4 0 2

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

Tag: food

Day 555: I Saw a Beautiful Thing Today

If you live in a city like mine, you’ve seen the women and men who stand on intersection medians and ask for help during red lights. Their cardboard signs identify themselves as Veterans, mothers, fathers, widows, unemployed workers, addicts, alcoholics, etc. They share the same titles as many of their car-driving, stoplight-waiting counterparts; just different circumstances.

Lately, there have been a number of times where I’ve been the first car in a line of cars right up against the median, sitting less than two feet away from a person reaching out for help. Last week, I had groceries in the car, so I passed along a bag of grapes. Today, I sucked on the straw of my soy chai and just sat there.

My stoplight today was a particularly long one, so I had plenty of time to wrestle with my ethics. I had about $10 in cash in my purse, but dollars didn’t seem like the right kind of help. I thought about making eye contact and offering a welcoming and/or I-see-you-and-I-wish-you-well smile, but I also worried about coming across as condescending. The more I went back and forth, the worse I felt. Then I felt bad for feeling bad, because how gross is that? I’ve been incredibly lucky, and who’s to say that he and I wouldn’t have swapped lives with different support systems?

As I slunk and drank and sat, I noticed a teenage hipster-ish girl across the intersection, standing in a sort of weird and dangerous spot in the road. She seemed to be trying to cross to the median, which was angled, and between two converging/diverging roads that run along the lake (in other words, not particularly pedestrian friendly). I wrote her off as trying to take a shortcut to the water and watched carefully as she tried to pick a good time to cross.

Eventually, she zipped through a long line of cars, crossed in front of me, and stepped up onto the median. She had a plastic bag with her, and I glued my eyes on her sideways as she greeted the median man, offered him her hand as an introduction, and asked him how he was doing. They introduced themselves to each other and exchanged pleasantries, and she started pulling goodies out of the bag – a giant bottle of water, peanuts, granola bars, a Tom Clancy book. She had scoured the gas station across the street on his behalf.

And then (this is my favorite part), she stayed there. He guzzled the water, the light changed and I pulled away, and I watched in the rearview mirror as the two of them sat down on the median and unloaded the rest of her plastic picnic basket, both of them smiling. She seemed interested in him as a person – not as a concept, not a representation of homelessness, not an uncomfortable part of an otherwise privileged daily experience. And because I think the full picture is important here, I’ll also point out that their skin tones didn’t identify their privilege one way or another. His was white and hers brown. Both wearing ripped t-shirts and jean shorts – his torn by wear, and hers by a manufacturer.

She’s my hero today. I don’t know her and I’ll probably never see her again, but she – likely half my age – exhibited the kind of understanding of human connectivity that every person (and especially every leader) should exemplify.

So. Here’s to the girl with the plastic bag, here’s to the guy reading the espionage book in the intersection median, and here’s to remembering we’re all part of the same thread.


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