sonahoodie

Another whole month has gone by and I don’t really know what I’ve done. Mostly, I’ve been watching this girl grow and change at a rapid pace, alternating between feeling completely competent and utterly useless, and still — still! — trying to wrap my head around the fact of her existence. Maybe it’s because I’m a much slower learner than other people seem to be, but it always takes me a good long while to get used to a new situation. I finally feel like I’m just settling into this totally different life.

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I turned 30 at the end of May and to be honest, felt exactly the same as before. Last year I had planned a big birthday party and ended up cancelling it because I was super-duper grouchy and not wanting to be around people (I later figured out that this maybe have been related to early pregnancy hormones or maybe I was just being a pill). This year I really did want to celebrate with friends and family, so we threw a super-classy barbecue where we forced people to bring their own meat and mostly just bought sides from Costco. There was also this delicious cake from the Lighthouse Cake Company, probably my favourite bakery on the island. It was supposed to feed 50 but it fed, um, maybe 25?

cake

gingersona

The absolute best part of my birthday was a surprise visit from my friend Julie and her daughter Elyse, who was born just three weeks before Sona. Mark had allegedly gone out to a business meetup, then called when he was around the corner, saying that he’d picked up a surprise and would I please go hide in my office. I went in there, and when given permission to come out, I was cursing the dog for barking and waking up the baby, plus wearing my most voluminous muumuu and no bra. I kind of stared blankly at Julie for a second and then started screaming. It was the best thing ever. My heart felt so full and I was so indescribably happy — for her company, then for her husband’s (he came out two days later with [way-too-good-for-me] Sauternes, because he knows I love them), but most of all for the opportunity for Sona and Elyse to meet for the first time.

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They don’t live in the some city, or even the same province, but my dearest hope is that they’ll grow up together and have a friendship even half as strong as mine and Julie’s. I value it so highly and I want Sona to have a Julie, or a Liz, or a Heidi. I am so lucky that I have those three and many more besides.

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Life is slowly starting to return to normal, or at least a new version of normal. The weather here has been glorious, and we’ve been getting out a lot. This past Saturday we checked out the first farmers’ market of the year, and I picked up some amazing technicolour dream eggs.

colouredeggs

farmersmarket

I’m finally getting back into my office and starting to sew again. It feels so good to be doing that. To be honest, I thought I might never feel creative again; those first three months were just so all-consuming that I couldn’t imagine being able to make time for my little business. However, I’m very happy to report that I am slowly finding both the time and the impetus to make things again. This probably matters to no one else but me, but it does feel important. I already know I want Sona to grow up seeing both Mark and me taking time for ourselves to do things we love.

Speaking of things I love:

sonasmile

sona2

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And one more extra-dumb one for good measure:

beards

Back sooner rather than later, with a recipe round-up and hopefully some exciting news!

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I had meant to update during Christmas, show off pictures of our (very miniscule amounts of) decorations, our little tree, etc., but December got away from me in a rather lovely way. This year, for the first time in ages (maybe ever?) I truly felt relaxed, not stressed about gifts, not overwhelmed by malls and awful music, and crazy consumerism. Mostly that’s because we ordered a lot of gifts online, drew names within Mark’s extended family, and just chilled the eff out. The baby was a good distraction because I didn’t have the energy to do a lot of shopping, and anyway, we’re both trying very hard to slow down and be in the moment. I feel like my new year really began at that mindfulness class we took in November.

The first weekend of December, I whisked Mark away to nearby Salt Spring Island, one of our favourite places and a short 35-minute ferry ride from home. I had been wanting to do something nice for him for many reasons, but mostly because he has been a rockstar these past few months. There have been many times when I’ve felt him holding me together, and though that sounds gross and co-dependent, all I mean is that he has been a true partner in every sense of the word. I am so happy to be married to him, and I see how hard he tries all the time, and how he sneaks into the baby’s room to sit in the glider, how he talks to her every day and suggested we learn “Two of Us” on the mandoline and guitar so she could hear it in utero and then maybe recognize it out here in the real world, how he is always the first one at a dinner party washing dishes, and how all children flock to him because they can sense his genuine radness. I love him, yes, but I just also like him so much. I wanted to say thank you in some small miniscule way, so I booked a room at a beautiful, tucked-away bed and breakfast. We had such a relaxing time, and just wandered around the town, went to a Christmas craft fair, contemplated attending the chili cookoff and Raffi concert (!!!) but decided against it, enjoyed the soaker tub in our room and ate schnitzel. Weird and wonderful. We also visited the ridiculously amazing headquarters of the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, where we met a little friend and bought a few snacks.

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Also in December:

Luka slept. A lot.

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My grandmother called from India with a list of girls names for us (I can’t read my writing on a lot of these):

names

I bought more fabric and started making baby things like a crazy person. More on that in an upcoming post, but I made several of these super adorable and very easy owls. These things came together incredibly fast and were very satisfying to make.

stuffedowls

fabric

I made and drank a lot of hot chocolate. I use this recipe but usually add some cinnamon, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Don’t skip the immersion blender step — it seems fussy but transforms the texture of the milk into pure velvety goodness.

hotchocolate

We rang in the new year with two of our best friends, a dog that had made his way up to bed several hours earlier, and four and a half pounds of Pok Pok chicken wings. I stayed up until almost two, which is almost unheard of for me even when not pregnant. I woke up the next morning to the smells of the best breakfast ever, and in fact I may already have peaked in terms of breakfasts for 2014. Thank you H & A.

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nydaybreakfast

2013 was a very good year in many respects, especially from June on, but I have a sneaking suspicion that 2014 will be even better.

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Quiet November days, and I’m so glad life has slowed down a little bit. We had an impressive number of visitors this fall, and all of them were so easy to entertain; the kind of friends to whom you can abruptly announce that you’re taking a nap and then pass out for three hours in the middle of the afternoon, knowing that they’ll be just fine.

Our friends Megan and Kristopher came out for a few days, and seeing them was great and all, but they brought their golden retriever Molly (named after a fellow redhead) and I basically exploded. Witness this ridiculous kitchen floor cuddle puddle:

cuddlepuddle

Luka and Molly got along just fine, but neither of them showed too much interest in the other. I think Luka’s more of a guy-dog dog. And a guy dog. Sorry, did I say “guy”? I meant to type “gay”. Luka is clearly a gay dog.

lukamolly

Here is what happens when you slather two dogs’ noses in peanut butter and then take out your camera:

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In the evenings we would all pile onto the couch for cocktails (everyone else), mocktails (me, ugh), and dog love. Look at these handsome gentlemen and their furry companions! By the way, I fully realize I have now become the biggest, stupidest idiot posting pictures of my dog every time I blog, but wouldn’t you rather see that than pictures of my meals? No? Okay then.

menanddogs

Speaking of meals, we made a dutch baby for breakfast the other morning, which, aside from being a really unsettling name for a dish, is basically just a glorified excuse to eat Yorkshire pudding for breakfast. Which I am obviously totally fine with.

dutchbaby

I bought a new chair for my studio and I’ve been spending long hours in there getting a bunch of new things ready for my shop. I have so much intimidation and lack of confidence and fear surrounding it. Does anyone else wonder if they’re constantly doing things the “correct” way? I sometimes feel like Mark is my sounding board for everything, and though that can be helpful at times, I know it’s not always super healthy. I probably need to be okay with making more mistakes, but I feel somewhat paralyzed at the thought of that. I guess I’d better figure this out in the next three months before I have to teach someone else how to be confident.

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riverluka

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Mark and I took a day-long class on everyday mindfulness last weekend. We signed up at the last minute, and to be honest, I didn’t really want to wake up and go to the class when the time came. It ended up being such a wise decision, though. Despite a few hippy-dippy-ish moments (like another student who “namaste”-d us all at the end, UGH), it really reset something inside me. I hadn’t realized how competitive and irritable I’ve been feeling lately, and how overwhelmed I’ve been by the need for constant stimulation. I know this is a byproduct of our society, and that in some ways I’m better than other people, but still I’ve been backsliding into the the distraction abyss . Mark and I have been talking a lot lately about how we want to be present for our kid. I would prefer if she didn’t know the words “Instagram” or “Twitter” for at least a few years, and though I know she’ll be exposed to it everywhere we go in the world, I also want her to feel like she’s more important than our phones or iPads or Kindles or whatever. We both came home and quit Instagram, and then I went to dinner with girlfriends, and then we went to a birthday party for our friend Alex, and our daughter kicked me in the junk the whole time, and that was better than any number of “likes” on some shittily-filtered photo.

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(Back soon with store updates and a list of delicious recipes).

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We’ve had two solid months of travelling to see friends, and other friends in town to visit. It’s been one of the best falls I can remember, and every day as I’m walking around I remember the little buddy I’m carrying with me all the time and I feel so, so happy.

Incidentally, that little buddy is a lady (buddette?)! No one was more surprised by this news than I was, having for years pictured myself surrounded by dudes. Girls kind of scare me, but also I have tons of beautiful handmade clothes from my grandmother, but then there’s the teenage years, but I had a rough time as an adolescent so I know I’ll be able to relate, and also…okay, I’m just gonna stop here. This could go on for a while.

Our friends Radka and Allan came to visit for a whole week, though with a brief getaway to Quadra Island. They have the cutest Wheaton Terrier named Boston (Allan’s a hardcore runner) and we got to dogsit while they were gone. It took all of my basic human decency not to steal him for myself. Luka was in heaven.

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Canadian Thanksgiving happened while they were here, and we decided to host this year. Probably because of that, our oven chose to break four days before we had to cook a 17-pound turkey, but thankfully between my research skillz and Mark’s amazing handiness, we bought a replacement part and fixed the problem. We had so much help — my mother-in-law brought about four dishes — and we used this foolproof turkey recipe. There’s a reason why it has so many 5-star reviews. I finished this Purl Bee quilted table runner right before Thanksgiving, and Mark had made a beautiful new top for our dining room table, so we had lots to show off.

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After our friends left, we took a quick trip down the Oregon Coast. We both wanted to have one last pre-baby vacation, and had at first considered using our Air Miles and flying to San Francisco or New York and just eating delicious foods, but decided instead to do something a little more spontaneous and easier to cancel in case of an emergency. We hopped in our sexy red minivan, and hit the road. First we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s, the holy grail of grocery stores (at least to me). We had to pick up road snacks, you know.

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The coast was beautiful, but to be honest, not dissimilar to our own gorgeous coastline. We meandered for a few days, but after several small towns, realized we both wanted the same thing: to make our way home. Not gonna lie, missing Luka was a huge part of this.

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oregoncoast

 We ended up in Portland for a day and half, and stayed in Nob Hill, right around the corner from my new favourite bakery, St. Honore. THAT PLACE WAS BONKERS. I have half a mind to drive back and/or move there for the kouign-amann alone. We ended up booting it home from Portland on Halloween day, and as we pulled into our driveway with our stinky, exhausted dog in the back of the van, I realized again how much I love where I live. Two years ago we were on the road trip, eating in crappy restaurants or cobbling together meals from the grocery store every night, sleeping in a van. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but I’m also so grateful for where we are now.

markluka

This blog has been light on crafts lately, mostly because I’ve been very very awful about adding things to my store. I am making things, just not really documenting them. I have several new products for the store next week, and of course I’m making special items for futurebaby. Here’s a sneak peek at something Mark and I have been dreaming about and working on for her room. Only 113 days to go, but right now that seems like forever.

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Oh hai blog! I vaguely remember you. I got so distracted by road trips and choir and baby things and visits from friends. September and the first half of October have kind of gone by in a huge blur, to be honest. I hope time keeps moving this swiftly until the end of February, because it feels like an eternity away from now.

We drove out to Shuswap Lake (fun fact: I was conceived there!) towards the end of September and met up with some very dear friends. Our friend Jeremy’s family owns the most beautiful cabin on Little Shuswap lake — calling it a cabin is actually ridiculous; it’s a newly-built, five-bedroom house — and we met up with five of our closest friends there.

 

We spent two blissful days doing pretty much nothing. Two of us were pregnant and needed frequent naps. We watched my favourite movie, made and ate delicious food, sat out on the deck, some of us kayaked, I read Archie comics. We even had a pie-tasting competition. Shuswap Pie Company blew the other pies out of the water. We had the chance to visit their restaurant as well and OH MY GOD BUTTERMILK LEMON PIE. We bought two frozen pies to take home and I’m almost scared to actually eat them because then they’ll be gone.

We then made a very hasty trip out to Calgary to pick up some of my childhood belongings, like the most beautiful smocked dresses that warrant their own post, and a set of 1950s china that travelled from Singapore to India to Calgary to Victoria in order to be used for the first time. We put it to good use at Thanksgiving and it made me so happy.

The day after getting back, two of my closest girlfriends from high school came out for the weekend. It was great to see them and all but the real star was one Brooklyn Marie, six months old and practically edible. Mark and I basically fought to hold her all weekend.

Luka wasn’t really that into her, but we figured it was good practice for next year.

So much to say and show you and write about. We’re heading down the Oregon coast this week for our last baby-free holiday. Life is changing, but I like it.

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Twenty-four years ago this December, a little blond girl in a pink dress walked into my Kindergarten class, a few months into the school year. She and her family had just moved to Calgary from Toronto. I complimented her on her awesome dress, we became best friends, and this past Saturday, she married the nicest boy in the world, in her parents’ beautiful backyard in Vancover.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding is just a shitty Julia Roberts movie, but my best friend’s wedding was glorious. There were paper flowers, a huge glass dispenser full of Pimm’s Cup, a choose-your-own-topping macaroni and cheese station, a live performance of Classical Gas by Mason Williams himself, a Menchie’s frozen yogurt and topping bar, homemade granola favours, and so much more. There was the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen, and a groom’s face who I couldn’t even look at during the ceremony for fear of sobbing like a crazy lady. There was a bit of comic relief when her dad almost bailed while walking her down the aisle, but it broke the ice and everyone laughed.

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I thought about giving Liz and Aaron a rice cooker, the same one we have that we use practically every day, but that just seemed so impersonal. Then I saw this gorgeous four-square quilt on the Purl Bee blog, and knew immediately that this was the quilt for the happy couple. I love everything about this pattern — the beautiful simplicity of it, how modern and asymmetrical and yet still timeless it looks, how quickly it came together.

weddingquiltbinding

This quilt was made with love. I know that sounds unbearably cheesy, but it’s true. While I was working on it, I just kept reliving memories from the past two and a half decades — us at 8, sneaking out to Mac’s convenience stores on our bikes; at 12, writing a batshit-crazy thing called The Story of the Backstreet Jedis and then HANDING IT PERSONALLY TO THE BACKSTREET BOYS; at 15, dying my hair in the middle of the night — we were aiming for red streaks, but left the bleach on too long and the dye on not long enough, resulting in horrible orange chunks that remained in my hair for the next several years; at 18, when we left both left for university and I was convinced our friendship was over; at 20, when we travelled around Europe for six months, making some very stupid decisions and also some very good ones, getting into cars with strangers and changing our minds about where to go on a whim, making hasty exits from hostels where we’d shamed ourselves and eating gelato every single day in Italy; at 22, when my dad died suddenly and she came out to Calgary for the funeral, and I just sort of stared at her, bewildered; at 26, when she walked down a long path into a beautiful garden, just before I married Mark, and immediately after the ceremony she shoved a glass of white wine into my hand, knowing I needed it; at 28, watching her try on wedding dresses and eating our way through Seattle. My whole life is shaped by her, my sense of humour most of all, and I tried to put all of that into this quilt. I hope that shone through.

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A whole month went by! Look at that. Truth is, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and haven’t had much creative productivity. This in turn makes me feel very guilty, which leads to avoidance-napping, so it’s all a bit of a vicious cycle. I talked to Mark about it today and we came up with a plan that feels manageable. I am also starting to suspect that 90% of success is faking it until you make it, something I am AWFUL at. This TED talk is something I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

My best friend and all her bridesmaids came out here this past weekend for a pre-wedding canning party. We made three recipes from this amazing cookbook: strawberry preserves, raspberry preserves, and pickled garlic scapes. I had a minor hissy fit halfway through the weekend when I realized that maybe I HATE CANNING, but we all took turns and it came out okay. We played badminton and went to bed early and ate Thai food. Mark went camping up island, so Luka missed him but also revelled in the attention he got from five ladies — though you’d think from his reaction upon Mark’s return that Mark had been gone for two years rather than two days.

Speaking of Luka, I really can’t get enough of this dumb dog lately.

He’s just such a sweet idiot, and his farts are so horrifically awful, and I love him so much. It’s very confusing.

I guess all this post said was that I’m now a crazy dog lady. I think I’m cool with that.

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Not much to share with you but some pictures. I have been woefully lacking creative inspiration lately, and I’m just trying to roll with it. I went to Austin for my best friend’s bachelorette and ate a LOT of brisket, and the most magnificent BBQ I’ve ever had at Franklin (where we waited for two and a half hours, but shit, it was worth it). I turned 29 and watched some Arrested Development (not putting all my thoughts out there yet, but…kinda disappointing). I started riding my bike again, though I’m pretty sure I’m the worst cyclist in the world. I started banjo lessons, and all I do is play “Cripple Creek” over and over and over, slowly and painstakingly. We leave for Ireland tomorrow, and though we’re really really unprepared, we have passports and clean underwear, so we’ll just wing it. Looking forward to driving around a beautiful country with my sweet guy.

(Though I’ll miss this big sweet dummy a whole lot).

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My friend Nicole came for a visit and Luka fell ass-over-teakettle in love with her, even though she’s making fun of his eternally sad face here.

Mark made me this ribbon/washi tape holder, ’cause he’s the best. Even though he always makes the bed incorrectly by putting the flat sheet face-down. Not that I’m keeping track.

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The only bit of sewing I’ve actually managed to get done lately is completing this chevron quilt for a friend’s baby girl who was born in April. I had the top completed but somehow quilting it seemed like such a BIG DEAL. In actuality, it took about an hour and then I got to hand-sew the binding which is always my favourite part of making a quilt. Probably because I can watch TV while doing it. I’m rewatching Game of Thrones right now, and reading the books at the same time. Mark and I have this new thing where we mutter “YEH KNEH NOERTHING, JEHHHN SNOERRWW” at each other, sometimes during a movie, sometimes in the form of a text message, and then we laugh and laugh like a pair of idiots. This has nothing to do with the quilt.

Back in a few weeks with maybe something more insightful than all the garbage I just wrote, but, er, probably not.

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The weather has been glorious here. People in Victoria love to talk about the weather more than almost anything else (except also the Queen and traffic and changes to bridges and ferry prices), but coming from Calgary, where the snow has literally come down in June, I’ve never felt much inclined to join in the rain-bashing. This year, though, the winter really hit me and I realized it has to do with the utter dearth of sunlight. In Alberta, sure, it snows all the time and the temperature goes down to -40 with a windchill, but we have chinooks, and you see the sun every day. But spring is around the corner and we’re planning our vegetable garden (the only kind of gardening I care about) and there are weddings and trips to look forward to.

This past weekend two of my best friends came out for a lady weekend here with Heidi and I. We all met our first days in residence – we were all on the same floor, even – and I don’t know, magic happens when we’re together. For example, here is a picture of Michelle and I when we were 21, and therefore at the very pinnacle of our hotness:

yikes

Usually this magic is aided by delicious food and drinks. We went to a fantastic wine-tasting event, ’cause we’re classy like that. It ended rather…messily, but not before we had some amazing Vancouver Island wines and also a lot of burgers.

We also had this unfortunate collection of drinks, which was just as cough-syrupy as it looks but we drank it, damnit. Yes we did.

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Aside from that, we mostly just talked — about horrible, hilarious memories, about all kinds of relationships, about our health, about everything. It’s what we do. We made a fancy dinner on Saturday (mushroom and pancetta risotto, total adult comfort food) and Heidi teased me about my bossiness in the kitchen.

I have many strengths — I can say the alphabet backwards (and I will tell you that a lot when I’m tipsy), I am super cheerful in the morning (Mark gives me a wide berth because I always want to talk about all the hours that passed while we were sleeping), I can almost always tell you the correct time, give or take a few minutes, without looking at a watch — but passivity around cooking is not one of them. I admit it, I love to order people around in the kitchen, kind of like Anthony Bourdain, but with more hair and slightly less cursing.

To wit, here are a bunch of food-related items I want to tell you about and really, you should just listen to me and make/eat them.

I know I talk about Smitten Kitchen all the time and so does everyone else, blah blah blah. But there is a reason why Deb has made such a name for herself, and the reason is that she is almost fanatical about choosing recipes and streamlining them. I have not made a single thing from her website that has let me down. This raspberry buttermilk cake is such a good example of the kinds of things she posts — simple but delicious, and the kind of thing that really tricks people into thinking you’re just an awesome effortless cook who wears adorable aprons and can whip stuff like this up with her eyes closed. I love you, Deb.

raspberrybuttermlkcake

Something we make all the time is this (admittedly hilariously-named) glory bowl. It’s from one of the Whitewater Cooks recipe books, which I don’t yet own, but if a certain nameless ginger man was reading this, he might consider surprising me with it some time. The best thing about this recipe is that I hardly ever follow it. I use the basic components — rice, greens, shredded vegetables, delicious sauce — and just add whatever I have around. Sometimes we grill up some tofu for added protein, but you could add leftover chicken or any kind of meat, really. I love avocado, so that usually goes in. I don’t really like beets, so I substitute cucumber instead, and usually peanuts for the almonds. I pretty much put every single Chinese condiment I have into the sauce, and though it never tastes the same twice, I like it that way. We also keep all the elements separate in the fridge, and then amalgamate them just before serving. Guys, just make this.

glorybowl

A few other recipes I adore:

Ginger Fried Rice, from Smitten Kitchen. This is one of those meals I love to eat when Mark is out, for some reason, even though he also really likes it. Sometimes I add sweet Chinese sausage, if I have some around.

We made these crispy potatoes the other morning for brunch, when all the girls were over. Delicious and oddly impressive.

Ina Garten is a gem and a national treasure. This turkey lasagna is off the hook, and really easy to make, since you don’t have to boil the noodles, just soak them in really hot water (something I will always do in the future. Why does boiling lasagna noodles seem like such a big deal?). Watch the salt on this one — I tend to want more salt in almost everything, but this was a little too much for me.

This article on making perfect boiled eggs of varying consistencies is so over-the-top in terms of research that it makes me laugh and also warms my heart. I’m not as fanatical as this, but for a perfect medium-boiled egg, I fill a small saucepan up with cold tap water, put the egg in, place it on the stove uncovered, bring it just to a boil, then turn it off, cover it with the lid, and let it sit for exactly four and a half minutes. It works for me. I also salt and pepper every single bite of my egg because I have no children yet and currently have time for ridiculous stuff like that.

toasteggs

Speaking of eggs (both mine and chickens, waka-waka!) I bought some duck eggs from a woman in my choir who runs a farm up island. I had never tried them before and didn’t know what to expect, but they were absolutely glorious. Such a rich, delicious yolk.

duckeggs

One last order recommendation: I bought this cookbook on a whim a few weeks ago, and truly believe it might be the best purchase ever. So far we’ve made about three or four of the recipes, but I already think it might be a no-hitter. Except that it’s full of hits. Wait, I don’t understand baseball metaphors. We eat a lot of oatmeal here, and there are two whole pages of oatmeal topping suggestions, both savory (fried egg, tamari, scallions, and fried garlic) and sweet (dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved dark chocolate). The other day for lunch, I made a spinach and quinoa salad with pear, hazelnuts, and a lemon-tahini dressing (I added Macedonian feta, since it’s the best), and it was so spring-y and just…clean-tasting. I know that that’s an annoying description, but it honestly just made me feel good. I don’t know the author, but this book is already one of my favourites.

quinoasalad

This ended up to be much more verbose than I meant, which is a first for me. I will tell you more recipes soon! We’re off to Portland now, to eat our way through the city like Pac-Man and Ms.Pac-Man (wow, I realize now how super-sexist that is). Back soon with descriptive tales of what we ate and drank, and likely terribly pretentious Instagram pictures.

(Bonus picture of Mark and Luka wrapped in a tender embrace)

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