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Tom Kha Gai

After visiting my sister in Washington D.C. and being taken to this amazing Thai restaurant (Thai X-ing) we came home with a craving for more! I do not have a very wide repertoire of Thai or East Asian recipes so similar to my ignorance about what rhubarb looked like or how I didn’t know ginger existed,  I had a problem finding fresh lemongrass.  What does it look like? How do you prepare it?

My search took me to a local Asian market where I looked high and low for lemongrass. Finally, I asked for help and was led by a young lady over to the back corner where her grandmother was picking through a 5 gallon bucket with these grassy stalks poking up out of it. Translating for her grandmother, I was thankfully helped to find a “good” one. From this crash course, a good one is one that is thicker and doesn’t have dark spots.

The look of the lemongrass reminded me of a cross between a celery stalk and an un-shucked ear of corn, kinda? The leaves of it are comparable in their color, texture and how they wrap around the grass stalk, of course, there is no corn showing or corn silk. Anyway.  The stalk is very fibrous and smells AMAZING when cut. You may be shocked to find out but it smelled very lemony! I peeled off the loose, outer leaves then washed it well, sliced it into 3″ pieces and crushed it with the butt of my knife before adding it to the hot water. From what I read, the stalk if cooked long enough can break down enough to be pureed and used but since it is so very fibrous, the pieces were better taken out prior to eating.

  • 1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or use homemade)
  • 6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger, crushed (don’t be afraid to add more if you like ginger!)
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 3-in. pieces, crushed
  • 3-6 Thai chili’s, whole (optional for extra heat)
  • 1 pound boned, skinned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks
  • 8 oz mushrooms (straw, oyster or shiitake)
  • 3 Tablespoon fresh lime juice to taste (or ~10 Kaffir leaves)
  • 1 Tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste or oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • kosher salt to taste


In a medium saucepan, combine the broth, ginger, lemongrass, and chili’s and bring to boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chili paste, and coconut milk.  It is important to reduce the heat because as with cooking using dairy products, prolonged high heat will cause the dairy product to break down and separate, coconut milk (yes, I realize isn’t true dairy) will do the same thing and you’ll lose the consistency you want from your soup).

Simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, about 15-20 minutes. Discard lemongrass, chili, and ginger chunks and kaffir leaves if you found some. Garnish servings with basil and cilantro.

This is a small recipe, that makes for an appetizer to go with something else. To make a meal of it, try doubling the portions and adding some cooked rice noodles to the bowl.

Moroccan Roasted Vegetables

To complete my most recent Moroccan-themed meal of Moroccan Chicken and Moroccan Green Beans I found this great recipe on that complimented things fantastically!  The cinnamon, paprika and cumin give a warm tone and the touch of cayenne gives a pop of heat, not much but enough to just taste it.  Adding to the layers of flavor, the roasted eggplant, chickpeas and zucchini are soft and creamy while the sweet potato, caramelized onion, and red bell pepper balance out the heat with a touch of sweet.

If you read my Moroccan Green Bean post, you already heard about the amazing benefits of cumin.  This recipe had cumin as well as turmeric which is another powerhouse spice that is good to have in any diet. Turmeric is a root that when fresh and looks a lot like a small, orange tinted ginger root (they’re actually related to ginger).  Dried and powdered, it is a bright yellow-orange, slightly bitter spice that carries a lot of health benefits with it.  Besides the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities turmeric possesses, turmeric is also a mild pain-reliever and is high in iron!  According to an article on Medline Plus, there is a long list of possible benefits showing up in research, though they are quick to point out that they don’t have anything conclusive. However, turmeric has been used for its health and healing properties for centuries with very little side effects and in reasonable quantities seems to have a positive effect overall. I’m excited when I find recipes like this that offer up a tasty AND nutritious item. Anyway, let’s get on with it. Get out your baking sheets and tin-foil!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4″  semi-circles
  • 1 large sweet-potato, peeled and cut into 1/4″ semi-circles
  • 1 medium Chinese eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ semi-circle
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 medium heirloom tomatoes cut into 2″ chunks or wedges
  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 TBS good olive oil
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika (or mix smoked and regular paprika)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Place all the chopped veggies in a large bowl and toss with the oil and spices until evenly covered and spread evenly over one to two baking sheets lined with tin-foil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes, remove and flip it all over as best as you can, then return the veggies to the oven for 20 more minutes or until the potato is soft. Done!

Moroccan Carrots and Green Beans

Moroccan cuisine has a rich history that blends elements of African, Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine to create a bold, warm flavor with amazing depth. Common ingredients like lemons, olives, cumin, turmeric, and garlic provide an explosion of tastes AND are packed with vitamins and nutrients. Cumin alone packs a mighty antioxidant punch as well as aiding in digestion but it gets even better! For people having problems with iron-deficiency anemia, cumin is an excellent source of iron. According to, ounce for ounce cumin packs significantly more iron than raw beef liver or a ribeye steak. Unless there is a typo, their data states that one ounce of cumin has 103% of daily iron intake. The liver has 8%, steak 3%. That is incredible!!

I ran across this recipe on while looking for something to go with another Moroccan influenced dish I make, aptly named Moroccan Chicken.  This dish is colorful, flavorful and simple; all you need is a food processor and a pot to steam vegetables in and you’re good to go!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic put through a garlic press (or very, very finely minced)
  • 1.5 cup fresh cilantro, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, ends trimmed
  • 6 TBS good olive oil
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • _________________________________
  • 2 lb French green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into strips

Pulse the first 10 ingredients together to make a loose paste and set aside. This part can be made in advance, just make sure it is room temp before serving or the oil will be lumpy and it won’t toss well. Place the beans and carrots in a steamer basket in a large pot, cover, and steam until tender, approx. 20 – 30 minutes. When the vegetables are nice and soft, place them in a large bowl and toss with the herb-paste until everything is well covered. Taste for seasoning, adjust if needed and serve!

How easy is that?!

Sausage Frittata

In our house, there is only one Frittata. Like any egg dish, there are endless combinations and techniques that could produce countless varieties but at my house, this is THE one. Simple, quick, it can be made in advance and re-heats well (hello leftovers), filling, paleo and gluten-free friendly…what’s not to like?!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 6 whole eggs
  • 1 pint egg whites
  • 1 pound turkey sausage (or pork/chicken)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and shredded
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • smoked paprika

In a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, fully cook the sausage (only drain very excessive fat, need some to prevent the egg from sticking). When done, reduce the heat to medium and add the grated sweet potato. Cook until the potato is softened, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t stick. Whisk the whole eggs and egg whites well in a bowl well then add to the sausage and sweet potato mixture. Cook over medium until the bottom and sides are set, be careful not to burn the bottom. Spread the green onion on top evenly. Generally, the sausage will add enough spices and salt to remove the need to add more. Once the bottom and sides are set, broil in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the top is also set and slightly browned. Sprinkle with the paprika. When slightly cooled, slice like a pizza into 8 slices and serve, or put it in the fridge for later!

See? I told you it was easy! Variations can be made obviously but watch out for too much moisture, this dish will fall apart if too “wet”. Other options besides green onion – basil, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and olives, spinach or garlic and/or shallots. There are lots of potential varieties – have fun and enjoy!


I love a good casserole; they’re often homey, comfort food, they’re quick and they’re delicious.  It’s true, I often fix big meals that have a protein, two veggies and a soup, or will spend 7 hours perfectly roasting a duck to crispy-skin heaven, but sometimes I just want to throw everything in one dish and be done. Finding dairy free casseroles is a little difficult and finding casseroles that are grain free can be too. After searching the internets I didn’t really find much that interested me in the “paleo” category and there wasn’t a lot else to choose from that was grain and dairy free. Then, I searched for vegetarian casseroles and found this one at ““. It’s really amazing and hits all the homey comfort-food spots while still being a fairly fast casserole (with a mandolin slicer) and its paleo friendly without any alterations! I changed some of the quantities to made more of it (I should change the name of my blog to something about “leftovers”) but otherwise, it’s great as is. The photos of the food at are fantastic too I should add, go check it out! I need to work on presentation….

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1 12 -14 oz jar GOOD pasta sauce, plain or with garlic/basil (you get out what you put in, don’t put in a 4$ sauce)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely minced (I slice mine paper-thin on the mandolin)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 skinny Chinese or Italian Eggplants, roughly the same diameter as the squash (if possible)
  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • 2 medium zucchini squash
  • 1-2 red bell peppers (sliced in rings)
  • thyme (fresh or dried)
  • kosher salt
  • parchment paper
  • pound of ground protein (optional)
  • goat cheese (optional)

Slice all the vegetables to about 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch thick, rounds (slightly thicker than paper-thin). I highly suggest using a mandolin or else this quick casserole suddenly won’t be so quick. Stack the sliced veggies into individual piles.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, or similar size oven-safe vessel, Mix the pasta sauce, olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano and pepper flakes together and spread evenly on bottom of dish. Layer the vegetables, alternating colors and overlapping in whatever arrangement is pleasing to your eye. The key is to cover the majority of the first slice with the second one, so the layer of veggies will be quite thick. If you’re in a hurry and not worried about the presentation, just put all the slices down on top in an even layer. One of the wonderful things about this dish is how vibrant it is! Sprinkle with salt and thyme (to taste), spray evenly with olive oil and cover with parchment paper cut to fit the dish, lying flat on top of the vegetables. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool a little and serve!

To make this a heartier dish than it already is, brown a pound of ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork or sausage and mix it into the pasta sauce before arranging vegetables and baking. Top with some crumbled goat cheese (if not avoiding dairy) before serving! This one is a WINNER!

*You may have some leftover slices of vegetables at the end. I either put them in a ziplock to use in salads later or just try to incorporate them into the pattern (see my photo with odd stripes of zucchini and random bell pepper rings).

Moss Landing: Sanctuary Tours in Monterey

As a Floridian, I’m no stranger to close encounters with wildlife. Between the wild buffalo, horses, Whooping Crane and alligators on Paynes Prairie to the deer, snakes, raccoons and possums in the back yard there is hardly a day that goes by without expecting to see something(oh yeah, bugs).  Going to the beach on the Gulf offered its own variety of encounters like the times a manatee or two would cruise on up to a group of us standing on a sandbar (and stopped for a meet and greet) or watching a pod of 3 or 4 dolphins swim by from the shore. Looking out for sting-rays in the shallows or being woken up from a nap by the wild parrots going by wasn’t unusual either at the beach, seeing (or dodging) wildlife was a regular occurrence.

The lack of wildlife in San Jose is hard to believe. It’s odd, eerie almost to me, to never see anything regularly other than hummingbirds. There isn’t a lizard on every bush or butterflies floating around. Not even mosquitoes really. I haven’t seen a spider bigger than a dime (not complaining) and I’ve seen exactly 2 roaches in nine months….both on the sidewalk in the downtown area (also not complaining). No frogs, no birds larger than a cardinal, nothing. When we go out to the places we hike, the noises are the occasional bird whistle and the wind blowing. No underlying continuous sound of crickets or cicada or frogs in the evening, no hum of life. It feels empty.

But then again, there are the whales.

It’s like this area just doesn’t mess around with all the little, average creatures. No, this area is saving up for the big stuff like sea-lions, whales, seals and pods of a hundred dolphins. Granted, I’ve only seen those things while on whale tours but still, not something I ever got to see in Florida!

A seal dodging a Humpback Whale

A seal dodging a Humpback Whale

Humpback fluke

Humpback fluke

Two sea otters hanging out

Two sea otters hanging out

One of three Orca that came out of nowhere. (blurry pic r/t choppy water/surprise whale)

One of three Orca that came out of nowhere. (blurry pic r/t choppy water/surprise whale)

Sea-Lions drying off a bit

Sea-Lions drying off a bit

Up close dolphin, one of a large pod of a hundred or more.

Up close dolphin, one of a large pod of a hundred or more.

One of 4-5 Humpback Whales we saw that day.

One of 4-5 Humpback Whales we saw that day.

Brussel Sprout Crack: A Sequel to Crack Broccoli

I have found the sequel to Crack Broccoli and this is a sequel worth taking a look at!  Find somebody, anybody, who says they dislike brussel sprouts and make them eat this. If they still dislike brussels after trying this then you should remove them from your life or possibly consider a restraining order. Something is wrong with them; they’re broken.

My husband and I went to a restaurant for dinner to celebrate my getting a new job (finally) after our move. We ordered the “special” appetizer despite usually steering clear of the special anything. On a side note:  I steer clear of the “specials” because very often, the “chef’s special” is often an effort on the part of the restaurant to unload surplus food that is going bad to possibly already-there-bad. Another reason not to order the special is that sometimes, that’s the chef’s chance to play with their food. This won’t always be something they’re really good at, they just want to try it out. If you’re feeling as daring as the chef, go ahead and try it. Other times, this is a regular item that they jack the price up on since they’re calling it “special” this week. On the other hand, ordering the “house favorite” can be a disappointment because the chef is just so tired of making that same meal. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule or course and in this case, I’m so so glad we tried the special.

This dish is one of those that stopped conversation at the table. The day after eating it at the restaurant I had a pound of brussels in the house ready to try it out the next day. We’ve happily eaten through three pounds of brussels THIS WEEK! How much more do I have to say? There is good news and bad news. The good news is that without a doubt, this is the tastiest way to ingest brussel sprouts. The bad news is that it is a bit time consuming to prepare. In the name of the love of food, I declare the work completely worth it. If good things come in small packages, good food comes with some prep.

Enough gushing on how good this is, let’s get to it!

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated

Wash and drain the brussel sprouts. Pre-heat your oven to 350º F. Trim the ends off of each and begin peeling off the leaves into a large bowl. Working from the cut end, pull off each leaf, whole (as possible). You will need to trim another bit off the end to keep peeling leaves. Eventually, there will be the “heart” of the sprout with tightly compacted, tiny leaves. Save these aside for a dish of sautéed brussel hearts. Toss the sprout leaves with enough olive oil to cover lightly and spread in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes, remove, stir, and bake another 7 minutes. Remove again and stir, bake another 5-7 minutes or until the sprouts are browned and crisp but not black. Meanwhile, zest the half of the lemon into the bowl used to toss the sprouts in earlier. Squeeze the juice into the bowl. Shred the cheese and set aside.  Once the brussel sprouts are nicely browned and crispy, toss them in the lemon zest/juice mixture and pour them into a bowl. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

If you wait too long, the heat of the piled goodness will wilt the sprouts and the result will be less crispy but no less tasty. Seriously, try this at least once so you can know the incredible taste of roasted brussel leaves. I can’t wait to try this out at my next dinner party!

Watch Out for E.T. (or Ewoks)

This is my favorite hike. Period. Now, we’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the places we can hike I know and I may find another lovely place that I can’tstay away from but this one is perfect. Imagine this: At the (often crowded on the weekend) parking lot everything seems busy, bright, and chaotic. There is some traffic going by, people packing their bags to start off in groups, chatting, cars circling the lot to find a spot….  Then we set off. Almost as soon as we step off the parking lot onto the trail the thickness of the trees changes the whole atmosphere. The beginning is a downslope, like the path is urging you to hurry because it knows you can’t wait to be there.  After a few yards, the trees and undergrowth have muted all noise from footsteps to voices. No traffic can be heard anymore and the farther we go, the quieter and darker it gets. The trees filter the light and we feel our senses being soothed by blocking out the barrage of stimuli. We begin to notice the scent in the air, a damp, earthy scent and we inhale a little deeper. It smells like water and decomposing wood and a little like pine. The darkness lends to keeping moisture in and the earth is soft on our feet, the air is cool on our faces, refreshing. Breathe a little deeper. The low light makes the space feel_DSC8053 intimate even though at the beginning we will pass quite a few hikers. Gradually, the sound of the forest becomes more apparent. The trees and bushes rustle a little, we hear a few birds and begin to hear the sound of running water. It is all peaceful. As we get closer, the sound of the water drowns out everything else and we are alone with our thoughts…or we can let them go and just be.


Now, doesn’t that sound nice? The farther we walk the fewer people we see and sometimes, we won’t see anyone for miles. That I like about this place also. The best thing about this hike, other than the feeling of peace (which I desperately need) is that the first 4 miles looks like the forests of Endor from “The Return of the Jedi”. One of the trails is actually called the “Lost Empire” trail…Ewoks may be hiding in the bushes for all you know and you may want to check behind you to see that a speeder bike isn’t coming up fast with a little man on it followed by a few more carrying Stormtroopers. For the non-Star Wars fan, E.T. could be riding up on a bike possibly. You want to pinch yourself because, especially when there is no one else in the way, everything looks perfectly staged for a scene from one of these movies. Because it is so quiet, you can imagine that the director has just called “action”! and everyone is holding their breath before their lines begin. It actually isn’t too hard to believe either. Both of those movies had some of their scenes filmed in Redwood forests of Northern California. Not this forest exactly but the overall scene is unmistakable. For a Star Wars geek like me, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to go to let go of…everything.

Besides a good part of the hike following the stream, the views and the peace, the hike is also challenging after the trail heads away from the stream. There, FallCreek1the hike goes up the side of a hill with some steeper sections and the trees thin out and look more like a forest from home. More oaks and young trees, more fallen leaves and a little more sunlight. At the top, we meet “Big Ben”, an impressive but fairly young Redwood. The decent from here is very challenging with a part of it being a narrow gully but eventually we end up back at the stream and follow it back out. Along the way there is an interesting historical site where they used to make wooden barrels (out of Redwoods! AH!) to transport lime in. The lime was dug nearby and some of the old equipment still sits there. Neat! The whole way around is around 9 miles, a little more really, so this hike isn’t one to start late in the day. It’s always an option to go out as far as you’d like and turn around to come back but I prefer the whole route.

Something else that strikes me about this place, though there could be litter the next time I’m there, but I rarely see any trash left behind. It is as if the forest impresses on people the special quality that makes it so nice, an impression that maybe unconsciously pushes people to put their litter in their backpack and not leave it behind. So many trails we hike have the evidence of uncaring, inconsiderate people left behind but not here. It isn’t because there are trash cans or Forestry Service people keeping it up either, I really think it is the atmosphere itself. You’ve been allowed into what amounts to a sanctuary, an intimate, peaceful place with the sense of things greater than yourself. A forest full of Redwoods where a single Redwood has lived on average of 500-700 years, trees that can continue to live up to 2,000 years, a place that is forever and timeless. (Show some respect and don’t mess it up!)

Writing this up has me wanting to go out there. I wish I lived close enough to go on a whim with a book and read by the stream. Take a snack and a warm jacket….I could be there for hours, blissfully happy and disconnected from the city.

Jicama Hash

Well I guess it may be looking more obvious that I have less to do now since I’ve posted a bit more lately. I know some things about myself and one is that when I find a project I really love I can throw myself into it and forget almost everything else. To the point of putting other hobbies I love (like cooking or photography) to the side and only feeling a little guilty. So now that we’ve moved and I’m lost for a deep project, I’ve taken back up my other loves of cooking, writing, photography and scrapbooking. Besides being back on the blog I’m also working on (appropriately) compiling all of my favorite recipes that aren’t already in a recipe book. Complete with scrapbooked dividers with cute little die-cut characters for the sections it’s time consuming. I find so many lovely recipes online and I print them, make them several times over months and tweak them to just our tastes…then I have stacks of crumpled, stained, printed computer sheets with notes on them hanging out behind my recipe book stand. It isn’t very organized and I like to organize. Many of these make it to the blog just so I don’t lose them forever but I’ve said before and stick to it now that cooking and computers aren’t the best combination even though this is my main topic…on my blog…on the computer.

In order to find new fodder I bought a few new cookbooks, one of which “Against All Grain” by Danielle Walker , is a paleo/dairy free cookbook full of great ideas. I’m not going to review it yet, I like to have a lot of time with a book trying out different recipes before I decide but so far, other than the almond flour chips (disaster 4 times, yes four), everything has turned out well. This one in particular used ingredients I have never had before, the main one being Celeriac or celery root. I’m not a fan of celery and though this recipe promised a mild celery flavor, a little celery is still terrible in my opinion. We did like the idea though in general of having more vegetables in a hearty breakfast so I fell onto another new root vegetable, the jicama. Packed with fiber, vitamin C and a bit of iron (and no calories to speak of) this very mild root is crunchy, sweet and holds up well in cooking. Unlike the butternut squash which turns to mush if cooked too long, I’ve slow-cooked cubed jicama for 12 hours without terrible results as well as chopped it fresh and thrown it in the skillet! The light flavor lends itself well to being a potato substitute (in anything but mashed potatoes) and it is on the refreshing side even eaten raw. So anyway, let’s get to it!

The Messy Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 2-3 medium jicama, peeled and cubed
  • 1 LB spicy turkey sausage (or preferred ground sausage)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, rough chop
  • 4 medium zucchini squash, rough chop
  • 6-8 large baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper or to taste
  • whole eggs for frying

I’ve found that depending on what texture you like best makes a difference on how to prepare the jicama. Bake the cubed jicama spread on a cookie sheet at 350ºF for 30 minutes to soften it up or chop fresh and have a mild crunch with this dish. The juicy crunch is nice for us so I just peel it, chop it into 1/2″ cubes and sauté them in the oil on medium-high heat for 5 – 10 minutes until browned on most sides. After that, add in the carrot, onion and sausage and cook until the meat is done, about 10 more minutes. The carrot should be softening by now. Once that is done, add in the zucchini, mushroom, spices and herbs and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until the zucchini is softened. Set aside and allow the juices to accumulate in the pan for 15 minutes while cooling. I like my hash less “wet” and I pour off the moisture/fat before putting them into a Tupperware.  This will serve 6-8 people or last 2 people 4 days or so (you know it, I love leftovers). This re-heats very well, so while it is in the microwave, fry up an egg or two however you like and lay them on top for a solid, vegetable rich and filling breakfast. Super quick for work day mornings and very filling to hold you through to lunchtime.


I think my soul lives outside city limits.

Concrete-claustrophobia is a new feeling for me. I’ve never ever considered myself a “city girl” but not a country mouse either. I’ve travelled, I’ve flown all over the planet, I thought I knew what to expect having been to many large cities. On the other hand, I always said that I could never live in New York City. “It’s nice to visit” I’d say, “but I could never live here, too many people and not enough grass”.  San Jose is the 10th largest city in the Nation.

Apparently, being #1 and #10 are one and the same to me.

The houses here are so very close together, so close that I can’t open any of the blinds because each window faces a neighbors window about 8 feet away. I can see them, they can see me hypothetically. It’s weird. At home I had over 40 windows each looking out over a private area of my yard. They were all open almost all the time and I loved the light. Now I live in a dim cave. When I leave the house I’m reminded every time about how much land has been, in my opinion, ruined by the people living here. Concrete stretches everywhere! It doesn’t help that we live near the car-dealership row and have to drive by it often. So in addition to the 6 lane road with concrete median, lined with the concrete sidewalks and then spreading into the acres of asphalt parking lots, there is also the reminder of other human impacts to this earth with the acres of new cars sitting on those lots. The fact that they have so many points to just how many people they think will come and buy those cars. The land used to be farmland and the street we live on is named after the family who owned the land. I can imagine it was pretty not that long ago.

That is the other part here, the people. They’re everywhere as evidenced by long lines at the gas station, the inability to park at Costco in the afternoons, the massive crush of traffic at rush hour. Just so many people. Like any large city I’ve heard, the people are also a bit…self absorbed? I say hi, smile or nod to them as I walk by. I usually get no response, sometimes I get a hard stare, once I got a reply. Several times now I have been walking on the sidewalk in my neighborhood, approached by a couple of people coming the other way and instead of them falling into single-file so we can pass, they keep right on walking pushing me off the sidewalk as if I wasn’t there. I wanted to yell “I’m walking here!” but they’d probably just have ignored that too. It must be that I’m a country mouse because these events can put me to tears. Not only do I feel so alone and out-of-place but clearly, I don’t even merit space on a public sidewalk or any indication from humans that I exist.

I don’t know how much of my problem here is simply homesickness and it will get better or if the visceral ache I have in this city is something that won’t go away. I went to a wedding in Virginia last week and sometime during one of the drives through the city (a suburb of D.C. so hardly a tiny town) I realized something was different. I took a mental inventory and found what was missing after a minute, the hard, compressed knot weighing in my abdomen. I felt relaxed, as if I had been holding anxiety from being in San Jose and simply by driving by open fields and forests I felt better. I can only attribute this feeling to simply not being in a large city since it is the same feeling I get when I leave San Jose to go hiking. I do this as much as possible because so far, it is the only time I’m not miserable. I think my soul lives outside city-limits. It isn’t that I’m not trying to get integrated here either! I’ve applied to four jobs, joined a yoga class, go to the dog park regularly, joined a hiking group, attended 3 book club meetings, joined a girls-my-age group and we are about to start taking dancing lessons. I am putting myself out there…frequently! It has been five months of me trying and I read somewhere it can take 1 – 2 YEARS to feel at “home” in a new place. I don’t even think I need to feel “at home” here, at this point I’d take “not being miserable in a new place”.

Since I have never hiked before the thought of going out can be intimidating. Do I have the right supplies? Do I look like an idiot with my pink, clearly-not-made-for hiking-extra-backpack-lying-around? Am I wearing the right clothes? In addition to the self-doubt, I have little experience with mountains and I am completely directionless. Just driving there is stressful since I don’t know my way around and a lot of State parks don’t have clear addresses. I can’t read a map very well and wouldn’t have any idea how to use the compass feature of my iPhone.  However, we head out every weekend for 6 – 9 mile hikes(9.5- 14.5 km) through woods and terrain I’ve never seen before. Now that I have my own car, I’m going more often alone and I CAN’T WAIT to get there. Last week, Friday-Sunday I did 20 miles (32K)!

One of the first, and furthest hikes we went on was to Grey Whale Cove, north of us near San Francisco. The path we took was only 5 miles (8 K) but being able to see the views of the water, smell the ocean on the breeze and get some sunshine in was priceless. The drive up there was great and we found a little BBQ dive that was rated well on Yelp. They were cooking out of an old train car, outside seating only, but they were packed as it were and their food delicious. So I took my pictures and for the next week thought about this place existing somewhere past the concrete, to hold me over until next weekend.





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