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JMT Prep: Resupply

[Part 3 of our JMT Prep plan. See previous POST 1 for the background and POST 2 for the food story.]

I really wanted to get this post out before we left, so here goes. The food questions have been answered, and now it’s time to talk about just how that food gets to us throughout these upcoming (2 days!) 21 days.

No one in their right mind would carry 21 days worth of food. First – it’s heavy – and remember, I cut out something that weighed an ounce. But second, and probably even more importantly, you really can’t. Most areas of the John Muir Trail require carrying of a ‘bear canister’. They are virtually impossible for naughty hungry bears to open, even though they are certainly NOT scent-proof.

This is a typical bear canister:

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They aren’t small, as you can see. They weight about 2-3 pounds themselves, depending on the brand and should carry about 4-5 days of food for 1 person, of course depending on density/volume/number of snacks/booze/etc. But note: NOT 21 DAYS. Eventually, using them becomes really easy, as does getting it in and out of your backpack.

But not being able to carry all the food at once means you have to do something called “resupply”: you have to plan out stops along the trail so that you can pick up food and restock. The first half of the trail has more options, like in Yosemite and the ‘resort’ where we are staying; the last half of the JMT has fewer options. Some people simply resupply by buying food at the stores that are along the trail (usually not on the trail, but off by .5 miles or so). Others, like us, mail boxes or buckets to those locations that are held (for a fee; ain’t nothin’ free!) until we arrive.

Jennifer and I ultimately decided to resupply 3 times, so once we figured that out, we each had our own methods to organize. For me, I was lucky enough to have a spare bookcase in which to put labels, as you see here:IMG_5533

As you can probably read, we are starting the trail carrying 3 days of food. We resupply at a place called Tuolumne Meadows (in Yosemite), where we will pick up a box that contains our food and snacks for Days 4-8. Jennifer packed the snacks for this leg earlier than others, so that I could bring them back to SF when I was visiting in Seattle over July 4th. This helped to decrease cost of shipping since we only sent 1 box to this location.

Here is the box:IMG_5583

Packed and ready to go – we sent this one off first, since we are getting to this location earlier in the trip. Delivery confirmation showed it as being at the Tuolumne Meadows post office, so we should be good to go on this one!IMG_5584

The second resupply is a bit trickier, and bigger. We are staying at a place called Vermilion Valley Resort to relax on our 9th day of the trip. We have no miles planned and a reservation for a real bed, a shower (!), and laundry. This place will also have magical things like sandwiches, beer, and BBQ. It’s going to feel good for that 1 little day.

That said though, once we leave VVR, we have to carry 8 days worth of food. Remember how I said the bear cans only held around 4-5 days worth of food? Yeah, that’s right – but luckily, bear cans aren’t required along the beginning of that 8 day section, so we’ll be able to whittle down our food supply and eventually get it all back into the bear can by the time we have to. Don’t worry – no bear attacks will be had here – that’s one part of this trip that we’re totally prepared for.

As you see below, for my VVR bucket, I have all of mine and Jennifer’s meals laid out for those 8 days, and also a few replacement toiletries, like wipes and sunscreen, and even a fresh pair of clothes to wear while my dirty dirty laundry is being washed (these clothes will be tossed before we leave).IMG_5586IMG_5589

VVR recommends shipping in a bucket, so that’s what you see here – a 5 gallon bucket that is literally filled to the brim with our supplies (the picture shows it halfway full, but don’t you worry – it was to the top when it went out):IMG_5592

This got shipped out last week, and has also been confirmed as arrived at VVR:

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So after that, we have 4 more days to go, and this is the section where the resupply options are few and far between. Most require you to leave the trail by about 14 miles roundtrip, and an extra day of hiking. You could also hire a pack mule service which will set you back a few hundred dollars. Or you could find a loving husband who happily hikes in 7 miles to resupply you for your last 4 days, and walks the rest of the trail with you:

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I have a feeling that, no matter how much whiskey he does or doesn’t bring, this will probably be my favorite of all the resupplies. But I also have a feeling he will want to sleep in a tent all by himself due to the stench emanating from the two of us.

So that’s the quick 3 post rundown! We are almost ready for this thing. We’ll be in Yosemite in less than 48 hours, hopefully getting a good night’s sleep, and starting mile 1 of many on Saturday.

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll report back here at some point – so stay tuned!

 

 

jambalaya, bitches!

JMT Trail Planning – Meal Prep

jambalaya, bitches!

jambalaya, bitches!

The main reason I decided to write about this backpacking trip Jennifer and I are going on (NEXT WEEK!) is because we’ve gotten a ton of questions as the trip has come closer and closer to really happening (although let’s be honest – I have a week or so left to chicken out, right?).

Aside from the inevitable question from my parents (“Why do you want to just walk for 230 miles?”), a large majority of the questions have really centered around the planning. And for good reason – we’ve been doing it since January when we had to plan our permit requests. The planning is no joke, people.

You don’t just toss shit it in a bag a week or two before you leave. Doing such a thing would be pretty silly – sillier than doing this trip in the first place. You have to constantly think of 3 things during planning: cost, comfort, and weight. Fortunately, I had a lot of backpacking gear already, but this trip has still required quite a few extra purchases, one of the most significant being a food dehydrator, which I’ll get to in a second. Weight-wise, I’m not kidding when I say that I removed a pair of iPhone headphones because I “don’t need the extra weight (of 1 ounce).” I hope I don’t regret that when Jennifer starts talking in her sleep….

When it came to comfort, after the obvious things like having a nice backpack and good hiking shoes, I realized that I needed to have some comforts from home in the way of food. I knew I’d go crazy eating Clif bars for every meal, and I knew from previous hiking trips that my body does not respond well to the enormous amounts of sodium in the store-bought freeze-dried meals, even if they are surprisingly tasty (not to mention they are $10 each).

This is where the dehydrator comes in handy. This amazing contraption has allowed us to have things like dehydrated cheese powder (!) and dehydrated peanut sauce (!!), as well as homemade jambalaya (!!!).

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freshly dehydrated Tillamook cheddar!

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peanut sauce in the making

People keep saying that we are going to be eating better than anyone on the JMT. I think we’ll be eating better than 90% of people, for sure. But some people go hardcore gourmet when it comes to hiking food, and I won’t be surprised to see fancy pour-over coffee contraptions, pots and pans, and actual plates. Plates! (We eat out of bags…)

Now, getting all of the food through the trail is just as tricky as getting yourself through the trail; that’s going to be the next post. But since people ask us a lot about our food, I figured I’d share the “menu”, meal-wise. Jennifer and I divvied up the food tasks – I took on making our meals since I bought the dehydrator, and she is prepping every last snack and instant coffee pack.

We have a few “fresh” meals throughout the trip, such as days where we resupply and over our “zero day”, so we aren’t eating 21 pre-prepped breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It shakes down to 16 breakfasts, 17 lunches, and 17 dinners that I had to prepare in advance. To make sure we don’t get too tired of any one meal, we decided on 4 different breakfasts and lunches and 5 different dinners – all rotating throughout the trip.

This is what we came up with (and all have been tested) –

Breakfasts

  1. cheese & bacon grits
  2. granola cereal
  3. cranberry-pistachio oatmeal
  4. Clif bar (different one each time)

Lunches

  1. smoked salmon & hummus on dill triscuits
  2. veggie pasta salad
  3. peanut butter & honey tortillas
  4. tuna couscous with Italian dressing

Dinners

  1. quinoa & veggies in peanut sauce
  2. mac n’ cheese with broccoli & ham
  3. chicken curry & rice
  4. beef & bean chili
  5. chicken & sausage jambalaya

Sounds pretty decent huh? Now you might be wondering just how we are eating all of this, right? The only perishable items are things we will buy once or twice along the way (tortillas and triscuits). Everything else is either pre-packaged (Clif bar, peanut butter packs) or dehydrated at home. Dehydrating does two things for us – 1) it keeps things shelf stable so we don’t die from rancid food and 2) it significantly cuts down on weight and bulk. For example, a serving of chili (2 cups fresh) weighs 18 ounces, but when dehydrated, it weighs 4.6 ounces – huge difference. HUGE. Also, it’s amazing just how many things you can actually dehydrate. It’s sorta fun…

Dehydrating also means we can limit what we carry to cook – we share a Jetboil, which is a device with the sole purpose of boiling water in under 2 minutes. We pour the water into the freezer bag our food is in, close it, and let it rehydrate for a few minutes. For lunch, our meals don’t even need boiling water – we made sure we had only cool/room temperature lunches, to save time and effort (and we figured it would be the warmest then, and a hot lunch sounded gross).

Where did we come up with the meals? Lots of places. I started by looking on Trailcooking.com, which is a great site for backpacking recipes. I made quite a few of those meals that passed the test (veggie pasta salad, chicken curry rice, cheese grits), and also tested a few that I didn’t like as much. A couple of recipes were made from my blog (remember when I posted recipes?!?) – the jambalaya and chai granola made the list, and the chana masala was a solid 6th place dinner option, which we decided we didn’t need (but it was great on a couple of practice trips!). Some of them were just cobbled together until they were ‘right’: the quinoa with peanut sauce, for instance, or the smoked salmon on triscuits, and last but certainly not least – the mac n’ cheese, which took 3 practice runs to get right.

The meal prep was definitely time-consuming, but I know it will be worth it, given that we absolutely NEED to eat A LOT, and as a result, it will help to like the food and have variety. Making the food saved us money, too, since we didn’t have to buy the pre-made meals, and we don’t have to restock while on the trail at the couple of stores we have access to.

Snack-wise, Jennifer has some super solid things lined up, too. Lots of trail mix, peanut M&Ms, Snickers bars (a hiking MUST), jerky, Goldfish, and even some cheesecake pudding for dessert. And Girl Scout cookies. BOOM.

And of course, you can’t hike without coffee and whiskey – so that’s on lockdown, too.

When it comes to the food, we are more than ready. Next time, I’ll explain how it all gets on the trail ;).

 

golden-ticket

A Little Adventure

I went back and forth about whether or not I’d write any real posts about this adventure, but I ultimately decided it would be nice to have some sort of documentation on some of this planning, and the days leading up to the big day – so here goes –

So my friend, Jennifer, and I are doing this crazy thing this month. And saying, “this month” is sorta freaky now…

Over a year ago, we thought of this crazy idea to do a backpacking trip together, and decided that hiking the John Muir Trail sounded relatively “doable”. Of course, we later learned the difficulty in obtaining permits, and wondered if we’d even be able to go… but we tried anyway! After deciding on a large range of potential dates this summer, we started the permit process and a few days later, we were feeling a little like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. A golden ticket!!! Hells yes.

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But truthfully, we were both sorta like, “Holy shit. Now we have to do this thing”. And I know I for one was like, “Holy shit. Now we have to do this thing, and can I even do this thing?”.

This was back in January.

We are leaving in less than 3 weeks, and back in January I thought this month would never come, but now that it’s here I go to sleep with the jitters every night. It’s pretty exciting just to think about going, I’ll be honest.

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So here are the details:

  • The entire trip will take 21 days, starting on 7/25
  • The John Muir Trail (JMT, or “jimt” as we say for short…) is 221 miles; our total hiking will probably be closer to 230.
  • We have 1, maybe 2, days of no hiking, what we call zero days. This all depends on how awesome we do.
  • We are NOT carrying 21 days of food – we are resupplying at 3 points along the way – one of those points is Chris, who is joining us to hike the last 4 days and bringing one last batch of food (and whiskey!).
  • There is relatively NO cell service, so we will not be live-blogging this adventure. Plus, that sorta defeats the purpose of going remote, anyway.
  • We will, however, take a shitload of pictures, and we have trail journals, and we even have a playlist for early days at camp, and songs like “Push It” if we are struggling up a mountain. Yeah, I’m serious about that. I’m sure I’ll need anything to get me up those ‘hills’.

And finally, we will both look absolutely stunning for all 21 days, because, well, just look at us:

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More later. I’m considering a detailed post about our itinerary, and one about the cooking prep, since this is technically a FOOD blog.

Peace homies.

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Nduja (en-doo-yah).

FullSizeRenderSo, yeah. Hi!

The other night, Chris asked me how long it’s been since I’d posted. July 2014. Woah. But on occasion, I miss this place. I know I say that every time I disappear for a while, but it’s true. Plus, sometimes I make something that I just need to share. And tonight, that happened.

I still cook the same way. A lot of other things have changed (more on that in a moment), but I still clip recipes from my favorite magazines, and sometimes they sit around for a while, sometimes they get cooked immediately. Nduja (en-doo-yah), a spicy, spreadable pork sausage, is an ingredient I’ve wanted to cook with for a long time. I found a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that I couldn’t resist – a pasta sauce made with nduja, with small pieces of shrimp nestled within, and squid ink pasta running throughout.

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The first step is making a quick and easy shrimp stock. As much as I hate peeling shrimp, when I make shrimp stock I realize that it only takes about 5 minutes to shell a pound of them, and whether or not you need shrimp stock in the recipe at hand, you should always, always make it and freeze it if you don’t need it. In fact, I still have lobster stock in the freezer from who knows when. I really don’t know when…

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I’m sure you could buy squid ink (actually, I know you can) and make your own fresh pasta injected with it, but I prefer to just pay someone to do this part. I’m all about a cooking project, but not on a weeknight, and this is a weeknight recipe, no doubt. If you’re in San Francisco, Local Mission Market is the place to go.

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The end result is really magnificent. Saucy, spicy amazingness bathing fresh, black pasta with a nubbin of shrimp in every single bite. It reminds me just a tad of paella – and I’m not sure I can explain why, so I’ll just let you decide, if you decide, of course, to whip this up.

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Did you see a little furry face in the background above? Go look again – you were probably focused on the pasta. Not judging.

But I’ll back up for a minute. A while ago, I mentioned that we were house-hunting. It takes a long time in San Francisco. Well, 7 months and 7 offers later, it finally happened! We moved late in August last year, and said Adios! to that little ol’ Mission apartment. We now live in a neighborhood called Mission Dolores, right between the Mission and the Castro, and super convenient for practically everything in the city. I haven’t been as good about sharing pictures on social media, but I did upload a few to Flickr, so feel free to take a look.

Now those of you who read here frequently know I was crazy-attached to my Tangerine. It took a lot longer than I previously thought to even consider another cat around here. But shortly after we moved, we were visiting a favorite winery, and they happened to have another litter of kittens (does that sound weird? It’s totally normal, I promise). We found an adorable tiny little blob of fur whose wee little eyes were practically begging us to take her home. But we didn’t. We were both traveling for work the next week, so the timing didn’t add up. We said goodbye, and crossed our fingers that she wouldn’t get eaten by a coyote (kidding, sort of), and the following weekend, we came back and got her. Life with a little kitten has been so much fun. But now she’s giant, it seems, because they always grow so dang fast. But this one – this little Sirah – she is something really special. I can’t believe I already love her so much, and she’s pretty attached to us, too.

So, now we’re all caught up, right? Things have definitely changed, but really, a lot is still the same. And all of it – every last bit – couldn’t be better.


 

Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp, Nduja, And Tomato

adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2015; serves 4
time commitment: 45 minutes, most active

printable recipe

ingredients
1 lb large shell-on shrimp
3 T olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, divided, 2 smashed, 4 thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 c puréed tomatoes
4 oz nduja
Kosher salt
12 oz squid ink spaghetti
¼ c fresh lemon juice
¼ c chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

instructions
Peel and devein shrimp, saving shells. Finely chop shrimp; set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high and cook smashed garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add reserved shells and cook, stirring, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Add bay leaf and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until stock is slightly reduced and flavorful, 8–10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add tomatoes and 1 cup stock. Return to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is beginning to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add nduja, using a wooden spoon to work it into the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (fresh-made pasta will only need about 2-4 minutes to cook). Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened (but still saucy) and coats pasta, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and ¼ cup parsley; toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta topped with more parsley.

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Mai Tai

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Before I get going here, let me just say that I am outrageously happy to have a “search” tool on my blog. I was really on a roll a few years ago in this ol’ space, and apparently have found the time to post, according to my ‘category’ labels, 285 recipes. What?! That essentially means that there are a lot, and that I am bound to forget some of them. So for a moment, I’m going to share some links of my favorites so that YOU can remember:

Alright, I have to stop now before things get crazy. But hopefully, I’ve inspired you to use that good ol’ recipe index I made a long time ago (and just updated! finally! link’s on the left). There really are some gems in there.

Using the ‘search’ tool also helped me realize I’d already posted a classic ‘mole’ recipe a while back. I made a killer mole sauce last night, and I even took pictures! and then I started to think about a post for it, and had a sneaking suspicion that I’d already done it. it’s confirmed – here’s the post – a different recipe, but very very similar to what I did last night.

Finally, I am truly, legitimately, sharing a NEW RECIPE. It’s not something that will have you in the kitchen for hours. Shoot, it isn’t even food. But since it’s been a little toasty here in San Francisco (80!), it seems appropriate to share a summer cocktail.

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Meet the MAI TAI. Now, you might be familiar with the more generic mai tai’s – the ones with pineapple juice and all the sugary stuff. That’s not how I roll here. This is a very classic drink, just like what I downed in Hawaii a couple of times back in May. If you do it correctly, you’ll forget the nasty sweet ones, I promise. And this might become your new drink of choice in the summertime. But be careful, one or two will possibly have you down for the count. Not that I’d know from experience, or anything…

The spirits used are important, but you could probably make some substitutes and come out alright (i.e., different types of rum, using just 1 rum). The important ingredient that you might have to search for is the ‘orgeat’, which is essentially a sweetened almond milk syrup. I’ve seen orgeat in California BevMos that’s produced by Small Hand Foods, but I doubt they distribute nationwide. You can order it, though! And you can search around for other brands in your area, as well.

Or! You can just make it yourself. There are many fancy recipes out there to make it from true scratch (like, using almonds and a hi-octane blender), but I found a very simple method that, in my opinion, is pretty damn good. I’ll post it below.

Whatever you do, do NOT try to skip it. And please, report back on your drinking explorations. I miss you. ;)

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Mai Tai
makes 2 drinks
time commitment: <5 minutes, if you have your simple syrup and orgeat in hand.

printable version

ingredients
2 oz amber rum (I used Appleton Estate V/X from Jamaica)
2 oz dark rum  (I used Pyrat XO Reserve from Anguilla)
1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz Grand Marnier (or other orange liquer like Cointreau or Triple Sec)
1 oz orgeat (recipe below)
1/2 oz simple syrup (recipe below)
mint for garnish
Maraschino cherry for garnish
umbrella and tiki glass. I didn’t have these, but it would be cool if I did

instructions
combine all liquids (rum through simple syrup) into a cocktail shaker with ice. shake vigorously for 1 minute. pour into two glasses filled with large ice cubes and garnish.

(an alternative preparation is to combine everything except the dark rum, and to pour, or ‘float’ the dark rum on top. that’s the high roller fancy version!)

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Homemade Orgeat, the easy way
from Craft Cocktails at Home; makes 1 cup

ingredients
184 g unsweetened almond milk
88 g sugar
1/8 t almond extract
1/16 t orange blossom water (4 drops if you have a dropper)

instructions
combine it all in a jar, and store in the fridge

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Simple Syrup
makes 1 cup

ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

instructions
combine ingredients in saucepan on medium heat. heat until sugar dissolves, and let cool. this can also be done in the microwave. store in fridge.

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Hello, world. Is anyone still listening?

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As I mentioned a few months ago, I was able to successfully move my blog over to a different site, one that’s free and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. That’s important, since I’m rarely around here. But it’s also important because I like to have the memories – I don’t want this site – all these hours of cooking, taking photos, and writing – to disappear.

Just now, I was perusing the recipe archives for menu ideas this week, and came across a few of my favorite posts – some sad, some hilarious (I mean, dang, sometimes I crack myself up), and some downright weird (like, a month of vegetarianism?! wtf). It reminded me how much value this site used to hold in my heart, how helpful it has been to write my thoughts, for the few who read but mainly, just for my own benefit. It reminded me how much passion I have for food, for photography, and really, just for life.

We lose site of that sometimes, don’t we? Those important things. They are easy to forget in the ebb and flow of other moments.

So here I am.

What’s new? Oh, you know, not much. I guess my last real post here was last September, shortly after my baby kitty (well, of 14 years) died. I did manage to take a photo every day last year, which I shared here, but that really sucked. We’re still living in San Francisco, we’re still in that little ol’ apartment in the Mission (with NO DISHWASHER), and we’re still pretty damn happy and feeling rather lucky, overall.

We spent a really awesome week with Jennifer & Jon in Hawaii last month, we’ve continued hiking around California, and we’re planning to conquer Half Dome in July with Liz & Kevin. I still coax Chris into bike rides on occasion, too. Last weekend we took a ferry over to Angel Island (photo above), and I think he, aside from his knees, enjoyed it.

Hawaii

Sasha, our cat, is more and more loving every day. She’s still her regular skittish self, but she now ‘wears the pants’ in the family and has her way with the both of us. Chris sometimes worries that I’m stealing her away from him, but ultimately, we know she’s daddy’s girl. One day, we’ll get another little kitty, but it still doesn’t quite seem like the right time. I miss my Tangerine every day, and some days when Sasha jumps in the chair beside me, for a split second I think it’s Tange. The chair wobbles the same way, a loud thump and thud as she finds her balance. But that chair was Tange’s chair, and I keep meaning to fix that damn leg so it doesn’t make that same noise, but in a way, I think I like the memory. In a way. Sorta like the way a scar reminds you of something stupid you did – the hurt is still there, but the experience was worth it at the end of the day. Good memories.

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I’m currently unemployed. Don’t worry – it is NOT a bad thing. In short, I had a very trying job. And now I get to really think about what I want in life, in my career. Being home alone during the week is sometimes really, really monotonous and boring (yes, that’s redundant; pun intended). But I’ve completed a few kitchen projects, I’ve watched a lot of ‘Parts Unknown’, I’ve gotten out on my bike and I’ve even tackled some trail runs. So far, I only busted my ass once. Also, I’ve eaten a lot of tacos. I do live in the Mission, remember.

We were in the process of house-hunting until May. Unfortunately, people in the Bay Area happen to have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around, and can often pay cash for condos. We are not those people. In fact, we’ve worked really hard to just save a down payment, of sorts. As such, we’ve lost a few bids on places we really liked. But truthfully, it’s better this way, for the time being. We’ll pick it back up once I figure out my job stuff. Meanwhile, I miss my dining room table, the other half of our couch, and plenty of other items locked away in storage.

But at the end of the day, we have everything we need, and more.

So that’s all for now. I just thought I’d say hi to whoever’s listening. Hi, and I’ll try to show up around here on occasion. I took a few food photos the other day, so maybe I’ll get back into that process again. We shall see.

How’ve you been?

country, city

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need

IT WORKS!

Hey friends!

I’m sure everyone thought I was LONG GONE. I sort of am, but I was finally able to restore my actual domain name after I moved my blog to the FREE wordpress site. I just needed to sit down for 2 seconds and figure it out.

Aaaannnyyyway, it works! And the recipe links work too! fiiiinnnnallly.

That said, now we’ll just have to see if this means I might blog again. I’ll keep my fingers crossed ;).

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