Fresh Corn Salsa

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I can’t describe how excited I am for the changing of the seasons. For the first time in four years we get to experience, however mild the difference, a proper Autumn. Leaves are falling, sprinkling the ground of our tiny garden with gold; there’s a smell in the air that I love, which I somehow forgot in our absence. I’m sure we’ll be complete wusses when it comes to the actual cold part of the season, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for all the good elements. Palm fronds whipping through the air just never made it feel like fall.

One of the other perks of living in Palo Alto is that our location is a perfect stop between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Already, family members have utilized this feature and stopped by to visit. Once I was convinced to join a last minute (for me) trip to the city with Mom and Dad. We enjoyed lunch at 4505, then Mom went to meet with potential Ribbon Street contacts. Dad and I got to witness the tumult of Market Street—which is a lot rougher than I remember it being—while we wandered around, killing time. Eventually, we found ourselves outside of St. Patrick Church, a beautifully ornate old building in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of newer city life. Fascinated by its historical significance—built in 1851!—we walked through the heavy double doors and crept into the back row of pews. It was quiet except for the faint sound of music coming through a back room, which echoed off the arched ceiling far above us. Stained glass windows, one for each Irish county, lined the two long walls. For a few minutes we just sat, enjoying the same quiet reverence that had occupied that space for over a century.

About a month ago I journeyed into the hills for Kerry’s bachelorette party. Bailey and I drove up with one of Kerry’s oldest friends, Kristen. We chatted the whole time, pausing only so that Kristen could intuit a new change of direction a mile before we needed to turn (despite the fact that Bailey was supposed to be directing her), or to simultaneously shriek in preparation for impact when a semi truck got way too close. But we finally made it, Kristen and I close to killing Bailey for mentioning “the grade” (the road, Empire Grade) way too much.

We met Kelly and Kelly M. in town and drove into Pine Mountain Lake together, arriving at Kelly M.’s family house in the late afternoon. We had hours until Kerry, Shauna, and Sara were to get there, so we jumped in the lake at our old stomping grounds and soaked in a little sun. Then it was time to decorate the house and make dinner. Since it was Harry Potter night, Bailey and I adorned our cloaks while we chopped, washed, and huddled over bubbling cauldrons. The rest of the party arrived late to the sound of Hedwig’s Song and a ready meal. We ate ravenously, scarfing down Tomato Pulled Chicken tacos with fresh corn salsa (recipe below). After some hilarious games, in which we all fell in love with Max, we called it a night.

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The next morning Bailey and I got up early to make breakfast. Everyone bolted down food and then ran out the door to make it to Lake Lodge on time for our private yoga class. To our pleasant surprise, we ended up doing yoga on the slight incline below the old house we had once inhabited for two weeks every summer. It was quite a challenge doing downward dog on a hill, but there were also moments of quiet reprieve only punctuated by the buzzing of a beehive somewhere close by.

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From there we stopped by the house to get beach-ready, then trekked over to the Marina. Our highly-anticipated sandwiches were slightly ruined by some relentless wasps, but the rest of our beach experience was very pleasant. We spent some time in the cool water, bravely submerging as we made our way to the dock. Chatting happily, we tried to avoid splashes from cannonballing kids.

After that, and another pit stop at the house, we found ourselves trundling down a dirt road towards the winery. Having no expectations of what it would be like, we were incredibly pleased to find a large home at the top of a hill, which overlooked rows of grapes on one side of the hill. We were seated at a private table on the side of the house, brought snacks, and treated to attention from Maggie, their sweet terrier. Ron and Cheryl brought out each bottle with a story to match, and we were enthralled by both the taste and history that went along with the little winery. Needless to say, we all purchased at least one bottle. Surrounded by the most hummingbirds I’ve ever seen in one place and a group of outstanding women, it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. Kelly M., Bailey and I rushed home to grab dinner, then met the others at the Marina once again. This time we were greeted by Larry, who took us around the whole lake in his boat while we devoured bread, cheese, and charcuterie, and watched the sunset.

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Our last stop of the evening, which took us past midnight, was the Iron Door. A live rock band played, drinks flowed, and Kerry got more and more prone to sporadic selfies (or so she thought) and dancing. She, and therefore the rest of us, had a grand old time with lots of laughs and, eventually, conversations under the watch of the moon. The next morning we slept late, cleaned up, and set out back to the bay.

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Emma turned 21 on September 4th! I was still unemployed at the time, and therefore was able to spend the afternoon and night in Santa Cruz. We got some incredible drinks at Oswald’s, ate dinner at Bantam, and then Bailey and I lasted until about 11 before calling it a night. I was happy I could be there. It’s a strange feeling when your younger sibling gets older—one moment they’re 10 and stealing your shoe, and the next they’re giving you fashion advice and making life plans. It’s been incredibly exciting to witness Emma becoming a cool adult that, in my case at least, I now get along with really well.

I was also there to witness the first time Lemon, my parents’ last chicken, got to sleep in a box inside—it’s the most adorable thing in the world. She stays in her box all night, softly clucking to herself and clearly glad to be safe inside.

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A couple of weekends ago, Bailey, Emma and I finally made good on our promise and flew to Seattle to stay with Cristy. As we arrived pretty late on Friday, we had time for a delicious dinner at Monsoon before going to bed. The last time I had been there and eaten that food, Jonji had been interviewing for UW’s medical school. The crème caramel was just as good as I remembered it to be.

The next morning we (minus Emma, who could sleep all day) sipped mugs of coffee and watched the sun rise over the spectacular view of Lake Washington that Cristy’s house overlooks. Once Emma was up, we journeyed down the meandering path to the water, intermittently walking through lovely neighborhoods and tree-covered stairs. Bailey’s scream alerted me to danger as we came out of the last set of steps, and I swerved without hesitation to avoid hitting a huge spider with my face. Needless to say, it took many minutes for me to recover from such a close shave.

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We brunched at the light-strung Meet the Moon, marveling at the best house potatoes we’d ever eaten, then set off to explore. One stop at a consignment store (and a pair of jeans for me) later, we started walking back to Cristy’s. The neighborhood included a path through what felt like a forest—just another reason to love Seattle. After showers and a brief rest, we left for Capitol Hill and the incredible book store there. Perusing the various beautiful and intriguing books, rustling delicate pages and spending more than enough time in the cookbook section, we killed time until dinner.

From there we trekked to our drinks and dinner destination, Artusi, arriving way too early. Poppy joined us soon after we’d been seated and ordered a round of drinks. The evening passed quickly, and after plenty of food and several other delicious cocktails, we left to see what else we could find. On the way, a fluffy white dog got so excited to see us that he let out an adorable howl and barged over. Rain began to fall lightly, and we were glad to reach Poppy’s third bar recommendation many blocks over. The bartender there was extremely energetic and excited to share his knowledge of spirits, and soon we were all laughing and bantering with him, all of us finding a second wind. He made Poppy the first rum drink I’ve actually really liked, and even made us something with naturally-purple gin. He made such good drinks that, once home, Bailey, Emma, and I spent half an hour lined up, gazing into Cristy’s big bathroom mirror and analyzing our facial similarities and differences in minute detail.

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The next morning, we breakfasted in front of Cristy’s amazing view one last time, then headed back to the airport. Bailey became a meerkat on the plane, head shooting predictably up at every sign of turbulence, which made the ride hilarious and almost enjoyable (for me).

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In other news: Babs licked Kitty’s head for a full five minutes while Kitty sat in my lap during a work-from-home day two weeks ago(!!!). Jonji is currently in the middle of a 12-day work stretch on the PICU, which sounds both mentally and physically exhausting. I’m getting into the swing of things at Pure, learning more about the company and the people and enjoying each day. On the whole, we’re all doing really well.

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I’m struck, nearly every day, by just how happy I am here. I have nothing against LA, but it’s not my home. I love watching the small, fat birds flit from branch to branch outside our windows; grey mornings seen from our rocking chair, a cat purring in my lap; dappled sunlight that softly moves across our dining room table each afternoon. I feel it in my very being: I’m finally back to where I’m supposed to be.

This recipe is very late in the season—the corn is pretty much gone from our market, with one or two stands still boasting full ears covered in their papery green husks. But if you can find some at your market, I urge you to try this before the corn is completely gone. And if not, put it on the back-burner for next season. This salsa is truly addicting, and it goes exceptionally well with Tomato Pulled Chicken tacos.

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Fresh Corn Salsa
makes about 2 cups

1/2 small red onion, diced
3 ears fresh yellow corn
1 small jalapeño, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
2 tbsp olive oil

Place the diced onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside.

Shuck the ears of corn and try to remove as much of the hair-like strands as possible. Cut off any bug-bitten parts. Rest one of the shucked ears against the inside wall of a large bowl. Run a sharp knife along the length of the ear, trying to get as much of the kernels as possible. Rotate the corn in small increments, slicing downwards, until you’ve removed all the kernels. Repeat with the other two ears. Run your hands through the bowl of kernels to try to catch any remaining strands; discard those.

Drain the onion and mix it into the corn, along with the diced jalapeño, the chopped cilantro, and salt. Stir in the juice of the lemon or limes and the olive oil. Taste, and add more salt or citrus juice if you desire. Enjoy!

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