Hey, Zac.

I miss you.

It’s been almost one year since you died. You died. I can’t even believe that those words are real.

I wasn’t ready to speak at your funeral, so I hope you’ll accept this as my way to honor you.

Flash back to fall of 2010… There you were, sixteen-year-old Zac—a smart, funny, kid in my Spanish 3-4 class and slight pain in my ass. It was no secret you were completely sick of being around a bunch of kids who, as you might say, “sucked” at Spanish, so over the next few months I tutored you after school so you could skip the next level. We studied it all—compound tenses, vocabulary, and the dreaded subjunctive.

Zac, let me try to explain the subjunctive to anyone who might be reading this, thinking “huh?” Yes, I’m the freak who chose to include a grammatical lesson in a eulogy. Deal with it.

In Spanish, there are two main “moods” of verbs. One, the indicative, is the most frequently used, representing things that are true, real, and certain. For example:

Zac es increíble… “Zac is amazing”

Tocó tantas vidas… “He touched so many lives”

No tuvo suficiente tiempo… “He didn’t have enough time”.

The other, called subjunctive, which virtually doesn’t exist in English, represents everything else—doubt, uncertainty, hopes, wishes, desires and emotions. It’s how we express what we hope will happen, want to happen, but perhaps might not happen at all.

Cuando te conviertas en médico… “When you become a doctor”

Espero que te acuerdes de mí… “I hope you remember me”

Ojalá que no nos hubieras dejado… “I wish you hadn’t left us.”

It’s also how we express emotions. Joy, happiness, sadness, regret, fear and excitement—it helps us give meaning to this crazy thing called life.

At times I described it to students as a “ghost” form of the verb—it’s there, but it’s not truly there.

And like a ghost, the subjunctive is hands-down the most confusing and daunting concept for students taking Spanish. Unless your name is Zac Bradley. What many students don’t achieve in a lifetime, you mastered in weeks. Even after skipping a year of Spanish, you came in as the most advanced kid in the class.

That year we grew closer, as you dropped by my room almost daily for yet another Spanish conversation—not that you needed any more extra credit.

We talked about everything—from our dreams and frustrations to drugs and white privilege. We challenged each other’s ideas, but you always kept an open mind for your beliefs to evolve. You cared about the truth and defended it with facts and figures, sometimes debating with me for hours until we found a middle ground. With each conversation, your Spanish improved, and our bond strengthened.

One afternoon I heard someone singing in the halls, unaware it could be you. A few seconds later, we crossed paths, both on our way to my classroom. You were clearly in a mood to sing and had decided I was going to give you extra credit for a song—Eres by Café Tacuba. Despite that you had just told me what to do, we quickly made a deal—you’d sing the whole song loud enough for me to hear every word clearly, but I had to sing with you. So I connected my iPod to the dock and you pulled out your lyric sheet—not that you needed it. There we were, a teacher and his student, two friends belting it out, not caring if anyone who walked by thought we were silly.


lo que más quiero en este mundo eso eres,

mi pensamiento más profundo también eres,

tan sólo dime lo que es

que aquí me tienes…

The end of that school year, I left my teaching job to be a full-time stay-at-home dad. When you found out, you were clearly pissed at me, but you congratulated and encouraged me nonetheless. On graduation night, you ran up to hug me and said, “Señor, I’m never going to see you again!” I hated the idea that you might be right.

But luckily our friendship continued to grow, and next year, as a senior, you asked me to escort you down the stage at the school’s “Mr. Shadow” pageant—an honor typically reserved for contestants’ parents. When you graduated and went off to Berkeley, we’d Skype about college life and Spanish assignments and even met up each time I visited the Bay Area. I felt in many ways like a parental figure to you—proud and protective, and excited to see the incredible future you had waiting for you. Beyond this, you became “Tío Zac” to my son Ellis, who truly loved you.


And then came the phone call I will never forget. After Thomas told me you had died, I went into the bathroom to tell my husband Simon, who was bathing Ellis. There I saw my beautiful little toddler splashing in the tub, and at that moment my shock and sadness were joined by a jolt of fear. What if my own amazing son doesn’t get to live a full life? So much potential. Such an amazing human being. Gone. Over the next days and weeks I’d find myself zoning out, trying to breath deeply. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I sang along to Eres again to honor you and heard the lyrics in a new light.

Aquí estoy a tu lado, 

y espero aquí sentado hasta el final,

No te has imaginado, 

lo que por ti he esperado pues eres…

….lo que yo amo en este mundo eso eres…

Cada minuto en lo que pienso eso eres…

Lo que más cuido en este mundo eso eres…..


Here I am by your side

I sit and wait here until the end

You have never imagined

What I have hoped for you, yes….

You are… what I love in this world,

You are… what I think of every moment

You are… what I hold so close to me in this world, you are…

But every time I’d get upset, I imagined you saying in a frustrated voice, “Dude, just don’t be sad. Seriously, It’s a f*cking waste of time.”

There you go again, telling me what to do, Zac. But in many ways, you’re right.

If I were still teaching, I’d be discussing the Day of the Dead right now, showing my students images of skeletons and skulls dancing among flowers, reminding us how beautiful and fleeting life can be. Back when you were my student we celebrated this bittersweet holiday, recognizing our own mortality and promising to enjoy every moment of life with those that we love. You kept your promise, and your exuberant life ended just hours before the Day of the Dead, 2014.

You always enjoyed life, whether you were laughing, singing, doing something slightly stupid, challenging an adult or giving someone a huge hug or smile. Thank you for teaching me to truly live. I’m never going to see you again, and I’ve accepted that. I think.

I once heard someone say, “A life doesn’t have to be long to be meaningful.” If there’s anyone this applies to, it’s you.

I’d like to think you’re out there somewhere, watching us and laughing, playing the role of the subjunctive—that challenging and fascinating thing that we just can’t explain or understand easily. You’re here—but not here—helping us make sense of our hopes, wishes, doubts and confusion, and our passions and emotions in life. You already know this, but I always loved the subjunctive, even though it was sometimes a pain in my ass.

mr shadow

So to close, here’s a link to Eres by Café Tacuba, the song we sang five years ago in my classroom. “Eres” means “You are”—in the most real, true and certain way. And, Zac, you are, you were and you always will be—special to me. I made sure to include the lyrics in the video. Not that you need them.


3 Year Old Haikus

In honor of my amazing son on his third birthday


Under the blanket

Together on the sofa

Hiding from tigers


The age of “por que?”

Endless curiosity

Learning more and more


Skinny arms and legs

His belly like a balloon

Big brown eyes and hair


Front facing carseat

So much more interaction

Papa! Look at that!


We shout with delight

With every bridge and tunnel

Along the freeway


No taking pictures!

Sick of the paparazzi

He’ll thank me someday


Tortilla maker

My helper in the kitchen

He’s truly a chef


Mi tortillero

Mi mejor asistente

Mi futuro chef


He must be my son

If sampling all our spices

Brings him that much joy


He looked so concerned

And gathered his toys and food

For children in need


Animal crackers

To get him to try to swim

Now he’s like a fish


Long, lean and agile

He powers through the water

This kid’s built to swim


Downward dog and plank

Superman and tabletop

I in alignment!


Gummy vitamins…

“I no eat my gummies day”

Ellis, that’s not true


An amazing host

He’ll offer you a pillow

And share all his toys


How can anyone

Hear one song so many times?

And still love it so?


I drive poquito?

Every time we get back home

Highlight of his day


During a meltdown

Nothing will satisfy him

Toddler life is tough


Potty training… Oy!

But in the end, he rocked it

Only took two days


I niño grande!

I pipí en orinal

I wash my manos


Right next to the dogs

He sits and stays for a treat

Of frozen green beans


Rocky and Sunny

Put up with so much from him

He really loves them


First year of preschool

Friends, learning, and non-stop fun

Absolute success


“Don’t wash my pelo”

Yet he can spend hours swimming

With eyes wide open


His broccoli speaks

In its own deep, funny voice

Before getting chomped


Starts with a timer

The bedtime routine won’t fail

Five books and three songs


Before bed each night

Left cheek, right cheek, and forehead

He gives three kisses


He’s such a happy guy

Not a care in the whole world

Just as it should be


Somersaults and hops

He’s a bouncing kangaroo

Giggling all the while


With him as my son

Each day is a miracle

Thank you, God. Thank you.

3 rings dads day

I’m so entitled, I shouldn’t even have to title this.

This piece is entirely satirical and in no way reflects my feelings about the Phoenix Zoo. In fact, the Phoenix Zoo is an awesome place, and I have had nothing but great experiences there. I highly recommend purchasing a yearly membership–you will be happy you did! Unless you’re a miserable, horrible person like the asshole that wrote this…


Dear Phoenix Zoo,

Last week my family and I visited your zoo with a free pass from the library, and I am writing to express my immense disappointment. #wtfphoenixzoo

Thanks to your inconsiderate orangutans who repeatedly ignored my requests to approach the glass for a family selfie, my Instagram followers missed out on their hourly peek into what it’s like to have a perfect life. I hope you’re happy.

Please be more thoughtful in planning your animals’ nap schedule. The mountain lion slept through my children generously throwing popcorn at it, and the ocelot didn’t even twitch when I repeatedly slammed my jogging stroller against its glass enclosure.

Your concession stands and snack bars are grossly unprepared for my family’s dietary needs. Have you never heard of chia seed pudding?

Since the “Mexican gray wolves” completely ignored my daughter’s perfectly executed howling, I suspect that one or more of the following is true: A. They only speak Mexican or B. They’re just a pack of inbred huskies. Or maybe they’re deaf. No matter what, I’m going to destroy them on social media. #deportthemexicanwolves

I was sneezed on by a man who had come from the Africa trail. Now I probably have Ebola, malaria and probably sickle cell anemia. Where are your safeguards against this?

I performed a flawless Zumba-inspired rendition of Hakuna Matata for the meerkats but received no response. They’re probably depressed since you ignorantly segregated them from their best friends, the warthogs.

It was windy and I got a leaf in my eye.

I just can’t with your giftshop. Your selection of “personalized name plates” was PATHETIC. What are my kids Quinlyn, Jaxxsin and, Xoeigh going to do? And speaking of little Jaxxsin, is a simple ivory chew toy too much to ask for? Good GOD. Clearly you have access to ivory but are too greedy to share. #wtfphoenixzoo

Your zoo is simply too big. My children all fell asleep in the stroller after an hour and missed out on seeing all the animals. I, however, was not provided a stroller and stroller-pusher so that I could nap. I’m pretty sure that’s ageism, by the way.

I’ll have you know that being a full time mom is the hardest job in the world. But clearly you don’t know anything about working hard, since your zoo is a complete JOKE.

Given the abuses my family endured at your zoo, I expect you will compensate us handsomely for our pain and suffering. I expect a complementary premium zoo membership in the mail by the end of the week.


Angelic Brownstain

A taxpaying US citizen

P.S. The giant tortoise was unreasonably slow. I think you drugged him.

Best Cookies Ever: Nutty, Crunchy, Chocolate Chunky “Health” Cookies

I’ll say it again.  Best cookies ever.

I know, I know… The internet is full of recipes claiming this superlative.  But for me any my family, this recipe is where it’s at.  And the best part?  They’re actually good for you!

These cookies are the ultimate combination of nutty and chocolatey with sensational texture and flavor.  Crunchy roasted almonds, dark chocolate chunks, nutty walnuts, coconut and maple syrup.  They’re not too sweet and have just enough salt to highlight each flavor, and since most of the ingredients are whole, unrefined foods, the end product is filling and satisfying with no sugar hangover.  And while they’re slightly more time consuming and a bit pricier than your average cookie, they make up for it by being so freaking fantastic.  Seriously though… So damn good.

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I call these health cookies because the fat, sugars and grains are unrefined.  I use pureed nuts instead of butter or oil, Whole grains intend of processed white flour, and maple syrup (or dates) in place of refined cane sugar.  The variations for this recipe are endless, so after making these cookies, use this recipe as a base for your own variations!

Before I share the recipe, here are a few tips to ensure your cookies turn out awesome!

I highly recommend preparing as much of this from scratch as possible.  It adds some steps to the process, but the love and attention have a real impact on the final product.  For example, homemade almond butter and freshly toasted almonds are 10 million times better than store-bought.  (You can find my recipe for homemade almond butter here).

To toast raw almonds, simply bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 for 10 minutes or until fragrant.  Let cool completely and then chop them.  To get nice even pieces, use the base of a large knife and forcefully press down quickly with even weight, making nice clean cuts (and inevitably banging on the cutting board, potentially waking a napping toddler).

Try to get a nice dark chocolate.  I prefer this awesome 72% cacao “Pound Plus” from Trader Joes.  I then cut it up into chunks for the cookies.  To get nice chunks and avoid the chocolate from shaving while you cut it, use the same method as I described for chopping the almonds.  Cut each small square in half, then chop the pieces even smaller.


You can make these with whole wheat flour or oat flour (which I used this time).  To make easy homemade oat flour, just put some oats in your blender and blend away! It’s amazingly easy, especially if you have a good blender like a Vitamix.  I have also made variations of “health cookies” with combinations of different flours like almond, coconut, quinoa and others.

The walnuts in this recipe can be substituted by an additional 1/2 cup of almond butter, but I prefer it with the combo of the two nuts.

Unsweetened coconut was surprisingly easy to find (from Fry’s/Kroger) and the same price as sweetened!

We prefer to keep these cookies in the freezer and eat them semi-frozen.  The crunchy chocolate and chewy dates add even more to the awesome texture.


Alright, now let’s make some health cookies!

Recipe: Nutty Chocolate Chunk Health Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the food processor, blend together almond butter, walnuts, and maple syrup until relatively smooth.  Blend in eggs and vanilla.  Toss in unsweetened coconut and pulse for about 5 seconds.

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The soul of the recipe… Maple syrup, almond butter and walnuts.  BLEND!

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This alone is an amazing creation that could be an INSANE frosting.

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If you make a yin yang with the eggs, the cookies will give you inner balance and improved zen.


Add oat flour, salt and baking soda.

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Add oats and blend until incorporated.

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Move dough to a large bowl and fold in chocolate chunks,  almonds and dates.

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Scoop large balls of dough onto an cookie sheet and bake for about 9-11 minutes.  The smaller you make them, the less time they will need.



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They’re not going to win a beauty contest, but trust me. They are freaking delicious.

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I highly recommend storing these in the freezer and eating them semi-frozen, but feel free to enjoy them at any temperature!  Enjoy these and don’t forget to share your comments and questions.  Happy baking!


Recipe: Nutty Chocolate Chunk Health Cookies

(AKA Best cookies ever)

Makes 9-14 cookies (depending on how big you make them)


  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  •  1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 cup chopped roasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 Chopped Medjool dates


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the food processor, blend together the almond butter, walnuts, and maple syrup until relatively smooth.  Blend in the eggs and vanilla.  Toss in the coconut and pulse for about 6 seconds.
  3. Add oat flour, baking soda and salt, processing until combined.  Add oats and blend until incorporated. Dough will be sticky.
  4. Move dough to a large bowl and fold in chocolate chunks, almonds and dates.
  5. Scoop large balls of dough onto an cookie sheet and bake for about 9-11 minutes.  The smaller you make them, the less time they will need.

My Celebration of India at Preschool Cultural Day

When I signed up to represent India at Ellis’s preschool’s cultural day, the teacher and artist in me were instantly unleashed. The project consumed my mind for weeks, and today, many hours later, it finally came to fruition.

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Everything is made by hand. I did the Taj Mahal with watercolor and pen, the people are pen and colored pencil, and I carved the stamp out of a rubber block.

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I put my Taj Mahal on a cloud-print poster board for maximum effect.


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I hadn’t used colored pencils since high school. It was fun. 🙂


Thanks, Mom for having so many wonderful art supplies!

In true Indian style, people could smell our table from across the room. We had a display of 13 fresh Indian spices on the table while chicken tikka masala bubbled away in a crock pot, which was such a hit I gave out the recipe many times (thanks Aarti)! We also had a crunchy and salty fried lentil snack called dal, which people loved.

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I didn’t get a photo of my chicken tikka masala today, but here’s a photo of the sauce before I put the chicken in it. I must say, it was divine.  I served many people seconds and thirds. 😀

Thanks to my new friend Jodi, we were able to give people bindis to wear! They looked beautiful on the kids and women, especially the many beautiful Latina women who work at the school. Some (like me) wore smiley face bindis! 😀

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Real bindis from India! Check out the gorgeous sari underneath and the awesome wood stamp, all from my friend Jodi.

The kids got really into smelling and touching the spices, and many will likely have turmeric stains on their clothes and fingers for a long time. Sorry parents!

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She was literally wiping turmeric on her dress as I took this photo.

The kids also loved the animals. I saw many kids petting the tigers, and one kid event tried to swipe the elephant. Maybe he was offended I had displayed an African elephant instead the Asian variety.

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The spices got more and more messy as the day went on. I smiled as I saw a toddler blow a cloud of turmeric across the table. Lots of fun smelling and touching such wonderful spices!

The kids went from table to table with their little passport, collecting stamps and stickers along the way. There were also areas for face painting (the flag of your choice), a dress up corner, and even dance performances from around the world.

There were lots of really awesome country displays at the festival. Twenty countries were represented, and each country host put a lot of love and effort into it. It was so cool to see people’s creativity applied in so many different ways and to be in such a celebration of different cultures. Oh, and the food wasn’t bad either! Spanish olives and almonds, Manchego cheese, ceviche, arepas, guacamole and chips, bread salad, Irish “gur”cake, a sweet sesame dumpling from Korea, an awesome rice dish from Ghana, plantain chips, the list goes on and on…

For me, the best part was meeting the school community and having them love the food and appreciate all the hard work. Every last drop of chicken tikka masala was eaten, and not a grain of rice was wasted.

And yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself. 🙂 Now what country should I do next year?

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We had to appreciate the incredible beauty of the Indian spices before throwing them (and the millions of kid germs) away.


Portland Food Adventures

A wedding is always a great excuse to travel. And when your parents offer to take care of your son while you’re gone, you might as well make a six-day vacation out of it! Yay! Adult time! No more 7 PM curfew! This is a chronicle of our culinary journey through the wonderful city of Portland.


Ahoy! To Portland! The city of cyclists, bridges, and deliciously caloric and locally-sourced foodstuffs! The land of breweries, flannel, tattooed sleeves and handlebar mustaches. The place where kale grows from every crack in the sidewalk! A promised land where the streets are lined with biscuits, heirloom tomatoes and salted caramel! Oh, dear Portlandia, where will we go, what will we see, and most importantly—what will we eat?

I’ve scored Portland’s foods in three categories:

MISS: From “meh” to “blech”

HIT: From “Ooh, not bad!” to “Yum!”



Day 1: Arrival

Our friend David picked us up and took us straight to Bake Shop, where we got  a chocolate orange pecan pastry and a ham and cheese croissant.  The croissant was incredibly flaky, crispy, and buttery, with just the right amount of salt–one of the best I’ve EVER had!  As for the chocolate orange pastry, my husband devoured it before I could get a taste. “It was really good!” he said, as I shook my head with a menacing scowl.  We were off to a good start!


SUPER HIT: Ham and cheese croissant from Bake Shop.

Then we checked into our awesome AirBnB accommodation.  Our room had a separate entrance surrounded by a beautiful garden where we could pick fresh tomatoes and blueberries.


HIT: Fresh blueberries growing outside our AirBnB accommodation.

Before we knew it, our blood sugar had dropped and our livers needed another fat injection, so we lunched at Lardo.  This was the first of many examples of how Portland is a truly pig-obsessed city.IMG_1176

Nom nom nom… Meat meat meat…  The burger was good, but Maybe a sturdier bun or baguette would have held up better to the “Lardo sauce” they smothered on the meat.  I would definitely go back for the PBLT and the Bahn Mi!


HIT: Pork meatball bahn mi, Lardo house fries.  MISS: Double burger with porkstrami  .


HIT: (Half eaten) shaved zucchini with Caesar dressing, basil, parmesan, bread crumbs. I want to make this at home now.

As we finished up, we were so full that we could barely discuss what to eat for dinner.  That night David made us a fantastic quinoa dish complete with kale and tomatoes from his garden- just what our bodies were craving!  For dessert we had lavender-infused ice cream with plum and freshly picked blueberries.


HIT: A home-cooked meal made with local, organic ingredients served alongside a cold glass Portland-made beer.

Day 2: More exploring and catching up with friends

Exploring New Seasons Market is like wandering through an episode of Portlandia.  We walked there from our place constantly for breakfast burritos, drinks, snacks and treats as we thought to ourselves, “Yeah, this is so much better than CORPORATE Whole Foods!”


HIT: New Seasons makes a surprisingly delicious vegetarian breakfast burrito! Potato, egg, green chile, cheese and onion. It’s no Julioberto’s, but it did the trick!

After a breakfast burrito and a long walk downtown from our home base, we mapped out a course to our next meal.  A food pod!  For those of you who aren’t familiar, a food pod is a group of food trucks in a semi-permanent setting.  Food pods are all around the city, but we went to a big one near O’Bryant Square.


One of Portland’s many glorifications of swine

If you’re indecisive about what to eat, avoid food pods.  There were Scottish fish and chips, gyros, crepes, Chinese food, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, and everything in between.  We saw a decent line in front of one of the gyro places, so we went for it.

As I shoveled the food into my mouth, I realized the line of people must have been mostly tourists who didn’t know that this food stall was in the “so-so” category.  My rice was super oily and my lamb wasn’t cut from a spit, but resembled processed meat fried up on a griddle.  Why, God? WHY?!?


MISS: Food pod meal #1: Lamb gyro, lamb and rice plate with salad and tzaziki, stuffed grape leaves.

Our food coma was setting in, so we went in search of some coffee.  Destiny took us to Pearl Bakery, where I had an absolutely heavenly chocolate chip pecan cookie.  The brownie wasn’t bad either!


SUPER HIT: Chocolate chip pecan cookie and walnut brownie from Pearl Bakery. I found $1.50 to be an absolute steal for a cookie of this caliber.

A nap and a shower later, we felt like new again and walked to Life of Pie.  We split a small pizza topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese and garlic along with a green salad and some beers.  Overall it was a great meal, but next time I will definitely go back before 6 PM for their famous happy hour specials: the $5 margherita pizza and $3 draft beers!


HIT (despite the burnt spots): Wood-fired pizza from Life of Pie


HIT: It’s hard to screw up a mixed green salad…


HITS: Proletariat NW Red Ale and Na Zdravi Czech-style Pilsner

Later that night we met up with the brides, their family and the other out-of-towners at a local brewery.  There was food leftover from their rehearsal dinner, so I took the opportunity to stuff myself with undressed mixed greens by the plateful, providing myself a buffer of healthy fiber for all the deliciously naughty treats the weekend would hold.

Day Three: Wedding, Farmers market and Reception

The day had come! In a beautiful morning ceremony at Cathedral Park,  Our friends Kate and Shelly expressed their love to each other in front of a small group of joyous family and friends.

After the wedding the guests were encouraged to go out and enjoy everything Portland has to offer.  We made our way over to the most fantastic farmers market I have ever been to, where we were hypnotized by mounds of stunning produce and infinite jars of local cheeses, honeys and jam.  By the end of it, we were so spoiled by Portland’s local treasures that heirloom tomatoes seemed commonplace, albeit no less bedazzling.


SUPER HIT: The product samples offered at the farmers market

“But what to have for lunch?  Ooh, how about that booth, Portland Curry! This is gonna be great! Local organic chicken tikka masala, chickpea malasa in a spiced sauce… Yummy!”

In hindsight, some might argue that you should avoid buying Indian food when the booth is staffed only by white people.  I reject that notion, as I feel even non-Indians can make great curry.  These people could not.  It was not great.  It was terrible.  It’s like they thought, “How can we make this as flavorless as possible and still call it curry?”  No amount of cilantro, yogurts and chutneys could make this stuff good.  And the “chicken tikka” was mostly big chunks of potatoes in an under-salted, under-spiced broth that left me wanting to thrust my bowl at their booth like an unsatisfied toddler.


SUPER MISS: Under-salted, unde-rspiced, underwhleming Portland curry. That ain’t right.

But check out those tomatoes!


The most exquisite raw chocolate peanut butter bar made up for any of life’s problems.


SUPER HIT: Raw, vegan chocolate peanut butter bar from Eatin’ Alive.


Kate and Shelly definitely did their research when planning the menu for their reception, because that Thai buffet was perfection.   Chicken satay, vegetable spring rolls, lemongrass chicken rolls, pad see ew (EFFING AMAZING), Panang curry, pineapple fried rice… Holy crap. I served myself seconds even though I was already pretty stuffed by my first plateful.


SUPER HIT: Thai food at the wedding reception.

But oh, the pie!  I wouldn’t say s’mores are anything I crave, but this mini pie was calling me, and I’m so glad I chose him.


These delectable miniature pies came from a place called the Pie Spot. I love that they served pie instead of cake.


SUPER HIT: S’mores mini pie. I want some more.


Day Four: Recovery

The great thing about late nights of drinking and dancing is that you can always sleep it off the next day.  Unless you’re a dad whose circadian rhythm won’t let you sleep past 6:30, despite the fact that you consumed copious amounts of Patron the night before.  I’m speaking hypothetically, of course… Time for another breakfast burrito and a large can of rehydrating coconut water! My head still hurts…


Electrolytes, please

Next came a mid-morning nap, then an outing for lunch with David while Simon slept off an incoming migraine.  We walked from our AirBnB to a deli where I had a house-made beef pastrami sandwich on rye.  It was much more thick-cut than I’m used to, and I was so glad to see it wasn’t piled ridiculously high like at so many delis.


HIT: Beef pastrami on rye.


Sunday afternoon we saw The Hundred Foot Journey, a feel-good movie about culinary passions dividing and uniting Indian immigrants and their French counterparts.  The movie was full of tantalizing sights of Indian and French cuisine, leaving us hungry for the spices of the Orient.  And no, not Portland Curry, please.

As we walked out of the theater toward the bus station, we heard Indian music playing nearby.  We crossed the street and suddenly we were in the midst of the annual Portland Indian Festival.


The food looked amazing and we enjoyed the festival, but with no real place to sit and eat, we settled for a souvenir jar of local organic ghee and hopped on a bus to try out the restaurant Bollywood Theatre.

Holy cow, this place is so AMAZING!  It’s unlike any Indian restaurant I’ve been to.

IMG_1338 1

SUPER HIT: Beets roasted with coconut milk and curry leaves


SUPER HIT: Vada Pav, a spicy potato dumpling dipped in chickpea batter and fried. Served on a roll with chutneys. The “Poor Man’s Burger” of Mumbai. The sweet and spiced coconut on the side was extraordinary.


SUPER HIT: Some kind of paratha wrap with chicken and other delicious stuff (I didn’t write down the name and can’t seem to find it on the online menu). One of the awesome food highlights of the trip!


HIT: Pork Vindaloo with saffron rice, sambar, dal (lentils), raita, paratha (tortilla-like deliciousness) and green chutney

After Bollywood, we waddled next door to one of Portland’s most famous ice cream shops, Salt and Straw.  The flavors are all slightly bizarre, including “bone marrow with smoked bourbon cherries,” which sounds repulsive to me.  I chose almond brittle with salted ganache and honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper, and Simon had the strawberry and coffee bourbon.


HIT: Ice cream from Salt and Straw.


Day Five: Last call!

In our last full day in Portland, we had to check out Tasty n Sons, where the weekend brunch wait was over an hour.  We arrived promptly at their opening time of 9 AM and quickly realized why this place is so popular.  Wow.


SUPER HIT: Potatoes Bravas with over-easy eggs and aioli. So simple, yet so great. And a generous serving for $7.


SUPER HIT: Fried egg, bacon and cheese on a cheddar biscuit. This biscuit was the best I’ve ever eaten. Truly divine!


MISS: Chocolate potato doughnut with crème anglaise. Sorry, Tasty n Sons, but your other amazing dishes made this one just “meh.”

For our last Portland lunch we felt we had to give the food pod another try, so this time we chose Korean.  It was a massive serving of delicious spicy pork, rice, noodles, salad and kimchi food for only $7.  YES!


HIT: Spicy Korean pork, glass noodles, kimchi and salad with rice

After lunch we were powered up for a trek up to the Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden.


SUPER HIT: Sriracha. And Portland’s world-famous Japanese garden.

For dinner Monday we asked David where he’d like to go to celebrate his birthday.  He chose Park Kitchen, a beautiful little restaurant near a park downtown.  We ordered a series of small plates to share.  Yum yum!


HIT: Amuse bouche of heirloom tomatoes, beans and mustard vinaigrette.


HIT: E.Z Orchards Hard Apple Cider, on the house in honor of the birthday boy!


MISS: Salt cod fritters with malt vinegar. They were fine, but not enough to get a “hit” in my book.


HIT: Ken’s bread, Park Kitchen crackers, and handmade butter.  Crackers were more like savory cookies though.


MISS: Summer tomato salad with Genovese cured pork. This would have been fabulous if the dressing didn’t consist of melted (and later coagulated) pork fat. I prefer my pork fat be disguised in my food, thank you.


HIT: Lamb meatballs, green peppers, cattle beans, and mint.


MISS: Ayer’s Creek cornmeal pasta, braised pork shoulder, and zucchini. It was fine, but it had a slightly undercooked texture.


HIT: Buttermilk panna cotta, Bairds peaches, bourbon, candied pecans.  This was almost a “miss” in my book, as the thick layer of clear gelatin on top was rather uncalled for.


MISS: Summer berry bread pudding with house made ricotta. I am calling this a miss because it was not really bread pudding but a wet cake. And it needed more sugar to balance the tartness of everything going on.

Day Six: Home sweet home and reunited with our son!

I officially love Portland.  It’s a fabulous city with great character and awesome food, and Simon and I have decided we want to go back as often as we can afford to.  We highly recommend Bollywood Theater, Tasty n Sons, food pods and just exploring the city’s culinary treasures.  After a quick breakfast burrito and a heartfelt farewell to one of the coolest cities in the U.S., we made it to our plane and flew home, eagerly anticipating hugging our amazing son.  I have to add one culinary highlight, this little bag of mini graham crackers provided by Southwest Airlines, which I eagerly devoured as a seeing-eye dog nuzzled into my feet.  Life is good.




Toddler Haikus

Toddler Haikus

Inspired by and in honor of my absolutely amazing two-year-old son!


A beautiful day

With Daniel Tiger and friends

In the neighborhood.


Sometimes I’m amazed

At how many blueberries

He can put away


No outfit’s complete

Without his straw fedora

To make people smile


What two-year-old likes

Sparkling mineral water?

He’s got refined taste

Fubbles rock my world.

Greatest invention ever:

Bubbles that don’t spill.

He’s bursting with joy

Bouncing, giggling on the bed

Such a happy boy

photo 1

Watering plants is

Almost as fun as watering

Dad’s chalk creations

Selfies aren’t his thing

The front camera makes him scowl

I’m at peace with that.

Wading in the pool

He pooped in his swim diaper

And then he sat down.

Even if you’re mad

You’re not allowed to hit me

Time for a time out.

Remarkable child

He couldn’t be more handsome

Or more amazing


His afternoon naps

Are more valuable than gold

You wake him, you die.


Ear-damaging screams

Turn into giggles and smiles

When he gets his juice

New words every day

In English and español

Or his own language

Such a steady hand

He drinks out of mason jars

No sippy cup here!

Please use your manners.

Get that foot off the table!

Sigh…Fine, just at home.

Bibs don’t stand a chance

When you’re dealing with the force

Of a two-year-old

I don’t recommend

A rug under the table

Toddlers be messy


Have you seen my son?

He’s invisible again!

Oh, look! There he is!


Barreling toward me

Over and over again

To give me a hug

He loves to cuddle with

Panda, Buho, Mao Mao and

Daddy and Papa

He’s gotten so big!

Not a baby anymore

Where have two years gone?


Surrounded by love

He’s thriving and blossoming

And I am so proud


To sum it all up

The joy he brings to my life:



Peach Blueberry Custard Pie

There’s really no dessert better than pie. I’m somewhat of a pie aficionado, thanks to my mom, who made it often and always encouraged us to eat the leftovers for breakfast.  Apple, banana cream, pumpkin, chocolate pecan…I love them all.  Yet among the highest castes of the “pierarchy” is this recipe—peach blueberry custard.


Several summers ago, my mom, Simon and I were brainstorming dessert ideas, and pie was on our mind as usual. By some divine inspiration, we decided to combine two of my mom’s recipes: peach blueberry pie and peach custard pie. And now, years later, as we recreate that magical recipe every summer, we sometimes catch ourselves wondering what life was like before peach blueberry custard pie.

Peaches and blueberries: two of the best summer fruits.

Peaches and blueberries: two of the best summer fruits.

What I love about this pie is the combination of flavors and textures of the fruit, custard and crust. This recipe showcases the ultimate summer fruits—peaches and blueberries—with a deliciously simple, old-fashioned egg custard. Serve it hot or cold with some whipped cream and you’ve got perfection on your plate.


Recipe: Peach Blueberry Custard Pie


  • 1 unbaked pie crust (homemade is best) Crust recipe:

Fruit filling:

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peaches or nectarines, peeled and chopped (or leave the skin on the nectarines)

For the custard:

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Note: I always double the custard recipe when using a large pie dish (like I did this time)


Make the pie crust according to recipe instructions.  Press the dough into a pie pan, fold under any excess dough, and press with your fingers and thumb to make a decorative edge. Put it back in the fridge for another half hour to rest.

Freshly rolled out all pie crust, previously chilled in disk form in the fridge for two hours

Freshly rolled out all pie crust, previously chilled in disk form in the fridge for two hours


Crust placed over pie dish with edges folded under


I used a simple technique with the knuckle of my right index finger and the tips of my left thumb and index finger to make this decorative edge. Remember to let the crust chill in the fridge for at least thirty minutes after this to avoid it from shrinking when baked.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pull out the crust from the fridge, poke it with a fork several times on the bottom and sides (not the decorative edge) and bake for about 12 minutes, or until slightly golden. You can put some pie weights to keep it from puffing up, but since it’s not going to get very baked, any bubbles will probably shrink once you take it out. The point of this step is to ensure that once the pie is ready, the bottom crust is nice and baked. I’m not a fan of doughy-bottomed pies.

Par baked crust. Mine puffed up in the middle but deflated once I took it out of the oven and gently pressed it down.

Par baked crust. Mine puffed up in the middle but deflated once I took it out of the oven and gently pressed it down.

Make the custard! Mix all the ingredients using a whisk or mixer until fully incorporated. As I mentioned above, I often double the custard recipe.

You can throw all the custard ingredients in at the same time, just remember it's ideal to use softened butter.

Custard.  Don’t worry about the butter clumping up, as it will melt nicely once it bakes.

Scatter the fruit over the par baked crust.  Whisk up the custard one more time and pour it over the fruit (sometimes the custard separates a little if it sits in a bowl for a bit).


Purple and yellow are so gorgeous together! They are complementary colors, after all. Use as much fruit as you want! In fact, this pie could have used some more fruit to make the fruit to custard ratio more balanced.

I added a few more pieces of fruit to even things out.


With steady hands, carefully place the pie back into the oven, still at 400 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes to slightly brown the top of the pie, then lower to 325 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes to an hour. Since the edges of the pie had a head start and will continue to cook more quickly than the custard, you’ll probably have to cover them with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.


About halfway there… Notice how I folded pieces of aluminum foil over the edge to prevent the crust from burning.

The pie is ready once the custard doesn’t jiggle when you gently pull at the oven rack.  If the pie is fully baked but the top isn’t browned enough, you can broil it for a a few seconds, but be careful not to burn it! Note that if you double the custard recipe, you’ll need to bake the pie for about an hour.  Cool the pie on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.



Serve your delicious summer pie warm, room temperature or chilled alongside whipped cream or ice cream, or just by itself, and don’t be ashamed if you go for seconds.  If you make it ahead and keep it in the fridge, take it out at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the butter in the crust to soften.



  • Be sure to use slightly firm peaches or nectarines instead of ripe, juicy ones. If the fruit is too juicy, the pie gets messy and doesn’t set as well. Also, this pie really only works when peaches are in season, as off-season peaches and nectarines have no flavor.
  • I’ve never used frozen blueberries, as I fear the color would bleed and the texture wouldn’t be as nice. Also, the excess water might prevent the custard from setting up. But hey, if you try it out, let me know!
  • This custard can be used with all kinds of fruit. I have made a simple blueberry custard, a peach custard, and even a blackberry custard pie. All are good, but as long as you have access to seasonal ingredients, peach blueberry custard is the way to go!


Don’t forget to leave your questions and comments below! And remember to follow, like, share and subscribe!




How We Became Dads

Becoming a parent is always a miracle, and our story is no exception. As we approach father’s day, I’d like to share how my husband Simon and I became dads.

daves pic

Ellis at one month with me (AKA Papá or Robbie) and Simon (AKA Daddy)

In the beginning, fatherhood seemed like a distant dream, a near impossibility.  For years we talked about our plans to have a child, but once we gave ourselves a deadline–Simon’s 45th birthday–we finally took action and started doing some research.

After ruling out the idea of taking a turkey baster to one of our friends, we turned to adoption.  Before we knew it, a social worker was at our house explaining the whole process. She seemed to think that us being gay would be no problem, and she said we’d most likely have a baby within two years. Excited and horrified, my eyes widened and I took a deep breath. Holy crap. Things were getting real.

Contrary to what some people think, adoption does not consist of flying to a developing country and picking out the cutest kid at the orphanage. The real life process is full of risks and difficult choices—which we had to start making immediately.  Would we take a baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome, drug exposure or severe health problems? Were we willing to adopt an older child or did we only want an infant? And what if the birth parents didn’t respect our role as parents after placement? Worst yet, what if the birth mom changed her mind before the 72-hour cutoff? With so many factors out of our control, we did our best to follow our heart and put it in God’s hands.

From fingerprints to questionnaires to autobiographies to more questionnaires, it seemed we would never get through the application, let alone ever hold a baby in our arms. But once we finally finished, our paternal instincts were stronger than ever.

A few months after our original meeting, our agent returned to do our home study. More questions, more explaining, and finally, she handed us an empty scrapbook—our key to being chosen by a birth mom. “Take your time, you’ll have a few months before we will need this back from you. In the meantime, just have fun and don’t stress.”   “In about two years, we’d be dads!” we thought. Sounded like perfect timing to me.

One week later, our agent called us and blew our minds. “I know this is earlier than we expected, but I want to present your scrapbook to a birth mom who is open to gay parents for her daughter. Oh, and she’s due in three weeks.” Jumping with joy and freaking out a the same time, our hearts were screaming “WTF??!?! Um, are you serious?” We were instantly thinking up names and planning how I’d leave my teaching job once we got our little girl. “As far as the album,” she said, “I’m going to meet with her in a few days, so just try to get some photos together so I have something to present.” After three frantic days of organizing, cutting, editing, writing, and revising, our scrapbook was perfect.  That birth mom would have totally chosen us… If she hadn’t disappeared.  Sigh.  At least then we were back to our two year time frame.

Literally three weeks later, we got “the call” we were waiting for—a birth mom had chosen us! AAAAAAHH!!!!!!! We excitedly listened on speakerphone as our agent explained the details of the pregnancy. The mom was Hispanic and the dad was white, and although she wasn’t due for another eight weeks, her doctors predicted a premature birth, as was the case with her two previous children, who developed cerebral palsy as a result. That was the info, and the ball was in our court.

We were overwhelmed with emotions. “Sure, there are risks, but we could be dads!” “This is way too early for us, but what if this child is meant to be ours? And who knows when another opportunity will come?” After hours of talking, praying and searching for a sign, we made the decision to say no to what we had been dreaming about for years.

A few months later, Simon came home from work with a suspicious grin. Not wasting a moment, he blurted out, “We were chosen by a birth mom!” My heart started pounding with fear and excitement as he told me the details.

Everything sounded amazing. Tara wasn’t due until the summer, giving us ample time to prepare (I’ve changed her name for this post to protect her privacy). And not only had she given birth to four healthy babies before, she had already gone through the adoption process with her last one and didn’t change her mind at the last minute. We weighed the pros and cons, but we knew in our hearts this was meant to be. This was our time! After a casual “getting to know you” dinner facilitated by out agents, everyone was ready to move forward. AAAAH!!!

In the months that followed, we didn’t miss a doctor’s appointment. I’ll never forget the first ultrasound when we saw what looked like a tiny bean with a heartbeat. That was going to be our child! How could this be real?

Finally came the day when we’d find out the sex of the baby. One minute after the amazing moment we found out we were having a boy, we learned our son had something wrong with him.

The ultrasound showed fluid in the abdomen. The doctor couldn’t confirm what that meant for our baby, but it could potentially be something very, very bad. Or it could be something completely benign. Between endless Internet searches and two trips to a specialist, we were faced yet again with a difficult choice. Did we want to continue with this pregnancy or let the birth mom choose different adoptive parents?

We didn’t know what the fluid in the abdomen meant, and we were incredibly afraid that our son might have lifelong health problems. Although we had the right to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” we were 100% committed, so we weren’t backing out. In the meantime, we prayed that everything would work out.

At about 5 ½ months, we got a frantic call from our adoption agent. “Tara’s water just broke, you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible.” As we anxiously waited at the hospital, we scoured the internet for something that would tell our preemie would be fine. Four hours later, we learned it was just a false alarm, the result of having sex with a full bladder.

In the months that followed, we saw more and more warning signs but tried to shake them off as “not a big deal.”  Tara would leave strange, rambling voicemails in which she almost sounded drunk, repeating things she had said minutes prior. She called to tell us she hated the name we had chosen for him and then cancelled two ultrasounds, but our agent assured us that things were fine.

The end of the school year came and I said goodbye to my students and colleagues, leaving my job to become a full-time dad. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t have shared my adoption news until it was a done deal, but I had to explain my departure, and besides, Tara wouldn’t change her mind at this point.

A week after school got out, I took a two-week service trip to a rural village in Panama. When I got home, Simon had some big news for me!

“She changed her mind.” My heart sank. My dreams of becoming a dad were erased. Obliterated. But there was more. Tara had no intention of keeping her child. She just wanted to find another family for him.

Anger. Confusion. Sadness. Loss. Resentment. Heartbreak. I had never experienced such a whirlwind of emotions before. What had we done wrong? What were we going to do? Would we ever have a child of our own? And where the hell was I going to work in the meantime? Despite all of our confusion and pain, we told ourselves “it must not have been meant to be.” And although we truly believed that, we still felt like total crap.

By the grace of God, I was able to get my job back. And miraculously, Simon had met another birth mom while I was in Panama, and she seemed like a great fit.  Later it surfaced that she wasn’t actually pregnant and was wanted in several states for adoption fraud.  We were shaken and confused, told to “continue life as normal, and it will happen eventually.”  Sure… Ok.

About three weeks later, I went on a trip to San Diego with my parents to clear my mind. While I was there, Simon called me with some news. Tara’s baby had been born. Things weren’t good. Her son was born with complete kidney failure and holes in his heart. They weren’t sure if he was going to survive.

“Holy freaking shit” was all I could think and say. Still recovering from being “dumped,” I was overcome with yet another chilling whirlwind of emotions. Relief, sadness, amazement, gratitude… Wow, I thought. Just…Wow.

The morning after I got home, my phone rang. “Why is Simon calling me?” I thought, “He always just texts me.” The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey babe

Simon: Hey, um. We need to talk.

Me: Okay…

Simon: I just got a call from Kelly from the adoption agency…There might be a baby for us.

Me: (Excited yet guarded) Holy shit, oh my God, are you serious? Okay…. (!!!)

Simon: I need you to go to Target and get some things

Me: OKAY…..(!!!!!!!!???!!!!)

Simon: I need you to pick up diapers, a car seat, and…

The rest of the conversation was a blur. My friend who had spent the night was listening from the other room, having a joyburst from what she thought might be happening. Yeah, it was happening.

Early that morning, a little boy had been dropped of anonymously at the hospital under the “Safe Haven Baby” law. There was no information about the birth parents, nor was there a way to contact them. Simon met me at Target, and we headed straight to the hospital to meet this little mystery baby.

That drive felt like an eternity, and after so many emotional ups and downs, I wasn’t ready to get too excited. Besides, there was still a chance that CPS would step in and insist the baby go to a heterosexual, married couple, as that was the policy in our state.  On the radio we heard Michael Bublé’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and found the lyrics described our situation eerily perfectly.

Our adoption agent greeted us at the hospital entrance and introduced us to the receptionist as “Baby John Doe’s parents.” As we we walked back into the NICU, I scanned the room, wondering which of these miracle babies was waiting for us. Finally we arrived at his station and caught the first glimpse of our son. “Do you want to hold him?” the nurse asked. I let Simon hold him first, as I was still in shock from what was happening.

Excitement, disbelief, fear and utter joy….words can’t describe the emotions surging through my body at that moment. When I held him for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I saw. He was so beautiful, so incredibly alert, yet so relaxed. As I looked into his eyes, he looked back at mine, and reality finally hit me. He was going to be our son. Forever.

is this for real

Simon (Daddy) holding Ellis. “Is this real?”

We spent the next 18 hours holding him, feeding him, and calling loved ones. As we finally buckled Ellis into his car seat and pulled away from the hospital, our life journey as dads had officially begun. After everything we had gone through, we realized that this little miracle child was meant to be our son all along.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to worry about the 72-hour grace period during which the birth parents could change their mind! Or so we thought. What we learned next made us feel nauseous. With safe haven babies, there is a practically six-month period during which the parents can come forward to take back their child.  The idea scared the shit out of us every single day, but we gave our love without restraint and trusted in God’s master plan.

profile pic with ellis

Me and Ellis on the first week of my new job as full time Papá

I was a complete wreck the day our agent attended the hearing to terminate the biological parents’ rights. Then I got the call—it was done! Yes! YAAAAAAAAAAS!!!! I squealed and did a happy dance as Ellis looked at me like, “Um… Ok, Papá!”

A few months later, we were able to finally have our last hearing to finalize the adoption. After an arduous journey filled with joy and pain, uncertainty and destiny, we were OFFICIALLY Ellis’s dads, and no one could change that.  And yes, we made our goal–the adoption was finalized literally the day before Simon’s 45th birthday.  When my mom found out she leapt with glee and shouted “YAY GOD!!! YAY GOD!!!”

three rings

“The boys,” as our friends and family call us. Doesn’t he sort of look like he could be our biological son?

Fatherhood isn’t easy, but it’s worth every moment.  Now nearly two years later, we are eternally grateful to his birth mom for her bravery and love, and we thank God every day for the chance to be dads to such an extraordinary young man.  Ellis has enriched our lives in indescribable ways, and he is surrounded by people that love him.  And who knows, some day, once the timing is right, maybe he’ll get a brother or sister! But for now, we’re good.

three rings #2

Life is good! No, life is f-ing amazing!


Reasons Why Phoenix is Awesome

Ever had someone talk crap about your family  all over social media?  That’s how I felt after reading’s “article” Reasons Why Phoenix Is the Worst Place Ever.  After seeing this whiney, nasty piece shared repeatedly on my Facebook feed, I decided to take matters into my own hands to defend the city I love.

Here are a few reasons why Phoenix is freaking awesome.


Phoenix, Arizona- “the Valley of the Sun.” Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

It’s sunny almost all the time.

With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Phoenix has earned its nickname of “Valley of the Sun.”  Weather rarely forces us to change our plans, and we can almost always play outside while our friends and family in other regions are bundled up, facing seasonal blues or yet another destructive storm.  We’re really spoiled with sunshine, and I truly believe that our bright and happy weather contributes to an overall better emotional state year-round.

Amazing Mexican food is ALWAYS within reach.



For Phoenicians, Mexican food is not “ethnic food.” It’s part of who we are, and we can’t get enough of it. To us, Mexican food means Christmas tamales by the dozen, fresh carne asada tacos on homemade tortillas, or bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dogs with all the toppings. It’s a late night trip to the nearest “-berto’s” for a sweet and icy horchata and a massive $5 burrito, or even a cheese and sour cream covered chimichanga when we’re craving something more gringo. What about some table-side guacamole or some cochinita pibil? Or… OOH! Some green chicken enchiladas?  Or, or… Ok, must stop.  Dang, I’m hungry now.

Phoenix knows how to manage water.


One of our many canals. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Some people claim that Phoenix shouldn’t exist, claiming we are spitting in the face of nature, growing irresponsibly and carelessly depleting our natural resources without any regard for sustainability.  My response? “Gurl, you don’t even KNOW me!”

The reality is Phoenix has been dealing with a dry climate, rapid growth and limited water supplies since the beginning, and we’re much better off than most cities in the southwest. Our city was literally designed around the canals of the Hohokam, a Native American group who harnessed the power of irrigation to turn this arid valley into fruitful cropland and a long-lasting society.

Unlike most other cities in the southwest, Phoenix can count on water from more than one source. We get our liquid of life from the Colorado River, the Salt and Verde River watersheds,  ground water from the city’s wells, and reclaimed water.  In 1980, the State passed a law requiring “water banking” underground for drier times, and Arizona now won’t approve any new development unless there is a 100 year water supply to sustain it.  Are we the “greenest” and most sustainable city in America? No. But we’re not going to dry up any time soon. Check out more at:

Our sky is huge. Our sunsets are legendary.


Just a typical sunset in one of our many desert preserves. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

The sky is just bigger out here. Maybe it’s the lack of big trees, or maybe it’s because we’re just closer to heaven. Laugh if you want, but you’ll believe heaven isn’t far away when you see our hot desert sun paint a masterpiece behind silhouettes of saguaros, palm trees and mountainsides.

It’s inexpensive.

The concept of “expensive” is relative, so let’s compare Phoenix with San Diego.  Considering food, gas, housing, transportation, healthcare and utilities, Phoenix’s cost of living is 34% lower than San Diego’s.  But since median income is only 20% less, a decent quality of life is that much more in reach.  Oh, and Phoenix is also cheaper than Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami, and almost every other large city in the United States. (Source: cost of living calculator at

The Sonoran desert is a different kind of beautiful.


Saguaros, palo verde trees and an ocotillo. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

If you’re looking for a grassy forest with moss-covered rocks and fairies flitting about, Phoenix isn’t the place for you. The Sonoran desert is a land of imposing mountains and vast valleys with life popping up where you least expect it. Beauty comes in shades of sage, brown, gray and black, and spring turns the landscape into a promised land of yellow, green, purple and pink. And with mountain trails all around, there are countless opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the desert.

hedgehog cactus

Spring flowers on a hedgehog cactus. Photo credit: Ron Niebrugge,

Camelback Mountain, Photo credit: wikimedia commons

Camelback Mountain, Photo credit: wikimedia commons

We’re really quite progressive, despite what it seems.

street art 1

Street art in Phoenix

Our state may have some crazy politicians, but their bizarre antics do not represent how the average Phoenician thinks.  Frankly we are very embarrassed that our politicians have made the world think we’re all racist, homophobic and generally intolerant people.  Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of those, but generally speaking, Phoenix residents are quite middle-thinking.  Phoenix is a blue splotch in a sea of red voting districts, and as our demographic makeup changes our city is growing more and more centered.

We get to take advantage of our top-notch resorts.

Whether you’re golfing, meeting up for a drink, having a spa day or a full-on “staycation,” our city has some of the best resorts around. And best yet, the drastically reduced summer prices make those luxuries accessible for the masses.

We have excellent roads and mucho free parking.

Potholes, crumbling asphalt, and hunting for parking are foreign concepts to Arizona natives. Here our road and freeway systems are well planned, well kept, and wide enough to accommodate our growing population. And yeah, free parking is everywhere.

Citrus, citrus, everywhere!


Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

One of the “Five C’s” of Arizona industry (along with cotton, copper, cattle and climate), citrus trees are everywhere. In cooler months people have so many oranges, lemons, grapefruits or tangerines that they are giving them away by the bagful. And let’s not forget the intoxicating smell of orange blossoms in the spring! It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Summers bring out the “Phoenix” in us.

hot sun

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Our sweltering summers bring out our resourceful side. When it doesn’t dip below 100 for months, we learn to adapt. We stay inside a lot. We praise God for the gift of air conditioning when we’re not in a pool or cooling off at one of our lakes, water parks, or with frozen treats and occasional trips to cooler places.  After a few months of sacrifice, we’re rejoicing in our gorgeous weather again for another seven months while the rest of the country braces for the dark days.

We’re a short drive away from other worlds.


West Fork, Oak Creek Canyon. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

When we need a break from our desert metropolis, we have plenty of options to drive to.  In a matter of a couple of hours we can escape to explore mountains, canyons, forests and amazing rock formations all around the state.  We can take a trip to funky ghost towns, ski resorts, artist communities or even head up to the Grand Canyon if we’re feeling adventurous. San Diego, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles are all within a six hour drive, and we’re particularly fond of margaritas on the beach in Rocky Point, Mexico, only four hours away.

aspens in Flagstaff

Aspen trees along a road in Flagstaff. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

skiing in snow bowl

Skiing at Snow Bowl. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco), Mexico. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


Our plants and animals are the definition of badass.


A cactus wren chillin’ in a cholla cactus (pronounced choy-ah). Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

From beautiful and to bizarre, delicate to dangerous, desert life is something to be respected and admired. With their spines, blossoms, fangs, feathers, and fur, our flora and fauna are the definition of “hard and soft” and are truly the ultimate survivors. And props to them for not even needing air conditioning or bottled water!


Hey, Mr. coyote! Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

There’s always something to do (and eat!)


Day of the Dead celebration at Mesa Arts Center

No matter what you’re into, you can find it here. We have art fairs, culinary festivals, sporting events, biker fests and everything in between. And from the Day of the Dead to Chinese New Year, we celebrate our many cultures with pride.  Proof of a higher power comes in the form of taco festivals, tamale festivals, salsa festivals, and tequila festivals.  HECK yes.  Did I mention we have tons of amazing restaurants?  From Ethiopian fare to chicken and waffles, we’ve got it all.  Oh, and you know, we have some awesome Mexican food…

Our people are everything.

Rock and Roll Marathon

Phoenix’s greatest quality is its people.  We’re a little bit Midwest, a little bit California, a little bit Mexico and a ton of pure awesomeness.  We’re a deliciously fabulous, ever-growing fondue pot of people with a dream to rise above the ashes to do something great in life.  And in a city where natives like me are rare, friends truly become family.  In my 29 years here, I’ve met the most amazing individuals who have filled my life with love and learning, teaching me that the human spirit is something more powerful and beautiful than what I could have imagined.  The sappy cliché “home is where the heart is” normally makes me want to roll my eyes, but that’s honestly how I feel about Phoenix, and I have the people around me to thank.

In summary, Phoenix is freaking awesome.

street art 2

“Calle 16” street art in Phoenix near Barrio Cafe.

While I don’t claim it’s perfect, Phoenix is a pretty damn awesome place to call home.  And I think the growing number of Phoenicians would have to agree, it’s far from the “worst place ever.”  When it comes down to it, you could bash any city for its shortcomings, but if you’re stuck complaining all the time, you’re missing out on the truly special and beautiful things right in front of you.


A view of Phoenix from Camelback Mountain. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

What awesome things about Phoenix have I forgotten to include? Let me know in the comment box below!