Thursday, January 29, 2009

Adventure San Diego: San Diego's North-Side Jewel

Scores of visitors touchdown in San Diego each year. Offering mile after mile of sandy beaches and 70 degree weather all year-round, this surfer's paradise plays host to families, singles, and workers alike. Even the staunchest beach-lovin' followers, however, need a break from the relentless sunshine and salt-water soaked days. Whether to purchase a few souvenirs, enjoy a local brew, or catch a concert, Solana Beach's Cedros Design District guarantees the best place to hang in San Diego's North County.

Solo: Located in an abandoned airplane hanger, Solo is, hands-down, the ultimate gift-scavenging playground. Offering antiques and garbage-picks that have been transformed into usable works of art (think abandoned film reels turned into coffee tables), housewares that range from sea-themed throw-pillows to hand-carved woodcut prints, handmade papers, coffee table books galore, and children's accessories, it's impossible to leave Solo without a purchase in hand. Details:

Cedros Gardens: This gardening sanctuary specializes in perennial plants and organic gardening. Discover new flora species, sit-in on a free gardening-centric class, or simply visit Daisy, the resident cat, who always seems to be asleep on the counter. Details:

Cut Loose: If you're searching for Southern California fashion beyond the string bikini, Cut Loose designers have created a unique, comfortable, and flexible clothing-line made of natural and garment-dyed fibers. "Clothing for the real world." Details: and

Pizza Port: After an afternoon of shopping, it's time for a local-brewed beer (or root beer), some succulently garlic-y beer buddies, and a cheese-kissed pizza pie. Pizza Port, now in three Southern California locations (Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente), offers a jukebox, picnic tables, and pinball machines that supply a great backdrop for "grub and grog" that the whole family can enjoy. Details:

BellyUp: Still want more? Belly-up to the BellyUp where local musicians and iconic bands alike fill the bill. Details:

Obsession: Easy "Special" Marinara

Last week, I was having dinner at Club Lucky—a family style, Italian restaurant that is close to my hood. They have a “special” marinara sauce that is amazing. I tried to remake a similar recipe at home that would be quick and tasty for a weeknight meal. It actually turned out really great. Here it is—yummy, easy, and it only takes about 30 minutes. Move over Rachel Ray…

Easy Special Marinara

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 t dried oregano
1/8 c Parmigianino Reggiano, grated
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T heavy cream
1/4 t fresh ground pepper
1 T sea salt

In a large pot, boil cold water and salt for pasta. In another medium size pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and let sweat for about 2 minutes; add oregano, basil, and pepper, stir about 1 minute. Add sauce and cheese. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream—cook another 5 minutes. Serve over pasta.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Style: Comfortable, Cool Fashion Found at C & C California

Since becoming a mother and quitting my corporate job, my wardrobe has changed immensely. I retired my sleek, black pants, stylish tops, and stilettos to trade them in for cotton tees, jeans, and my ratty Converse. Not that I have anything against jeans and t-shirts, but I also love interesting, eclectic pieces, as well. The problem is that the more "inspired" fashion styles are "dry clean only" and are made of fabric much too delicate for my newly acquired active lifestyle as a parent. Hence began my quest to find comfortable, washable clothing that is still stylish and hip. I can assure you, this is NOT an easy task. I have, however, found several brands that fit the bill—one of my favorites being C & C California.

C & C California was created by two women who grew up on the beaches of Southern California during the 1970s. The collection is a tribute to "California Chic” and designed specifically for women who are looking for comfortable, wearable fashion. C & C’s goal is to offer the perfect pieces that can be worn during the day to run errands and continue into an evening dinner.

The company makes terrific tees, turtlenecks, maxi dresses, leggings, and tunics. With the exception of sweaters, most items are washable, made from soft cotton, and manufactured in the U.S. They offer fun stripes and solid basics. Each piece has unique sleeves and interesting stitching—all with flattering shapes for all sizes. The C & C fabrics retain their color, shape, and texture even after countless washes. For terrific comfort, quality, and style, pick-up something from C & C. You and your wardrobe will not be disappointed. Details:

Obsession: Orange Peel Enamel

My husband is not stereotypical in any way—especially when it comes to buying presents. Without dropping a single hint, he has a knack for knowing what I'll like and a gift for introducing me to new artisanal talent. At Christmastime, we place a dollar limit on how much we can spend on each other. This little game has forced us to think creatively about gift giving.

This holiday, at the bottom of my stocking, I found the sweetest ring, made by Seattle artist, Jenny. In her ETSY bio, she writes “The thrill of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit...the lusciously smooth surface of kiln-fired glass...the rich palette of rich, saturated colors. Oooh. I love enameling.”

Well, Jenny, we love wearing your enamel creations. Dress those little beauties up or down, they easily and comfortably add the necessary bling to any outfit. And, because she offers such a wide-variety of colors and designs, my husband has managed to provide me with Obsession article-fodder for years to come. Details:

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Adventure Charleston: McCrady's Provides Farm Fresh, Down Home Goodness

When we recently visited my in-laws in South Carolina, my husband and I were able to reserve one evening for a date. Since it was a Sunday night, many of my choice restaurants were closed. Scrambling to find a replacement, we stumbled into McCrady's, and what a stumble it was.

McCrady's employees spend each morning at their own farm, over two acres located outside of Charleston. There, led by Executive Chef, Sean Brock, they grow 85% of the restaurants' ingredients. The restaurant itself is housed in a tavern that opened shortly after the Revolutionary War and secretly sits on the pedestrian-only, Unity Alley. My husband and I chose to dine in The Bar—a warm, comfortable room that once lodged the guests' horses. Arched brick cave-like spaces provided a private and comfortable backdrop for the three-hour meal that followed.

A most-impressive wine collection kick-started an evening that consisted of deliciously moist and tender beef short ribs, accompanied by grits and pickled mushrooms; perfectly roasted scallops, served on a bed of black truffles, sunchokes, and radishes; and the star of the evening, a plate of house-made charcuterie. Directly from the farm, we were served succulent lardons, savory duck sausage, and smoky meats that provided a perfect pairing with our wine selection.

Two bottles of wine later and after managing to close the restaurant, my husband and I talked about this most memorable meal all the way home. McCrady's provided the quintessential Charleston experience: A marriage of historical charm with the pride of the south—food, glorious food. Details:

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Obsession: Healthy and Delicious Junk Food?

If you have tried Laura's Wholesome Junk Food Oatmeal Chocolate Chip snacks then you can surely understand why we are obsessed. These little, bite-sized cookies are mouth watering and incredibly moist. We bought them for the first time a few weeks ago and my family cannot put them down. Here is the best part—they are all natural and free of all the ugly ingredients that many other store-bought snacks on the grocery store shelf contain. I don't know about you, but I get tired of looking at the nutrition panel and reading a list of unpronounceable ingredients.

They come in many delicious flavors like Lemon-Vanilla, Grandma's Gingerbread, and Extreme Chocolate Fudge. If you go to the website, you can find a product locator or purchase online (all orders include shipping). They even offer a deluxe variety pack of six different flavors. I never thought the words "healthy" and "junk food" could co-exist but after trying these tasty morsels, I am truly a believer. Details:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gastronomy: Hail to the Panini

It has been quite awhile since I had a Saturday lunch at home where I could relax, have a beer, and enjoy cooking. If you are like me, this seems to be a common reoccurring theme after you have children. Cooking sometimes becomes more of a necessity than a pleasure. If you ever have a free Saturday with friends or family, take the time to make a great lunch together at home. People tend to congregate in the kitchen and there are lots of simple, innovative recipes that can involve everyone and be really enjoyable in the process.

Last Saturday, we made panini. You’d be surprised how simple, delicious, and versatile this warm, mouth-watering sandwich can be. The easiest way to make a quality panini, is to invest in a sandwich maker or panini press—I am amazed at how many times we have repeatedly used this small appliance. (If purchasing an additional gadget during these tight times doesn’t fit your budget, my friend uses a cast iron pan and a lid weighted with a potato.) If you have older children, offer a variety of ingredients and let them invent their own sandwiches.

The following recipe is for turkey, mushroom, and spinach panini, but, really, the sky is the limit. Try a soft brie, tart apples, smoky bacon prosciutto, or sweet roasted peppers—just about any flavor combination that sounds good to you, will, most likely, make good panini. The only advice I would give is to be careful not to use too many ingredients with a high salt content; once the ingredients are heated on the press, the salt is released. I made the mistake once of making a ham and Irish cheddar—it was almost inedible. Also, be sure to use UNSALTED butter. And, above all, serve with a great beer and enjoy your Saturday together. Bon appetite!

Turkey, Mushroom, and Spinach Panini (4 whole sandwiches or 8 halves)

8 pieces of good-quality sour dough bread
½ lb turkey breast, naturally roasted
4 slices provolone cheese
8 oz mushrooms, sliced A couple handfuls baby spinach
1/8 c cooking sherry
½ stick unsalted butter*
Sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat Panini press to medium.

For mushrooms, over medium heat on the stovetop, warm a large skillet; add 1½ T butter. Add mushrooms and sauté for approximately 4 minutes. Add a little salt, pepper, and sherry, in that order. Simmer until sherry is dissipated. Set aside and cool.

Using the remaining butter, spread a thin layer on one side of each piece of bread (be careful to not use too much, or sandwiches will be greasy). Divide and layer turkey, spinach, mushroom, and cheese on 4 of the unbuttered side pieces of bread; top each half with the 4 remaining pieces of bread, butter side up. Place 2 sandwiches on the press at a time; press down for about 1 minute. Continue to cook sandwiches for approximately 4 more minutes; repeat. Allow sandwiches to rest for additional 5 minutes.

*I have tried these sandwiches using olive oil instead of butter, but have found that the unsalted butter is far superior in taste and texture.

Details: to purchase a panini press.

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Obsession: Coverville Covers All

When I used to check into an office daily, I would prepare myself the night before by browsing through the podcast library, hoping to discover a new, untapped gem that would help me get through another day. Recently, I reconnected with a long-lost friend (a gem, in her own right), who reminded me of one of these long-lost music finds: Coverville.

Brian Ibbott’s brainchild thematically weaves the approximately-semiweekly shows together. From both new and established artists, catch fresh versions of your old favorites—covers from as diverse as The Cure to Roy Orbison or maybe an entire podcast dedicated to songs performed in a different language from the original. Either way, Coverville covers it all.

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Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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