A farewell, but not a good-bye.



Hi friends.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found actual words to write — since last summer, really. There were several times I put together the posts about my life and what I was working on and going through between last August and now, and the dull, never-ending anxiety within made me delete every single word. I can’t describe it, really… something just hasn’t felt right. And that’s my excuse for the slew of collage posts and the occasional playlist.

Last year, I wrote words upon words about moving to New York. It was whole-heartedly, truly what I wanted (still do, someday). But 2014 was one of those struggle buses of a year — I struggled with freelance projects, the job, the job hunt, friendships, and romance. And most of all, I struggled in balancing all of that with wanting a fresh start… in a different city. Nothing felt like it fit quite perfectly, and I was stuck in so many ruts… ruts that left me feeling slightly off-kilter. And while I was constantly seeking something, making adjustments, that would correct that lack of balance, the solutions I found only seemed to subtract. If this doesn’t make sense, I guess I was just frustrated with lots of things, all of the things, little bits here and there in almost every aspect of my life.



Flash forward to today. There are still several ruts, and it’s easy to get frustrated sometimes. I caught myself, though, in conversation with one of my closest friends, where we both ended up in or on the verge of tears — and I remembered that I have so many things to be thankful for. I’ve switched careers several times, and I have an unbelievable level of independence. I’ve traveled near and far, and will continue to do so. I found a way to turn my passions and my hobbies into the very things that allow me to live and enjoy living. I’ve strengthened the relationships that mean so much to me, and will hopefully build upon ones that don’t exist yet.

A lot of friends have been asking me about the blog lately. In fact, like four of them mentioned it in the past week alone. And this is something I’ve struggled with, too.

In the past few months, I’ve taken on what essentially has been a distant, unreachable fantasy job since I started Sweetsonian (and in DC, nonetheless). There were balmy, stormy evenings in 2009, on my group house balcony where I would eat almond ice cream with Rachel, or smoke hookah with Kristen at unreasonable hours of the night. I loved blogging; it was my creative outlet, and it was fun to think out loud about the prospects of being able to focus all of my time and energy on food. More in the words of “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to get paid to take photos of food all day? Hahahaha. HA.”

And now, I do. It’s weird, and wonderful, and exhausting, and I love it all the same. On the flip side, it’s left me with significantly less time and energy for keeping up a food blog. When I first started, cooking and photography were the hobbies I adopted as my creative outlets, while working in my non-creative jobs. These days, I spend my weekends doing non-creative things, a necessary break. So, I’ve decided to step away from Sweetsonian for the time being. Of course, this site will stay here, but more often than not, I’ll be working on photography for work, samurai sudoku, or spending my free time with those I love, and most of all, resting my brain.


I do plan on starting another space to share my projects in-progress, most likely in the generic “photography” realm. So this is not good-bye. But I do want to thank you for reading, listening, commenting, and eating this food. This blog has given me such a wonderful zone to channel creativity, happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiety, and love. This might be my last post, but who knows. I don’t know what the future has in store for me. I will, however, continue to be on instagram and twitter, and if you ever reach out to me — for planning your trips to DC, for restaurant suggestions, or just to say hey — I’ll be around.

Thank you so, so much. Xo.

The Painkiller

the painkiller // sweetsonian

the painkiller // sweetsonian

After the past few weeks, ibuprofen is definitely not enough.

Y’all know that I’ve been working hard to make my move to New York a reality. The first half of the year was made up of aggressive interviewing, during which, I learned to be much more selective about which interviews I take and how to negotiate salaries. I relaxed a bit when my office was more open to letting me telecommute from New York, which would have eliminated the need to hunt for a new job for a year or so, but last week, prospects of that happening seemed low.

Three people on my team have put in their notice, which would be jarring for anyone on a nine-person team (which should really be at twelve). So the hunt continues.

Also taking place during my blogging hiatus was a week of illness — what I thought was the flu happened to be the precursor to pneumonia. So yeah, fifteen days of antibiotics later, I’m a real person again!

In the meantime, I made a few of these cocktails last weekend on a hot day that I spent mostly inside, and it brought me back to a day a couple of years ago, spent on the dock of a bar in Annapolis, drinking these high-sugar, high-fat cocktails. They did not disappoint then, and they definitely fixed the debbie downers that have been creeping their way into the past couple of months.

the painkiller // sweetsonian

I’ve been coming to terms with anxiety, and whether or not turning to meds is the answer. And after years of playing therapist to friends, I turned to some of mine, who have also struggled with anxiety. I come from a family that legitimately does not acknowledge emotions — I struggled with depression and anxiety through high school and much of college, and it went entirely unnoticed, mostly because my parents put a huge stigma on anxiety, and being diagnosed with depression or anxiety was just. not. an option. For most of my life, I was under the impression that any form of anxiety was mental illness in disguise. That you can solve any problem by yourself. That insecurity and anxiety are qualities that make you a weak person.

All of these notions are false. So incredibly false. While there are many times I feel like blaming my parents or my high school or my college, what it probably comes down to is the changing world — growing up in a generation of people who have been helped by therapy and who have recognized that feeling nervous, insecure, or regretful over a snippet of a memory of something that you did or said ten years ago might be due to a chemical imbalance… that it’s not normal to go sleepless over something that, in the big picture of your life, is too insignificant to interfere with the present.

And sometimes, the solution is to take medicine that corrects that imbalance. A solution that goes into your brain and calms you down, because your time is too valuable to waste, worrying about something that doesn’t matter. But sometimes, you can figure it out on your own. Sometimes, a nap or a good cry can calm down my emotions. Or validation from a comedian, who read a book about the female brain and came to the conclusion that it’s a miracle that we’re not bursting into tears all 24 hours of the day (truth girl, truth). Or a yoga class, which helps you differentiate the strengths and weaknesses of your mind from the strengths and weaknesses in your body.

But sometimes, a couple of stiff cocktails with your favorite people work more magic than anything. Because there are few things in this world that take pain away better than sharing delicious treats with people who make you feel loved.

the painkiller // sweetsonian

 The Painkiller, makes 1 cocktail  Continue reading “The Painkiller”

Marinated Flank Steak with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

I’ve been struggling, lately.

With everything. It’s not that I’m emotional, or sad, or upset in anyway. I think I’ve just been exhausted, and lazy… if the two go together in any way.

I’ve been avoiding posting something on here. I’m not exactly sure why, but I guess I go through phases — extended periods of time without any creativity at all. And being a creative by trade, all day, err’day, I’ve had difficulty recovering from the weeks that burn me out. These slumps aren’t easy. I, for one, have always hated being lazy or having nothing to do. But I find myself craving it. Scratching fingernails on imaginary chalkboards in the air, itching for a vacation from the daily grind. A few days that involve nothing but sitting on a beach with a nerd read, or curled up on my couch with a never-ending list of critically-acclaimed movies to watch on Netflix.

A cup of tea or a glass of wine. There’s nothing else I need.

Except, every now and then, a damn good steak. I take pride in my abilities to transform a good slab of meat into a meal that will change your life. There are many things that make me a laid back, lighthearted individual. Steak is not one of them. I take my steak seriously.

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

An old love interest, years removed, whom I hadn’t heard from in months, got back in touch the night I made these steaks. I had just wrapped up a pretty stressful series of projects at the day job. I had been biking to work all week, and the weather was just below bone-chilling that week. Yet, as frigid as it was outside, this little designer was one-hundred percent burnt out. So naturally, I did what Shaeda would do in that situation — I stopped by Whole Foods on my way home to pick up more than a pound of a beautiful, oh-so-gorgeous slab of steak.

By the time I got home, I had a series of texts from you-know-who. In typical fashion, we caught up a little, reminisced a little, and being thousands of miles apart and sans commitment, really opened up about our lives. You see, this summer, we reconnected, but just like 90 percent of our conversations since the beginning of time, we didn’t actually communicate much. Except this summer, I didn’t have the patience to put up with it. I was happy without that mess (and any other hot mess, to be honest). Looking back on that was the farthest thing from my mind… and that simple fact was one of the most empowering feelings I’ve had all year.

Needless to say, we chatted about all of this for an hour or so… while I was prepping a pound and a half of steak. It was the version of me that until recent years, was in complete control of the situation. Between the steak and taking charge of what I considered just a year ago to be a miserable, failed romance — I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so sexy and in charge.

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

This post is actually a procrastination post. I have two projects due before I leave for California next Friday. And I’ve been planning a Twelve Pubs of Christmas pub crawl for months… that’s happening on Saturday. Needless to say, I probably shouldn’t have spent this much time writing this post.

I probably should just go make myself another steak.

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

marinated flank steak with feta // sweetsonian

Marinated Flank Steak with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomato, derived from Dukan It Out


  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes


  1. In a ziploc bag, combine your steak, balsamic, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cayenne and red pepper flakes. Squish the marinade around so that the entire steak is covered — and let it sit for a while. I left mine on the counter for 30 minutes or so, which also lets the steak come to room temperature. If you’re marinating for longer, do so in the refrigerator, and then let it sit out for 30 minutes to an hour prior to cooking.
  2. Heat a good cast iron pan over the stove on high, getting the surface so hot that you can only hold your hand above it for a second before pulling away.
  3. Slice your steak according to individual servings. Place the steak on the pan, and let it sear and sizzle for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, turn over and repeat on the other side. Slice it open to check how cooked it is — and continue cooking to the temperature you prefer. I take it off when it’s a little more rare than I like, and then set it on a cutting board to rest for about 10 minutes, letting the juices distribute.
  4. While your steak is resting, combine the feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and chili flakes. Sprinkle generously over your steak, and serve hot.


Pumpkin Swirl Coffee Cake

With the cooler temperatures and warmer colors, I find myself yearning for a couple of hours to curl up with a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a book of short stories by the bay windows. Or on a park bench.

Let’s be real. It will be at least another week before I have a couple of free hours.

Luckily, I had an hour to myself on a quick flight from Chicago to write this.

My favorite short story is a dark American tale by Flannery O’Connor. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery writes about the Misfit, and the unfortunate family that crosses paths with a serial killer somewhere in the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Despite the thriller undertones and the sadness you feel for each despicable character, the story always makes me wander through the mistakes I’ve made, and how they’ve affected those I care for, or those I should care for more. It always sparks some dark self examination that I would otherwise forget. As a single twenty something who doesn’t date enough, I sometimes find myself wondering if I misjudge character, or worse, if I misjudge my own.

The truth is, a good man is really, really, hard to find. Ask any woman that you truly respect — whether she has one, two or none, I’m sure she’ll agree.

An overdue reunion with someone who knew me long before I even knew myself helped confirm the necessity of leaving home, and the necessity of giving yourself the option of never looking back. We hesitantly caught each other up with those who were once important to us in our respective high school and college circles, and more easily about those who still are important. And the difference we would subtract between those we love and those we can no longer stand up for can be vastly oversimplified to what seems so hard to come by: self-respect.

Even through high school, when the levels of a teenage girl’s respect are generalized at an all-time low, she was one who, like all of us, needed reassurance, but unlike many, never compromised her self-respect. Seeing her for the first time in years, in the element so familiar to both of us — but thousands of miles from the last brief rendezvous — gave me the words that I’ve been so desperately seeking. And, although this is possibly the lesser of the reminders of why I love her so, she helped remind me to not let perceptions get in the way of good judgment.

So here I am, curled up in a new bed with an old comforter. I have not attempted to clean my room since before that 200 mile race, which was two weeks ago now — but don’t worry, the laundry has been conquered, so all hope is not lost. But there are days. We all have them. When we just can’t get ourselves to clean up the mess we’ve made.

Instead, I’m still savoring the steak she crafted. I’m still indulging in the conversation, the advice, and the comfort that never left. A conversation that can be somber, satisfying, and interspersed with giggles — that was something I desperately needed.

So, as 2012 winds down, I’m reminded of how thankful I am. To have a family that loves me, to have health that permits indulgence, and to have found friends like the ones I love so dearly. And more than anything, I am thankful to have found my voice. Looking back is not an option.

Pumpkin Swirl Coffee Cake, adapted from Saveur

For the crumb topping:  
1.5 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

For the cake:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

For the swirl:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To create the crumb topping, whisk your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Then, add the cubes of butter, and really get in with your hands to crumb everything together — you should end up with a dry cookie dough consistency. And don’t even attempt to do this with anything but your hands. My friend Randall tried to use a fork, and ended up tossing it. It’s more fun to delve your fingers into a bowl of sugar and butter anyway.

Once the crumb is complete, set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip the 8 tablespoons of butter you have softened for the cake. Once it is light and whipped, add in the sugar and beat on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk until even and lump-free. Combine with the ingredients in your stand mixer, and beat on low with a dough hook until everything is smoothly mixed. Then, slowly add 2/3 cup milk.

At that point, add the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, and either mix with a spatula or let the dough hook do a little more mixing. You don’t want to mix the swirl all the way in — after all, we want it to swirl with the dough itself.

Grease a 9×4-ish inch pan, or line with parchment paper. Transfer all of the dough to the pan, and then just dump all the crumb topping on there.  There’s a lot, but with crumb topping… I mean, the more the merrier.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and have it come out clean.