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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Month: June, 2013

Day 214: A San Diego Food Journey

This is a repost from a blog I posted yesterday for ShopPerk.

One of the best parts about moving from state to state is that with every new move, you (hopefully) gain some great new friends that you can go visit later. As a former San Diegan, I relish my trips back to break bread and burritos with my high school friends.

Last weekend, I visited a good friend who recently had twin babies (the cutest twin babies ever, in case you’re wondering). While they ate slightly more frequently than we did, we definitely got the better end of the food deal.

Here’s a breakdown of our weekend journey, including places you should be sure to check out when you’re in the San Diego area.


I got in around 8 p.m., and my hosts kicked off the weekend in the best way possible—by greeting me with a giant bowl of Velveeta Shells and Cheese.


Since I left my computer charger plugged in at work, my first order of business on Friday was to go buy a new one. I grabbed some granola at the house, went to a yoga class that very much kicked my butt and hit up the Fashion Valley mall.

California has a variety of excellent fast food places, including one of my all-time favorites: Rubio’s Baja Grill. They’re known for their fish tacos, but I’m always delighted with their super-simple bean and cheese burrito. One bite in to my coveted burrito, the bottom broke out and refried beans went slowly oozing into my lap, but I didn’t even care. It was a delicious lunch.


That’s the burrito. Right before it broke.

For dinner, my friend and I went to Sushi on the Rock in La Jolla. The Baby Conehead sushi rolls were light, crispy and perfectly bite-sized, as opposed to enormously awkward. It was a delightful dinner that was augmented by a gorgeous ocean view and a shared bottle of wine.


We hit up one of our favorite high school hangouts for breakfast—The Living Room. As far as I could tell, not much has changed there in the last decade (aside from their expansion into hookah). She got a giant blueberry muffin while I ate a breakfast sandwich that I’m excited about recreating at home—scrambled eggs, steamed spinach, goat cheese and tomato chutney on an toasted everything bagel.

In honor of living in the past, we went to another of our high school favorites for lunch—Board & Brew. In the old days, Board & Brew was our delicious mid-day beach break. Judging from the number of swimsuit-clad 15-year-olds in line, Torrey Pines High School is still funding the operation. And thank goodness, because it’s amazing. Board & Brew’s avocados taste better than any other avocados, anywhere.


Look at that sandwich.

Dinner was spent at a fun and funky Russian Georgian restaurant I’d never tried before, called Pomegranate. San Diego might be known for Mexican food, but I’d go back just for the Vareniki (potato-cheese dumplings) and garlic-infused salad sampler.


No vacation is complete without brunch, so we mimosa-d and polenta-d at The Cottage, a cute, delicious and extremely busy restaurant in La Jolla. After a pleasant 50-minute wait, a wildly cheerful waiter told us how much he loves Sundays (in fact, he loves ALL days), and how excited he was to provide us with our mid-morning provisions.


The Polenta was delicious, as was the pomegranate-tangerine mimosa.

Since brunch sustained us for most of the day, we waited until dinner to try anything else. Tired, happy and enjoying the warmth of sleepy babies in our arms, we opted for quick and easy Mexican food that we could eat while laughing through The Ricky Gervais Show.

By quick and easy, I don’t mean to imply that we made it. We ordered it from Palomino’s and asked her husband to go pick it up. My only complaint with Palomino’s is that they downright refused to put veggies on a quesadilla. Instead, they gave us veggie-filled burritos and “mild” salsa that was a surprising shock to my Midwestern taste buds. Minnesota mild salsa is a little, um, milder.


By Monday, I could barely move, so I got myself a soy chai and headed back to the land of hummus, beets and organic cereal. But after experiencing a taste of what San Diego has to offer, I’m feeling inspired to try more of the tasty food in my own city.

Day 204: He’ll Make it if it Starts with “P”

As part of my job, I occasionally blog for ShopPerk, an app created to help people shop smarter and live better. While the app is in development, the food blog is in full swing.

Earlier this week, I wrote an ode to my Dad and “P” foods. In honor of Father’s Day, it’s reposted below.

(And Dad, thank you for being such a good sport about seeing your private email conversation posted on a public blog. I learned my good-sportedness from you).

He’ll Make it if it Starts With “P”

My dad is really good at making pancakes. Pancakes with bananas, pancakes with blueberries, pancakes with chocolate chips—you get the picture.


Actual picture from Betty Crocker.

On the occasions when my mom was out of town, he would expand his repertoire and make my sisters and me other foods starting with “P.” We’d have pizza (pepperoni with green peppers for good measure) peas (of the frozen variety), popcorn (unbuttered but lightly salted) and pancakes for dinner instead of breakfast. Apart from the peas, we loved dad’s cooking.

In preparation for this blog, I emailed him and asked him to remind me what other “P” foods he made us.

Here’s how the exchange went:

Me (10:43 a.m.): Hey Dad, I’m writing a blog for ShopPerk about the different “P” foods you’d make for us when we were kids. Pancakes, pizza, popcorn… what am I missing?

Dad (11:09 a.m.): Hi Ash. Pasta – as in macaroni and cheese (made in hot dog water). Later, I added Panera to my list. I will probably think of some others and will let you know. Have a great day!

Dad (11:20 a.m.): Be sure to add peanut butter (and jelly). Occasionally a pop-tart made the menu as well.

Me (12:19 p.m.): Thank you! Keep it coming.

Dad (2:04 p.m.): Pastry.

Dad (2:06 p.m.): Polish sausage.

Me (2:37 p.m.): I don’t recall you ever making a pastry.

Dad (5:27 p.m.): Didn’t I buy you a doughnut?

Me (8:05 p.m.): Good point. Thanks!

And that, my friends, is a good dad.

To all you other dads out there, may you get really good at making foods that all start with the same letter. And may your kids love you even more for it.

Happy nearly Father’s Day!

– Ashleigh

Day 192: 7 Tips for Writing Better Grants

My first real job out of college (aside from my brief and miserable stint as a hotel sales coordinator) was as a development associate for Arts Midwest, one of the best arts organizations of all time, ever. In my role, I got to write a lot of grants. And as I developed my own art, I became more and more immersed in the fund-seeking world.

Recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to participate in the other side of the grant world—as a grant reviewer. It’s been an eye-opening and highly educational experience. For those of you out there trying to raise money to support the beautiful and world-changing artistic work you do, here are seven things you can do to make your grant applications stronger:

1. Describe your project like you’d describe it to your parents’ neighbors. There’s no use in being artistically ambiguous or pretentious in your project description. The reader wants to understand what you’re going to do, how you’ll do it and why it’s important. And they want to understand it quickly.

2. Don’t wing it. If you’re not sure how to complete a component of the application (a timeline, a line-item budget, etc.), do some research (Google). The world wide web is filled with examples, so go out and find them. You’ll start to see the differences between the good examples and the bad examples, so model your work after the good ones.

3. Read the questions. Then answer them. It’s as simple as that. If you find yourself writing the same answer for question 7 that you wrote for question 5, you missed a detail somewhere. Go back, figure out the differences between the questions and be specific in your responses.

4. Ask someone to proofread your work. Remember that friend in college who was super nit-picky about commas? Bribe her to help you out. If you’re the only person who reads your proposal, you’re 97% likely to miss a silly error. (I’m almost positive that’s a real statistic.) Anything you can do to make your proposal clear and easy to read will improve your chances.

5. Demonstrate capability. The reader assumes that if you can plan your project, you can (probably) pull it off. So if the application asks how you’ll evaluate the success of your work, don’t say you’ll figure it out later. Make a plan and describe it.

6. Craft and edit your artist statement. Your statement doesn’t just describe what you do; it contextualizes it. It should give the reader insight into your creative brain and make them want to experience your unique creations. Why are you making art? What inspires you? It’s okay to get a little cerebral, but keep your parents’ neighbors in mind. Be brief and clear.

7. Take it one step at a time. Grant applications can be long and a little overwhelming. Give yourself ample time to read the guidelines and the questions before launching into your narrative. It’s easy to separate the thoughtful proposals from the ones written at the last minute.