Vietnamese Coffee

Even as the more vivid details of our Vietnam vacation recede into the ever more distant past, something as simple as Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk can bring it all back on occasion. This past weekend, I took just a sip and was reminded of the days at our resort in Phu Quoc, when we developed a brief ritual of taking a seat by the window in the restaurant level of our resort, and starting the day with a small cup and saucer of Vietnamese coffee.

We followed our coffee with a combination of breakfast treats, including a pho bar and bahn mi. Aside from the smorgasboard of Vietnamese delights, there was a large selection of western morning foods as well, though we avoided the boring fare, like cereal. We concluded the daily decadence with an assortment of tropical fruits, my favorite being passion fruit, though the juicy dragon fruit and mango were equally memorable. The juices from these fruits trickled down the back of my hands, dried there, and interacted with the island sun, causing a strange dark patch to appear. I discovered that what I initially thought was a sunspot (expanding at a freakish rate) was actually a temporary tropical fruit scar when I casually consulted with a physician friend via Gmail.

While on the island of Phu Quoc, every morning, we ate and drank slowly in this way, enjoying the contrast between the smoky, dark coffee, and the pellucid, bright island atmosphere, treating ourselves to the ocean view and sea breeze floating in through the gigantic windows like a quiet new dream.

Daydreaming In Bed

Mom went back to work last week and we ended Friday on a good note. I gave in to my hunger and drank quite a bit at grandpa and grandma’s house. This put Mom in good spirits.

I still hadn’t eaten as much as I wanted so Mom fed me as soon as we got home. Her new thing is to feed me lying down while reading travel and food magazines and eating Life cereal. She was duped into buying year-long subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler after seeing some $5 deal on Instagram and has been collecting idle magazines for the last 4 months. She finally found some use for them – reading while breastfeeding.

She still dreams of travel but makes fun of Traveler magazine even as she leafs through the publication wistfully. She finds the whole idea of “high-end boho”  – a term used by an author to describe one particular Marrakech establishment – ludicrous. She is also opposed to another writer’s recommendation to stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. We live just two miles away from a Park Hyatt, and mom and dad have attended rowdy holiday parties that end in the hotel’s lobby bar the last 2 or 3 years in a row, so she doesn’t see why she would go all the way to Bangkok and camp out somewhere so familiar. To be fair, the last time Mom and Dad were in Bangkok, mom was a recent law school grad with a ton of loans, so it’s not like she could have afforded to stay there anyway. Could it be sour grapes?


She sneered at a one-paragraph mention of Taiwan, which rambled on only about tea and featured an elderly Asian woman wearing a rice hat in a tea field. Of all the ways to represent Taiwan! However, she got a little nostalgic at the unexpected mention of one Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on the list of top resorts in the United States. She was suddenly brought back to her childhood, at the age of 7, on family vacation. Her dad (my grandpa) rented bikes and in the front of the Greenbrier lobby is where she first felt the freedom of riding a bike.


She considers most of the recipes in Bon Appetit rather unimaginative (read: it’s not Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, or insanely spicy) and definitely rolled her eyes at a picture of pasta plated in a bite-size serving on a 4-inch dish. She did dog ear some pictures of the Italian countryside and a hotel in Chile for Dad though.

I eat and eat and meanwhile, she drops Life cereal crumbs on my head and on the sheets. Later at night, while in bed, she will complain that she is being stabbed by crumbled pieces of Life. Dad will ask her if that is meant literally or metaphorically, while I dream noisily in my basinet.

Three Weeks In…

The hard part about all of this is, you think you notice a pattern, and then baby switches it up on you. She’ll sleep through diaper changes one day (awesome!), then scream through them the next (damn!). For a couple of days, she was nursing for about 20 minutes on each boob, then 2 days later was doing 10-minute spurts. She certainly is keeping us on our toes, and it’s a constant learning process to say the least.

I’ve started walking the hill regularly and working squats back into the exercise routine. I lost about 9 pounds after giving birth, and weighed about 132 pounds in the first couple days after returning home from the hospital. I’ve been eating normally and lost another 7 pounds over the next 3 weeks. 16 down, 14 more to go. Yet, all the weight loss in the world won’t do anything for my angry stretch marks, which are worse on my left side because Little V threw most of her weight on that side when I was pregnant. It’s amazing how they seemingly developed overnight. I had not a single stretch mark up to week 38; they seemingly appeared out of nowhere and then exploded with the fury of a thousand suns.

I started this post a week ago, and I write this now, I realize stretch marks were the least of my problems. Late last week, I developed mastitis, and had all kinds of horrible symptoms like terrible breast pain, body aches, chills, hot flashes, and a low-grade fever. I’ve never received a flu shot because I honestly cannot remember the last time I had the flu, and this experience confirmed my decisions. They say mastitis causes flu-like symptoms, and I felt weak and horrible in a way that felt quite unfamiliar. I was like oh shit, is this what the flu feels like? What the fuck. All I wanted to do was pound ibuprofen and sleep, but Little V wanted to feed nonstop from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. that night and I definitely cried.

Fortunately, antibiotics acted quickly. I took the first dose at 9:00 p.m. and felt better by Saturday morning. Just in time for an old friend’s wedding reception/anniversary party. This is a friend with whom I’ve made trouble since sophomore year of college, and I had been looking forward to this celebration for some time. The event was held at Syrah, where I had spent many a drunken night, e.g. Halloween, New Years Eve, birthdays, and plenty of times for no particular reason, including one night during law school when I took too many tequila shots and fell asleep briefly in the adjoining parking lot at the end of the night.

In what seemed like a wonderful alignment of lucky stars and good teamwork, my dad was able to watch Little V at a friend’s hotel room only 2 minutes walking distance away from the party venue, Little V caught onto bottle feeding after having been introduced to it just 2 days prior, I felt much better, and we were able to make an appearance and celebrate. I fed her in our friend’s hotel room right before we left, and Husband left the reception an hour in to bottle feed her. All in all, it was a highly successful evening.

Beers in Chicago

I was in Chicago for work, but had a little time to explore. Chicago is an awesome city, but this post is dedicated to drinks.

Although I continue to believe San Diego makes the best IPA’s, Revolution Brewing‘s IPA was not bad. It’s entirely a thing of preference, but I like west coast IPA’s – super hoppy and aggressive. IPA’s hailing from other parts of the United States tend to be a bit less pungent.

On Saturday night, we bought a 6 pack of pick-your-owns at the closest grocery store (pictured above and below). I tried to get non-California beers, but caved on the Stone Pataskala Red IPA because I had never seen it or heard of it before, so it counts as something new. Whenever encountering a pitiable hotel room that features no fridge space, or no fridge at all, the sink and a trip to the ice machine is all it takes:


Ironically, I made 3 laborious trips to the ice maker per my usual routine in hotel rooms because so many of them don’t have refrigerators these days… then looked down under a shelf and discovered there was a completely empty mini-fridge in the room.

Later on in the night, we went to an awesome pizza and cocktails place called Pi Gallery. The pizza there was absolutely amazing. To my husband’s initial disappointment, we were in Chicago, and this was not deep dish, but this was actually to my great delight, because I really think thin crust is the best. This kind of statement likely is akin to blasphemy/sacrilege in Chicago, but I’ve left the area now so they can’t get to me. We ordered the veggie pizza which had a balsamic sauce. We both really liked it and I’ll say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had.

My first beer was Archer Avenue Pale Ale by Blue Nose Brewery. This was a lovely and flavorful pale ale. This beer is so new (and/or obscure) that it only has one review on Beer Advocate, and does not yet have a score.  This does not surprise me, because the owner of this awesome joint introduced himself, and we learned that he is really into music and the arts, so it would make sense that he would have good beers on tap “before they are cool.” The next beer I had was an amber ale that tasted slightly floral, slightly hoppy, and reminded me of candy. We tasted a couple of other beers, did some shots of Jameson with the owner, chatted with him about music, and this was a really great night.

Pi Gallery seems like it may have only recently opened, as it only as 21 Yelp reviews, but I thought it was a gem of a find. It doesn’t have a flashy entrance, and is located upstairs, so you sort feel like you’re walking into a mystery. If you’re in the area I highly recommend this joint.

Other notable beers while on this brief weekend sojourn included the Matilda (Belgian strong pale ale by Goose Island) and The Poet (stout by New Holland).