this. right here. is my. Swag.

this yummy salmon and rice bowl was a spur of the moment concoction to recreate my beloved Pineapple Fried Rice i used to order from My Thai, which was damaged in a fire this past February. it was also made while a favorite show of mine was airing, so it’s super simple, takes very little time and effort, and everything cooks at the same time. i tweeted a picture of it and was asked for the recipe, so voilà!

salmon rice bowl
this medley serves 2 people, or one hungry me, and is incredibly sweet, nutty, which just a kick of spice.

½ lb salmon
2T agave nectar or honey
2t Adobo spice mix (which is onion and garlic powder, with salt and pepper)
½t cayenne pepper
1t olive or sesame oil
salt and pepper
½ cup perfect rice (recipe follows)
2T golden raisins or any dried fruit
2T toasted, slivered almonds
2T chopped spring onions

1. preheat oven to 425-450°F

2. make perfect rice by placing a pot over a high flame and throwing in ½ cup uncooked rice with 1T olive oil. toast rice in the hot oil while continuously stirring so rice doesn’t burn. toast the rice until it turns from translucent to chalky white, then add in 1 cup of water. bring water to a boil, reduce heat to low, then cover and let rice cook for 18-20 minutes. this makes the best, fluffy rice and is foolproof! it’s the only way i make rice.

3. while rice is cooking, take out salmon and pat dry, then mix together the agave nectar, Adobo, cayenne, oil, and enough salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. rub the glaze onto the fish, place into a baking dish and cook in the oven for about 12 minutes or until the fish is flaky but still a bit pink in the center.

4. chop about 2 large spring onions and add to a bowl with the raisins and almonds. you can substitute the golden raisins with any sweet, dried fruit such as cranberries, apricots, or currants (which i wanted but it wasn’t available). i would keep with the almonds because of the mild taste and high crunch, which you need with the soft rice, fruit, and fish, but you can also sub in peanuts or cashews.

5. enjoy the next ten minutes of downtime or you can do what i did and toss some asparagus (or green beans or broccoli florets) in some olive oil and Adobo, then place in a roasting dish in the oven until the fish is done. see, veggies are easy.

6. rice should be ready, so remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and place lid back on top to steam.

7. take fish out of oven, get excited about how it smells, then gently flake it apart with two forks.

8. fold the fish, fruit, nuts, and onions into the rice, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, grind in some fresh pepper, maybe add a little parmesan or pecorino cheese if you’re feeling frisky. i didn’t have any pecorino ( ._.), so i just had a glass of wine... enjoy!
i’ve got a dirty little secret.

somewhere between the second glass of wine and the chocolate spoon cake i had last weekend, i decided to stop pretending. my closest friends have always known this, but it was always shared with an air of embarrassment on my part, hoping i wouldn’t be judged for not wanting to be a part of the clan. that maybe if i made this revelation too loudly, the very hinges of society would squeal and crack and chaos would ensue. i don’t want to be successful.

no Drake. but, the traditional sense of success, the degrees, the big job that affords a penthouse and two cars, one for sport, one for everyday driving, the serious titles… i don’t want none of that. the measure of being successful for me means something else. a warm, cozy home, the smell of pot roast and chocolate chip cookies wafting in the air, the smile of my husband as he walks through the door and takes me in his arms, after waiting all day to get back home to me and tell me about his meetings, me waiting all day just to listen and provide any type of support and insight i can. sounds stupid, right? i’m still a little ashamed to admit it. i just want to be a good wife.

back to this weekend, Tiffany and I had dinner with one of her parents’ friends from home. you probably know how married couples usually only hang with other married couples, and you can probably remember how it was when you were a kid, in the playroom with the other kids, while the dads were in the den watching sports loudly and the moms were in the kitchen gossiping over half-filled wine glasses or mugs of herbal tea (as was the case with my step-mother, who never touched alcohol). well, while visiting this couple who was a friend to her parents, we talked until the wife had to go work her nursing shift. as she left, she whispered to me to let her husband pay for dinner and i watched her kiss him goodbye, with the same loving look in their eyes as was in the 30th anniversary portrait on the small table behind them.

halfway through the ridiculously delicious and equally expensive dinner, i got to asking him how he met his wife and he told a story that i just don’t hear anymore, at least not from many in my generation. he met her in college, he was a fifth year senior, she a freshman. they dated for three years and got married. he got a job and she left school to move with him. three years after that, they started a family, and 30 years later she’s still insisting he pay for dinner. the wistful smile on his face told me that he didn’t regret a moment and that he couldn’t imagine his life any other way.

i sat on the other side of the table beaming, smiling to cover up the fact that i might never have that. i am 27 years old. at that age, they were already married with a daughter. what have i missed? the sacrifice.

i am reminded time and time again of just how proud everyone is of me. i did the whole going away to college thing and got my Bachelor’s in chemistry from a good school, i had job experience in my field, was accepted to one of the most prestigious research institutions in the world, and just passed my Master’s exam. but that was never my plan. and, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, i’m not yet proud of myself. my plan was, at this age, to be married at thinking of having a child, more on that another time, that way, by the time my high school reunion rolled around, i’d be settled and glowingly pregnant. as a kid, i never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer; i wanted to be a good wife.

but, none of that ever happened. and i never even came close. i thought i had found the man of my dreams, but that thin façade shattered and i was left with making decisions to kill time. oh, i don’t have a serious boyfriend, so i’ll get my own apartment. oh, i’m not even close to being engaged, i guess i’ll move to Bmore and just get my graduate degree. and, if he comes along, i’ll happily cross that bridge when i get to it. i can get married and stay in school, but if i had to move to be with him, without a doubt…

i’m sure someone reading this will think of it as the saddest piece of drivel ever written, and that i am trite and should be mortified. don’t worry about it, i used feel that way. i am haunted by the words “strong, independent Black woman” and how i have to have my own. but having my own goes against my wanting someone to share it with. sure, i can bake all the cookies, but if there ain’t no one to eat them with me… what’s the point?? and let’s not keep tally of all the cookie baking i’ve referenced, m’kay?

my mother drilled into me that i should never rely on a man for things in life, that i should put myself in a position to provide for myself. but what if that thirst to always provide for myself impedes any possibility for someone to share the load and the journey? no one should have to do everything by themselves. i never got that same message from my gramma. she raised six kids, including my momma, on her own after her husband died. she was strong because she had to be, because that’s what happens when life deals you a certain hand. the strong Black woman is always inside of you, so there is never a reason to parade it for fear of kowtowing to an antiquated societal paradigm.

there has been a shift, where now the sacrifice is the status. and now the status lies in the job you have and the ends you bring home. to an empty, but large condo in the city. “i don’t think i’m ready to sacrifice my dreams for a relationship. it’s okay for me to be selfish right now.” i should never quote Twitter, but that particular sentiment is ubiquitous amongst those of my generation, so it seems fitting. selfish. no love, no sharing, no community. i was never taught to be selfish, so maybe my need to give sets me apart from my peers, but i don’t fundamentally believe that. i wonder… just how authentic that attitude actually is. how many of us truly believe that to sacrifice love is more detrimental than to sacrifice to love.

at the end of the dinner and this conversation, Tiffany’s father’s friend paid for dinner, held open ours doors, and vowed to have this talk with his own daughter, who was just about our age. she, too, is in grad school. she, too, is extremely driven. i wonder if she, too, feels as if she is missing something.
this past weekend was my 5 year reunion for the graduating class of my undergraduate college. i. feel. old. but amazingly, i still feel really young. like, i have so much more to do.

the weekend started out on a high with my bff Tiffany flying into town. and from the moment she arrived, we were off like a shot, driving around, just like in undergrad, expect Tiff lives in the south now and doesn’t drive as fast or reckless as she used to. i still love her though.
Tiffany, looking excited

we started off at an Asian café we used to frequent in undergrad and got to talking about what’s been going on in our lives… me, nothing much except a Master’s; her, she might be dating someone new ;) then we planned out the rest of our weekend, knowing full well that we might not exactly stick to the plan, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

the next day, we were up early to move the car. seriously, i love living in a downtown area (although any other city's Downtown would laugh at Baltimore's Downtown), but i don’t drive. this weekend, i got confirmation that i should never get a car because finding parking in an area near clubs, bars, and restaurants was a real headache. all weekend.

thus began our weekend of gorging. first stop, Chipotle. there aren’t any where Tiffany lives and it was a real sacrifice. later, we got ready for the main event: the Reunion Happy Hour and Crab Feast at our alma mater. when we arrived, the thin crowd surprised us. this was a reunion for all classes, mostly for 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. years, but their may have just been 20 people at the happy hour. we didn’t care, there was good wine to be had. we talked it up with some of our favorite professors, filling our cups with encouragement and Chardonnay. and, slowly, we made our way up to the dining hall for the crabs. and, let me tell you, they were excellent! as a DC native, i know my crabs, but i haven’t had some that good in years!

we continued Gorge Weekend by having brunch the next day at another old favorite, Papermoon Diner. it’s different than when we went to college, and by “different” i mean “more expensive”. but, the food is still pretty damn good; even though they messed up my order, i didn’t realize it until i was halfway done. that good. then, The Drive. we did was we do best, which is hit the road. it felt really good to be zipping down the road, even though we couldn’t sync music properly, so we had to suffer through the radio. as a result, i know every word to every Drake, Chris Brown, and Weezy song that’s come out in the past two months.
random beach in Prince Frederick

after sitting with some friends and family in Southern Maryland, we were treated to a dinner by a friend of the family at Saphron Restaurant, where we had some decent wine and crab dip and i had some killer Vietnamese catfish and grits. literally, the grits were plain and tasted better than any spiced up variety i’ve gotten anywhere else. we met the owner and her son, who runs the kitchen with no formal training, other than being a Marine. i live for days like this, where meaningful conversations happen on accident, but have the potential to change your life, or at least how you view it.

Sunday, which was supposed to be relaxed and random, as Tiffany was getting ready to return to the south that night, was really frenetic. brunch started out okay. Tiffany got to meet Samantha, who works in the lab across from me and has sort of been Tiffany II; Samantha and i will easily spend a whole day together, when we really just intended to go to the grocery store. we all met at Cheesecake Factory, which is good because it’s on Samantha’s preferred list and there isn’t one in Alabama, so two birds, one stone. we made it three for three in terms of days eating crab. i got the crab hash. yummy. check it out. but, after brunch, we decided to head to DC to see the MLK Memorial. we figured since the weather was yucky, no one would be there. WRONG! not only were there three major events on the mall, everyone decided to bring their mom take a stroll. there was no parking and tons of traffic. sad.
MLK Memorial, with tons of people

but the weekend ended on a cool note. we made it back just in time for Tiffany to connect with another old friend before dropping me off and heading back to the airport. i was sad to see her pull off, after we both gave each other a quick pep talk about life and love, which interestingly enough was in reverse order… she needed love advice, i needed life advice, i headed back to my apartment and drifted off to sleep, wondering about when that road trip might happen.
the other day, i woke up to a room that was 45°F. i just lay there, staring at the ceiling, and found myself snuggling deeper and deeper into the four pillows on my bed. just the previous day, i woke up kinda sweaty, my apt kinda humid, cursing and grumbling, wishing for Autumn to hurry along. i think i got my wish.

fall is my favorite season. most people make new year's resolutions. others see new beginnings in the budding trees and chirping baby birds of spring. me... i love the fall. irony much? maybe it's because i love school, and the day after labor day meant the first day of school and i get caught up in the newness. new books, new back-to-school clothes, new shoes... things slow down a bit, the sky gets dusky a bit, the air smells like crisp leaves, chili with cornbread, bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, and my mother's leather driving gloves... the navys, the yellows, the aubergines, the hunter greens.

the season pulls at my nostalgic center. i'm already back to drinking hot mochas with a dash of salt and i can't wait until the toasted marshmallow flavor returns... a s'more in a Starbucks cup. and even though i wear cardigans year round, because my lab is so frigid, i'll be sure to fall in love with new cardis just to celebrate. can't wait to break out my leather bomber, my pea coat, the Pashmina scarves... here is what the season already put me in the mood for:

lab loungin
no need for me to get all glam to go work in the lab, so i'll stick to my basic wardrobe of sneaks (which i do own now), v-neck pocket tees, and pants. i am on the prowl for a cute blazer this season though, something slouchy and androgynous, maybe offset it with a boss scarf.

wrangling the weekend
weekend day
i'm in lab generally six days a week, so the weekend is saved for running errands and wearing semi-casual clothes that i can't exactly afford to ruin with random chemicals. since i love sweaters, maybe i'll invest in a few really nice ones to wear about town, maybe perchance to catch the eye of some cutie in the process. i really like the idea of this chic and unique sweater, offset by androgynous pieces, such as stovepipe black pants and brown motorcycle or cowboy boots, then bringing in whimsical earrings with a pop of color.

you be killin' em
going out
on the rare occasion that i might have it in me to go out and celebrate, i might find it in me to show a little leg, wear some lipstick, and don some pretty jewelry, all the things i can't do on a day to day basis. i wouldn't mind vamping it up for a night out in this asymmetric top, wrap skirt, trench and nude platform wedges. and these safety pin earrings are a must have for me this season. they remind me of the Tartan wrap skirts i wore in middle school.

who knows how i'll afford such style on a grad student budget, but i think thrifting and couponing are in my immediate future. which i don't mind. one of the things i've developed as i've gotten older is a love of shopping and cultivating a wardrobe. i was wearing a bracelet this past weekend that my younger sister, who just turned 18 years old, kept eye balling. i've had that bracelet for years and i hope to add more staple pieces to it.

i wonder... what does the fall season brings for you?
i never crawled. according to my daddy, it was as if i got tired of just sitting there and just took off running. all the while before i became mobile, i was sitting and plotting, thinking about what it took to move my chubby little legs and get them in motion. the wheels turning in my infantile head so early, i must’ve studied the moving patterns of my elders and worked out the physics so well that i was able to skip scooting and get to standing. then walking… and running.

i remember my daddy telling me this when i was about 17 years old. starting my senior year of high school, i guess he had to reminisce about his little girl, his first born, who was getting ready to take the next step in her life. never crawling, never crying, reading at the age of three, i was always slightly ahead of the game. when i wanted to be.

needless to say, i make very calculated moves. i think things out. i even think about the steps i take going down a staircase. i have to look down at each step; if i look out at the end of the staircase, i’m liable to fall, which has happened to me on a couple of occasions. i can see two steps ahead of myself, but focusing on the long term goal can trip me up. and a moment of spontaneity is great, but i love the feel of making a list and checking things off, one by one. depending on how serious the move is…

when i turned 16 and it was time to get my learner’s permit, i took driving seriously. my mother is the best driver i know and i wanted to take after her, but my father encouraged me to slow down. “Driving is dangerous and can be very scary. It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said. really?? because i had it all mapped out in my head how i could drive the car, even without having any experience. after studying and acing the learner’s exam, my mother let me drive on the road as a surprise. i could drive home from the parking lot. it wasn’t that far, but i hadn’t really planned for that just yet. i wanted to think things through a little more, but i jumped behind the wheel, turned on to the street and made a left hand turn into oncoming traffic.

yeah. i don’t know what happened after that really. i covered my eyes, and when i opened them, my mother had magically driven the car to the parking lane all from the passenger’s side of the car. best driver i know. i vowed to never drive again.

fast forward 6 years, my senior year of college. somehow my friends had put up with me always being in the passenger seat, but having permanent shotgun in my homegirl’s car wasn’t really cute anymore. and i really hated needing to get somewhere and always having to bum a ride. so, after graduation, i signed up for driving lessons and got behind the road again. it was terrifying. my driving instructor was a little put off by my white-knuckled grip of the steering wheel, since in his experience a lot of people drive to relieve stress. not me! i needed to learn how to get from point A to point B without maiming any senior citizens or pedestrian children. and that’s it. i had the eye of the tiger and a goal in mind.

initially, i remembered why i never wanted to see behind the steering wheel of a car again. it was gut wrenching trying to anticipate when the next asshat was going to cut me off, but over the next month it became increasingly easier to not have palpitations about whether i was going to get t-boned at the next intersection.1 and i managed to pass the road test quite proficiently. my first time ever parallel parking, i sat quietly in the car, perched before the space and did a few cleansing breaths. no big deal Sarah… it’s just parallel parking, which is simple physics, and you love physics! i had it worked all out in my head, and successfully parallel parked on the first trial.

now, i do drive for fun. you might catch me around the city, cruising in a Zipcar. even though getting behind the wheel of a car does initially give me anxiety, i do a few cleansing breaths, i say a little prayer, and get on the road. by the time i have my stations picked out, or connect to the MP3 port and make my second turn in traffic, i’m cruising and bopping my head to the music. i love the feel of moving through time and space and getting successfully to my destination and back. but i wonder… when and how will i learn to fly?

1i realize this is all very melodramatic, but my mind plays tricks on me sometimes. and tricks are for non-driving kids.