Friday, October 23, 2015


in front of Strawberry Lake waterfall on our trip to Oregon a couple weeks ago

Announcing...a little baby Flath due in early February! I'm 24 weeks along and everything has been going well so far. We found out whether we're having a boy or girl, but we're waiting a little longer until the baby shower to share that news.

Like many bloggers, I seem to have taken a respite during early pregnancy. Unlike most, however, I can't blame it on being wiped out by the first trimester - it was really because my time was taken away by the food coop I'm involved in, which is a story for another day.

The default question I get asked most often is 'how are you feeling?' I have been lucky enough to not really feel any more tired than usual. In fact, I've continued my habit of staying up later than I should at my computer most nights. There were times I felt like I'd rather nap than go to the gym, but it was subtle enough that I thought I might just be using pregnancy as an excuse to be lazy. I had hardly any nausea, as long as I religiously ate eggs and toast for breakfast and didn't go too long without eating. In fact, I was extremely hungry most of the first trimester. This could be because a few months of working with a personal trainer had finally ramped up my metabolism, or my body wanting more nutrients to make a baby, or both. Either way, my metabolism is normally very slow, so it was refreshing to eat as much as I wanted and have it be a positive thing.

Altogether, I felt like my normal self throughout the first normal self with a secret. It takes so many weeks before you start to show that it made me feel like, is this really going to happen? Is a baby really going to grow inside of me? I got so used to pregnancy being a secret that it was strange for it to later become a very personal thing that anyone could know about me just by looking at me. Most big life changes are not advertised across your body for strangers to know.

It wasn't until I neared 20 weeks that pregnancy started to make itself and its discomforts known. First the baby's little kicks. A change in my core strength making it difficult to haul my body from side to side and in and out of bed. Anxiety while trying to sleep, mostly out of paranoia that I shouldn't sleep in any other position than on my left side (did you know that's a thing?). Lower back pain, even though I was hoping my newfound back muscles would protect me from that. I think the back pain was actually triggered by riding a new bike, but the pregnancy is making it persist. More recently, I realized I've started having Braxton hicks contractions, though they aren't bothersome (so far). My metabolism has slowed down, as I try to keep the scale from climbing too quickly and feel extremely full two thirds of the time. There's also been a slow decline in my fitness level, probably due in part to working out less frequently and intensely.

I spent last winter mentally psyching myself up to try for this. Trying to come to terms with the idea of staying in from 6pm every night because of children's incomprehensibly early bedtimes, and just generally spending way more time inside my apartment (since I don't love my apartment). I've had nine years of the fabulous young New Yorker lifestyle of going out with friends to happy hours and restaurants and parties and even closing bars at 4am. This year, I realized those nine years could be enough. My life is so busy busy, always rushing from one thing to the next, always feeling like I should be working on something. I feel ready for something that will force me to slow down, for something to feel rewarding in a new way. I crossed a few more minor things off my list of things to do before having a baby, like some last girls nights out dancing ... a solo show ... sushi and oyster dates ... getting in shape just to prove to myself I could. I'll just have to trust that those other big life aspirations in the back of my mind are still possible out there in the future.

As someone who is inherently a planner, it's difficult to prepare yourself for something without knowing when it will happen... immediately, or in a year, or never. We were very lucky that I was able to get pregnant right away. I had spent so much time reminding Evan that it might take a while, that he actually expected it to and was caught off guard.

Now, I'm feeling overwhelmed by all there is to research and learn about all the stuff babies need (also known as building a registry) and how to prepare for birth and newborn care. While I know several people with children, their presence feels peripheral, and I don't have much direct experience with what's to come. It helps that I have complete trust that I picked the right partner, not just for spending my life with, but also for raising a child together. Amidst all the researching, I try to remind myself where this is headed and remind myself to visualize carrying around a little infant. When Evan comes to bed in the morning to hug me goodbye before work, I try to imagine him saying goodbye to two of us. This is the ultimate gamble we're taking...but we forged ahead anyway because it's one of life's ultimate adventures that we want to experience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Year's Fire Escape Garden

Here's my fire escape right after I planted it in late April:

And here it is now that it's June and it's grown in:

In total, I've got two kinds of mint, lavender, sage, rosemary, marjoram, basil, parsley, cilantro, marigolds, petunias, euphorbia, zinnias, nasturtiums, orange cosmos, and wild, spindly purple flower that I bought for looks and forgot the name of.

The empty pots are seeded with lettuce and purslane, and morning glories and bachelor's buttons, just planted last weekend. A squirrel dug up all the zinnias, but all all was not lost because a few survived, a few were replaced, and they're already blooming again. We grow nasturtiums because they're edible and Evan really enjoys them on his salads. Now that the herbs have filled out, I can start thinking about different pestos.

And that is what you can fit on a fire escape. Don't worry, I usually keep an escape path clear, but had to rearrange a bit for photos.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup with Potato, Corn and Lentils

I don't often set out to make specific recipes, usually preferring to gather inspiration from a variety of recipes and make use of what I have. However, I was intrigued enough by this soup I came across on the Wednesday Chef to go out and buy the special ingredients needed. It's a simple potato soup that becomes a flavorful vegetarian tortilla soup by adding chipotle chiles in adobo, avocado, lime juice and crushed tortilla chips. It definitely lived up to the hype.

I'd never used chipotle chiles in adobo sauce before. Chipotle chiles are actually smoked jalapeƱos, and they are often marinated in adobo sauce, a blend of vinegar, garlic, tomato, paprika and other spices. They come in a little can, and since the recipe only calls for one or two chiles (we used one and a half), what to do with the rest? I chopped them up and divided them in an ice cube tray to freeze. Now I have several frozen cubes of chiles stored away that can easily be thrown into soups, stew, beans, etc. I'm already thinking of pulled beef with the smoky heat of adobo and chipotle served alongside parsnip mash or cornbread. Not to mention more of this soup. We are visiting Evan's parents right now in Florida, taking a break from the winter that never seems to end, so we will probably still be all about soups when we return.

A few changes I did make to the original recipe: I subbed in rutabaga for a third of the potatoes, since I ran out of potatoes and had extra rutabaga in my fridge. To keep it vegetarian, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. I also added a cup of cooked lentils at the end, at the same time as the corn, to add protein to this otherwise carb-heavy dish. We found this soup to be so rich and tasty on its own, that we left off the shredded cheese, but you might decide otherwise. You can find the original recipe for Amelia Morris' corn, chile and potato soup over on The Wednesday Chef.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Costa Rica Ecotrip

It's been over a month since we returned from our trip to Costa Rica. People liked to ask if it was a delayed honeymoon, since that is becoming more common these days. However, I maintain that even though the trip we took right after our wedding was short and fairly local (to the Berkshires), it definitely felt like a honeymoon, as we were still basking in the newness of being married. Instead, I call this our First Married Trip, and it was amazing. Evan and I have both been to Costa Rica before, and we had always wanted to go together.

I faced my fears and flew in a 12-person plane.

I searched high and low for an ecolodge that would offer both rainforest and beach, and I found a real gem -- Saladero Ecolodge, located in the southwest of Costa Rica, across from the Osa Peninsula on the inside of the Golfo Dulce. Because it's on a gulf and not the ocean, the water is warmer, calmer, and better suited for swimming and kayaking. The property is located right on Piedras Blancas National Park and is only accessible by boat. To get there, we had to stay overnight after arriving in San Jose, fly an hour on a tiny plane the next morning, followed by a 45 minute boat ride. I had a lot of anxiety about traveling to such a remote place, but the tiny plane ride was smoother than I expected, and once we settled in, I realized it was very much worth the trip. We'd love to go back someday, maybe with our families.

 Saladero Ecolodge is down there in one of those coves on the Golfo Dulce

Approaching Saladero

Evan had been to a similar ecolodge, Tiskita Jungle Lodge, with his family before and loved it, which is what inspired our trip, but like many Costa Rican ecolodges, Tiskita is quite expensive at $300-400 a night. Saladero offers a great deal, since it's much more affordable at $200-$260 a night, which includes all food and most activities. It is very self directed, so we were free to do whatever activities we pleased whenever we wanted. We only paid extra to take a special kayak tour through one the world's oldest mangrove forests, which was worth it to glide through the quiet, primordial-feeling corridors of those giant trees.

 Our cabin

 The view from our cabin

In true ecolodge fashion, there was limited electricity powered mostly by solar energy. I'm normally a night owl, so it felt refreshing to wake up early and fall asleep more in tune with the natural rhythms of the sun. It was hot midday, but cooled off at night so we were okay without air conditioning -- much more comfortable than the nighttime heat when I stayed at a Virgin Islands ecolodge. The meals were a real treat. Much of the delicious food came from the property -- bananas, pineapples, juices, root vegetables, chickens, eggs, and even homemade coconut oil.

The banana garden at Saladero

Pathways lined by pineapple plants

Our days went something like this: Wake up early to coffee and a delicious breakfast in the open air dining area overlooking the gulf. Go for a morning hike on one of the three trails through the rainforest to see what wildlife we could see. Take a kayak out on a fifteen minute ride to a nearby beach with a coral reef offshore. Snorkel among vivid hued fish. Take some time to savor being alone on a quiet, tropical beach. Return to the ecolodge in time for lunch and look up what fish we saw. In the midday heat, retreat to the cool shade of the hammock grove for reading and napping. Later in the afternoon, take another walk in the woods. Or practice yoga on a platform tent overlooking the gardens. Or try fishing.

For happy hour, head to the main house for to enjoy chips and salsa and cold beers while indulging in the one hour of internet availability. Watch the daily evening storm clouds roll in and multicolored sunsets descend over the gulf. Eat a communal dinner and delicious coconut desserts with the other guests to the glow of solar lanterns. Retreat to our cabin to play cards or do crossword puzzles and read before bed. Wake up and repeat for several luxurious days.

The whole experience felt like a good balance of indulging and relaxing, but in a healthy way. Because we were able to get out in the forest and water most days, we saw a lot of birds, fish and other wildlife (see our 40+ species identification list below). I haven't typically been as into birding as Evan, but even I got into the act, since I was the one who spotted the howler monkeys and an owl.

Evan seeing what he could see in Piedras Blancas National Park

Enjoying the hammock grove

Snorkeling at the nearby coral beach


Evan caught a fish on his very first cast, and then of course none after that.

Sunsets over the Golfo Dulce

Early morning river tour

Kayaking through one of the world's oldest mangrove forests

White faced capuchin monkey

Mottled owl at Finca Rosa Blanca

We had a coda to our trip because our return home was delayed by a few days by a snowstorm. That sounds like a dream, but it was actually a bit stressful. Moreso because neither of us speak Spanish. Due to timing, we had already left the ecolodge by the time our flight was changed, so we had to figure out last minute where to stay near San Jose instead. (Which is not the nicest area of Costa Rica). We had to show up at a hotel in Alajuela hoping they would have a room open, which they just barely did.

I then took Evan to Finca Rosa Blanca, a Rainforest Alliance certified coffee farm and luxury hotel. I had taken their coffee tour on my work trip to Costa Rica three years ago and knew Evan would love it. The tour is very informative not just about how they grow their coffee sustainably, but also about the general process of coffee from cherry to cup. It was an unexpected splurge to stay overnight, but we took full advantage by staying more than 24 hours to enjoy the pool, grounds, and open-air lounge area, before returning for one more night at a budget hotel in Alajuela.

The main lodge at Finca Rosa Blanca

Our private patio at Finca Rosa Blanca, overlooking the San Jose valley

Organic coffee farm at Finca Rosa Blanca

While we hadn't felt up to venturing on a long public bus ride to another region, we did successfully navigate taking a bus between Alajuela and Santa Barbara to get to Finca Rosa Blanca. The buses seem like a pretty reliable form of public transportation both within and between cities there, like in New York.

Our last morning in Costa Rica felt like bittersweet deja vu. There we were having breakfast in the courtyard of the same hotel as our first morning there, again preparing to head off to the airport, but this time to end our journey instead of to begin it.

Hotel Los Volcanes, our first and our last morning in Costa Rica

(Mostly spotted at Saladero Eco Lodge)

Birds and Mammals
Yellow-headed caracara / laughing falcon?
Magnificent Frigate bird
Great egret
Scarlet macaw
Cherrie’s tananger
Blue-gray tananger
Chestnut-mandibled toucan
Black vulture
Golden-naped woodpecker
Lineated woodpecker
White hawk (hunting from limb)
Blue morpho butterfly
Hummingbird (one of the hermits)
Little blue heron
Boat-billed flycatcher or great kiskadee
Howler monkeys
Variable seedeater
Ringed kingfisher
Boat-billed heron
Pan-tropical dolphin
Orange-billed sparrow
Great currassao
White-faced capuchin
Blue-crowned motmot
Montezuma oropendola
Brown jay
Hoffmann’s woodpecker
Mottled owl
White-eared ground sparrow

Panamic sgt. Major
Cortez rainbow wrasse (male and female)
Cortez angel fish
Panamic nightsergeant
Green moray eel
Scissortail damselfish
Pana grayshy
3-banded butterfly fish
southern stingray