Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Insta-Travel

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to tell you that if you're curious and interested, the best place to follow along on our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan will be my Instagram account. If we're not already Instagram friends, let's change that! I promise that my photos over the next ten days will be positively otherworldly. ;)





See you again when we get back! xo

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Made The Perfect Margherita Pizza!



I brag about this only because pizza-making does not come easily or naturally to me. I've made many a mediocre pizza so when a good one (no, a divine one) comes out of my oven, I rejoice.

I didn't use a recipe but I did do a bunch of research to come up with this method. The key to this pizza, I think, is two different things that have the same purpose. The first key is to use a very small amount of sauce. I mean less than a quarter cup. Spread it very thinly and evenly and don't use too much! The second key is to use low-moisture whole milk mozzarella. The whole milk part keeps the cheese rich and melty but it won't be so wet that it bogs down the pizza. 

A new revelation for me is to make the sauce from fresh tomatoes. Jarred spaghetti sauce just won't taste like the Margherita pizza you're craving—trust me! Take a few smallish, quite ripe tomatoes (or one medium, or half of a large heirloom) and cut them into wedges. Gently squeeze the excess juice and seeds from the tomatoes. (Save the juice and drink it later. It's delicious.) Then pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Scoop the sauce into a mesh strainer and let the extra liquid drain off for a few minutes.

Spread a very thin layer of sauce on your rolled out dough, between 3 tablespoons and a quarter cup. (I cheat and get my dough for a bargain at Trader Joe's because me and yeast don't get along.) Next add thin layers of sliced mozzarella and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Bake on a pizza stone with a sprinkle of flour between the dough and the stone at the hottest temperature your oven will permit. I bake pizza at 550 degrees.

When it's bubbly and browned, take it out and sprinkle generously with torn, chopped, or whole basil leaves. Then eat, and marvel at the delicious thing you just made!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Packing For Japan: Fun (And Tiny) Travel Essentials

In an effort to continue my mission to pack leanly for this trip I'm not bringing many things that are not clothes. And the non-clothing items I am allowing myself have to be sufficiently small and light for me to put them on the list.

Over the last few weeks I've been hunting down mini versions of certain beauty products on Amazon and filling little 3 oz bottles with face wash and sunscreen. I finally caved and bought a Kindle in the smallest size instead of lugging along 2-3 books for the plane and I'm obsessed with it (so glad my mom encouraged me on that one). My mother-in-law gave me a gorgeous clutch as an early birthday gift that will be perfect for carrying just a few things to dinner or a night out. Basically everything I'm bringing is tiny. It's adorable.

Here are a few of the non-clothes/non-shoes travel essentials that to me, are worth toting halfway across the world.


My favorite rosy red lipstick that can dress up any outfit and make me feel beautiful and fresh and put-together with a single swipe.


A shot of Dream Water, recommended by a friend who always looks out for me, to help us catch a few hours of sleep as we fly from Toronto to Tokyo.


A tiny pot of the best intensive moisturizer, which I will be slathering on my face before each flight to combat dry airplane air.


Evian facial spray for more moisture for my finicky skin and the welcome jolt of energy that comes from spraying a jet-lagged face with a mist of cool water.


A small tube of the only hand sanitizer I'll use because unlike most, it's moisturizing and doesn't have a horrible alcohol or synthetic smell.


My new Kindle, loaded with a few good books I can't wait to dig into along with a Dictionary of Japanese Food to help us navigate the eating part of our adventure.

(Not pictured: a regular toothbrush instead of my bulky electric one. I'm serious about this minimalist thing!)

9 days to go!!!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Trick For Creamier Vinaigrette




I make my own salad dressing by adding a pinch of salt and a dollop of dijon mustard to some vinegar (usually balsamic or champagne) and shaking it all up in a jar with good olive oil. I always add freshly cracked pepper to the greens and often a big squeeze of lemon. Easy, delicious vinaigrette.

Sometimes, though, I crave a creamier, thicker dressing. Last night we had a big kale salad for dinner with cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, walnuts, freshly grated parmesan, mandarin oranges, and spicy crisped chickpeas. (We had fried chicken for lunch, hence, the abundance of superfoods for dinner.) I was thinking about the dressing I wanted to make and the chickpeas lent me a flash of inspiration. Why not add a spoonful of hummus to my salad dressing to give it that creamy texture?!

So I did and it was divine. The subtle chickpea flavor played off the chickpeas in the salad very nicely. The taste of garlic and tahini were welcome additions to the vinegar and mustard and most importantly, it was rich and creamy without being heavy or unwholesome.

p.s. We buy this hummus. I've made my own hummus before but I can never get it to taste as silky and perfect as this store-bought variety, so I've surrendered to it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What Is Resolution Without Dissonance

What is resolution without dissonance?

This is something I talk to my students about all the time. Music is filled with dissonance—tension, clashes, disharmony. And it is filled with consonance—resolution, release, sounds that are right and pleasing and natural. 

I talk to them about how a passage or a harmony filled with tension, though on its own not always particularly pleasant, is transformed into a thing of beauty by the resolution that follows it. And perhaps more importantly, this resolution is made more meaningful, more gratifying, more pure and special because of the tension it arose out of. 

What is resolution without dissonance?

In lessons I'm so focused on conveying musical and artistic ideas to my students that it hadn't ever occurred to me to apply this same philosophy to my own life outside of music. It wasn't until I heard Seymour Bernstein say it in his documentary that it struck me. My brain was able to zoom out and see that this elemental part of music that I've been coaching my students on for years is one I need to be coaching myself on too. When I play music it comes naturally—I gravitate toward those rich, complicated, moody chords, I lean on them before I move away and then I relish the way they resolve into openness and freeing release. 

But as a Christian, as someone whose faith isn't as a strong as I wish it were, as a human with imperfections and dreams disturbed and a desire to trust in God despite how things are going, I need this lesson to become a bigger part of me.

When life is dissonant I want to lean into it, not away from it. I want to feel tension and longing. I want to recognize and accept it. I want the grace to see struggle as something that can lend strength and goodness and character and godliness if only I let it. I want to wait in joyful hope and with peace in my soul for unrest to end and resolution to take over.

Because when resolution does come, it will be so much more beautiful than it ever could be on its own.

What a joyful discovery that is! I'm grateful—always grateful—for the way music continues to teach me the most profound of life's lessons.

Happy weekend to you all!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Packing For Japan: Shoes And One Pretty Accessory

As I said in my last post I'm bringing only two pairs of shoes for our 9-day trip. This is not a large number of shoes, am I right ladies? So I had to make sure they were both super comfortable and as versatile as possible.

Obviously I needed a pair of lace-up sneakers for all the walking we'll be doing. These Born shoes are a few years old and I got them when I was on the hunt for shoes for Europe (back when we thought that's where we would be honeymooning). It's getting easier to find sneaks that are cute and can be worn with dresses and skirts in addition to jeans (love these from Everlane) but it's still a tall order. I love the "oxford" style of these which gives them a menswear-inspired look but the fact that they're light-colored keeps them feminine and pretty. Plus the arch support and padded soles means I can wear them all day. (I bought soft no-show socks to wear with them.)

(Here's a photo from my Instagram of me wearing them, and also the olive pants I'm packing.)

For lighter walking days, evenings when we are getting a bit more dressed up, and for temple-hopping which will require us to be constantly slipping our shoes on and off, I have these Franco Sarto leather flats. You know how some ballet flats barely cover the top of your foot at all, just your toes? I love these shoes because they come up a bit higher on the foot which makes them ten times more comfortable. I also popped these on the inside heel and now they feel just like slippers. 

In Japan there's a lot of taking off of shoes that happens, and not just in the temples. Apparently a lot of restaurants require it too and bare feet are a no-no. (A friend of mine warned me of this—thanks M!) So I plan to keep a pair of socks in my purse at all times so that I'll never be caught barefooted. Phew! Potential cultural crisis and general awkwardness averted.

I don't plan to bring any jewelry except for my wedding rings and the gold studs I always wear, so I'm counting on this scarf to lend me a little flair when I need it. It can be wrapped around my shoulders if I'm chilly or tied around my neck and it looks good with everything I'm bringing. Japan is a country of vibrant colors and I figured I needed something bright and floral to complement my neutrals. This will do the trick!

I'm almost done with these packing posts. I hope they've been fun/informative/helpful or that at the very least they've indulged your nosy side. (I love seeing how people pack for trips!) I've got one or two more posts planned, so stay tuned and thanks for reading.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Packing for Japan: Pants/Skirts/Dresses

I've heard from several sources (friends, travel guides, websites) that you should pack a bit on the dressier side for Japan. One friend told me she didn't seen anyone wearing blue jeans when she was in Japan last year and advised on nicer pants and skirts and dresses instead. A dressier society is something I can get on board with so I'm happily taking her suggestion!

Here's what I'm packing for bottoms: two pairs of pants, a pair of nice shorts, one casual day dress, and one fancy black skirt.

I've never had a pair of pants that fits better than these Paige jeans. My sister-in-law found them at T.J.Maxx and they were too long on her so she gave them to me! Best gift ever. These are the kind of stretch jeans that don't lose their shape even after multiple times wearing them which is great for travel. They will go with all of the tops I'm bringing (perks of neutral colors!) and I can roll up the bottoms if it gets hot. I think I'll wear them on the plane too. They're as comfy as leggings.

These Gap olive khaki pants hit mid-calf and have sort of a tomboyish fit. They make me feel a little rugged-chic, you know? If Japan had safaris, these are the pants I'd wear.

These shorts (with pockets!) are not your typical pair of shorts. They're a looser cut and almost look like a skirt. One day we're hiking up a mountain to see a castle and I'll probably wear these so that I don't completely melt.

This is the one dress I'm bringing--it's a casual daytime shift dress that's made of a nice sweatshirt type material. Not everyone likes to wear shapeless dresses but for my fairly straight figure it's one of my favorite looks. This one also has pockets and looks cute with the sneakers I'm bringing. (The dyed pattern sort of reminds me of Ace and Jig's prints--partly why I got it!)

I'm so excited about this high-waisted knee-length black skirt. My sweet mother-in-law got it for me when we were shopping at Banana Republic together. This is my replacement for a little black dress and to me, this is better--I can wear it with any of the tops I'm bringing (tucked in or tied in a knot to the side), swipe on some red lipstick, and instantly I'm ready for dinner or a night on the town. It's pretty and light and I feel good in it. This is my only "fancy" piece of clothing but I know I won't get tired of wearing it and changing my look a little bit each time.

This is it for clothing! I made one small addition to my tops pile--a thin long-sleeved emerald green shirt I'd been intending to pack but forgot about because it was in the laundry--so my total clothing count is now at 11 and it's staying at 11. I actually put everything in the bag I'm bringing and it was shocking how light it was and how much leftover room I had. Hooray!

Next up, shoes. (This one is a record for me. I'm bringing only TWO pairs.)
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