The Easiest and Prettiest 5-Minute Salad You’ll Ever Make

I’m half Italian, which means half of my body is made entirely of mozzarella cheese and tomato. Which is exactly why this is one of my favorite salads to make. (It can be a starter salad, or a full-on meal, depending on how many layers you make!)

Tomato and MozzarellaI LOVE fresh mozzarella. The stringed kind is fucking great too, but there’s really nothing better than the fresh stuff. It’s delicate, soft, and pairs super well with tomatoes.

A tomato and mozzarella salad is really light but also incredibly tasty. (I actually had this one for dinner last night, because we’d had a heavy BBQ lunch.) Plus, it looks so pretty on a plate that people will think you’re some kind of chef unicorn and assume you put a lot of time and effort into this salad. It literally takes 5 minutes, maybe 3 if you’re an EXPERT.

Did I mention the ingredients you need to buy are just really tomato and fresh mozzarella? (Assuming you have all the other stuff.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (serves 2):
  • 1 container of fresh mozzarella in water (look for one that has 2 sizable mozzarella balls, not the ones with a munch of minis!)
  • 2 red, ripe tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette
Directions:
  1. Wash tomatoes thoroughly, then cut them into smallish flat slices. (Each slice should look like a pizza pie crust, because pizza is great.)
  2. Remove the mozzarella balls from the water, and cut them into slices.
  3. Take out a plate and layer your salad with a mozzarella slice, then tomato, mozzarella slice, then tomato. (Each plate should get 1 mozzarella ball, and one fully sliced tomato.)
  4. Sprinkle your masterpiece with plenty of pepper.
  5. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over each plate.
  6. Drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic over each place.
  7. Finish with a sprinkling of salt over everything. (I use a lot of salt, but I really love salt.)
  8. Garnish with basil or fresh spinach if you’re feeling fancy.

Anyone who eats this at your table will think you’re the fanciest cook ever, I promise. Plus, it tastes so fresh and wonderful. Enjoy!

9 Things My Cat and I Currently Disagree On

Fish is stubborn. Which can be an amazing quality, and also a terribly misguided one. She’s basically on that, “I am right, you’re totally wrong, and you’re lucky to breathe the same air as me” grind.

For example…

1. Fish is under the impression that instead of simply using her litter box, (the way a human would, for example, use a toilet each time they needed a bathroom), that she also has free rein to use the rug in our bedroom as a de facto litter box. She is simply wrong about this, as our rug is A RUG, and not meant to be soiled on.

2. Fish believes that when she brings one of her cat toys into the bed at 3 a.m., that I will happily wake up, play with her for a solid 30 minutes, and easily doze back to sleep. In fact, that’s not the case at all. I’m not sure where or how she came by this misinformation.

3. When I eventually DO wake up in the morning, Fish will follow behind and meow loudly on a loop, because she thinks that if she takes a breath and stops meowing EVEN FOR A SECOND, that I will no longer offer her food. In some ways, her meows do indeed make me move faster, but I would perhaps provide even more food if she stopped yelling at me.

4. Fish is convinced that outside of our apartment door lies a portal to another dimension where there is endless belly rubs, fresh tuna, and trees that undoubtedly (IF CLIMBED) offer a stairway to cat paradise. She likes to attempt escapes every time I come home from work, and will often succeed. What she fails to remember, is that outside of our door there are no rugs to poop on.

5. Fish thinks my hands, nose, ankles, calves, and jewelry are all OK to bite, because they are in fact her toys. These are actually my body parts/toys, and she couldn’t be more wrong.

6. I attempted to eat some Oreos while watching TV, and upon seeing these, she became convinced that they were delicious, and hers, and MUST have them. While Oreos are vegan, they are not for cats.

7. Fish has long believed that by standing on at least one of my boobs while I try and fall asleep, that I will, in turn, want to pet her. She doesn’t seem to connect me pushing her off the bed to this belief.

8. Fish is certain that the shower is an evil monster, and that by standing outside of it and pacing, I will be released. This is half correct, and also half baked.

9. Perhaps the theory that Fish is most confused by is her hypothesis that when she stares out the window at the street below, that she’s also wearing an invisibility cloak and no one can see her. E and I disproved this theory the other night as we came home from dinner and saw her silhouette, watching, waiting, and most likely laughing at us.

Me Versus The Merlot

sawyerwine

The above is a photo of the 2002 Merlot I bought while drunkenly wine tasting with my BFF in Napa two years ago. It was a lot of money for me at the time, a little over $60, but I decided to splurge because A) again, drunk, and B) I wanted to use it as creative incentive. (In other words, once I accomplished something REALLY amazing, I’d drink it.)

In 2013, I got a book deal. It was exciting and arguably a time when I could’ve opened the Merlot, but I didn’t. I decided to drink it when the book sold to a publisher, because getting a deal wasn’t QUITE amazing enough. But then months went by, and my book deal was dropped. (It happens, but it also broke my heart in a lot of ways.)

It took me about a month to get past the dropped book deal and find a new project to focus on. That project was and still is a musical I’m currently working on with two wonderful friends of mine. It’s been such a creative and interesting process for me, and I’m so excited to keep seeing it through.

But musicals take time, especially since our producer and musician are both on the east coast. And as the months have ticked by and the musical is still being workshopped and re-written, this Merlot has sat, like some plum-faced ogre on our bar cart brought into this world to mock me. Fucking smug wine.

As some of you may have noticed, I stopped blogging on this page altogether in May. Because the wine was staring at me, and because I hadn’t made ENOUGH progress, I decided to take a blogging break and focus on the musical. But I missed blogging. I really missed having that other creative outlet where I could write about my life and share what’s going on.

And so, the Merlot began to feel less and less celebratory to me, and more like that toxic friend who makes you feel bad about ordering fries. It was a reminder that I’d failed; that I’d lost my book deal. It reminded me that I hadn’t hit a milestone that was important enough. It made me feel like shit, essentially.

I feel like a fucking asshole to even say that a WINE BOTTLE, an inanimate object, has been making me feel bad — I do realize that I’m projecting a lot of things into this poor Merlot. But to be honest, it just does. I’ve had this bottle for two years now, and I’m a rather impatient person. Shouldn’t I have accomplished something by now? Shouldn’t I have published something that is just mine? That’s what the Merlot makes me ask myself every time I see it.

Yes, a book deal fell through, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. I’m going to keep reminding myself of these things:

  • I’ve written a full draft of a musical, and we’re about 70% of the way to having a finished product with that.
  • I’ve joined a writer’s group and we meet every other week to discuss each other’s work. I’ve workshopped short stories there and found a group of women who support each other and are so insanely talented.
  • I started this blog, and I don’t want to feel bad about taking time to write on it.
  • I’m working at a job I love and get to go to everyday. And this past week, I got a promotion from Senior Editor to Deputy Editorial Director. (My Mom asked me, “Who’s the Sheriff?” when I told her.)

I decided this week that I’m no longer going to let this fucking bottle of wine make me feel bad about myself. Yes, it’s good to have goals, and I will keep those, but I won’t allow this wine to be a reminder of my failures. I will no longer be paralyzed by the memory of the book deal, and I won’t continue to dwell on it. I’m ready to move on.

So tonight, E is cooking steak. And we’re going to open that fucking bottle of 2002 Merlot that I have been saving to celebrate with, and I’m going to celebrate my promotion, and I’m not going to let anyone (or anything, rather) make me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

I’ve let go of toxic friends in the past when I realized they were dragging me down and making me feel useless, and I’m happy to say that I will be drinking this Merlot until it is gone and throwing out the bottle in the morning so I never have to feel like a failure again.

If any of you have something (or someone) in your life that’s preventing you from moving forward, I hope you know that I can now provide words of encouragement to get rid of it sooner rather than later! I just can’t believe I’ve kept this bottle for so long, and I wish I’d drank it down sooner. Here’s to feeling happy again, and to more blogging. xo

Easy Weekend Getaway From LA: Wine Tasting in Solvang

I used to think the closest (and best) place to go wine tasting was in Napa. I’ve been to Napa. There are many, many vineyards there, and with a quick flight to San Francisco and an hour bus ride, you’re there.

I was wrong. I was so unforgivably wrong.

Wine Collection

Behold! 13 handsome bottles of Syrah, Cabernet (red AND white! Yes, WHITE cab!), Pinot Noir and Grigio, Bouchet, Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Grenache. All of them are so delicious we had to buy them, and all are from Santa Barbara wine country but, more specifically, from the Santa Ynez Valley.

What is the Santa Ynez valley, you didn’t ask? I’ll tell you, because when I was looking to do wine tasting over a long weekend without having to fly, I had to do some freaking homework. The Santa Ynez Valley is about thirty minutes past downtown Santa Barbara, and it consists of Solvang (where we stayed), Los Olivos, Buellton, Ballard, and Santa Ynez. You can stay in any of these towns and get to vineyards easily (I’d recommend Los Olivos or Solvang, for cuteness reasons), but we decided to stay in Solvang, and I’ll tell you why.

For starters, we booked things last minute and Solvang had more options than any of the other towns. (And by more options, I mean everything was booked solid, and there was literally one option left, and that was the Mirabelle Inn.)

Mirabelle

Luckily, Mirabelle is an amazing little boutique B&B. It’s a nine room hotel and within walking distance of downtown Solvang. The staff gave us a complimentary mini bottle of champagne upon arrival, and every room comes with a fireplace. They also made our stay incredibly easy and relaxing: they book wine tours, massages, and dinner reservations for you. And every morning there’s complimentary breakfast, and it’s actually delicious.

Solvang

The town of Solvang itself is kitschy: it’s modeled after Denmark and has a high number of Danes in the area. Clogs and functioning windmills were BOUNTIFUL. But perhaps the best thing about the town are all of the tasting rooms that line the streets (our favorite was Lucas & Lewellen, and we ended up going back the next day).There are also delicious bakeries offering Danish treats. If you go, definitely try the Napoleon Hats, which are shortbread cookies lined with chocolate and a marzipan filling… I’m drooling.

Solvang closes early, like 7 p.m., but the restaurants stay open until 10 (ha! but seriously). I’d recommend making reservations in advance. I’d read online somewhere to do this, and I’m glad we did. Things get crowded, because everything else is closed, and we wouldn’t have been able to eat had we not made rezzys.

One place that was walking distance from Mirabelle was the Succulent Cafe. I’d read on Yelp about it, and the free biscuits, and was sold. Admittedly, the free biscuits were not outstanding, but if it’s free, it’s me. And the food and interiors more than made up for all that.

Inside it’s all dark wood and shelves upon shelves of wine. We started off dinner with a cheese and meat plate, and finished with some amazing pork belly. The waitress was attentive, but also let us take our time. We sat in the restaurant for two hours, and split a bottle of wine. It was nice. AND! And. We made it back to Mirabelle in time to catch the Hannibal finale. It was a good night.

Succulent Cafe SolvangWe wound up eating out in other parts of town on Saturday and Sunday, like in Los Olivos, where I had a life changing tri-tip sandwich at a diner, and absolutely perfect shrimp pasta at Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. We took cabs whenever we went out at night, mainly because we had more wine drinking to do. It’s really not a long drive to any of these places, and the locals at the restaurants are super friendly. (We befriended a vineyard owner at Grappola, who shared wine from his home with us. It made me feel special.)

All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the reason for which we actually came: the wine tasting.

E man.jpgIn both Solvang and Los Olivos there are plenty of tasting rooms. A tasting room is exactly what the name suggests: a room where you can stand and taste. There are bartenders (nee, bartenders extraordinaires), who know a lot about the wines and will pour you sizable tastes of the wine that are roughly 1/6 of a glass. If you like something, you can buy a full bottle, it’s not a bad business model.

Los Olivos definitely has a little more atmosphere with their rooms, and many of them offer patios and lush gardens where you can sit on an adirondack chair and sip to your hearts content.

I would highly recommend signing up for a guided tour, though. Mirabelle booked our tour through Stagecoach, and it was a full day experience that totally made our trip. From 11 until 5 p.m., we were shuttled around in a small bus with two other couples and a guide named Lee who knew the area and vineyards very well. He took us to Dierberg Vineyard, where there was live music and a patio overlooking the absolutely stunning hills. We stayed there for an hour and tried about six wines.

Then there was lunch and wine tasting at Bella Cavalli farms, which had beautiful horse stables on the property (I made a new colt friend named Steve).

Horsies

My new BFF, Steve.

And our last two stops were the Qupe tasting room in Los Olivos (it wasn’t much in terms of views, but the wine was delish), followed by Brander.

The Brander vineyard was very neat; an old property with vines that are close to 100 years old. You sit in a shaded courtyard and the family who owns the vineyards talks to you about the wine while they pour. We had enough time there to walk through the vineyard itself with a glass, and that was pretty magical.

We ended up buying four bottles from Brander. Granted, it was our last stop and it could’ve been the wine talking, but… hey, now we can kind of say that we have a wine “collection,” or something.

Wine Tasting Los Olivos

If given the chance to go again, I totally would. So, basically, if you’re down to drive to the Santa Ynez Valley, let me know and I’ll meet you there. (Not even joking. Not even a little bit.)

Happy Caturday: Earthquake Cat Kit Edition

Earthquake Cat Kit

You know you’re a crazy cat lady if… you buy your cat an earthquake kit. And I did. I really did.

Let me explain: While E was out of town filming his pilot, I had the unfortunate luck of experiencing not one but two earthquakes while I was alone in our apartment. The first happened one morning around 6 a.m., and it shook out bedroom and bed hard enough that I woke up to being rattled around. Fish, being the clever girl that she is, darted from the room and took cover somewhere.

The second earthquake happened one Friday night while I was enjoying some Pho soup and a sad double feature of August: Osage County and Philomena with the exquisite Dame Judi Dench. I was on the couch when once again the room started to rattle, and Fish leaped for cover.

I’m from Florida, where we have hurricane parties every time the weather forecast predicts a big one, so I’m really NOT the type to panic. But something in me snapped with that second one (my sanity, perhaps?), and I immediately found earthquake kits online.

Open Earthquake Kit

At first, I just bought a kit for E and I. It’s a big bucket filled with preserved food, boxed water, and all manner of safety equipment. (And it also has a toilet lid, so you can use it to poop in. I really hope I never have to use that lid.)

But then I thought, what about Fish? What do cats do when an earthquake hits? Would she eat the preserved food we had or simply turn on us and eat us in our sleep? I google cat kits, just for fun, and was quite surprised to find many animal earthquake kits.

Fish

The one I ordered was a “deluxe” kit, and came in a bucket (no toilet lid), with dried cat food, a cat toy, water boxes, a pet first aid kit, a rope (?!?), and a pop-up water and food bowl.

The most curious item inside was a metal dog leash. I have no idea how this would help. I don’t know how it got inside the cat kit. But now we have a dog leash, just in case we meet a dog friend in the earthquake apocalypse.
Earthquake Supplies

There were also some glow sticks, in case we lose power, and a rather sensible bejeweled cat collar. (Perhaps the dog leash attaches to this collar? And perhaps she’d actually allow us to walk her on it? Doubtful, but still.)

Earthquake Kit Supplies

 

Fish inspected the lot herself. After all, in an emergency she will be depending on it. In the end, though, I think she was rather unimpressed.
FishyDoes getting a cat earthquake kit make me a touch insane? Yes, just a bit. But it does give me that placebo calming effect, which is really what these kits are intended to do. My biggest issue with the kit was really lack of a portable litter box. Though I suppose she could always use our toilet seat bucket…

Belated Resolution: Make More Time For Writing, And Less For Bullshit

It’s April, and yet here I am just now making a New Year’s resolution. The only really great thing to come out of E being gone on set for a month (other than the fact that, ya know, he filmed a pilot) was that I had a lot more time to myself and a lot more time to write.

I wrote when I woke up, and then a bit when I got home, and got into the habit of writing or reading rather than what I’d usually do. (Watch TV, troll Facebook, check Instagram, stare into the fridge until some food spoke to me.)

I forgot how much can be accomplished in a day, even a weekday when you’re working and come home slightly exhausted. Still being able to continue writing and get something of your own done feels… pretty great, really. And on the weekends, there were often entire days where I did nothing but write. I’m currently working on two side projects that I’m really excited about, and most important is that they just make me plain happy to work on.

E is oddly enough also in a place where he has to spend his downtime working on writing and reading. (For him it’s reading other writers scripts and working on his series document.) It’s actually been nice. He can read a script, and I can read Infinite Jest. (I never read this book before, because I was intimidated by the length, but I have to say that I’m loving it. It’s weird and funny and very inspiring.) On the weekends, he can work on his pilot material, and I can work on my own projects.

I don’t know what will come of these projects. Hopefully one will be published, and the other will be seen. Worst case scenario is that I’ve spent a lot of time on something I really enjoy, so it’s not a bad situation to be in at all. It also, of course, means slightly less blogging on my end. Not that blogging is part of the bullshit I’m spending less time on, god knows I love blogging, and I’m determined to do at least two posts a week.

So there you have it: my belated new year’s resolution is now in full swing. Plus, I’ve written it on this blog, so other people can now hold me accountable and potentially shame me if I start slacking. (Feel free to shame me, btw. Shame is an oddly motivating force that is entirely underrated.)

Nextdoor.com Is My Favorite New Stalking App

I want to start by saying that yes, I am a stalker, or at the very least an intense peeping Tom. I have long been one and it’s something I’m GOOD at. I like trolling people’s Facebook pages, scanning their Instagrams, and trying to figure out their life stories through their Twitter feed. (That’s right, I’m watching all of you. I KNOW.)

I can’t even tell you the amount of pleasure I get from looking into other people’s lives. It’s sick, really. But whatever, we all have our things to get us through the day. Enter: NEXTDOOR.COM, my new best friend and favorite website.

NextdoorThe way it works is that you enter your address and name, (you can totally give a fake one), and then suddenly you’re connected to other people in your neighborhood. These people post things about their lives, like Tom, whose poor flower pots were stolen, or Peter who asked, “Will our storm drains work?”

I’m not saying these updates are exciting, because they’re not. In fact they’re ridiculously mundane, but there’s something about them, and hearing what other people in my neighborhood are doing that’s… I dunno, pretty fun to read.

My favorite postings BY FAR are the wild animal sightings, in which people warn pet owners to keep their pups inside. There was recently one for a coyote. (To be fair, I saw a coyote in the park the other day, so this one is legit: HIDE YO KIDS, HIDE YO CATS.)
Los Feliz CoyoteAnd then there was a much more exciting one for a bobcat most recently.

Los Feliz BobcatIf you need me, I’ll be trolling my neighbors!

This Chocolate Cross Wants To Wish You A Happy Sunday

I don’t remember seeing chocolate crosses around Easter before, because, ya know, it’s a little weird to eat something that someone was nailed to. But I was walking through CVS and saw this little gem…

Hungry, anyone?

Greens That Fill You Up And Taste So Savory: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Did you all know that brussel sprouts are actually spelled brussels sprouts? I did not know this, but it’s because they were popular in Brussels, Belgium. (Hence brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts, kinda nifty.)

So these brussels sprouts, as it turns out, not only have a cool name origin, but are also just super delicious. As a kid, I always ate my veggies, and I liked them, so maybe I’ve got a soft spot when it comes to brussels sprouts. Truth is I can’t help it: They’re so filling, so tasty, and when cooked just right, you totally forget you’re eating veggies.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

So begins my veggie journey. I’ve been trying to cook more veggies and stay healthy, and something I learned from my recent diet is that if you’re going to pick a time to eat carbs, it should be early on in the day. Meaning that at night time, pairing whatever you’re eating with veggies is a solid plan.

I was cooking up salmon, and decided to add some brussels into the mix. It took me roughly 5 minutes to throw it all together, and then all I had to do was let it cook in the oven. So easy, and so pretty on a plate too!

Brussel Sprouts
Here’s what you’ll need:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
  • 1 lb bag of brussels sprouts
  • 1/3 cup of Italian salad dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
Directions:
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash the sprouts, then cut off the hard, stalky ends, and halve the remaining sprout. (They may fall apart a bit, but that’s totally OK!)
  3. Line a glass pan, or oven-safe dish, with aluminum foil.
  4. Place the halved sprouts in the pan, and feel free to pile them onto each other. Then drizzle on the Italian dressing, olive oil, and generously coat with salt and pepper.
  5. Combine the ingredients with a large spoon until well coated. Feel free to use more dressing if it’s looking a bit sparse.
  6. Pop the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes, and voila! Delicious crisp and tender brussels sprouts.

5 Things That Have Made My Life So Much Happier (And Pampered)

The-Raven-Spa

Few things in life make me happier than feeling pampered. This year has definitely been one where I’ve come to a point in my life and career where I can afford to spoil myself a bit more. (#blessed) And since the start of 2014, I’ve been making an effort to do just that. I’m going to share some of the things I’ve been doing that I absolutely love:

  • My new facialist, Kristen, at Lula Mini Spa in Atwater village has totally changed my skin for the better.

I’ve always had problematic skin, (my face is dry, but my eyes are oily, and I break out constantly) and because of that, I’ve been getting facials on and off since I was 16. The problem has been that since I’ve moved a lot in the past (from Florida to Boston to New York to Los Angeles), it’s not always easy to keep up with a consistent routine at the same place. And now that I’m living in Los Feliz, I wanted to find someone close by.

Kristen is like some kind of skin angel sent down from heaven to make me feel better about my life choices. The location itself is kind of funky and small. It’s just one long room, no reception area, and you get seen right away. But because of that, your skin gets so much personal attention. Kristen explains every product she’s using and why it will help, and while a mask sets, she massages your arms and feet as an added bonus. I have been getting a microderm facial, and Kristen changes up the products and routine each time depending on how my skin is behaving. It’s just amazing.

I got the Fizzini as a Christmas gift, and I now almost exclusively drink seltzer water. It’s so refreshing, especially now that it’s in the 80s in Los Angeles. Plus the whole thing is super compact and takes up minimal counter space.

My friend Lizzy has been singing this place’s praises for the past year, but it wasn’t until I moved close to a location in Eagle Rock that I’ve actually gone to it. The prepackaged meals for 1-2 people are so yummy, and FRESH, as the store’s name implies. It’s been saving me so much time to just heat one up. My favorite so far was a spinach risotto meal. So fresh, so easy. (OK, I’ll stop.)

  • The unbelievably relaxing massages at The Raven Spa in Silverlake.

Again, been getting facials since high school, which means I’m a bit of a spa junkie. So I was ecstatic when I found a massage place that blew me away. This is another cozy retreat, with lots of Trader Joe’s snacks to nibble on while you wait, but once you’re in the room you never want to leave. I think it’s entirely based on the masseuses they have, all of which are amazing. But my favorite is an older Asian woman who looks, from first glance, like a typical grandmother, but whose hands suggest that she might be a goddess.

  • Bar Method in Silverlake kicks my butt in the best way possible.

Kristina is the best instructor I’ve had so far. She basically does this thing where she tricks you into doing a workout that’s extremely challenging and will make you want to die a little, but does it in a way where you want to do it FOR HER. Like, I want to work harder because she told me I should. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but thank you Kristina, for making my booty better.