it be tostadas, enchiladas, tacos… you name it! My family prefers my barbacoa tacos and Chipotle copy-cat cilantro lime rice. When my mom or siblings come over, it’s usually what they want me to make. That, or smothered queso burritos, with Wolf chili of course.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
I don’t like to make large meals for just myself, so normally Triscuits and cheese. All kinds of cheeses, but my favorite is Smoked Gouda. I mostly snack. Nuts, avocado, crackers, etc.

How do you take your coffee/tea?

I prefer coffee. When I order coffee at a shop, I usually go for a white mocha. At home, it’s columbian K-Cups in my Kuerig with original creamer and a couple spoonfuls of sugar in the raw.

Condiment of choice?
Fry sauce (it’s a Utah thing), which consists of mayo, ketchup, and sometimes BBQ sauce, in a delicious mixture which goes great on burgers, or with your french fries.

Are there any foods you dislike?
None. I generally like all types of foods. My diet is usually restricted (grocery wise) since Kosta suffers from Crohns Disease and cannot eat many things that I like to eat.

Do you have any weird food quirks?
Jello can only be eaten before 4pm with a knife. Lol. No, no quirks.

Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
Utah is known for our many micro-breweries. My favorite event in Utah is Oktoberfest at Snowbird. My favorite is our Wasatch pumpkin with whipped cream on top, or any Heffy.

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Salty, for sure!

 Note: All photos in this post are from Hannah’s Instagram.


Previous installments of “food rituals”:
nicole morgan
luisa weiss