Oaxaca, Mexico


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As part of my Summer Bucket list, I had compiled a list of things I wanted to do this summer – most of which included adventures in my second trip to Oaxaca.

I think I overestimated how much time I would have to do all these things, having had my experience of the town last year when I spent a month traveling in Mexico.

This time around, in five days, here is what I did get to do.

1. Go treasure hunting in Oaxaca (food, art, decor, clothing)

Check, check, and check.

We visited a village that specialized in carpet weaving. Each family had their own unique, beautiful interpretations of traditional designs. I bought a tapestry that now sits under our red cabinet.

We also headed to the Tlacolula market, the oldest and largest in Oaxaca that had the usual commotion and hustle and bustle — with the inclusion of Tuk-tuks. Since these makeshift motorcars are not allowed in the city, we took full advantage of touring around the villages in these things.

I fell in love with this church, the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asunción built in 1531.

Since the market is on Sundays, people, young and old, are gathered around the church, catching up on the latest and people watching.

I also got to  buy an embroidered dress as part of my next goal on my bucket list.

2. Revamp a Mexican embroidered dress (Inspiration from Free People below). I haven’t decided whether I want to try and do it myself or take it to a tailor.

Since I haven’t “revamped” it yet, I will wait to post updates on this until I do (Hopefully soon since it’s still 90 degrees in LA in October).

3. Check out more exhibits in Oaxaca

My brother and I spent quite some time walking around, going in and out of exhibits, discovering new churches and checking out some art.

We stumbled upon the museum of popular artists with contemporary art and amazing renditions of traditional crafts.

Walking up and down Alcala street, we saw many galleries.My favorite part was the random rain.

8. Hike!
The next item on the list that I can proudly check off is hiking. My brother, dear friend and I hiked atop this beautiful mountain range in Teotitlan del valle and had the most incredible view.

And I thought I’d add these because these images are so quintessentially Oaxaca.

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano

The motivation for my workouts at the gym used to be listening to “Good Food” podcasts about bacon while I torture myself at gym. Evan Kleiman’s voice and her passion for food just plain cheers me up.

So naturally, I subscribe to the “Good Food Blog” where you can read up on the latest food policies, restaurant reviews, and of course, recipes.

The Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano by chef Phil Kastel instantly made my mouth water just reading it.

I’ve referenced the recipe below.

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano

(From Phil Kastel of Public School 612 and the soon-to-open Public School 310)

6 each – Poblano Peppers

Place whole Peppers directly on the grill or your stove top fire; turn peppers as the
outside skin begins to char and become black. Once all sides are charred remove
peppers from fire and place in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and steam for 5 to 10
minutes. Once steaming is complete peel the charred skin from the peppers (being
extra careful since they could still be very warm and have steam trapped inside).
Place peppers on a plate and make a small incision down the middle forming a
““pocket”” inside; remove seeds and choose the 4 to 5 nicest peppers for stuffing.

1 ½ cups Cooked Quinoa (cook as directed on package)
1/8 cup Carrots –– diced ¼ x ¼
1/8 cup Red Onions –– diced ¼ x ¼
1/8 cup Roasted Red Bell Peppers –– diced ¼ x ¼
1/8 cup Roasted Poblano Peppers –– diced ¼ x ¼
¼ cup Fresh Corn Kernels
½ cup Roasted Butternut Squash –– diced ¼ x ¼
¼ cup Black Beans –– rinsed or cooked fresh
1 Tbl Fresh Cilantro
2 tsp Dried Oregano
¼ tsp Cumin
¼ tsp Chili Powder
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
Pinch Black Pepper
1 ½ cups Shredded Mozzarella

Cook Quinoa as directed on package; cool before mixing remaining ingredients.

Prep and chop above ingredients while quinoa is cooling. Once quinoa is cooled fold in remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Gently place mixture inside cleaned and roasted pepper
and secure with a toothpick. Place stuffed peppers on a lightly greased sheet pan; place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cheese begins to melt and inside is warm.

Serve stuffed peppers with your favorite roasted salsa and sour cream or a roasted pepper sauce.

Yield: 4 to 5 Poblanos




Butternut Squash Shells with Sage Butter Sauce


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I’ve recently procured more butternut squash than I know what to do with.

The story goes like this. My mom grew a bunch of the stuff in her balcony from seedlings. When they started flowering, she gave the plants to H’s parents planted them in their farm and watched them flourish. We are the lucky beneficiaries of this wonderful gardening assembly line our parents have going.

In researching recipes, I came across this beautiful dish by the Proud Italian Cook.

The recipe was a bit vague for me and I totally spaced on buying ricotta, so here’s my adaptation below. The main difference is that I used goat cheese instead of Ricotta and I thought it turned out lovely anyway!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Serves 16 – 81 calories per shell

  • 5 oz goat cheese (I used Trader Joe’s chevre cheese)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 fresh garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 16 Jumbo Pasta Shells

To make the “stuffing,” start off by peeling a butternut squash, coring and chopping. Once you’ve measured out two cups, toss in olive oil and roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients (minus the pasta shells) and mix well.

While the squash is roasting and your ingredients are marinating in their juices in the bowl, cook 16 pasta shells according to the label. I used Barilla brand.

When the pasta shells are done cooking, take out of boiling water and let cool.

In the meantime, if your squash is done roasting, let cool and combine with the cheese mixture in the bowl.

Stuff the shells with the mixture and line in a buttered pan. Bake the stuffed shells for 20-25 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

While your shells are baking you can start the butter sauce as follows:

Sage Butter Sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 10 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Melt butter in a pan. Add sage until browned. Add lemon juice and stir.

When stuffed shells are done, let cool, add Sage Butter Sauce to your liking and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Et Voilá!


I can already predict this is going to be pretty popular in our fall recipe rotation. I’d love to know what you all think!

Summer Bucket List Status Update


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With my Summer Bucket list freshly minted and my boyfriend out of town for the weekend, I decided to take advantage and check off a really big one.

I asked my brother to take me climbing with him having no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was what rock climbing shoes look like and since they are an investment, I wanted to hold off and see how I felt about the sport before I bought a pair.

On Saturday, with temperature pushing triple digits, we hiked to Malibu Creek where the show MASH was filmed along with the original Planet of the Apes.

The porous volcanic rock formations make for a perfect, albeit painful, climbing setting.

There were groups of people there already and one was kind enough to spot my brother while he basically attached the rope onto the hooks that are hammered into the rock (excuse my non-technical language for any of you seasoned climbers out there).
That first climb is called “top-roping” because you have no rope above you to hold you. If you fall, you fall until the previous hook you set catches you – about 10 feet in this case. It doesn’t sound like much but when you’re 50 feet high, it’s pretty scary.
With the hard part out of the way, I was ready to go.
My heart was in my throat. I kept telling myself to just look in front of me and find somewhere to grab onto. My brother kept yelling at me from below, “climb with your feet, not with your hands.” I thought, how can I climb with my feet if I have nothing to hold onto. My hands kept getting clammy; I dunked them in chalk and continued. Up. Up. Up. Until I was instructed to hit the top hoop with my hand to signify the end of my climb.
I thought that was hard enough. What came next was even worse. My instructions from below: “Now let go.”
{You want me to do what now? Let go and do what? Go where? I looked around me and all I could see were tops of trees, jagged rocks and clouds. I worked so hard to get up here and my fingers are raw to prove it. How do I just let go?}
I had a moment of panic where I felt my knees about to buckle and my thoughts racing like a mouse on a wheel: racing but going nowhere, with no other option but to do what I was told.
So I had a moment with myself, my breath and this rock in front of me, which I now hugged in gratitude for having kept me stationary. Then I let go and pushed against it with the bottoms of my feet.
My brother reeled me in like a baited fish as I bounced off the rock back down. I have bungee-jumped and gone rafting in class 5 rapids so I’m not foreign to the feeling of exhilaration. But this was like none other.
Here are some photos of more serous climbing. My brother on the left and a totally inspiring chic on the right.
Can’t wait to buy some climbing shoes!

Travel Bug

I always felt a certain amount of guilt that I had gotten to go to France before my mom did. Let me explain.

My mother was a French language and literature professor in Soviet Armenia. With strict international travel restrictions, she never got the opportunity to travel outside of areas with limited soviet influence, namely Wester Europe.

I went to Europe for the first time in 2005 with my college roommate who was a history major taking a course on the Albigensian crusades. I tagged along and toured around France and Spain for a month as part of a summer study abroad program. At the time, I had taken two quarters of French and barely spoke the language. I kept thinking to myself, why do I get to go when it’s been my mother’s life-long dream. So I promised myself that one day, I would take her. But the proverbial travel bug had bit me…hard.


Here’s a quick recap of the trips I’ve taken since.

  • 2005- Spain (Barcelona, Costa Brava, Girona) and France (Toulouse, Montpellier, Avignon, Arles, Paris)
  • 2006 – East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda)
  • 2007- Oahu, Hawaii
  • 2008 – Serbia
  • 2009 – Spain (Barcelona, Toledo, Madrid) and Morocco (Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech) and Winter Road Trip USA (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado)
  • 2010- Costa Rica
  • 2011 – Oaxaca, Mexico, Zion National Park, Baja California Sur (San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas), Mexico
  • 2012 – Seattle, WA, Vancouver, BC, Austin, TX and another trip to Oaxaca coming up!


In 2009, after my first quarter of grad school. My mom and I finally had a chance to travel together. We lucked out with $500 roundtrip tickets to Barcelona from Los Angeles. I sat down with my mom to plan our trip and immediately began discussing our route to Paris.

To my surprise, my mom said she no longer wanted to go to France. Her mind was somewhere more exotic as she exclaimed, “Why not just go to Morocco?!”

Have you guys seen the Darjeeling Limited? The rickety train that the brothers traveled across India with was almost identical to how we got around Morocco once we flew in to Casablanca from Madrid.

So by year’s end, I want to document all these amazing adventures – with pictures and all. Stay Tuned!

Summer Bucket List


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Summer is my favorite season. I love the longer days, the chance to be outdoors, long warm nights with friends, and of course, the clothing. It felt like July just flew by and with August in full bloom, I’m already anticipating the end of summer.

When I saw this post on Free People’s blog, it inspired me to think about what I want to do before the leaves start turning colors.

In two weeks, I will be going to Oaxaca again (read about my trip last year here). It’s the first time my brother and I will travel internationally together to visit my mom who is already there doing the same language program I did last year. I can’t wait to celebrate my mom’s birthday in Mexico, catch up with dear friends, and see some new sights I missed last time.

With that said, here is my Summer (or what’s left of it) Bucket List:

  1. Go treasure hunting in Oaxaca (food, art, decor, clothing) (Completed 8/2012)
  2. Revamp a Mexican embroidered dress (Inspiration from Free People below). I haven’t decided weather I want to try and do it myself or take it to a tailor.
  3. Check out more exhibits in Oaxaca (Teatro Mecedonio de AlcalaEthnobotanical GardensEl Tule Tree). (Complete 8/2012)
  4. Get a massage, take some yoga classes since Oaxaca has so many affordable spas.
  5. Go salsa dancing! On that note, if I can find my salsa teacher from last year, dance with him!
  6. Go on more adventures in Los Angeles.
  7. Read more outdoors.
  8. Hike! (Competed 8/2012)
  9. Ask my brother to take me rock climbing. (Completed 8/11/12)
  10. Give surfing another chance.

I tried not to get too specific — but it was hard not to make this summer bucket list mostly about my upcoming trip. Is it just me or is it more of a challenge to find the motivation to enjoy your own city!

I’d love to hear what some of the things are on your summer bucket lists…Please share!

Long Beach Crawfish Festival


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When I was a kid, I hated how my mom would strike up conversations with random people, hoard every brochure she could get her hands on (vacations and hotel stays were especially difficult), and otherwise, want to know everything.

This (fortunately) was one of those traits where as a kid you never want to inherit, but of course, eventually end up being just the kind of person you wanted to escape from.

I have KCRW, my favorite radio station, on speed dial. When they announced they had tickets to the Long Beach Crawfish Festival, I was on it — without really even knowing what a crawfish is? Is it “crayfish” or “crawfish” — what was the difference?Apparently, there’s a heated debate about this!

As my mom’s meddling would often produce unexpected and wonderful results – so did my attempt when I won two tickets including entrance and a 2-lb. plate of crawfish for two.

They kind of look like little lobsters and for this purpose, were cooked in giant vats.

They were pretty labor-intensive to eat (cracking the shell, pulling out of the meat, cleaning the string of poo at the top like shrimp, dipping in sauce) which made it very easy to take our time, enjoy the food, live Zydeco, and dancing!

On that note, I had a lot of fun playing dancing with my food!


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