Turkey Meatballs, prompted by my better half.

fennel seeds

The other day, after dinner, my ‘better half’ mentioned that he was “kinda over salads, I think”. This being said after a dinner of, you guessed it: salad. Now, you may (but probably don’t) remember that all we craved in China were salads. So after that quip, there was clearly a ‘lesser’ half at the dinner table.

As much as I forcefully will things to happen – say, for instance, eating salads every night for dinner – minds change, people change, ideas change, and circumstances change. Pretty soon I’ll be hearing crazy talk like, “let’s have Chinese food for dinner” (which happened this weekend, so crazy!). I hate being thrown curveballs.

I like things to be consistent. I like to establish solid routines, and I hate getting told things are probably better otherwise. This is why I prefer to keep the friends that I already have over making new ones- no offense. I don’t care how nice our neighbors are, they’re not my friends (yet). I’d prefer to settle in a nice apartment for several years if I can and really making it my own, rather than picking up and moving every two years into places with ugly walls and even uglier furniture I don’t care if we can buy slipcovers. Actually, I care, because slipcovers are ugly too.

dry meatball mixture

I get nervous when I am unfamiliar with a neighborhood, or a person, or say, when I’m riding a bike at a comfortable speed and my husband tells me to go faster. I can’t! Not outside my comfort zone! And don’t tell me I can, that just pisses me off. I’ll do it at my own pace. My pace includes a good, solid routine wherever I am. Trust me, I’d get lost in a whirlwind of to-do lists and Facebook searches without a good routine.

Do you hear how ridiculous all of this makes me sound?


I try (pretend) to be the ‘go-with-the-flow, throw-me-a-curveball’ sort of girl. And for many of you, I’ve got your fooled! Suckers! Because I can actually play this part really well, and by now I’ve had a good ten-year run at practice. But at the heart of it, I’m always thinking, always planning, always comparing one situation or person or instance to the next. Chances are, I’m always more anxious than you think.

And no, I’m not on any meds. Yet.

At the end of my yoga class yesterday, the instructor reminded us to be mindful and take inspiration in the every day. Maybe I was hypnotized by yogic bliss, but it her simple reminder stuck with me in a more profound way. Because, being a someone’s ‘other half’ doesn’t fare well with this ‘no-change’ policy. Neither does having to move around every two years for said ‘other half’s’ job.

meatballs in the pan

So I’ve got a new mantra, which is to embrace the recent changes in my life without too many of my pre-supposed standards : marriage, moving back to DC, establishing a career from home. If I’m going to be a ‘writer’, well, I’d better go ahead and start writing. If I’m going to go to yoga every day, I guess I’d better put on my leggings as soon as I wake up in the morning. And finally, if my husband says he doesn’t like salads anymore, then for effing sakes, I’ll make a huge batch of meatballs instead. It’s the little things first, people.

This blog has recently been a lot of showing off pictures and bragging about where I’ve been. A lot of mundane activity, in other words. These are slightly deeper thoughts, and more importantly, help to get me back to what I’ve always loved to do, which is write, and also make and share some food. So here, here’s a recipe for some turkey meatballs. At least here, when my dining companion suggests for a change, I can make it happen, now. As far as this writing thing goes, well, we’ll see.

Turkey Meatballs

inspired by a recipe from the blog Arugula Files, here

  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium cubanelle pepper (or poblano pepper)
  • 6 cremini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesano reggiano
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 lbs. ground turkey thigh
  • 2 eggs
  1. In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds for 2-3 minutes over med-high heat, shaking pan often to prevent burning. When seeds are browned, transfer to a spice mill or grinder. Grind to a fine powder.
  2. Place white onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms into a food processor, and pulse until chopped very finely. Alternatively, if you do not have a food processer (as I don’t), chop each ingredient very very finely the old fashioned way – with a good chef’s knife and a big cutting board – and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add ground fennel seeds as well. Add 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and 3/4 cup breadcrumbs. Stir and mix very well, until all ingredients are incorporated. Add a few good pinches of salt, and freshly ground pepper. The brilliant thing about this method of mixing all the ‘dry’ ingredients together is that you can still taste and adjust for seasoning before you add your meat.
  3. Place your turkey meat in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Beat eggs, and add them to the bowl. Using one hand, fold turkey once or twice to slightly mix in eggs, being careful not to squish the meat between your fingers. Add about 1/3 of the dry onion/breadcrumb mixture to the meat, and fold several more times again. Repeat two more times, adding 1/3 of the mixture and incorporating it into the meat until well-mixed. Stirring and mixing too vigorously and too much will cause a firmer, harder, and thus drier meatball, so make sure you are conscious to use your hands lightly.
  4. Using a spoon, scoop 1-oz. sized meatballs, gently forming or rolling with your hands. Again, don’t play with the meatballs too much or pack them too tightly. Weighing each meatball is encouraged, although feel free to eyeball your amounts if you’re short on time. I like my meatballs on the smaller side of things. Feel free to double the weight and make ’em bigger if you like! Place the balls on a nonstick surface, such as a baking sheet lined with silpat or foil.
  5. Once all the meat is formed into balls, wash your hands thoroughly. Heat about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat, or enough oil to thickly coat the bottom of the pan. Place as many meatballs as can comfortably fit onto the skillet, and turn heat down slightly to med or med-high. Using a spatula, roll meatballs every 20-30 seconds to ensure an even, brown fry. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the outsides are completely browned. Transfer to a rack to cool. Add more meatballs into the skillet, and repeat. Continue until all the meatballs are cooked, wiping pan and adding more oil only if necessary.
  6. To finish meatballs, place a desired amount of sauce (preferably homemade) into a large pot. Place cooled meatballs into the sauce, mix a few times to ensure all meatballs are evenly coated, and turn heat down to med-low. Cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Serve hot, over noodles. Or, in a baguette with some provolone for a delicious sandwich!
**Freezing Option: Once your meatballs are completely cooled after step #5, transfer to sealable freezer bags or containers. To cook, place meatballs and sauce and cook according to directions in step #6.

Yield: 4 dozen meatballs, enough for 8-10 servings with pasta and sauce.


Finally, no offense, but what’s with food in the shape of balls? Cake balls? Fish balls? No good. The only food that is acceptable in the form of balls, on my dinner table, is the rustic, authentic, meatball. I can only accept so much change, people.

NY with New Eyes

You didn’t think our summer vacation was done being told, did ya?!

Williamsburg Waterfront

It had been quite some time since I left New York, and I hadn’t been back to visit for the two years since I left for China. So this summer, after Maine, we made sure to make a stop in the city, to see if I still loved it as much as I did they day I left.

Guess what – I did.

A friend who was out of town was so generous and let us stay in her Prospect Heights apartment – a part of Brooklyn that I didn’t spend so much time in the first time around, so I’m glad we were able to explore that ‘hood on this short trip.

Of course as soon as I touched down at JKF, I missed the city. Walking around Brooklyn, I kept turning to my DiploMan and saying, “I love Brooklyn”. I’m just proud of him for not rolling his eyes in front of me. What a good man.

A lot of people don’t like the frantic pace of New York, the loud buses and crowded trains, the lack of smiles and the constant hustle and bustle. But I love it all, and I still do. And really, it’s not always like that.

NY from the East River

Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending two years in China, and I love living in DC right now. Here in DC, we’re eating well and exercising regularly again. We’ve picked out a few spots that we love and even more that we want to try. I’ve begun to establish little routines for my days and weekends, I’ve been writing more (though, still not enough), exploring the world of blogging, and reaching out to old friends who are in town (or soon moving here).

But for some reason, there’s no feeling like living in NY, broke and cramped. Somehow it’s desirable, even. You know what it is? The saving grace? Every day you’re able to get out of your tiny living quarters and bump elbows with other humans, with so much potential to eat/see/hear/do new things every day. It’s this potential and human contact that keeps people in New York. If you don’t believe me, watch this movie.

This is just me waxing poetic, by the way. I certainly did not feel like that every day I was living in New York, and in fact more often than not was fed up by sky-high rents and lack of space, and my feet always being dirty and my legs generally pale. But, the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side, even when there’s not really much grass on that side.

And I, by no means, have regrets leaving that city behind. In fact, I know I left at a good time because I’m always looking forward to going back.


Business Cards

I got business cards!

biz cards

There’s a lot to improve on, for the logo and general design are both pretty elementary, and it’s a far cry from the ‘perfect card’ that I have in mind. But for a first go at Illustrator, I’d say it’s not so bad! In any case, I desperately need to have some cards on me, so I’m quite happy with how these turned out!

The colors are what I’m using on my blog, and the logo and themes are all part of a greater design overhaul that I’ve been brainstorming. Gosh, all this re-design business makes me wish I majored in Design & Media Arts instead of Fine Arts in college.

There are a ton of business card companies out there, and for awhile I was thinking of going for a template from Minted, whose designs are the types of aesthetics I aspire to invoke. Then I came across Moo, whose offerings were just about right for my desires to create a completely new and card that I could call my very own. Perfect!

Help a sister out.

My baby sister was a floppy lil one.


15 years later, she can hold herself up…and then some.


Hey friends, my sister Vickie is participating in a 5k walk on Oct 6 for the American Heart Association. I’ve never done one of these, because I’m horrified of asking for things (i.e. money) and even more, I’m petrified that I’d only manage to scrape together like, $20. Luckily for the sick and needy, my sister is a better woman than I, and she’s got $125 left to reach her goal of $700. $700!! Hm, maybe I should ask her to raise some money for me…

I love this picture, taken in Solvang, with a crash test dummy by my side.


Anyway, she only has 11 days left. I’ve already given what a can, so I’m reaching out to see if you can help! Click on this link, below, and follow the directions provided. Fortunately (or not), they’ve made giving money away so easy now.

Vickie’s Heart Walk Page

She told me she’s raised the most out of anyone in her company, but I think she’s just got the most friends on Facebook :)

On a similarly mortal note, the DiploMan saw an interesting stat last night. Can you guess what the number one cause of unnatural death in the U.S. is?

Car Accidents?
Falling off ladders?
Slipping on bathroom floors?
I would have guessed the first….but it’s actually suicide. Pretty crazy, right?

Lobster Bake

We don’t roast goats in California. We don’t build big smokers in our backyards to patiently wait 12 hours until the meat practically falls off the bone. We don’t eat alligator or bison, and we certainly don’t hunt for our dinner. We don’t use that much mayo, we don’t make that much jello, and only recently have we discovered red velvet cake, but only in cupcake form. We think BBQ sauce belongs on pizza, and that salad is an entree. We don’t have lobster rolls or crab cakes, frito pie or key lime pie, and we don’t call fizzy drinks ‘pop’.


We also don’t dig holes in the ground to fill them up with hot coals and layers of fresh seafood and kelp.

Although, we should.

We should enthusiastically adopt all of those things, but mostly that last one about the seafood.

Growing up in California, I had no idea lobster and clam bakes existed. Not until I moved to New York did I hear Martha Vineyardites coming back from July 4 and Labor Day weekends, chatting about clam bake dinners and lobster roll lunches. Eating on the beach? With the ocean as your market? Corn, potatoes, and cholesterol-heavy seafood? Loved. It. I proceeded to be completely marveled with the novelty of the idea, and wondered if I ever would experience a true, bona-fide bake of my own.

So obviously, when I heard that Laura’s family was holding a lobster bake dinner to celebrate her birthday, I did a littlelobster dance.


But we had to wait through a whole day and a half in Maine before the grand dinner. It was torture. Fresh market yogurt – unpasteurized, of course – and homemade granola with tiny wild Maine blueberries. Tasty sandwiches from the local shop in the village. A delicious BBQ’d steak for dinner accompanied by too much of a creamy mushroom risotto (although, I rarely argue for too much risotto). And finally, pie from a famous local pie shop, with heaping scoops of rich vanilla ice cream. More yogurt and wild berries, and more sandwiches. In Maine, the folks seemed to enjoy providing the best of what the land and people can offer, and we happily obliged. So it’s no lie; it was torture – our tummies were crying out for mercy.

Lobster Brothers

But some afternoon kayaking and a dip in the river soothed our full bellies, and as the sun slowly set across the Western horizon, we were miraculously running on empty again. Luckily, the two local lobstermen (brothers!) had arrived an hour earlier, and had built a fort of cinderblocks with a half drum propped in the middle.

Lobsters Baking

Wet kelp is padded on the very bottom of the drum, and in it nestled a layer of onions, potatoes, and corn. On top of that goes a bit more kelp, then the lobsters are piled atop. Two nets, one filled with mussels, the other clams, are added. Finally, more kelp and a layer of wet newspapers cover the top. And of course, you can forget the pot of butter in the corner. Then a technique was explained that amused us all: eggs are placed on the top layer. As the heat slowly rises from the bottom up, the eggs will slowly cook. When the eggs are done – which usually takes about an hour – it is a signal that the seafood beneath is also done.

Lobster on top

In the summers, these brothers go from house to house, party to party, building these lobster bakes and offering their catch to folks all over town. They can serve tiny parties, such as ours, of 20 or so people, and they can serve huge fetes, of upwards of 100 heads. That’s a LOT of lobster. The lobsters in Maine are always fresh caught. In fact, many lobstermen didn’t even go out to catch lobster last year since the yields were so incredibly high and prices got so low. The East Coast clearly needs to show the West Coast some lobster love. Diplomacy through crustaceans, yeahhh.

Charlotte and Oysters

Oh, did I mention there were fresh OYSTERS?!

On the deck, enjoying some truly local Damariscotta oysters – a favorite of mine, for their size. Yum.


By the time we emerged from our showers, and coated with a healthy dose of bug spray, a fire had been raging beneath the homemade fire pit for quite some time. Clouds of smoke were bellowing from the pile of food and kelp. We had a glass of beer and some snacks – you know, to prepare our stomachs for what was to come. Approaching the fire, the air was thick with smoke and seafood. The official smell of Maine, perhaps. The lobstermen peeled off the top layers of kelp to reveal bright BRIGHT red lobsters. We got to taste the mussels from the nets, just to make sure they were ready – perfection.

Lobster Bake Food

Lobster Bake Tray

Our party marched down to the fire and one by one, filled our trays with a bounty of edible delights. It was absolute gluttony at its finest. I loved the absence of forks and knives, and the fact that eating with both your hands and your mouth at the same time was totally acceptable. Conversation was minimal, less the obligatory “ohhmugawd thisissoooo gooood” groan that was uttered at least three times by each individual. Looking down the table, it was just a mad blur of lobsters, corn husks, and hands.

Lobster Dinner

Before I knew it, it was over. The end came too quickly. I had two lobsters, and I’m embarrassed to say I could have had two more. The remains of dinner was a clear massacre, with seafood shells and small puddles of clarified butter and corncobs everywhere.

The End

This experience was a blessing and a curse, because I know I’ll never be able to eat lobster quite as good ever again. Unless of course, I find myself in Maine. Oh, and of course, the company was just as good as the food. How could it not be, when you have little ones who entertain just by being themselves?

Charlotte in Sunglasses

And then, we went inside to eat cake. When in Maine….