We’re remodeling our entire home at the moment (pregnancy induced nesting instinct gone arguably awry), and I haven’t been living there since January. Homesick doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. The white oak floors were finished while we were in Japan which means that while I can’t move back into the rest of the house (no sinks or showers!), I can move back into my work space: the kitchen. These roasted banana & buttermilk cupcakes with Lindt LINDOR truffle filling & fluffy marshmallow frosting (a.k.a. 7 minute frosting) is the first recipe I created in my own kitchen since being back, and they’re a celebration of both truffles (tomorrow is national truffle day!) and of the comforts of home.

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I’ll be 22 weeks pregnant tomorrow. Life growing inside of you isn’t, in my experience, without its ambivalence. Some days I fear she’ll disappear, that I’ll wake up to a stillness. Other days, I feel the burden on my body, feel invaded or fear the day (the day coming soon) when my life is no longer my own. But most days, I just enjoy the quiet before the storm, this symbiotic time I get to spend with her. I feel lucky to be a woman—lowered immune system, round ligament pain, swollen ankles, and all. Traveling with her—Matt & I are currently two & half weeks into a month long trip through Japan—as she grows, feeling her kicks grow more urgent and frequent as our journey wears on, makes me feel closer to her. The metaphorical journey in tandem with a physical journey makes the metaphor come alive: with each step, each train, each bus I move closer to being a mother. Momentum.

I relish the fact that in her dark, watery world she’s experiencing the bumps and rumbles of the train, the flavors of each country I visit, her father’s voice as we talk over dinner. We’re already a family. That said, traveling pregnant is a different beast than all previous travel in my life—and I’m sure traveling with a baby will be even more so! But in the mean time I wanted to share my tips & advice that I’ve gathered along the way. There’s been a very real learning curve! If you’re like me and thought that being pregnant would be just like being you but larger, think again.

Depending on how long you’ll be gone, how far along you are, how far you’ll be traveling, and what location you’ll be traveling to you’ll need to consider a few different things. These are just the basics and what I’ve noticed thus far in my experience. I get the feeling that after I finish up all my international travel at around 32 weeks I might have some updates to add to this. But after working & traveling in France, Morocco, Italy, and the UK during my 1st trimester for about 6 weeks total and traveling in Japan during my 2nd for 4 weeks, this is what I’ve gleaned thus far at 5 months along. I’ll be in France, Spain, and Sweden during the end of the second trimester for another 6 weeks, and we’ll see how that goes!

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Our daughter is growing faster than I can comprehend inside me, and at 5 months pregnant, each day brings new challenges and a new, foreign body that seems to morph constantly though I still just look like I ate a big sandwich! As my husband knows well, my pregnancy diet has veered far off course from my initial aspirations. I’ve under estimated this physical process in so many ways—how rigorous it would be for my body (more on that one in my upcoming post on traveling pregnant), how insistent the cravings & aversions would be, how exhausted & relatively fragile it would render me. That said, I put my cravings on the shelf for at least one meal a day and make sure to take in something nutritionally rich whether it’s this pasta or plenty of green juice and oatmeal. So, as promised, here’s the recipe for one such go-to healthy dish that I made as my lightening fast main for the dinner party I threw together in an hour in the previous post.

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I’ve thrown more gatherings that take a week of active preparation and a month of thought and planning than I can count. I love the production—the design & thought that goes into hospitality and creating an experience for guests, be it a coming together around a table or one of the retreats I host around the world, inspire me endlessly. I’m a detail oriented lady, and I like to imagine every event I put on, big or small, from the minute a guest walks in to the minute they walk away and plan for each moment of their experience accordingly.

That said, life is busy. I know very few people with that kind of time on their hands unless it happens to be part of what they do for a living or their hobby. But just because life is going by faster than the Shinkansen (the high speed railway in Japan, from which I am currently writing this post!), that doesn’t mean we can’t all enjoy a gorgeous table & homemade food. That’s why I wrote these tips for setting a simple but lovely table & cooking a minimal but wholesome menu in one hour. That’s all. So if you happen to have unexpected guests dropping in; are just generally pressed for time due to kids, work, or both but don’t want to sacrifice the slow pleasures of the table; or are (like my pregnant self) tired and struggling with getting much done be it due to physical difficulties or otherwise, here are some photos to inspire your next table setting + my 10 tips for throwing the quickest dinner party in the history of dinner partying.

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Finally. A year later, and I’m back in Japan. Matt & I just arrived, red eyed & happy, in Tokyo last night. So now seemed as good a time as any to share the photos from the most magical part of last year’s journey to Japan: a stay at a traditional Japanese onsen ryokan (hot spring fed bathhouse), Ryokan Sanga, in Kurokawa for a photography retreat that I hosted with Haruka Sakaguchi, the talented photographer & designer behind The Denizen Co. (and also the designer of my new website which will go live…some day when I get my act together!) In a few days we’ll be greeting this year’s guests, and I can only hope this becomes an annual tradition. You can get on our mailing list at Local Milk Retreats to be notified of all such get aways in the coming year!

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